In this, the inaugural issue of Global Gaming Business, it seems altogether appropriate to step back and assess the overall state of the gaming industry - to evaluate how far we’ve come and determine how our past accomplishments will help guide our future.
At the American Gaming Association (AGA), we conduct a survey of the industry each year and present our findings in the annual State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment. The report evaluates raw economic data on the industry as well as important public opinion research indicating attitudes about gambling. The 2002 report, released in May, reveals an industry that has weathered the storm of economic uncertainty to emerge stronger, more diversified, and increasingly vital to the fabric of the American lifestyle.
Last year’s tragedies had a dramatic impact on our lives and continue to shape and refine our attitudes about values, lifestyle and what it truly means to be an American. The gaming industry, like many in the travel and hospitality sector, was deeply affected by these events. But just as the American people have emerged from this crisis a stronger and more unified whole, so too has the gaming industry revealed itself to be more vibrant than ever in 2001.
The most notable - and most exciting - news from our 2002 survey reveals that, despite the significant challenges to the travel and tourism industry last year, gross gaming revenues increased by 5 percent to $25.7 billion, showing that casino gaming is still one of America’s favorite pastimes.
These increased revenues in the face of adversity are a testament to the enduring popularity of casino gaming. In addition, the data point to the significant role diversification of our industry will play in our continued success over the next several years. Air travel concerns kept many Americans on the ground last year, making local casinos situated within driving distance of many customers’ homes vital to the rebound of the industry. In fact, non-traditional gaming states exhibited the highest growth rate among casino states last year. Michigan, South Dakota and Missouri were the top three, with each state reporting double-digit growth within their jurisdictions in 2001.
The American casino industry also attracted a large number of customers last year - 52.3 million people made more than 303 million visits, roughly equivalent to the number of visits to amusement and theme parks. In addition, the industry directly employed more than 364,000 people in 2001, and employees earned more than $11.5 billion in wages, benefits and tips.
On top of national revenue, visitation and employment statistics, we cannot examine the economic impact of the casino industry without a discussion of its tremendous impact at the local level. In addition to providing jobs and tourism dollars to cities and towns where commercial casinos are located, the gaming industry helps shape the communities of our nation.
Our report indicates the industry contributed $3.6 billion in direct gaming taxes to state and local governments last year, an increase of $147 million since 2000. These tax revenues from casinos fund economic development projects that make our communities great, including bolstering local education spending, improving infrastructure and beautifying neighborhoods. In addition, casino employees log hundreds of thousands of volunteer service hours, contributing their time and energy to give back to the communities that support us throughout the year.
These accomplishments and contributions have not gone unnoticed by the American public. In fact, the results of our annual public opinion survey on gaming issues points to unwavering support for the industry among a majority of Americans.
While many opinion surveys chart dramatic shifts in public attitudes over time, such is not the case with the annual research conducted for the AGA by pollsters Peter Hart and Frank Luntz. In fact, the drama in these results lies in the very static nature of the data. According to the poll for the 2002 report, there has been remarkable consistency year to year in Americans’ responses to questions involving their participation in gambling activities, as well as their views on the industry’s acceptability, economic benefits and entertainment value.
Just a sampling of the 2002 survey results shows that casino gaming has truly become an accepted mainstream activity: three-quarters of Americans believe casino gaming is acceptable for themselves or others; more than 80 percent agree that casino gambling can be a fun night out; and more than 60 percent agree that casinos bring widespread economic benefits to other businesses and industries within the region.
As we continue to adjust to the new world reality that is being shaped around us, we should be heartened and encouraged to know that the state of our industry is strong. The continued public acceptance of our industry has defied the skeptics, and the diversification of our industry has helped us weather the challenges of recent months. Undoubtedly, the continued expansion of casino gaming to locations across the country and around the world will fortify our industry for the inevitable challenges to come, allowing us to once again emerge stronger than ever.