ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Things are looking up for most of the nation’s commercial casinos, as gambling revenue increased by nearly 5 per cent last year and jobs held roughly steady.
According to the annual survey of casinos by the American Gaming Association, America’s nontribal casinos took in $37.3 billion from gamblers last year, an increase of 4.8 per cent over 2011.
It marked the second-highest total ever, second only to 2007 when casinos took in $37.5 billion just before the Great Recession hit.
“By almost all measures, our industry is expanding and growing, which is good news for our employees and the communities where they live and work,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, the association’s president.
There were 513 commercial casinos last year, up from 492 in 2011. Las Vegas remains the nation’s top gambling market, with more than $6.2 billion in revenue last year.
The report found that 15 of the 22 states that had commercial casinos last year saw gambling revenues increase, led by Kansas, Maryland, Maine and New York, each of which opened new casinos in 2012. Ohio became the 23rd state with a commercial casino last year.
New Jersey experienced the largest decline in casino revenue. Despite adding a 12th casino, Atlantic City’s revenues fell 8 per cent last year to just over $3 billion. The city’s casinos continue to fight increased competition in neighbouring states and were hurt by the after-effects of Superstorm Sandy, which kept some visitors away for months.
New Jersey has seen its casino revenue fall from a high of $5.2 billion in 2006. It is hoping that Internet gambling, which it legalized this year, will help rejuvenate the market.
Delaware, which also is battling a glut of casinos in the mid-Atlantic region, saw its casino revenue fall 4.7 per cent to $526.6 million last year. It, too, will offer Internet gambling this year. Indiana was down 4 per cent, to $2.61 billion.
Casinos paid $8.6 billion in taxes to state and local governments last year, an increase of 8.5 per cent.
Employment at the casinos was down less than 1 per cent, with about 332,000 people holding jobs.
The AGA’s figures do not include Indian casinos, which took in $26.1 billion in 2011, the last year for which figures are available, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. It said last year’s figures will not be available until early summer.
Other states that had significant casino revenue increases included Florida, Illinois and South Dakota. Pennsylvania saw a 4.6 per cent increase, and surpassed New Jersey to become the second-largest casino market in the nation after Nevada.
“Pennsylvania has been one of the great success stories of our industry in the last few years,” Fahrenkopf said. “There’s a price for that, and unfortunately Atlantic City has gotten hit with the price for that. If you live in Pennsylvania you no longer have to drive an hour and 15 minutes to Atlantic City to play the slots.”
There were more than 853,000 slot machines in use at U.S. casinos last year, and casinos in Iowa and South Dakota derived more than 90 per cent of their gambling revenue from slots last year.
Among casino table games, blackjack is the most popular, followed by roulette, poker and craps.
The report also included detailed surveys of gamblers that showed their habits and preferences.
More than 76 million Americans visited a casino last year, and about one third per cent of all Americans gambled at one. Fine dining is the most popular nongambling attraction for casino patrons, while more than a quarter of all casino patrons never or rarely gamble when they visit a casino.
Playing the lottery remains the most popular form of gambling in America, with just over half of respondents saying they bought a ticket last year. Internet gambling represented only 3 per cent of U.S. gambling activity.
That figure is certain to increase this year and in the years to come as states begin to offer online gambling. Nevada began doing so last week, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized it but have yet to begin taking bets, and at least 10 other states are considering adding Internet gambling.
Philadelphia remained the nation’s top racetrack casino market at $835.3 million. Resorts World at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City took in $672.5 million, and Empire City in Yonkers N.Y. took in $544.7 million.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC