Strip Casinos Lean Toward Internet Gambling

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
January 8, 2009

                Land casinos continue to struggle with the plummeting U.S. economy, with revenues expected to decline into 2010. The customer base is thinning as middle class Americans reprioritize their finances. The same cannot be said of online casinos, which continue to flourish, despite the recession, and their land counterparts want a piece of the action.

                Las Vegas casinos in particular are warming to the idea of internet casinos, where the same variety of games is offered – from internet slots, video poker and bingo to sports betting. Strip casino operators feel that if their services were more easily accessible, specifically via the internet, they would see more visitors and higher revenues. The prospect of international gamblers is just as appealing.

                Should the land casino industry collapse in Las Vegas, 26 percent of Nevada’s workforce would suddenly find themselves unemployed. This accounts for 732,000 jobs and $29.4 billion in wages.

                With this in mind, David Schwartz of the UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research has advocated a legalized internet gambling industry. “Basically people are allowed to gamble but they don’t have any of the protections they would get from legal gaming,” said Schwartz. “Having legal online gambling would really help the Strip casinos with their marketing. It would help them find out who is gambling out there.”

                For many in the U.S., a trip to the casino means plane tickets, hotel rooms and time away from home, as gambling is banned in 11 States. While many gambling in online casinos cite this as the reason, some feel taking a trip to the casino is all the fun. “You get something for your money instead of sitting in front of a computer,” opines Joe Bonin.

                Industry experts claim that the addition of an online casino option to Las Vegas establishments would be more of a marketing tool than an economic one, as the revenue would be miniscule compared to that of live casinos. “I don’t think it would magically save everything,” Schwartz added. “It may help reverse the decline, but obviously they are going to have to get more people coming on here if they want to bring the revenues up.”

                Casino operators now look the President-elect Barack Obama to overturn anti-gambling laws as the only obstacle that stands in the way of the industry. Although internet gambling has been the recent hot topic of U.S. legislation, no timeline has been determined for the reconsideration of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

                David Schwartz has served at the University of Nevada Las Vegas since 2001, where he oversees the acquisition of new material for the Center. Schwartz gives lectures and consultation on gaming related issues as well.

He was born and raised in Atlantic City and holds a master’s in anthropology and history. From there, Schwartz earned a doctorate in US History at UCLA. As one of the youngest Ph.D.’s at UCLA,  he filed his dissertation, Suburban Xanadu. Now a published book, Suburban Xanadu has, according to UNLV, “charted the evolution of the casino industry on the Las Vegas Strip from 1945-1978.”

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