I have no idea what the political or budgetary climate will be like for the gambling industry here in Texas when the Lege next convenes in 2013, but they have been gaining a lot of ground elsewhere in the country.
States have embraced casinos, after years of trepidation about their societal costs, for two simple reasons: a promise of a rich new revenue source, plus the possibility of stimulating tourism.
“They are faced with tough decisions. They are in recession … And we pay taxes far over and above normal taxes,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association.
Last week alone, Genting’s new gambling parlor at Aqueduct, now limited to 4,500 video slot machines and another 500 electronic table games, made nearly $13 million — putting the “racino” on pace to make $676 million per year, with 44 percent of that take going to a state education fund.
And that total is nothing compared to the $1.4 to $2 billion per year Genting predicts it would bring in at the huge complex it is planning in Miami.
Some experts, however, have questioned whether revenue bonanzas that large are realistic, and say states should be cautious about giving up too much to lure these projects. Competition for a limited pool of gambling and tourism dollars is already fierce, and recent years haven’t been kind to casinos.
Nevada’s larger casinos lost $4 billion in 2011, according to a report released this month by the state’s Gaming Control Board, as the state continued to feel the effects of the global economic slump.
As gambling options have increased in the East, revenue has slid substantially at the pair of Indian tribe-owned casinos in Connecticut and declined by a dramatic 30 percent in Atlantic City, which has lost customers in droves to the new casinos in nearby Philadelphia, according to David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
Other than that one mention of Nevada, the story is entirely East Coast-focused, so I can’t say what kind of action there may be in these parts. No question, Texas is a big prize, and I’m sure there will be yet another large push for casinos, slot machines at racetracks, or both. There’s also been a push for online gambling of late, which may add a new wrinkle to the usual legislative battle. As always, worth keeping an eye on.