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Casino gambling revenue shows uptick nationally

Casino gambling revenue shows uptick nationally

RENO–Casino gamblers bet more across the USA in 2011 than the year before, but industry reports show they were selective about where they plunked down their dollars.

In Nevada, the largest jurisdiction, gross gaming revenue reached $10.7 billion, a 2.8% rise from 2010. The increase was pegged largely on a resurgence in Las Vegas, which is the biggest city in that market, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board's annual report released Thursday.

But in the USA's second-biggest market, Atlantic City, gross revenue for last year fell 6.9% to $3.3 billion, according to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

In Pennsylvania, the third-largest market, annual gross gaming revenue topped $3 billion for the first time with a 21.6% increase over 2010, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reports. The outsized gain in Pennsylvania can be tied to casino expansion in the state as well as the state's authorization of table games in mid-2010, says Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno

Not all of the USA's 22 states with casino gaming have reported their revenue yet for calendar year 2011. But through November, the reported total of $32.56 billion was running 2.3% ahead of the first 11 months of 2010, unaudited data by the American Gaming Association show.

Association figures don't include tribal casinos, which comprise about 40%, or $26 billion, of total U.S. casino revenue annually, estimates Eadington.

Stil, the trend of 2011's association figures has industry observers cautiously optimistic in the aftermath of a recession that pinched bettors' wallets and from which the casino industry has yet to fully recover..

"From what I've seen, it seems in general to be picking up a little bit. It's not picking up '90s style, but a little bit," says David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

It all comes down to tourists' comfort level on parting with their money, says Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association.

"We're talking discretionary income," Fahrenkopf says of the 2011 revenue. "People have been on very tight budgets and not spending as much, so this is good news. 2008 and '09 were down and 2010 flattened out, and we seem to have started a gradual gain."

States with calendar-year increases in revenue through November, according to the American Gaming Association include: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

States with declines include: Delaware, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey and South Dakota.

"Our industry nationwide is not monolithic," Fahrenkopf says. "Regional markets, riverboat gaming states like Missouri, they did better than destination resort places."

He also points to "special problem" regions, such as Atlantic City and Reno.

"Atlantic City has just gotten clobbered," he says. "Look what happened in states around it. Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania have gaming now. Atlantic City really depends on the Philadelphia market, and now if you live in Philly you don't have to take that long drive."

And while Las Vegas is surging, northern Nevada 450 miles away continues to struggle against tribal casinos siphoning off the drive-up market along key highways from Northern California, he says.

"There are very few places where you can distinctly point at Indian gaming and say, 'It hurts,' particularly in winter," he says. But "Reno is one of them."


Contributing: O'Driscoll also writes for the Reno Gazette-Journal



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