Fact checking is getting to be a lost art.

One of the side effects of the rapid expansion of gaming is a rapid expansion of gaming reporters.  Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland have all spawned homegrown reporters with new assignments covering the gaming industry; and Macau has by itself has led to the minting of dozens of new reporters from all over the world eager to cover gaming.  Even the major news services, Reuters, Bloomberg, United Press International and Associated Press have added significantly to their gaming reporting and reporters .  That is good news for anyone trying to follow the developments in the gaming industry in this very fast changing world.  Sitting in front of a computer one can zip from coast to coast, go up and down each coast and wander down the Mississippi River looking for gaming news – and find it.

However, you can always find some confusion mixed in with the facts; not all of the new reporters have learned the basics of the industry.  And many are addicted to prejudicial phrases such as “the casinos raked in” or other phrases that implies a greedy and unethical way of snatching people’s money by highly suspect casino owners.  The new reporters are also make comparisons that are not valid – apples to oranges, as it were.

In the gaming industry, as in all major industries, the only valid comparison for financial performance is like-period to like-period – this year to last year; comparison to previous months are usually pretty meaningless – especially at keep points in seasonality; would anyone ever compare December retail sales to January?  Obviously not, December is the peak of holiday shopping and the best month for most retailers, while January is one of the worse months.  The headlines for Ohio gaming revenues in June were all about the declines – but there are no year to year comparison, therefore the reports simply say June had less gaming revenue than May; in my experience nearly every June for the last 40 years has had less gaming revenue than May. Not really a story, now is it?

But there is even a larger mistake most new reporters make; they do not know the difference between the amount wagered by the customers and the amount won by the casino – or even worse, the relationship of win to handle or profit to win.  The amount won by the casino is called the gaming revenue; the amount wagered is called the handle or the coin-in in the case of slot machines; handle, win and profit are not interchangeable.  One of the most meaningless comparisons and confusion of terms that I have ever seen came from a Bloomberg reporter recently.

In that reporter’s mind, the money wagered on horse races in Hong Kong exceed the amount of money wagered in Nevada in casinos.  The comparison is actually handle to win – or to mix my metaphors even more, watermelons to strawberries.  Win is a small percentage of handle, usually ten percent or less; or to say it another way, handle is ten times win; profits are usually an equally small part of win. Nevada’s handle instead of the $10 billion the writer used would be in excess of $100 billion – slightly more than amount wagered on horse races in Hong Kong.  In fact, there is absolutely no comparison between racing horses in Hong Kong and casinos in Nevada – regardless of how badly the reporter wanted to make a story out of a non-story. Fact checking is getting to be a lost art.

Bets on horse races in Hong Kong are poised to exceed wagers at Nevada’s casinos for a second straight year, with the city’s sole legal outlet for gambling seeking to lure punters from neighboring Macau. The Chart of The Day compares the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s annual betting totals with gaming revenue from Nevada’s casinos. Wagers of $12 billion from 83 horse-race meetings in the fiscal year to June 30 were 19 percent more than Nevada’s combined take in the 11 months through May. Bets at the club, set up in 1884 when Hong Kong was under British rule, exceeded those in the U.S. gambling hub in fiscal 2012 for the first time in about a decade. Simon Lee, Bloomberg, 7-15-13


1 Response to “Fact checking is getting to be a lost art.”

  1. 1 Melissa July 17, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Unfortunately this has become the way the Journalism field is now run as a business. I have my degree in Journalism and focused a lot in copy to become an editor. What we have found in the last ten years however is that one of the places that papers now are gaining back cost is cutting down to one copy editor per fifteen papers. The journalists should all know their facts to write their stories correctly. The main problem is that they are taught in school and early on set to rely on their editors. Therefore if you have a cutback in editing more and more errors fall through the cracks.

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