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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Commercial Casino Take Up

27 May 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Nontribal casinos nationwide generated more than $27 billion in gambling revenue last year -- a 2 percent increase from 2002 -- and more than Americans spent going to the movies, visiting theme parks or renting or buying videos, an industry-funded study issued today found.

Those figures include commercial casinos as well as racetrack casinos in Iowa and Louisiana.

The popularity of gambling is spreading, as shown by data revealing that Americans made one third fewer trips to professional baseball games and made less than half as many trips to zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks as casinos, the American Gaming Association said. Americans made five times as many trips to the movies as casinos and made almost three times as many trips to museums, the survey said.

"Even when the country is facing an extended period of economic uncertainty, Americans still set aside a portion of their disposable income for fun and entertainment," AGA President and Chief Executive Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said.

Information from the American Gaming Association's annual "survey of casino entertainment" has been widely used by casinos to defend themselves against criticism by anti-gambling forces as well as to bolster efforts to legalize gambling. The study is considered controversial in states where battle lines have been drawn over the expansion of legalized gambling.

Nontribal casinos paid state and local governments $4.32 billion in casino taxes last year compared with $4 billion in 2002. Casino jobs in nontribal casinos remained fairly flat at 352,428 jobs in 2003 compared to 350,957 jobs a year ago.

A majority of Americans from various backgrounds continue to accept gambling as entertainment, recognize the economic benefits of casinos and believe casinos are doing a good job combating underage gambling and curbing gambling problems, the survey found.

About 62 percent of those surveyed said the industry did a "very good" or "fairly good" job eliminating illegal or underage gambling. Another 20 percent said the industry had not done a good job or had done a "poor job" tackling the problem.

When asked about recently adopted problem gambling codes of conduct adopted by AGA members, 72 percent of respondents said the codes gave them either a "somewhat more positive opinion" or a "much more positive opinion" of the industry. Another 13 percent said the codes gave them a "somewhat less positive opinion or a "much less positive opinion" of the industry, while 12 percent said it made no difference.

AGA members last year signed a code of conduct that puts marketing limitations on casinos including requiring systems that can ban gambling addicts from the premises upon the gambler's request.

The lottery remains the most popular form of gambling, followed by casinos and sports betting.

About 46 percent of Americans played the lottery last year, while 27 percent visited casinos, 19 percent participated in a sports betting pool and 12 percent played poker. Only 2 percent bet on the Internet, while 7 percent bet on horse or dog races, the survey said.

The resurgence of poker has boosted poker room revenue in Nevada and New Jersey, the two states that track such information. Poker revenue across both states rose 17 percent from 2002 to $105.1 million last year, the survey said. Poker is the main source of revenue in card rooms, which generated $843.9 million in revenue last year across 420 card rooms in five states including California.

Most casino visitors tended to be from the Western United States, where residents accounted for 38 percent of casino visits last year. That's up from 35 percent last year.

The survey was conducted for the AGA by Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc. and the Luntz Research Companies.