Survey Shows Gaming Helps Economies Grow

As the President and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), the trade association representing the U.S. commercial casino industry, I am proud to report that our latest annual survey of the economic impact of our industry shows that commercial casinos across the country are vital contributors to the state and local governments where we operate, providing employment for citizens and growth opportunities for local businesses. The results confirm the commercial casino industry is an engine for economic development for communities at large and a mainstream contributor to America’s entertainment economy, enjoying high acceptability ratings and providing a multi-faceted entertainment experience for casino visitors.

Here are just some of the highlights from the 2007 edition of the annual State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment, released Tuesday:

•    Gross gaming revenues for commercial casinos continued to grow steadily in 2006, totaling $32.42 billion -- a 6.8 percent increase over 2005 figures.

•    The 540 commercial casinos in 11 states directly employed 366,197 people in 2006. These employees earned a total of $13.3 billion in salaries, including benefits and tips -- a 5.6 percent increase over 2005.

•    Casinos contributed $5.2 billion in direct gaming taxes to state and local governments -- a 5.5 percent increase over 2005 contributions. These taxes were used to fund, among other things: education, historic preservation, economic development, youth/health care/senior citizens’ and veterans’ programs.

•    Racetrack casinos (racinos), which have been the fastest growing segment of the U.S. commercial casino industry, continued to witness tremendous success in 2006, with the 36 racetrack casinos in 11 states generating $3.62 billion in gross gaming revenues -- a 16 percent increase over 2005 totals.

•   Racetrack casinos contributed $1.44 billion in direct gaming taxes to state and local governments -- a 12.5 percent increase over 2005.

•    Employment also grew considerably in the sector, with 22,308 individuals employed at racetrack casinos -- a 30.3 percent increase over 2005.

This success can be attributed to a number of factors, not least of which is the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans continue to view casino gambling as an acceptable form of recreation. In fact, according to the annual poll of adult Americans conducted for the State of the States survey by Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research and Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., 82 percent of adult Americans polled for the 2007 State of the States survey consider casino gaming to be an activity that’s acceptable for themselves or others. Furthermore, almost 7 out of 10 interviewees see legalized casino gambling as a good way for state and local governments to generate revenue without raising taxes. There also is widespread agreement that casinos bring economic benefits to other industries and businesses.

Additionally, more than a quarter of the U.S. adult population visited a casino in 2006, according to figures outlined in the 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. And it’s more than just gambling that is drawing growing numbers to our casino sites. Visitors are enjoying the increasingly diverse array of entertainment options available at casinos. In fact, this year’s survey shows that more than twice as many Americans find the overall casino experience -- the food, shows, entertainment and everything else -- to be more fun than the actual gambling.

Simply put, we’re doing well, and the future looks bright. But I believe the results we are seeing deserve a bit more comment than that. These results show that our industry has been given a collective nod of approval for our successes, for our contributions as economic engines in local communities and for the fine work we do as good corporate citizens. We are a staple of communities across this great country, and our continued success is at one with the growth of our nation.