The Las Vegas theme is being popularized more than ever in casinos around the nation.
The Wall Street Journal reported that dozens of casinos in 33 states are trying to lure more families in what is being billed “a high stakes gamble.”
“From New Mexico to Connecticut, casinos all over the country are in the midst of a remaking themselves into full-service, if not luxury, vacation destinations,” the article said.
Casinos are building plush hotels, high-end shopping malls and kiddie amusements parks in a bid for the family-vacation dollar. The industry has tripled in 10 years into a $38 billion a year business.
The Wild-West themed Deadwood, S.D., is drawing as many visitors a year as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, according to the article.
Southeast Connecticut is drawing 27.4 million casinos visitors a year, while Niagara Falls is attracting 9.1 million. In the Midwest, Detroit is drawing 18.6 million visitors to its casinos and Biloxi has lured 19 million to the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Deadwood has brought in 750,000 visitors.
The Journal cited Deadwood as “maybe the best casino resort because it doesn’t let you bet a lot, pushes American history and closes up at Disney hours.”
Las Vegas was the site for all casinos from 1931 through 1978 when New Jersey allowed casinos to open in struggling Atlantic City. Only South Dakota opened a casino in the next decade, then a dozen states rejected gambling on moral issues.
Since 1990, the number of Indian and commercial casinos has soared 51 percent to 755 nationwide.
Conn casinos valuable
Mohegan Tribal Chairman Mark F. Brown told business leaders in Hartford last week that Indian-owned casinos in Connecticut have helped reverse the shrinking population trend.
Brown also cited that the two major casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, will pay nearly $400 million in slot machine revenue next year, second only to the federal government as supporters of state programs.
“The casinos have had statistical impacts on crime and traffic, but that happens anytime you have an attraction that does its job,” Brown said. “The casinos have provided thousands of jobs and purchased millions of dollars worth of goods and services from local businesses.
The Mohegan Sun employs 10,000 people, including 8,500 full-time workers. About 75 percent of those employees come from the local area.
In a related story, the Connecticut Office of Tourism released a survey in the Norwich Bulletin stating that 57 percent of tourists gambled at the casinos.
The survey showed that the majority of visitors came from neighboring states, including 23 percent each from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, 19 percent from metropolitan New York and five percent from northern New England.
The study also indicated that tourists were staying longer and spending more than a year ago.
Illinois pushes good image
The nine Illinois casinos have taken their case for more slot machines and tables games to the Internet.
Last week the Illinois Casino Gaming Association announced the creation of a web site called “A Better Deal For Illinois,” which was designed to wipe out damaging information about alleged mob links that has hurt the Chicago area industry.
The Chicago Sun Times reported that casino analysts believe the bad publicity has set the stage for the state General Assembly to approve higher gambling taxes last spring.
The web site touts “a sound, fiscally responsible” plan to lift a rule limiting state casinos to 1,200 gaming positions apiece. The site is pushing to rollback the 50 percent tax on top-grossing casinos to its previous 35 percent, still tops in the nation.
Davis opposes W. Sac casino
Gov. Gray Davis said the state opposes a planned casino for the West Sacramento area.
The Sacramento Bee reported that deputy attorney general Marc Le Forestier sent a letter on behalf of Davis to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs stating that the state “is strongly opposed to the efforts of the Upper Lake Pomo Association to locate a gaming facility in West Sacramento.”
The tribe of approximately 140 is suing the federal government for the right to locate a casino-hotel complex on a 67-acre site near Interstate 80 and Reed Avenue. The tribe is working with Stations Casinos on the planned casino, which would be located about 15 miles from the West Sacramento area.
The city will get a minimum of $6 million a year for 12 years from the tribe if the casino is built.