The Future of the Gambling Industry in the United States

During the past few decades gambling has been legalized in a number of states, which led to considerable growth in the number of casinos and other establishments offering gaming opportunities. The appeal for entertainment provided by Casinos and Gaming Industry has heightened, as increasing number of American citizens tend to purchase lottery tickets on a regular basis while casinos attract visitors to operate their slot machines and play their table games. Publicly held casinos and gaming industry companies manage gambling facilities and platforms, such as land-based casinos, riverboat casinos and gambling websites. According to the mapping of the Sustainable Industry Classification System (SICSTM – website) to the Bloomberg Industry Classification System (BICS), Casinos and Gaming Industry in the US is dominated by huge players such as Las Vegas Sands (LVS), MGM Resorts (MGM), Caesars Entertainment (CZR), Wynn Resorts (WYNN) and Melco Crown Entertainment [ADR] (MPEL). This representative panel features only companies for which the Casinos & Gaming industry is the primary industry and for which at least 20% of revenue is generated by business operations in this field.

The entire gambling industry is still dominated by Native American casinos, as their number exceeds significantly the number of commercial casinos. The Native American casinos are owned and operated predominantly by tribes, which have begun expanding their business operations outside of reservation lands in the recent years. The American Gaming Association’s State of the States report, released in 2013, pinpoints that land-based and riverboat casinos can now be found in 17 states, racetrack casinos now operate in 14 states, while Native American casinos are spread in 28 states. The following table reflects the variety of gambling facilities in the United States during several particular time stretches when gambling operations were legalized.

Gambling Facility Number of states Period when gambling was legalized
Before 1990 1990-2000 2001-2007 2008-2014
Lottery 43 32 5 5 1
Casinos* 17 (+2) 4 7 2 4 (+MA, NY)
Racinos 13 0 6 5 2
Pari-Mutuel 43
Native American Casinos 28

* NY and MA also adopted gambling operations, but have not had their first fully-operational casinos yet

Source: Rockefeller Institute of Government

Within the industry lottery still remains the key segment, as it accounted for 64% of total gambling revenue during 2014 (full-year). Casinos contributed to 19% of total revenue, while racinos accounted for 11% during the same period.

Real Gambling Revenue in $ billions
Type 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Lottery $17.9 $17.4 $17.6 $17.1 $18.1 $18.3 $18.1
Casinos $5.3 $4.9 $4.8 $4.9 $5.1 $5.4 $5.3
Racinos $2.8 $2.9 $3.0 $3.0 $3.2 $3.2 $3.2

Within the period 1998-2014 the number of casinos across the states grew consistently to reach about 450 in 2014. At the same time, casino revenue showed rapid growth within the period 1998-2007, followed by a period of slowdown (2007-2010), and since 2011 a rebound has become evident.

Within the period 2013-2014 casino revenues in Indiana marked the largest drop (17.3%), while casino revenues in Ohio grew the most (19.5%). For the United States as a whole, revenues fell at an annual rate of 2.8% in 2014. In terms of average annual growth within the period 2010-2014, the most considerable drop in casino revenue was recorded in Indiana (9.4%), while the most considerable increase was observed in Pennsylvania (13.9%). For the United States as a whole, the average annual growth rate was 2.3% during the same period.

Real Gambling Revenue from Casinos in $ millions
State 2013 2014 Change
Colorado 105.7 104.9 -0.8%
Illinois 566.2 516.6 -8.8%
Indiana 655.9 542.7 -17.3%
Iowa 211.0 198.6 -5.9%
Kansas 98.8 95.6 -3.3%
Louisiana 438.6 441.0 0.5%
Maine 51.3 50.8 -0.9%
Maryland 310.0 353.8 14.2%
Michigan 277.3 264.0 -4.8%
Mississippi 267.7 247.8 -7.4%
Missouri 471.1 438.8 -6.8%
Nevada 905.3 912.4 0.8%
New Jersey 254.3 257.1 1.1%
Ohio 228.8 273.4 19.5%
Pennsylvania 582.2 575.7 -1.1%
South Dakota 17.4 16.2 -6.9%
West Virginia 4.2 3.8 -9.1%
United States 5445.8 5293.1 -2.8%

Within the period 1998-2014 a similar trend to that mentioned above has been observed regarding the number of racinos across the states, with their total number being about 60 in 2014.

Within the period 2013-2014 racino revenues in West Virginia marked the largest decrease (15.0%), while racino revenues in Ohio grew at the staggering 163.1%. For the United States as a whole, annual revenues remained marginally unchanged in 2014. In terms of average annual growth within the period 2010-2014, the largest drop in racino revenue was recorded in Delaware (10.3%), while the most significant increase was observed in New York (15.5%). For the United States as a whole, the average annual growth rate was 1.8% during the same period.

Real Gambling Revenue from Racinos in $ millions
State 2013 2014 Change
Delaware 192.0 163.9 -14.6%
Florida 154.8 174 12.4%
Indiana 107.6 111.3 3.4%
Iowa 103.1 100.8 -2.2%
Louisiana 61.9 58.7 -5.2%
Maryland 29.7 25.1 -15.4%
New Mexico 64.3 67.0 4.1%
New York 883.9 937.7 6.1%
Ohio 56.3 148.0 163.1%
Oklahoma 21.0 20.6 -1.8%
Pennsylvania 850.2 770.8 -9.3%
Rhode Island 320.5 318.2 -0.7%
West Virginia 343.4 292.0 -15.0%
United States 3188.7 3188.1 -0.01%

The Casino and Gaming Industry is cyclical in its nature and tends to demonstrate positive correlation with overall macroeconomic environment. In times of economic boom international and local travel tends to be more active and this usually boosts expenditures on entertainment and, gambling activities in particular. According to the American Gaming Association’s State of the States 2013 report, within the period 2011-2012, local consumer spending on commercial casinos, including land-based, riverboat, dockside and racetrack ones, amounted to $37.34 billion, which represented a 4.8% surge. What is important to note, however, is that the industry is considered to be mature and a point of saturation is unavoidably being approached.

In the recent years an intense competition has been observed between facilities and platforms such as online casinos, Native American casinos, casinos with hotels within their premises and other entertainment tourism establishments. In 2013 17 states have introduced racetrack casinos and cross-state lottery games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, which has been another shift in geographic distribution within the industry. Back in 2007 Nevada had the status of the largest state for gambling activities, contributing to 34% of total industry revenue. 5 years later states such as Ohio, Maryland and Kansas expanded their presence in the US gambling market, which axed Nevada’s share to 29% of total industry revenue. The recent expansion in the sector, however, was not approved by all states and some of them placed moratorium on new licenses for gaming operations.

The entire industry has been undergoing a series of mergers and acquisitions, as casinos and other establishments aim at boosting their competitiveness. In 2005 there has been a merger between MGM Resorts and Mandalay Bay and another one between Harrah’s and Caesars Entertainment. In August 2013 Pinnacle Entertainment finalized the acquisition of Ameristar Casinos, while the deal was at the amount of $2.8 billion. This way Pinnacle became the fifth largest casino operator on the territory of the United States, expanding its market share to 11%.

In addition, the popularity of online gambling boosted the competition for commercial casinos. This field, which at present generates over $4 billion in revenues annually in the United States only, is considered as illegal in all states with the exception of Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. It, however, does not mean that globally operated casinos cannot be accessed online from any location in the country. At the same time, an increasing number of states are intending to adopt online gambling in order to boost their revenues from taxes. According to a 2013 survey on online gambling, in 2006 there were between 14 and 23 million players online, while 28 to 35% of them resided in the United States. As online gaming providers began luring particular customer segments, such as high-rollers, this posed a threat to one formidable source of revenue for land-based casinos. What is more, as online casinos have lower operating costs, they are able to provide their customers with better odds, which may spur online gaming growth even further.

Online Gambling Industry

Gambling Legislation

Online gambling in the United States has left quite an impressive mark in terms of history. Back in 1999 more than 250 websites were to accept money bets on sports events, card games or lottery tickets from players residing in the United States. During that time only two states strictly prohibited online gambling activities, while approximately half of the states had already passed laws, which postulate that placing a bet is an act of crime.

If we go back even further in history, we should note that the most apposite legislation has been the 1961 Federal Wire Act, which forbade interstate and foreign placement of bets via a wire device such as the telephone. There have been multiple opinions that the US government might enforce namely this act in an attempt to deal with online gaming operators.

As the legal framework has been a bit shady for years, in 2006 the Congress passed an anti-terrorism bill, called the SAFE Port Act, which was aimed to bolster security at the nation’s ports. Later an amendment was added to this act, called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The latter postulates that it is a federal crime to manage online-based gambling business, that accepted funds in order to support unlawful transactions. However, the UIGEA was misinterpreted – it failed to make any gambling operations illegal by itself. This act simply enabled the federal government to use additional felony charges against gambling business operators, which strayed from other gambling legislation acts. The UIGEA left players out of concern. After the act was passed, every publicly owned online gambling provider made its exit from the US market, while only smaller and less reputable operators remained.

Five years later, on April 15th 2011, an indictment was unsealed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) against the CEOs of the three largest online poker providers operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. 76 bank accounts in 14 countries and five domain names were seized as a result of charges of violation of the UIGEA, bank and wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. Most of the charges were based on that online poker was an illegal activity. Following this day, known as the ”Black Friday” within the poker world, the booming development of the online poker scene was suddenly put to a halt, many players quit or returned to land-based casinos, while almost all online gambling providers turned away from US players. Several months later the Department of Justice came up with a memorandum, stating its new interpretation of the situation. According to the memorandum, the 1961 Federal Wire Act was in force only for bets made in regard to a sporting event or contest. This has been the long-awaited change of the DoJ’s stance that the Wire Act applied to all gambling information.

Following this change of the DoJ’s position, a number of states supposed the time was right to adopt online gambling. Some states had been enduring the effects of huge budget shortfalls and were in need of a fresh source of revenue. Therefore, three states (Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey) have since authorized certain forms of online gambling on their territory. While Nevada legalized poker only, Delaware and New Jersey did so for a full-sprectrum of online gambling activities.

What the Future Holds for Online Gambling

A number of experts in the field have expressed an opinion that legalization of online gambling, at least in some form, will probably spread to more states in the future. At present, at least five states are considering the authorization of some form of online gambling – California, Iowa, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The major benefits of legalization, which proponents of online gambling point out, concern job creation and, of course, tax revenues. According to recent analyses, the legalization of online poker alone would create, directly and indirectly, approximately 10 000 high-tech jobs in the country. In addition, it would generate an estimated $2 billion of tax revenue per year for state and federal governments, while the latter would certainly support key public services in times of budget restraints.

Morgan Stanley projects that online gambling in the United States would bring in as much revenue as Las Vegas- and Atlantic City-based traditional casinos combined by the year 2020.

According to data by the American Gaming Association, at present, about 85 countries have authorized online gambling, while an estimated figure of $35 billion represents bets placed online on a global scale every year. In 2010 total revenue for global online gambling industry, which includes sports betting, casino, bingo and poker, was at the amount of EUR 20.01 billion and less than 15% was accounted for by the United States. In 2012 the size of the online gambling industry expanded to almost EUR 22 billion. A June 2010 survey showed that there were 2 679 online gambling sites, which are owned by 665 companies. That figure included 865 online casinos, 616 online poker rooms, 516 sports betting sites, 426 online bingo sites, 187 lottery and other sites.

During the past over ten years almost 10 million American residents have visited websites in order to bet on sports events, to play poker, or to take part in an array of electronic casino games, including slot machines, blackjack, craps and roulette. What is more, within the period 2003-2010, a period during which the US policy stance tended to be predominantly hostile toward online gambling, American residents spent an estimated $30 billion on online gambling activities. This fact boosts the case that if legalization tendency eventually continues, the figures mentioned above would be bolstered considerably.

However, the idea of legal online gambling has its opponents as well. Their major concerns are that job creation and tax revenue forecasts are somewhat inflated, while at the same time, there are moral and religious aspects of gambling that are not to be ignored. Last but not least, opponents stress on the potential for gambling addiction.

A 2013 opinion survey concluded that Americans tend to speak against online gambling legalization rather than promote it. 39% of respondents said online gambling should be legalized in their state, while 44% were categorical that it should be considered as illegal in their state. 51% of male respondents and 43% of all respondents up to an age of 29 supported online gambling legalization. 41% of all supporters believed that legalized online gambling would spur state revenue and, respectively economic growth, while 22% of supporters said it would protect their civil liberties and the right to make this lifestyle choice. On the other hand, 55% of those who spoke against legalization believed the act would support proliferation of gambling addiction, while 11% of opponents said it would trigger other addictive behavior.


Despite the above mentioned division of opinions regarding legalization, it is quite possible that supporters of online gambling will have the upper hand. And taking into account the pros and cons of such an act, it is quite possible that an increasing number of policymakers will favor legalization, because of the urgent need to discover new sources of revenue, especially amid sluggish global economy and local budgetary constraints.

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