Recent data shows a drop in US gambling income, which will affect Pennsylvania and another 38 states with lotteries - and strongly impact gaming hubs like Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
“The decline comes as states are rapidly expanding gambling in hopes of stemming severe budget shortfalls, and it indicates that gambling is not insulated from broader economic forces like recession, as has been argued in the past,” says the New York Times.
That raises the question of whether the entire industry is reaching or already has reached a saturation point. But in the meantime, what do gambling-dependent areas do to get back to their winning ways?
An article in the Las Vegas Sun points out the situation at hand: "Slow, semi-stagnant recovery from the recession. Intense competition in the US and abroad for gambling dollars. Aging Baby Boomers spending less. People seeking gaming venues closer to home. And, if only symbolically, the likelihood no casinos will be built for years.”
Atlantic City’s answer is to “furiously try to remake itself into a vacation destination that happens to have gambling,” says the AP. But there is no guarantee it has a winning hand as other threats come up that include expanded casinos and pushes for online gambling.
One of Atlantic City’s major problems was in its failed efforts to imitate its major competitor, Las Vegas.
New Jersey Earmarking Casino Funds To Target Atlantic City Gamblers
Under New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the state in 2010 decided to take over its tourism efforts. A budget of $30 million in annual payments that the casinos “had to pony up to the horse racing industry, in return for keeping slots out of the tracks, will now be used to market Atlantic City nationally,” says the AP.
The state also rewrote many casino regulations to remove, among other stipulations, minimum staffing requirements. State-mandated economic redevelopment funds collected from each casino, which previously was spread around the state, are now used entirely for projects within Atlantic City.
Vegas, which in common with Atlantic City, has been floundering around to create various different incentives, took another route. After flirting with family-friendly attractions in the 1990s, the so-called “Sin City” embraced its roots as an adult playground, cementing its image as a brief, whirlwind escape for adults rather than a place to spend a leisurely week with the family.
Despite its many amenities, Las Vegas will have difficulty broadening its appeal much further, said Adam Hanft, an author and marketing expert. “Newness, which has long driven Las Vegas growth, will not be part of the immediate future,” says Bill Eadington, director of UNR’s Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming. “Las Vegas may become yesterday’s news unless it can figure out a new way to reinvent itself.”
Vegas tourism officials conducted an intense seven-month survey to find out what potential customers wanted - even giving video cameras to tourists to report on their experiences. “People want transparency, value and variety,” says Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Tull says travelers want “value packages” such as an all-day restaurant pass that can be used at several resorts. She said the research found that the area should focus marketing to people who need an excuse to visit.
As a result, new ads show specific examples of what visitors can do in town rather than generic places or descriptions of a general fun atmosphere.
One possibility for promotion is in isolating and heavily advertising one-time events. “We’re going to identify three or four events we can embrace as a citywide experience,” says Tull. “If it’s a Halloween event, we’re going to say, ‘Vegas owns Halloween’ and make sure resorts are offering services and an atmosphere geared toward Halloween.”
Key Statistics – Gaming In Vegas
- About 60% of people who participate in casino gambling have cut back on spending, according to a national survey conducted by the American Gaming Association.
- Gaming revenue in Atlantic City dropped 31% since its peak in 2006, according to a report called "Atlantic City Casino and Hotel Market Outlook 2011’’ compiled by HVS Las Vegas.
- Statewide gaming revenue fell less than 1%, and strip gaming revenue dipped over 2% during a recent month in Nevada, reported the Las Vegas Sun.