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Casinos face a losing streak as economy recovers

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12 2014 5:30 a.m. MDT

Casino industry professionals browse through the newest slot machines on display at the Global Gaming Expo, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, in Las Vegas.

Julie Jacobson, Associated Press

The card games and slot machines of the gambling industry are built on taking chances, but reports on the economics of the industry highlight how the real risk may be betting on the casinos themselves.

"Outside of Las Vegas — now home to only 20 percent of the nation's casino industry — casino gambling has evolved into a downscale business. Affluent and educated people visit casinos less often than poorer people do," The Atlantic reported. "Unfortunately for the casino industry's growth hopes, downscale America has less money to spend today than it did before 2007. Nor is downscale America sharing much in the post-2009 recovery."

The article explained that cities are failing to recognize the contracted market for casino gambling, relying instead on old-fashioned ideas about the boost casinos can offer to a struggling local economy.

"Casinos promise a new and easy flow of revenues to hard-pressed local governments. The promise however comes increasingly hedged with fine print," The Atlantic reported.

Beyond the ongoing money woes among the casino industry's target population, the market is facing overcrowding.

"Analysts, economists and casino operators warn that the industry is already suffering the effects of fierce competition, if not saturation, even in the Northeast, once a rich, untapped market. Winnings are flat or shrinking in many places," The New York Times reported.

The Times' coverage included an interactive graphic detailing "the crowded market for casino gambling" in the Northeast. Although total revenue has increased from 1990 to 2013, the market share for individual casinos is shrinking.

The gambling industry may also suffer from growing awareness of the social consequences a new casino can bring to town. The Atlantic highlighted the "Why Casinos Matter" report from the Institute for American Values, explaining that the "evidence should worry any responsible city government."

The report offers an overview of 31 different ways the casino industry impacts communities. It describes many negative side effects of building a casino, including lower property values for nearby homes and the weakening of other local businesses.

"Whether or not you personally gamble in them, the new casinos matter. They are influencing the nation as a whole. They are affecting our health, our economics, our politics, our ideas and social values, and perhaps even our sense of who we are as a people and what obligations we have toward one another. They appear to be connected in important ways to the rise of American inequality," the report explained.

But the American Gaming Association paints a sunnier picture of casino gambling. Its "Get to Know Gaming" survey reported that public support for gaming is at an all-time high and that "nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of casino visitors leave the property to spend money at neighboring local small businesses and other attractions."

Public opinion has evolved overtime, as the promise of high revenues encouraged government leaders to ignore the unsavory environment associated with casino gambling.

"Politicians of both parties were afraid to raise taxes and looked for alternatives," Article 3 reported. "When that wasn't enough to keep things in balance, they did just about the last thing possible — they legalized casino gambling."

An overcrowded market may turn the tide against the gambling industry, the article explained, as the decision to build a casino becomes a riskier bet.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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