“Give wind and tide a chance to change.” – Richard E. Byrd, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Adapting to change is the one constant I’ve witnessed throughout my decades in the commercial casino industry. As someone who grew up in Reno when it was the second largest gaming center in the U.S., it is nothing short of amazing to see casinos in communities from Southern California to the shores of the Atlantic and in countless communities in between.
Equally amazing is the look of the casino floor, where slots have replaced table games as the major source of revenue, and technology has impacted everything from the games and security to design and marketing. We have implemented these changes by listening to our customers and adjusting our offerings to align with their tastes. Gaming pioneers like Bill Harrah or Sam Boyd would be amazed by the remarkable makeover of the casino. I expect, if they were still with us, both would be at the forefront of these changes.
It’s no secret that, here in the U.S., we live in uncertain economic times. Everyone in Nevada knows our industry has not been exempt from the tremendous impact of the economic recession. But, the industry has adapted. We’ve redefined our ideas of expansion to align with market realities and are beginning to see encouraging signs of growth. Gaming revenue across the country is increasing again. Visitation levels and hotel occupancy in Las Vegas are on the rise, and new developments are underway.
The Cosmopolitan was completed in December of 2010, and I believe it maybe the last we see of big, new resorts in Las Vegas for a long time. Today’s new projects look different. The gaming industry is taking on ventures to freshen the look and feel of existing properties and appeal to new demographics. The five major hotel-casino expansions on Fremont Street announced since the dawn of the recession signal the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas, including updates to Vegas’ oldest hotel, the Golden Gate. And Caesars’ planned entertainment district, complete with an observation wheel soaring above the Strip, is aimed at the younger, hipper casino customer.
These projects speak volumes, not only about the industry’s ability to adapt, but about our ongoing commitment to the communities in which we operate. In a few weeks, the American Gaming Association will release a report, Beyond the Casino Floor: Economic Impacts of the Commercial Casino Industry, that shows how important our industry has become to the economy at community, state and national levels.
The report finds that the commercial gaming industry directly employed about 400,000 men and women in 2010 with average salary and benefits of $41,500. In addition to directly supporting those jobs, the commercial casino industry spent about $18 billion on goods and services from suppliers from across the country and a broad range of industries. Casino and supplier spending further contributes to the economy.
When all these contributions are taken into account, our industry’s impact is much larger than meets the eye. Altogether, commercial casinos support about $125 billion in spending and 875,000 jobs in the U.S. In fact, 240,000 of those jobs are generated in counties with no commercial casinos. That means, spending with and by the commercial casino industry is approximately 1 percent of the GDP – roughly equivalent to $1 of every $115 in the U.S. economy.
These numbers are a remarkable testament to the growth of the commercial gaming industry. The AGA’s founding members hoped to someday see casino gaming considered part of the mainstream U.S. economy. As this report confirms, that is now the case.
Our mainstream status can be seen on the floor of Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2011, which opens at the Sands Expo and Convention Center this week. The focus of G2E 2011 is innovation and change. Evidence of the industry’s use of innovation to adapt and succeed will be on full display.
I have tremendous faith in our industry’s ability to innovate and adapt as we work to embrace change. It’s been proven time and time again here in our flagship market. And while we’ve certainly faced our share of challenges, we should remain optimistic about the future of the gaming industry, the state of Nevada and the great city of Las Vegas.