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Chris Jones

Convention Authority Study: Local Favorites: Movies, Gaming

6 April 2005

It may come as no surprise, but the top-rated pastimes for Clark County residents are movies and gambling.

In fact, gambling among locals grew in popularity in the past two years, according to a new survey on gaming habits.Advertisement

Since 1989, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has contracted for the surveys designed to measure locals' interest in casino gaming, entertainment and restaurants, as well as their patronage of nearby travel destinations outside the Las Vegas Valley.

Data from the survey show that 21 percent of those surveyed listed gambling among their favorite outside-the-home leisure activities, including 9 percent who said it's their most frequent pastime.

Only movies ranked higher with scores of 28 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

That data suggest regular trips to a casino have become more popular with Southern Nevadans. Two years ago, only 17 percent of those polled mentioned gambling in a similar study. At that time, only 8 percent said gambling was their top leisure activity.

Glenn Christenson, chief financial officer for local gaming giant Station Casinos, said he's not surprised more locals are gambling, given the area's economic growth and casinos' efforts to diversify their offerings.

"It's not just gambling anymore. We have movie theaters, bowling alleys, multiple restaurant concepts and other forms of live entertainment," said Christenson, who had not seen the survey's results as of Tuesday. "That is driving people to the mall, if you will."

Overall, 70 percent of locals polled said they gamble at least occasionally, up from 69 percent two years ago. Among those, 29 percent said they play at least twice a week, up from 26 percent two years, while 14 percent said they gamble at least once a week, down from 17 percent.

The largest segment of gamblers -- 37 percent -- said they play once or twice a month, up slightly from two years ago, when 36 percent offered the same response.

Most local gamblers (36 percent) said their average casino budget is $50 or more per day, while 21 percent said they'll allocate $25 to $49 per day. Only 12 percent said they budget less than $10 per day.

"There's no question local people have a bigger budget than they used to," said Palms President and owner George Maloof, whose history in the local casino market dates back to the 1994 debut of the Fiesta on Rancho Drive at Lake Mead Boulevard.

"I don't know if that's because people's incomes are higher now, but dollar-wise they seem to bring more" to the casino, Maloof said.

Slots and video poker are locals' games of choice with scores of 35 percent and 34 percent, respectively. Blackjack remained the most popular table game at 9 percent, followed by poker, which despite its recent buzz held steady with at 5 percent.

Most locals (29 percent) who like to gamble said they do so on the Boulder Strip or in Green Valley. The Strip ranked second at 19 percent, followed by 15 percent in Summerlin, 13 percent in North Las Vegas, and 4 percent in downtown Las Vegas.

Local gambler's top reasons for avoiding the Strip were hardly a surprise: too many tourists and not enough parking. Their objections to downtown Las Vegas were also no-brainers: One in three gamblers said other sites are closer or more convenient.

If local gamblers seem unlikely to head to Fremont Street, they're even less inclined to hit the highways. This year's survey showed that 82 percent of locals said they did not take a leisure trip to Mesquite within the 12 months prior to their interview; 81 percent said the same of Laughlin, and 83 said they hadn't visited Primm in the prior year.

The news was worse for Jean, whose two roadside casinos were ignored by 92 percent of those surveyed.

About 26 percent of local gamblers said they played at least occasionally in a convenience store, gas station or grocery store.

Only 30 percent said they'd purchased an out-of-state lottery ticket.

And what of those locals who don't gamble at all? Fifty-four percent said they stay away because they can't afford to play, while 42 percent said they simply don't like gambling. Fourteen percent objected to "unfavorable odds," while 13 percent cited religious beliefs.

Two years ago, 58 percent said they didn't gamble because they couldn't afford to, while 31 percent said they didn't enjoy gambling.

Age is also apparently a key factor in locals' willingness to gamble, the survey shows. Thirty-four percent of respondents age 60 and up said they gamble for fun, while only 18 percent of those younger listed gaming as a pastime. Thirty-four percent of retirees said they gamble vs. 17 percent of those employed.

Education and income are also key components. Only 17 percent of college graduates said they gamble vs. 24 percent of those with some college experience, a high school education or less. And one quarter of locals who earn less than $30,000 said they gamble for fun vs. 18 percent of those who bring home $50,000 or more per year.

Both the 2001-02 and 2003-04 surveys were conducted by GLS Research, a San Francisco-based firm that obtained data through random telephone surveys of approximately 1,200 Clark County households. To avoid seasonal responses, GLS equally divided its interviews between August, November, February and May in each of the respective survey periods.

The margin of error for the survey is 2.8 percent. The survey also has a confidence level of 95 percent, which means if it were repeated exactly as it was originally conducted, responses would be within 2.8 percent of the original results 95 percent of the time.