|By Timothy Boone, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 6, 2004 - Is gambling America's national pastime? The American Gaming Association makes a pretty good case for it.
Americans made nearly three times as many trips to casinos during 2003 as they did to professional baseball games (310 million trips to casinos vs. 106.5 million trips to baseball games), according to the AGA's 2004 State of the States.
The association, the gambling industry's main lobbying arm, has been doing an annual survey for six years, with help from well-known political pollsters Peter Hart and Frank Luntz. The survey tracks activity at America's 443 commercial casinos and excludes Indian casinos.
One of the most interesting parts of the survey dealt with poker room revenue. After three straight years of declining business, the two states that track poker revenue reported an upturn. In Nevada, poker rooms brought in $68 million, compared to $57.5 million in 2002, and in New Jersey, poker rooms brought in $37.1 million, up from $32.5 million the year before. Those numbers are directly attributable to the power of television, especially ESPN and the Travel Channel's regular coverage of high stakes poker tournaments.
Although Nevada poker revenue had seen occasional upturns in business, such as a little uptick in 1999 (which I suspect may have been caused by the late 1998 release of the excellent movie "Rounders" in which Matt Damon and Edward Norton were poker players), the AGA notes that there has not been a sustained increase in poker revenue. Based on all of the entries in this year's World Series of Poker and the increased business in casinos, poker revenue should be even better in 2004.
The demographics of poker players also are interesting. For adults between ages 21 and 39, 22 percent said they had played poker within the past year. For adults 50 and older, who make up the majority of gamblers, only 7 percent had recently played poker.
This either indicates a bright long-term future for poker in casinos or shows it might be a fad among the post-college crowd. Either way, expect more poker rooms to open as casinos continue trying to attract younger gamblers.
Here are some other interesting facts from the AGA study:
--The average gambler spent $87.17 last year in a commercial casino.
--Despite the economic slowdown, commercial casinos generated more than $27 billion in gross gaming revenue last year, a 2 percent increase from 2002.
--Americans spent more in commercial casinos last year than they did on going to amusement parks and the movies combined.
--More than 352,000 people work in commercial casinos, a slight increase over 2002. In Mississippi, the number of casino employees was down by 3 percent over 2002, with 30,377 people working in the 29 state-regulated gambling halls.
--State regulated casinos paid $4.32 billion in direct gaming taxes in 2003. In Mississippi, casino tax revenue dropped 2 percent, to $325 million.
--More than 53.4 million adult Americans visited casinos last year, compared to 51.2 million in 2002. That works out to an average of 5.8 casino trips per gambler. Gamblers make up 26 percent of the U.S. adult population.
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