California and New York gambling – the battle of the 21st century


Adjusting to a changing reality can be difficult regardless of the circumstance; but it can be particularly difficult when the media, often the very source of our image of reality, is stuck in the past.  Since 1934 casino gambling has been predominately a Nevada thing; in 1978 New Jersey joined Nevada as the only places a person could find a casino in the United States.  National magazines loved to compare the Atlantic City and Las Vegas and hint at the forbidden pleasures to be found in a world of green felt; to gamble one had to choose between those two, there were no other choices.  In the last 35 years, that has changed dramatically, now there are casinos in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, Kansas, Montana, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado, South Dakota, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, at a bunch of racetracks and a couple of hundred Indian casinos around the country.  Still, the major media outlets treat Las Vegas and Atlantic City as if they were the gaming industry in the country now in 2012 – they way they were in the 70s, 80s and part of the 1990s.

For years the base storyline was the competition between Atlantic City and Las Vegas, monthly the gaming revenues would be compared and predictions issued as to when New Jersey would over take Nevada.  It sounded plausible, after all Atlantic City had all of the eastern United States as its feeder market, some 100 million people within a couple of hours drive.  Alas, that too has changed, all of those hundred million people now have casinos much closer than Atlantic City; people in New York City have only a subway ride to Aqueduct race track and thousands upon thousands of slot machines – but there are also casinos near Buffalo, Baltimore, Hartford, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and soon Boston.   Still, the media has been slow to grasp the change, even as it covers the new casinos in Maryland and Ohio, Atlantic City was still center stage – the big opening of the year so far was the $2.4 billion Revel in Atlantic City; maybe it was just because Revel was so expensive that it captured the lion’s share of the media attention.  But I don’t think so, I think it was because the media has yet to re-frame its thinking for the new century.

Here is the new century; today, the New York Daily News printed a story on gaming revenues in New York, the numbers are for 2010 the latest available and therefore do not reflect the nearly $60 million dollars a month that Aqueduct is doing in slot revenues.  Just a little perspective, New York has 8 race tracks with slot machines and 8 Indian casinos; those 16 locations and the lottery produced $5.4 billion in gaming revenue – one billion dollars more than Atlantic City.

The state of New York was third in gaming revenues in the country in 2010, trailing Nevada at $10.5 billion and California at $9.7 billion.  The new storyline should be New York and California duking it out as the contenders for the title of “King of the World of Gambling” – after both have easily passed Nevada and left Atlantic City far, far behind sitting in the dust of the 20th century.

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