Data from American Gaming Association shows gross gaming revenues topped $32.5 billion in 2008, a 4.7 percent drop from 2007’s record-breaking total

Though the economic recession reached a fever pitch in 2008, it had the second highest revenues on record for the U.S. commercial casino industry. According to a report released from the American Gaming Association (AGA), gross gaming revenues topped $32.5 billion in 2008, a 4.7 percent drop from 2007’s record-breaking total.

“The U.S. is grappling with the most severe economic downturn in more than a half-century, and – like nearly every industry – the commercial casino industry has been hit hard,” said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the AGA. “However, it continues to be an important provider of jobs and direct gaming taxes, helping states, communities and families weather the economic storm.”

Widely regarded as the most comprehensive resource of its kind, State of the States: The AGA Survey of Casino Entertainment offers an in-depth, insider’s look at how the commercial casino industry was affected last year by plunging consumer confidence and the widespread credit freeze. The report includes state and national economic impact data, as well as public opinion polling results on a variety of gaming issues.

The new edition of State of the States reveals that commercial casinos returned more than $5.6 billion in tax revenues to gaming communities across the country last year. Those sorely needed contributions helped fund vital local public services, such as transportation, infrastructure and education. Additionally, the report indicates that the industry remained a major U.S. employer, providing valuable jobs to more than 357,000 people who earned $14 billion in wages, salaries and benefits.

This year’s report also takes a close look at the economic impact of the gaming equipment manufacturing sector, which exhibited growth in 2008 despite the challenging environment. It features data from Applied Analysis – collected on behalf of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers – that demonstrate the ongoing contributions of this critically important but too-often overlooked segment of the gaming industry.

Most notably, data show that the total direct economic output of the gaming equipment manufacturing sector was $12.7 billion in 2008, a 6.7 percent increase over 2007 figures. Additionally, direct employment within the sector continued to grow steadily, reaching 29,600 people in 2008. Those employees earned $2 billion in wages and salaries last year.

The 2009 State of the States also features a special section that examines the impact of casinos on domestic travel and tourism. Findings from two surveys – a recent national public opinion poll and a new survey of tourism industry professionals – demonstrate that casinos play a crucial role in the $740 billion U.S. travel and tourism industry. Early results from the national survey were released in March 2009.

According to the report, nearly two thirds (65 percent) of Americans and a whopping 84 percent of travel professionals – those who know the industry best – say casinos are an important part of the broader tourism industry. Additionally, more than eight in ten (82 percent) travel professionals from gaming states say local casinos encourage leisure travel to the region, and 76 percent agree there is a positive spillover effect from casino customers visiting other attractions in the area. Similarly, an overwhelming 90 percent of travel professionals who don’t live in gaming states say their states could attract more visitors if casinos were opened. 

In 2008, despite the challenging economic climate, the racetrack casino sector continued to grow. The sector’s gross gaming revenues rose to $6.19 billion last year – a 17.2 percent jump over 2007 figures – due in large part to expansion in Pennsylvania and Indiana. Also, racetrack casino tax receipts totaled $2.63 billion in 2008, and employment figures continued to increase, reaching 29,051 total employees.

The report also indicates that overall acceptability of the industry remained high in 2008, as 81 percent of Americans think casino gaming is an acceptable activity for themselves or others. Poll results also show that most Americans (59 percent) view casino gaming as a form of recreation similar to concerts, plays and sporting events, and they agree that casinos bring many different benefits to the communities in which they operate.

The 2009 States of the States report includes several additional tools and resources, such as a pocket guide with topline national and economic data, as well as a glossary of frequently used gaming-related terms.