US Casinos: Even when they win, they lose
US casinos have had a tough couple of years. The financial crisis and recession have caused huge problems in financing the companies’ debts, people are cutting back on their gambling and travel to destinations such as Las Vegas, and share prices inevitably plummeted.
Revenues from commercial US casinos fell by 3.5% in 2008 and a further 8% in 2009, with revenues standing below US$ 30 billion for the first time since 2005. A survey carried out by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority found that 80% of visitors spent an average of just over US$466 gambling during their trips in 2010, compared with 83% who gambled nearly US$482 each in 2009. Visitors surveyed also spent just under 3 hours per day gambling in 2010, whereas visitors in 2009 spent 3.2 hours per day.
As any gambler knows, when good fortune deserts you it sometimes seems like it will never return. And for the casinos fortune certainly appears to have taken a good, long holiday because on top of their existing woes, now they are even having to fight hard for money they have already “banked”.
In the state of Nevada Las Vegas Assemblyman William Horne (Democrat) has sponsored a bill (219) that would see any winnings that go unclaimed in the casino be transferred to the state’ general fund.
Currently the casinos keep any unclaimed winnings after 60 days and pay normal gaming tax on it. Unclaimed winnings are estimated at between US$ 20 million and US$ 35 million.
Horne’ bill is specifically for electronic ticket games not casino chips, tokens, or sports book slips.
Gamblers in these straightened times also appear to be reneging on their debts and casinos are having to fight to recover the money owed to them. One high-profile case concerned US$ 1.2 million lost on credit playing blackjack at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Connecticut. The player stopped the cheques written to cover the debts and tried all manner of legal arguments to avoid paying the money. It appears that the casino will get its money after an 18-month battle.
It never rains but it pours.