WASHINGTON—Gross gaming revenues for the U.S. commercial casino industry climbed 6.8 percent in 2006 to reach a new record of $32.42 billion, according to a survey released today by the American Gaming Association (AGA). The 2007 State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment also illustrates the continued high acceptability of casino gambling among American adults, with more than four in five (82 percent) saying the activity is acceptable for themselves or others.
“This year’s State of the States report highlights the two-fold success of the casino gaming industry – strong economic growth combined with widespread public approval – that makes casino gaming a mainstay of the American entertainment industry,” said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the AGA. “The industry’s performance in 2006 upholds our ongoing legacy of providing good jobs, making significant tax contributions and fostering positive economic environments in the communities where we operate.”
In addition to posting more than $32 billion in gross gaming revenues in 2006, the 460 commercial casinos in 11 states directly employed 366,197 people. These employees earned a total of $13.3 billion in salaries, including benefits and tips, which equates to a 5.6 percent increase over 2005 figures. Casinos also supported the communities and states where they operate, contributing $5.2 billion in direct gaming taxes to state and local governments in 2006, a 5.5 percent increase from 2005. These taxes were used to fund education; historic preservation; economic development; health care initiatives; youth, senior citizens’ and veterans’ programs; and other important community initiatives.
The racetrack casino, or racino, segment of the commercial casino industry continued its multi-year trend of growth and expansion in 2006, with 36 racetrack casinos in 11 states generating $3.62 billion in gross gaming revenues, a significant 16 percent increase over 2005 totals. Employment at racetrack casinos also grew considerably during 2006, with the sector employing 22,308 individuals, a 30.3 percent increase over the previous year’s figures. In addition, racetrack casinos’ contributions through direct gaming taxes to state and local governments increased by 12.5 percent to reach $1.44 billion in 2006.
The continued economic success of the casino gaming industry is paralleled by the sustained high acceptability ratings it receives, which are evident in the annual poll of American adults conducted by Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research and Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. for State of the States. In addition to the more than 80 percent of American adults who consider casino gambling acceptable, almost seven out of 10 interviewees (67 percent) say casinos bring economic benefits to other industries and businesses. The same percentage believes legalized casino gambling is a good way for state and local governments to generate revenue without raising taxes.
More than a quarter of the U.S. adult population visited a casino in 2006, according to the State of the States report. These 56.2 million casino visitors made a total of 371 million trips, an increase of 3.4 million visitors and 49 million trips over 2005 figures. The survey results show casino visitors are enjoying the increasingly diverse array of entertainment options available at casinos, with 82 percent of casino visitors saying they ate at a fine dining restaurant as part of a casino visit during the past year. Additionally, more than twice as many Americans say the overall casino experience—the food, shows, entertainment and everything else—is more fun for them than the actual gambling.
The 2007 State of the States also reports on the poker sector, which continued to perform strongly in 2006, with 14 percent of Americans saying they played poker during the past year. Revenues from poker in 2006 reflect a substantial 15 percent increase over 2005 figures, with players spending more than $238 million on casino poker in Nevada and New Jersey alone. In addition, there were 713 card rooms in five states in 2006, and the four states that track card room revenues reported $1.1 billion in revenue last year.
For the first time this year, the State of the States survey spotlights sports betting, a sector of the industry that has been experiencing increased interest. Sports betting participants wagered more than $2.4 billion in Nevada sports books last year, the only state in the country where sports betting is legal, with revenues from the activity totaling $192 million, about 8 percent of the total amount wagered.
2006 marked the first full year of gaming operations along the U.S. Gulf Coast since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This year’s State of the States survey includes a special section on the Gulf Coast region that features the results of a new poll of opinion leaders from the area about the status of recovery efforts and the outlook for the future, particularly with regard to the region’s gaming industry. The survey, conducted by Vox Populi Communications, polled college professors, bank presidents, chamber of commerce executives and other high-profile community leaders, 45 percent of whom have lived and worked on the Gulf Coast for more than 20 years.
Poll results confirm the casino industry has been a major contributor to overall recovery efforts in the region. The leaders polled think the casino industry will grow more quickly than the balance of the local economy in coming years, and see the shift to land-based resorts on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as key to the growth of non-gaming amenities that will help the region’s tourism and gaming industries grow beyond pre-hurricane levels. One of the most telling results of the special survey relates to the future of tourism activity in the region: 80 percent of respondents expect the overall level of tourism on the Gulf Coast will be greater a decade from now than it was before the hurricanes struck.
The 2007 State of the States survey includes additional information tools and resources such as a pocket guide to key national and state economic statistics and a glossary of gaming-related terms.
A full copy of the 2007 State of the States can be downloaded at www.americangaming.org. Members of the media also can obtain a copy by contacting Brian Lehman at 202-552-2680.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. In addition to representing the interests of its members on federal legislative and regulatory issues, the AGA serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.