On Tuesday, the American Gaming Association delivered its annual “State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment” (read in full here), which describes a US casino industry still struggling to regain its pre-recession footing. The AGA says revenues at commercial casinos – here defined as land-based, riverboat, dockside and racetrack gaming joints, but excluding Indian gaming operations – in 22 US states rose to $35.64b in 2011. That’s up 3% from $34.6b in 2010, but still down from 2007’s $37.52b peak. Much of the 2011 increase can be credited to the introduction/expansion of gaming in states like Maryland, which saw revenues rise 464% to $155.7m last year. Overall, 15 of the 22 states reported revenue increases in 2011.
To no one’s surprise, Nevada topped the casino revenue chart at $10.7b (+2.9%), with Las Vegas accounting for $6.06b of that sum. New Jersey remains in second place, although revenue fell 7% to $3.3b. Pennsylvania continues to nip at the Garden State’s heels, coming in third with $3.02b (+21.3%). Indiana was fourth with $2.72b (-2.5%), followed by Louisiana’s $2.37b (unchanged). The rest of the top 10 reads as follows: Mississippi $2.24b (-6.3%); Missouri $1.81b (+1.1%); Illinois $1.48b (+8%) and a $1.42b tie between Iowa (+3.7%) and Michigan (+2.9%).
Overall, commercial casinos contributed $7.93b (+4.5%) in taxes to state and local coffers in 2011. Pennsylvania’s 55% tax rate ensured the state a nearly $1.5b windfall, while no other state topped $1b. Nevada came closest at $865.25m with Indiana not far behind at $846.37b. Here as well, New Jersey led the declining states, with its $277.6m tax revenue marking a 9.1% drop from 2010.
New Jersey’s woes were underscored by separate news on the day that Atlantic City’s newest casino, the Revel, earned only $13.4m from gamblers in its first month of operation. That would place it at or near the bottom of AC’s 12 gambling joints’ performance charts. (The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is due to release the market’s figures for April on Thursday.) Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis told the Associated Press the operation was hobbled by teething pains, such as unfinished hotel rooms and not yet fully operational slots marketing programs.
Bucking the traditional “casinos are a blight on society” meme, a VP Communications study included in the AGA’s report polled 210 elected officials and civic leaders in commercial casino states, and 83% of these said the introduction of casinos had met or exceeded their expectations. A similar number said the overall impact of casinos had been positive. A slightly smaller number (76%) said casinos had done more to help than to hurt other area businesses.
The same study found 81% of US citizens believed casino gambling was ‘acceptable’ for themselves and others. Just over a quarter (27%) of US citizens visited a casino in the past year, and three-quarters of these visitors said a trip to a casino represented an excellent, very good or good value compared to other entertainment options. Some 39% of casino visitors planned to hit a gambling joint once or twice over the coming year, 29% planned three-to-10 visits and 11% said they planned to go more than 10 times.
PICK YOUR POISON
Among casino gamblers, slots remain the favorite form of gambling at 53%, followed by blackjack (23%), poker (7%), and a tie between craps and roulette (3%). Gender-wise, 29% of men reported gambling at a casino compared to 26% of women. Eighty-four percent of casino gamblers admitted to setting a budget before they stepped into a casino. Forty-eight percent of these set their budget below $100; 23% set their limit at $200, 11% at $300 and 9% above $300.
Sports betting handle in Nevada rose from $2.761b in 2010 to $2.879b in 2011. But hold fell to $141m (4.9%) compared to $151m (5.4%) in 2010. Football was by far the most wagered-on sport (47%), followed by basketball (26%), baseball (19%) and ‘other’ (8%).
Among the general US public, the lottery remained king of the gambling participation charts at 44%. “Casual betting” came in at 23%, live poker was favored by 15%, while 8% enjoyed betting on bob-tailed nags and just 4% copped to indulging their online gambling jones.
During a post-release media scrum, AGA CEO Frank Fahrenkopf restated his call for federal online poker regulation as well as his belief that such a regime wouldn’t negatively impact land-based casinos. Fahrenkopf said he could understand how a “small casino that’s dependent on poker” might not welcome the online option, but “significant time” spent studying the potential impact on large commercial casinos has led the AGA to conclude that the introduction of legalized online poker “wouldn’t result in a significant change.”