WASHINGTON - An annual industry survey by the American Gaming Association (AGA) found that, despite significant challenges to the tourism and hospitality sectors in 2001, casino gaming remained one of the nation’s favorite pastimes. Casino industry revenue grew by 5 percent, and tens of millions of people visited 433 casinos in 11 states across the country last year.
“Despite a difficult economy and unprecedented travel concerns, our industry thrived,” said AGA President and CEO Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. “This is a testament to the popularity of casino gaming as well as to the industry’s geographic diversification, which helped it rebound from Sept. 11.”
According to the survey, gross annual revenue for the commercial casino industry climbed to $25.7 billion in 2001, up from $24.3 billion in 2000; Michigan, South Dakota and Missouri all reported double-digit growth. Casino companies paid $3.6 billion in gaming taxes on that revenue. More than 364,000 people were directly employed by the commercial casino industry in 2001, earning salaries (with benefits and tips) of $11.5 billion. Casinos attracted more than 52.3 million people to their properties in 2001, making a total of 303 million visits - roughly equivalent to the number of visits to amusement and theme parks.
The survey also consists of findings from a recent nationwide poll conducted for the AGA by pollsters Peter Hart and Frank Luntz. The poll, which included questions about casino gaming acceptability, casino benefits, individual rights, taxation, and responsible gaming, revealed that Americans’ views overall have remained relatively consistent from year to year. Some highlights of the survey include the following:
- Three-quarters of Americans believe casino gaming is acceptable for themselves or others; in a breakdown by demographic groups, those who are in their twenties and thirties, affluent and from the West are most supportive of casino gaming.
- Americans recognize the economic and entertainment value of casinos. More than 80 percent agree with the statement, “Casino gambling can be a fun night out.” And more than 60 percent agree with the statement, “Casinos bring widespread economic benefits to other industries and businesses within the region.”
- Americans appreciate casino tax revenue but are less clear on specific benefits. Sixty-nine percent of Americans agree with the statement, “Legalized casino gambling is a good way for cities and states to generate revenue without having to raise everybody’s taxes.” While more than half (53 percent) recognize that casino tax revenue has paid for important community projects, one-quarter of the responses were “Don’t Know/Refused,” indicating a less than strong command of those specifics.
- Americans believe strongly in their individual right to gamble without government interference. Eighty-three percent indicated that gaming is a question of “personal choice.” While 79 percent agreed that gaming is a question of “personal freedom,” it represents a significant drop from last year’s poll, when 90 percent of Americans expressed that sentiment.
“One of the most interesting footnotes to this survey is that while Americans continued to show overwhelming support for their right to engage in casino gaming, they were less likely to characterize it as a question of ‘personal freedom’ than in years past,” said Frank Luntz, president of The Luntz Research Companies. “It’s possible this is a result of a stricter interpretation of the word ‘freedom’ post-Sept. 11.”
Additionally, there are two special sections in the survey, one dedicated to taxes and the other to lifestyle choices of casino customers versus the overall U.S. population.
Copies of the survey can be obtained by calling the AGA at 202-637-6506.
The AGA represents the commercial casino-entertainment industry by addressing federal legislative and regulatory issues. The association also serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.