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Mining data from the AGA's State of the States report

1 June 2010

The American Gaming Association has issued its annual State of the States report, and there's an intriguing little tidbit to be gleaned from casino revenue data.

Of the 13 states to have legal licensed, commercial casinos, eight showed revenue drops in 2009 as compared to 2008. Four had revenue drops, and one — Kansas — opened to casinos just last year. The drop is only natural. The continuing economic sag has hit casinos just as it has other businesses.

Hardest hit were the states most dependent on tourists. New Jersey, which faced growing competition in Pennsylvania along with fewer travelers to Atlantic City, declined 13.3%, to $3.9 billion in gaming revenue. Nevada, where Las Vegas has been the gamblers' paradise for generations, dropped 10.4%, to $10.4 billion. Mississippi, which also draws tourists to its Tunica and Gulf Coast regions, fell 9.4%, to $2.5 billion.

Among states more dependent on local players, Illinois dropped 8.9% to $1.4 billion, Louisiana was down 5% to $2.5 billion, Iowa down 2.8% to $1.4 billion. Michigan down 1.5% to $1.3 billion at its commercial, non-Native American casinos, and South Dakota, with its low-limit gaming, down 0.4% to $102 million.

Intriguing are the four states that showed gains. In Pennsylvania, up 21.6% to $1.96 billion, the steep rise was due mainly to the opening of new casinos in Bethlehem and Pittsburgh. Colorado, up 2.6% to $735 million, raised betting maximums on table games from $5 to $100 a hand.

That leaves Indiana and Missouri as risers that aren't quite so easily explained, but they do share a common bond. Both have casinos in direct competition with Illinois, which showed the largest drop in gaming states most dependent on local players. And in Illinois, the effects of the recession have been compounded by a ban on smoking in public places. The smoking ban went into effect at the beginning of 2008, and casino revenues have yet to stabilize.

Part of the effect of the ban is that smokers are spending less of their day at the casino at the games. Casinos have built outside smoking shelters, but operators point out that a customer who spends 10 to 20 minutes out of each hour at the shelter instead of at the games is generating less revenue.

But the ban also is driving some business to neighboring states. In some areas, it's just as easy to get to St. Louis or St. Charles, Mo., as it is to get to East St. Louis or Alton, Ill.,. and just as easy to get to Hammond, Gary or East Chicago, Ind., as to Joliet, Ill. If you're a smoker, traveling out of state to play might be the path of least resistance.

** * ** * ** * **

Some other tidbits from the AGA's State of the States report:

** In 2009, commercial casinos in the United States employed 328,377 people, paid wages of $13.1 billion, earned $30.74 billion in gross gaming revenue and paid $5.59 billion in direct gaming taxes.

** A survey by VP Communications, Inc., and Peter D. Hart found that 28% of American adults, and 42% of those living in counties with casinos, visited a casino to gamble at least once in the last year.

** Just about as many women as men — 29% of men, 28% of women — said they played in casinos in the last year.

** Slot machines were a runaway favorite among players, with 59% of those who played saying slots were their favorite game, with 18% for blackjack, 7% for poker, 6% for roulette and 5% for craps.

** Among slot players, 25% said they like the games because, "I'm not going to be embarrassed because they are less complicated and have fewer rules," and 24% said, "there is less pressure, and I can play alone at my own pace." Fifteen percent said, "They are more entertaining and fun."

** Forty-seven percent said today's slot machines are more interesting and engaging than older slot games.

** A whopping 91% of those surveyed said they set a budget before playing in a casino, and 48% said that budget was less than $100 for a casino visit.

** Asked about the acceptability of casino gaming, 45% said gambling in casinos is perfectly acceptable for anyone, 36% agreed it's "acceptable for others but not you personally," and 17% said it's not acceptable for anyone.

** Asked, "Regardless of whether or not your state has hotel-casinos, which of the following reasons do you think is the best reason for casinos to be allowed in your state," 36% choose job creation. Next was taxes, with 21%, followed by tourism generation and economic development, with 11% each, and entertainment and dining options, with 6%. Ten percent said there is no good reason to permit casinos in their state.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski