Total win down 5.7 percent after 4.6 percent decline in 2008, says American Gaming Association

U.S. casinos suffered their second consecutive year of declining gambling revenues in 2009, with total win down 5.7 percent to US$30.7 billion.

The results, published by the American Gaming Association, the industry’s federal lobbying arm, follow 2008’s decline of 4.6 percent and indicate the recession has hit gambling particularly hard.

But economics may not be the only factor. A study by market research firm Mintel showed that 30 percent of adults visited a casino in the past year, down from 35 percent in 2001.

“This shift has been gradual, which suggests that this is not a result of the recession,” said Billy Hulkower, a Mintel senior analyst.

Hulkower said the trend suggests little or no growth in casino attendance over the past decade, a period that included two recessions and an economic upturn.

“Casinos may be losing audience to the increasingly compelling entertainment offerings in the home, such as HDTV, high-end video game systems and the Internet, including Internet gambling,” he said.

AGA spokeswoman Holly Thomsen said the industry’s own surveys show steady or slightly rising casino attendance, even if gamblers are betting less.

“Our industry has been impacted by the recession like most other consumer-discretionary reliant industries,” she said. “We know that people are watching their entertainment spending more in the tight economy.”

Thomsen said the worst hit by the sour economy were “destination” areas such as Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, with some gamblers choosing casinos closer to home.

A recent survey by the Rockefeller Institute of Government said state and local government tax revenues from authorized gambling operations, excluding tribal casinos, declined by 2.6 percent in fiscal 2009, marking the first time those revenues have declined in over three decades.

“The expansion of gambling does not bring more customers into the market,” said Lucy Dadayan, a senior analyst at the institute. “There are only so many customers, so with every new casino there are only marginal increases.”