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Kansas City the Nation's 13th Largest Casino Market
By Rick Alm, The Kansas City Star, Mo.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

May 10, 2005 - WE'RE NO. 13: Kansas City is the nation's 13th largest casino market.

In its annual State of the States report released last week, the American Gaming Association for the first time ranked the nation's most significant commercial, tribal and racetrack-slots markets, based on 2004 gross gambling revenues.

At $701.4 million, Kansas City ranked behind the 33-casino Boulder Strip area in suburban Las Vegas, which ranked No. 12 at $791.7 million. Surprisingly, Kansas City ranked just ahead of historic downtown Las Vegas, No. 14 at $663.3 million.

Kansas City's tally included St. Joseph and its Herbst Gaming Inc. riverboat operation. That expanded geography didn't affect the rankings; Kansas City's four-boat market alone raked in $677.1 million last year.

The Las Vegas Strip topped the list at $5.3 billion. Next was No. 2 Atlantic City with $4.8 billion, followed by the bi state Chicago market with $2.3 billion, the giant tribal casinos of Connecticut with $1.6 billion, and No. 5 Tunica, Miss., at $1.2 billion.

The rest of the list, identified by each region's largest market:

6. Detroit; $1.2 billion

7. Biloxi, Miss.; $911.5 million

8. Reno, Nev.; $903.5 million

9. Lawrenceburg, Ind.; $885.9 million

10. St. Louis; $848.4 million

11. Shreveport, La.; $835.5 million

15. New Orleans, La.; $608.8 million

16. Laughlin, Nev.; $592.3 million

17. Black Hawk, Colo.; $524.0 million

18. Lake Charles, La.; $462.1 million

19. Council Bluffs, Iowa; $418.2 million

20. Charles Town, W.Va.; $360.2 million

The association's statistical snapshot of the nation's gambling activity also featured a first-ever survey of elected officials and civic leaders in dozens of casino communities.

Not surprisingly, the 201 who were surveyed, including those from Kansas City and St. Louis, overwhelming said casinos had had a positive impact in their communities. For instance:

--79 percent said economic effects met or exceeded their expectations.

--82 percent said casinos are good corporate citizens.

--63 percent said casinos helped other businesses in town.

Meanwhile, an annual survey of public attitudes showed continued widespread approval of casino gambling. More than 80 percent said gambling is acceptable for themselves or others. Fully 87 percent agreed with a statement that governments should not interfere in an adult's choice to gamble.

The report is available online at www.americangaming.org.

OFFICIAL'S SWAN SONG: KANSAS TOURISM NO OXYMORON:

Scott Allegrucci's last day as director of Kansas' tourism agency was much like his past several months on the job.

He spent much of Friday in a sparsely furnished church meeting room, this time in Kansas City, Kan., talking to a civic group about the sad state of Kansas' tourism industry.

He also defended its new marketing image and slogan, "Kansas, As Big As You Think," which, for better or worse, will stand as the signature achievement of his brief administration.

Allegrucci, the son of a state Supreme Court justice and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' 2002 campaign manager, took over the state's tourism agency two years ago.

Few entertained hopes of a tourism renaissance in Kansas, given that Allegrucci was only 37 and had virtually no industry experience.

Raised in Pittsburg, Kan., Allegrucci left the Sunflower State at 19 to find fame and fortune in Hollywood. He cut short a stage and screen career to come home.

"I'm a native son, but also a bit of an outsider," he said at the time. "What I do have is an extraordinary passion for Kansas. A lot of tourism is presenting an image and telling a story."

No on can deny Allegrucci brought passion to the job. He flung himself into the Commerce Department's year long project to invent a new marketing strategy and image for Kansas commerce, including tourism.

The slogan was unveiled this winter to no shortage of criticism, and Allegrucci and others have been on the road since then selling the image and its message.

Between the lines of his canned and well-practiced presentation Friday, Allegrucci the actor waxed eloquently and quotably.

"Kansas tourism," he said, "are two words that don't go together very often, and that's a shame."

Surveys and encounter groups with would-be tourists discovered Kansas enjoys no enduring image, good or bad, with fellow Americans.

"For a lot of folks we're just one of the big rectangle states in the middle of the country," he said. "We haven't done a very good job telling people what we are."

Allegrucci is convinced Kansas' attractions such as Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart and the Wild West will sell -- if only the state can get its sales-pitch foot in the door. The new image campaign will invoke those and other famous Kansans, along with ordinary ones, in selling the state as classic, can-do Americana.

Kansas, Allegrucci noted, has long ranked last or close to it among the 50 states in spending for self-promotion.

That's also a reason why Kansas usually ranks last or close to it in tourism spending, which elsewhere routinely brings in more tax dollars than advertising costs.

Allegrucci's parting words as a public official should be carved deeply into the marble walls of the Kansas Legislature's ornate meeting chambers:

"It takes money to get into the game."

To reach Rick Alm, call (816) 234-4785 or send e-mail to ralm@kcstar.com.

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To see more of The Kansas City Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.kansascity.com.

Copyright (c) 2005, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

 
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