Report: Revenue and jobs decline at US casinos

Published 10:48 pm Monday, May 18, 2009

Revenue and jobs at the nation’s gambling halls fell last year as Americans became less willing to risk their money, according to a report released Monday by the national gambling industry’s trade association.

The study by the American Gaming Association found revenue nationwide was down 4.7 percent, and jobs fell slightly.

“People are just taking shorter trips for fewer days, and spending less,” said Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the group’s president.

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He said 60 percent of people who visited an American casino last year said they spent less while doing so.

Fahrenkopf added, “There seems to be a feeling that things may have bottomed out with consumer spending. Maybe we’ve taken the worst of the hit.”

One-quarter of the adult U.S. population visited a casino in 2008.

The study said 2,620 fewer people were employed in commercial casinos last year than in 2007 — a drop of less than one-tenth of 1 percent to 357,000 employees in 2008.

The study did not include job numbers for Nevada or Missouri after June, because both states track job data using a fiscal year starting in July. Major casinos in Nevada shed thousands of jobs during the second half of last year as the economy got worse on the Las Vegas Strip and elsewhere.

The study showed job cuts in Mississippi and New Jersey, but jobs added in Pennsylvania and Michigan because of new casinos.

The Tunica/Lula market in the Mississippi Delta was the nation’s sixth largest casino market in 2008, generating $1.05 billion, according to an American Gaming Association report released Monday.

The Biloxi market came in eighth with $951.3 million, according to AGA’s 2009 State of the States survey of 75 markets in the 12 states with land-based or riverboat casinos. The Las Vegas Strip ranked first with $6.1 billion.

The report did not include the casino in Neshoba County run by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Mississippi’s 29 casinos had 28,740 employees in 2008, the nation’s third highest number of workers.

Overall in 2008, casinos nationwide earned $32.5 billion in revenue and employed 357,314 workers.

The survey examined casino gambling in the United States from many angles. It found, for example, that Americans spent twice as much on cable television — $79.1 billion — as they did on casino gambling, and only slightly more on gambling than they did on candy — $28 billion.

Illinois (20.9 percent) and Colorado (12.3 percent) experienced the largest revenue declines, due in part to smoking bans that took effect last year. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, saw its revenue soar by more than 48 percent last year, due to the continued growth of its racetrack slot parlors.

Racetrack casinos continue to be a growth area for the gambling industry, with revenue increasing 17.2 percent to nearly $6.2 billion. There are now 44 “racinos” in 12 states, with more on the way soon.

The racetrack slots parlors employed more than 29,000 people last year, a 6.6 percent increase. Indiana’s two new racetrack slots parlors created the most new racino jobs last year, up 1,412 to more than 16,000 statewide. Pennsylvania’s racetrack slots added nearly 1,200 jobs last year, bringing the statewide total to nearly 5,000.

It also found that a poker boom that began in 2003 appears to be waning. Poker revenues in Las Vegas and Atlantic City declined last year for the first time since 2002.

Non-gambling amenities continue to be important to the casino industry. The survey found 77 percent of casino patrons ate at a fine dining restaurant, and more than half saw a concert or other live entertainment while on their trips.

That kind of extra offering is what Atlantic City is staking its future on as it is locked in combat with slots parlors that, at least for now, offer little more than a buffet.

“Not only do we have a more diversified gaming experience, but the hospitality, dining, nightlife, retail, spa and headline entertainment experiences attract customers from the entire East Coast, as opposed to only those customers in our backyard,” said Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey.