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Gambling in America

From Sin City to Atlantic City, from high-end resorts to offshore cruises, gamblers have more choices than ever before to get their hit
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
The Best Places to Gamble, Sep/Oct 02

(continued from page 5)

To keep from losing even more track-attending crowds to the likes of TVG, forward-thinking track managers are following the lead of New York Racing Association visionary Barry Schwartz and reducing takeout (the commission that the track keeps from every bet). Unusual proposition bets are being promoted and some of the national racing association's member tracks are in favor of allowing slot and poker machines. "They are hugely beneficial to the bottom line," says Smith. "We have 20 million casual fans, who go to the track once a year, and they're our target customer. They don't live and breathe racing, but studies have shown us that another entertainment option at the track would be a big draw."

Jason Ader characterizes Smith's "racinos" as the gambling trend of the moment and he is confident that the machines will help purses to grow -- if nothing else. However, the fact that gaming machines draw business is hardly news to the folks behind full-blown, bricks-and-mortar casinos. Just look at Foxwoods, the world's most successful casino. Though some patrons complain that the casino skimps on perks, that view does nothing to diminish the crowds drawn by miles of machines and loads of table games in an Indian-themed setting. Couples crowd around the blackjack tables. A posse of guys in backward baseball caps and Korn T-shirts dominate a craps table. Jazz music fans file out of B.B. King's Dance and Nite Club. They scatter across the gaming floor and add to the endless click-clack of chips changing hands. Though Foxwoods might not be as technologically tricked out as its nearby competitor, its status as the first casino-hotel in the area has engendered the kind of serious loyalty that gamblers tend to have for their joints of choice.

Unlike those loyal players, though, Bear Stearns's Ader takes a longer and broader view. Looking beyond Connecticut, he voices strong opinions that have a lot of resonance for gambling as a whole. He influences institutional investments made in casino stocks and has an impact on whether burgeoning hoteliers can get the backing they require. Asked to prognosticate a wide-reaching view of the industry, Ader replies without hesitation: "Gambling will continue to grow. It's a very mature business. But in every state that has legalized gambling, it's had a good economic effect. This is a nation that has had gambling for a long time. And it just keeps growing."

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