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Comeback may be in the cards for commercial casinos

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — More than a quarter of adult Americans — that’s nearly 60 million people — went to commercial casinos in 2011, according to the American Gaming Association. And a quarter of those folks don’t even gamble.

It’s partly by focusing on other attractions, such as nightclubs, fine dining, galleries, roller coasters and bold-faced performers such as Celine Dion, that the country’s gambling halls are now seeing an uptick in revenue.

The 492 non-tribal casinos in the United States took in $35.6 billion in revenue last year, a 3 percent improvement from 2010. They employed 339,000 people — a nearly imperceptible dip of less than half a percent from the previous year. But those workers’ pay fell 3 percent to $12.9 billion in wages, benefits and tips.

Las Vegas remained the country’s epicenter for casinos, making more than $6 billion in revenue. Statewide, Nevada’s gambling revenue increased 2.9 percent, with a boost of more than a million visitors compared with the previous year. A January report from the state’s Gaming Control Board, however, showed that Nevada’s largest casinos still suffered a $4 billion loss in 2011.

Atlantic City, whose $3.3 billion in revenue represented a 7 percent slide, was displaced by the scattered Pennsylvania market as the second largest in the United States, according to the American Gaming Association report.

After federal authorities shut down three of the Internet’s most popular gambling sites last April, many players abandoned their computers and began filtering into brick-and-mortar casinos to get their fix. Visitors nationwide last year ended up spending more at casinos than they did on music, movies and outdoor equipment combined, according to the AGA report.

The favored form of gambling, according to more than half of respondents, are slot machines and video poker. California, with 70 tribal casinos and 89 card rooms, hosts 67,600 of the 837,000 slot machines around the country.

Nearly a quarter of survey respondents said they prefer playing blackjack; 7 percent said poker was tops, while 3 percent named craps and roulette as their gambling picks. Roughly half budget less than $100 when trying their hand at the tables.

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