US recession hits casinos

Revenue from casino gambling fell 5.5 percent overall last year

The impact of the US recession on gamblers has been noted by the American Gaming Association, which reported this week that revenue from casino gambling fell 5.5 percent overall in 2009, with the take falling $1.8 billion from the $32.5 billion of revenue in 2008.

2009 was the second consecutive year in which gaming revenues tumbled; last year revenues declined by 4.7 percent. The two-year drop has sent the annual revenue figure back to levels last seen in 2005.

Revenue fell in eight of the 12 states that have casino gambling, the Association revealed.

"There's no way to sugarcoat it," Frank Fahrenkopf, CEO of the trade association told the USA Today newspaper. "The past year was tough.

"People had less money to spend on our products," he added. "Until people go back to work, businesses that depend on discretionary income are going to continue to struggle."

The newspaper noted that US consumers spent more last year gambling at casinos than they did on candy or movie tickets.

The most popular gamble – wagering on lotteries – showed a slower decline, with lottery revenues of $53.1 billion in fiscal year 2009, compared with $53.4 billion in fiscal year 2008.

The racetrack casino industry saw revenue from slot machines and table games increase 5 percent to $6.4 billion last year, according to the gaming association. That number doesn't include revenue from pari-mutuel betting on the races.

Indiana was partly responsible for the increase. Revenue there rose 105 percent, because 2009 was the first full year of operation for its two racetrack casinos, the association says.

Six of 12 states with racetrack casinos reported revenue increases, and six reported decreases. Maine had the largest increase, 17.2 percent, and Iowa took the biggest hit, a 6.7 percent decline.

Only four states — Colorado, Indiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania — posted an increase in casino gambling revenue, according to the AGA report. Pennsylvania saw revenue rise because two casinos opened last year, the association says. A fifth state, Kansas, brought in nearly $2 million after its first casino opened in December.

New gaming laws increased some revenue. Colorado relaxed bet limits and increased hours and types of games. Missouri removed loss limits. Mississippi casinos, which includes the Gulf Coast, saw revenues decline 9.4 percent while the Louisiana market was off 5 percent

Nevada and New Jersey, which are states with major gambling interests, suffered the deepest revenue declines in 2009.

New Jersey's casinos in Atlantic City took the largest tumble, falling 13.3 percent from $4.54 billion in 2008 to $3.94 billion in 2009. Nevada casinos won $10.39 billion from gamblers in 2009, down 10.4 percent compared to 2008.

As gambling dropped, so did jobs and the tax take. Casinos in 13 states employed about 328 000 workers last year, compared with about 357 000 in 2008, the association reports.

Casinos contributed $5.6 billion in tax revenue to state and local governments last year, a 1.6 percent drop from 2008.

The AGA report covered the public opinion poll conducted by VP Communications (see previous InfoPowa report) in which American respondents overwhelmingly opined that casino gambling was an activity acceptable for themselves or others. The report noted that this "acceptable for anyone" figure has fallen from 57 percent in 2003 to 45 percent in 2009.

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