Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz/Department of Anthropology
Butte Hall 317 - (530) 898-6220
8 October 1998(1)

This page printed from: 

I. INTRODUCTION: Big and getting bigger & "family entertainment!"
II. IN PERSPECTIVE: The "bottom line" is profit!
III. GROWTH: The "carrying capacity" of an area is...?
IV. TEMPORARY CONCLUSIONS: Long-range planning is vital

I. INTRODUCTION: Big and getting bigger & "family entertainment!"

"Gambling is now bigger than baseball, more powerful than a platoon of Schwarzeneggers, Spielbergs, Madonnas and Oprahs. More Americans went to casinos than to major league ballparks in 1993. Ninety-two million visits!" (The New York Times Magazine, July 17, 1994)

"It isn't Mecca and it isn't Lourdes, but Las Vegas is right up there among the holiest places in the world. In our hearts, we want to take foolish risks, pile food on our plates, dress like proles and shamelessly applaud lion tamers and dancing girls. Our lives are lies until we make the pilgrimage to Vegas and cleanse our souls." (Steve Lopez, "Handicapping Iron Mike." Time, September 14, 1998, page 4).

Images and words to get one to think about gambling/gaming: could they be true? Crossely & Jamieson point out in their 1997 volume entitled Introduction To Commercial And Entrepreneurial Recreation (revised edition), the industry prefers the euphemism of "gaming" as opposed to "gambling" when describing their activities and the industry does have "very high operating costs" (John C. Crossley and Lynn M. Jamieson, 1997, page 341 and page 344). With a "web-enhanced" course such as this (and the availability of "current events" through the facilities of the University), the problem for any guest speaker (I believe) is to provide something "new and unique" that could not be garnered by the individual student. I honestly believe that I have "distilled" a great deal of information for the seventy-five minute presentation this day and today's presentation draws upon web documents available on the CSU, Chico web, including a most recent presentation at The 14th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (available at

For a course dealing with "Commercial Recreation and Tourism" it seems most important to provide some data concerning dollar amounts: "Consumers spent $495.5 billion on leisure goods, services, and activities in 1997, an increase of 6.6% over 1996. Gambling accounted for $50.9 billion, or just over 10%" (Eugene M. Christiansen, 1998, "A New Entitlement." International Gaming & Wagering Business, August 1998, pages 3-35, page 33). Gambling (or gaming) is big business: the "Gross gambling revenue" (an industry term) for 1997 was actually closer to $50,893,300,000 or an industry-wide "win" of slightly more than $139,433,698 a day. In a seventy-five minute presentation, roughly speaking, $7,257,150 will have been "won" by the gambling industry in this country (and "lost" by consumers), or some $96,828/minute! Incidentally, the entire operating budget of this institution, California State University, Chico, for the 1998-1999 fiscal year has been given as $123,686,629: comparing this to the "gaming" industry "win" of of almost $97,000 per minute, this means that in 1,277 minutes (or some 21 hours) this "entertainment" industry has won enough to pay for the entire year-long operation of CSU, Chico!

"Gross gambling revenue (GGR): Handle less payouts or prizes or winnings returned to players. From the operator's point of view, gross revenue is money extracted from players collectively and transferred to the operator(s) of a commercial game; GGR is thus the source of gambling industry revenues and government gambling tax receipts. From the consumer's point of view, gross gambling revenue is the consumer price of playing a commercial game [stress added]." (Eugene M. Christiansen, 1998, "A New Entitlement." International Gaming & Wagering Business, August 1998, pages 3-35, page 5.)

II. IN PERSPECTIVE: The "bottom line" is profit!

"People always want to know what's going on and what's going on is people are going broke. That's mostly it. And the trick is not to be one of them." Jesse May, 1998, Shut Up And Deal (NY: Doubleday), page 107.

Nevada authorized "legalized gambling" in 1931 and it wasn't until 1978 that New Jersey legalized gambling in Atlantic City. After 1978, gambling in America accelerated at an incredible pace. If you wish, you can legally gamble (or be "entertained") in 48 of the 50 United States of America and only Hawai'i and Utah are free of legal gambling activities. In the elections of next month, Hawai'i will be voting on "limited gaming" within the state and the voters of California will be making a decision on Proposition 5 on November 3, 1998. For the "pros" and "cons" of Proposition 5, please go to (California For Indian Self-Reliance) and (Coalition on Unregulated Gambling). Proposition 5 (which is a proposed law: "State-Tribal Agreements Governing Indian Gaming" and may also be cited as "The Tribal Government Gaming And Economic Self-Sufficiency Act of 1998), is given in the California Voter Information Guide for the General Election of November 4, 1998, and one may read that "This measure requires the state to enter into a specific compact allowing certain Class III gambling activities on Indian lands for those tribes that agree to sign the agreement. (For more information, please see the Guide, as well as; and read the California Voter Information Guide for the General Election of November 3, 1998 (pages 20-23 and pages 86-97) and form your own opinions about Proposition 5 (and the numerous other election issues): vote!

In my anthropological opinion, four events contribute to today's accelerated development of gaming in the United States of America: (#1) Lotteries; (#2) the entrance of the Holiday Inn Corporation into the gaming industry; (#3) the 1988 passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by the United States Congress; (#4) and human nature. In the Darwinian sense (and for the most recent web document dealing with Darwin, please see, competition is intense all across the United States of America some casino operators (and companies) will survive and some will not: one can (#1) go to 10 states that have either land-based or riverboat casinos; (#2) participate in 36 state-sanctioned lotteries (including multiple state lotteries and the District of Columbia); (#3) go to numerous locally-sanctioned card rooms; (#4) or go to 20 states that have some sort of Native American gambling. (Some 150 Native American tribes in more than 20 states have signed, or are negotiating, casino compacts with their states for various forms of gambling. The nearest location for us is in Oroville.

Elsewhere in the United States, in 1993 the Sheraton Corporation expressed an interest in gaming in Hawai'i and Richard Hartman, President of the North American Division of Sheraton was quoted as saying: "If and when gaming is legalized in Hawaii, Sheraton wants to be in a strong position to move to the forefront" ( Rodrigo, C., 1993, "Sheraton Enters Gaming Industry," Pacific Business News (Honolulu), May 17, page 2). On February 24, 1998, House Bill 2229 was introduced for a statewide on legalized gambling in Hawai'i ( The League of Women Voters in Hawai'i has come out against the initiative but they have pointed out "that under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, if the State were to approve any form of gambling, it would open up Hawaii to Native American or Hawaiian Sovereignty casinos [stress added]." (Susan Durstin, 1997, "Should Hawaii Legalize Gambling? Facts And Issues; A Study By The League Of Women Voters of Hawaii" and please see

A recent addition to the growth of gambling comes via Cyberspace, or the electronic medium, and one has to wonder about the impact of the availability of 24-hour-a-day gambling on the lives of people: some researchers DO see a connection between social phenomenon such as suicide and bankruptcies: "Gambling, isolation linked to Nevada suicides" (Barbara Anderson, September 8, 1997) and "Gambling could be the fastest-growing cause of record rates of bankruptcy in America this year [1997], a consulting group says" (Lance Gay, 1997). "Cause and effect" are difficult in any social science and the American Gaming Association states the following:

"Finally, it is instructive to listen to bankruptcy filers themselves. A national poll of 522 bankruptcy filers in 1996 found that only 2% cited gambling debts as a major factor in their bankruptcy. Meanwhile, 63% cited credit card bills and 50% cited job loss/pay cuts as their main reason for bankruptcy." (Keith Whyte, 1997, "Rounding Up The Usual Suspects.")

It is unfortunate, however, that research along these lines will probably proceed slowly since the following appeared last month:

"A national panel has had difficulty studying the social ills of gambling because too few people will come forward to talk about their hard-luck cases, according to Paul Moore, a physician in Pascagoula, Miss., and member of the panel. Moore said the panel will have to rely on outside research on social ills of gambling." (Anon., 1998, "Gambling Study." USAToday, September 8, 1998, page 3A).

Indeed, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission recently raised some industry-wide concerns when the Commission proposed to conduct a confidential survey on research on "who gambles and whether they are addicted."

"Who gambles and whether they have a problem with it is one of the most controversial aspects of the commission's study. Gambling foes argue there are more problems than the industry wants to admit. The industry maintains that only 4 percent of the population compulsively gambles." (Frederika Schouten, "Gaming Panel Members Meet In Secret; Casino Advocates Protest." The Reno Gazette-Journal, September 30, 1998, page 6A)

The lobbying group for the industry, The American Gaming Association, made the complaint. A leading critic of the gaming industry, Tom Grey (a Methodist Minister from the State of Illinois and Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling), however, has gone on record as opposing the proliferation of gambling in this country:

"Gaming will face opposition to its expansion across the country until it owns up to its economic and social downsides, a leading anti-gambling advocate charges. 'The more gambling persists in its denial, in its arrogance, the bottom line is they're going to have big problems,' said Tom Grey...." (Jeff German and Larry Henry, 1997, "Gaming Foe: Industry's Arrogance Sparks Opposition." Las Vegas Sun, September 26, pages 1-10A, page 1)

It is clear that "gaming" activities have brought growth and prosperity to certain areas: Tunica, Mississippi (in the northwestern part of the state) was once termed "America's Ethiopia" by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, but consider today: "In January 1992, unemployment in Tunica County stood at 26.2 percent. In just six years, nine casinos have risen from the region's cotton fields, and unemployment in July [1998] had dropped to 4.9 percent."

"The casinos changed everything. The first, a boxy floating barge called Splash, made so much money in its first three months that big corporations, like Bally's and Harrah's, stampeded into the county as if they had discovered gold. They pumped millions, which have now become billions, into a county so ill-prepared to have them that it lacked even enough paved roads." (Laura Parker, "Bust Unearths Corruption Questions: Mississippi's County's Dark Corners Exposed." USA Today, October 7, 1998, page 3A)

Mississippi's casino growth (there are eight additional casinos in the Gulf Coast region of Biloxi) is reflected by the fact that after Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mississippi is the third gambling destination in the United States. (Frederika Schouten, 1998, "Did Gaming Save Biloxi, Miss.? Federal Panel Intends To Find Out." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 6, 1998, page 1 and page 5A, page 5A) The fourth and fifth gaming destinations are the American States of Louisiana and Illinois. (Dale Kasler, 1998, "A New Bet In Reno." The Sacramento Bee, June 14, pages A1, A22, and A23, page A22)

Evolution (or changes or development) over the past twenty years have been incredible and there can be problems when a single community (or area) depends "too much" on a single source of revenue to provide government services and on September 9, 1998, the Reno Gazette-Journal had a most perceptive editorial on the "gaming/gambling" industry:

"In Mississippi: The benefits have been great for a poor state, but no one's talked about the cost.... Mississippi is a textbook example of what has occurred in the past decade. No state outside Nevada has embraced gaming to the extent that Mississippi has.... While the commission will have no trouble learning how great the casinos have been for Mississippi, the more difficult task will be determining how much those benefits have cost the state...." (Anon., 1998, "Gaming Panel Must Look At Good And Bad." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 9, 1998, page 11A)

Various municipalities may depend "too heavily" on gaming revenues and perhaps the most devastating statement dealing with a single area came in 1995 from Goodman: "Choosing to bet on America's luck business represents another case of governments resorting to a magic-bullet cure for their economic woes" (Robert Goodman, 1995, The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America's Gambling Explosion, page xii). Incidentally, the recent hurricane "Georges" which battered the Caribbean last month and came ashore in Mississippi gives some indication of the revenue generated at various casinos (and what happens when a natural disaster closes casinos):

"At the Treasure Bay Casino Resort, executive vice president Barbara Shatties said no estimates of damage to the casinos had been made yet, but she said the riverboat casinos in nearby Gulfport and in Biloxi lost $12.5 million in gaming revenues over the weekend, of which the state of Mississippi would have taken $1.5 million in taxes [stress added]." (Anon. 1998, "Gulf Coast Mopping Up." San Francisco Chronicle, September 24, 1998, page A3)

Please note, this was the revenue generated or the estimated "win" that the casinos would have received from various losers! To provide just another example of state dependency on "gaming revenues" consider that for the month of July 1998, the following was reported in the state of Connecticut:

"Foxwoods Resort Casino reported slot revenues of $65.2 million for July, the largest monthly win for the casino since July 1996. ... The state of Connecticut was also a winner, picking up $16.3 million for distribution to cities and towns as part of a revenue sharing agreement made with Foxwoods in 1993." (Bob Delisle, "New England News." Card Player, October 2, 1998, page 72)

One doesn't have to be an economic genius to see potential problems in the relationship between government and the gaming industry: For example, in December 1997 the local Enterprise-Record reported that "Las Vegas Competition Hurting Reno" with the following:

"Competition from Las Vegas and its megaresorts continues to take a toll as the number of Reno-area gaming jobs drops, a bank reported. The number of hotel-casino employees in Washoe County has declined by 1,300 since summer 1995, when Reno's Silver Legacy resort opened.... 'Las Vegas gas reinvented itself as a wonder of the world,' said I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor who specializes in gaming regulations. 'Reno, I'm afraid, hasn't succeeded in becoming (an attraction)" (Anon., 1997, "Las Vegas Competition Hurting Reno." Enterprise-Record, December 29, page 5A.

Las Vegas itself has potential (and real) problems:

"These are hard times for several [Las Vegas] casino operators, and the betting around town is that they will get even harder. ... Behind all the troubles appears to be a shift in the industry's fundamentals. Historically in this desert town, each new casino seemed to magically fill with new gamblers without stealing business from competitors. ... But demand for new casinos no longer appears infinite. ... That has caused tensions among competitors, causing some to rethink the industry's motto: 'If you build it they will come; we don't subscribe to that theory,' Harrah's Mr. Satre says [stress added]." (Christina Binkley, 1998, "Gamble On Las Vegas Hotel-Casinos May Not Pay Off" in The Wall Street Journal, April 1)

The September issue of International Gaming & Wagering Business had this to report: "Gaming interests roared into the 1990s like lions, but may end up leaving the fast-paced decade like lambs. The days of unabated expansion into new jurisdictions seems to be over, as legislators are reluctant to approve new gambling bills." (Patricia A. McQueen, 1998, "North American Gaming At A Glance." International Gaming & Wagering Business, September, pages 20-22, and page 109, page 20.)

Nevada may be seeing the beginning of some problems when it comes to revenues: not only are various "casino companies" (or companies that do casino business) having problems but at the end of August 1998 the following was reported:

"Nevada merchants sold $25.36 billions in goods during the fiscal year that ended June 30 [1998]--a gain of just 3.4 percent that's far short of projected 8.5 percent year-to-year growth. ... Gambling tax projections also are below the mark, with revenue growth of 3.2 percent in fiscal 1998 instead of the projected 6.8 percent. Sales and gambling taxes combined make up 72.5 percent of the state general fund budget [stress added]." (Brendan Riley, 1998, "Nevada Sales Tax Falls Below Projections" in Reno Gazette-Journal, August 26, 1998, page 3D)

Incidentally, in July 1998, it was reported that the State of Nevada had a statewide "win" of $700,100,100 (up 4.31 percent from a July 1997 win of $671,200,000). This means that in July 1998, "losers" in the state of Nevada lost some $23,336,667/day (or $972,361/hour or some $16,206/minute!) (John Stearns, "Gaming Report Reveals Soft Summer." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 11, 1998, page 1E) This is some price for "entertainment" and as stated earlier in this paper, "the bottom line is profit" and there are some profits to be made in this industry.

III. GROWTH: The "carrying capacity" of an area is...?

"The casino entertainment industry has experienced an unprecedented surge in revenue growth in the past five years that outpaces nearly all other industry groups. Since 1990, casino revenues have doubled and now exceed $16.5 billion. The growth is driven by expansion of traditional land-based casino destinations and the continued development of new riverboat and Indian reservation casinos throughout the United States" (P. Satre, 1995, Harrah's Survey of Casino Entertainment, page 4).

Growth has occurred in the "commercial" sectors of the gaming industry and also within the "Native American" areas.

"The boom in tribal gambling began in the mid-1970s, when tribes in Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and California operated relatively modest, low-stakes bingo halls on their reservations. Encouraged by the Reagan administration, which hoped gambling would reduced tribal dependence on Washington, these tribes had expanded their gambling enterprises significantly by the end of the decade" (Robert Goodman, 1995, The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America's Gambling Explosion, page 111).

Tribal gambling accelerated in the 1980s. Prior to 1988, federally recognized Native American tribes and individual States had the authority to enter into various agreements concerning taxes as well as tribal social services. It was the United States Supreme Court decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians (begun in 1986 and eventually decided in favor of the Cabazon in 1987) that resulted in the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 by the Congress of the United States. It has been pointed out that "the primary issue in Cabazon was whether the State of California had authority to enforce its gambling laws within the reservation occupied by the Cabazon Indians" (N. McKay, 1991/92, "The Meaning of Good Faith In The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act." Gonzaga Law Review, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 471-486, page 472) and the resulting court decision on the Cabazon "allowed unregulated gambling to flourish on Indian reservations" (Joseph J. Weissmann, 1993, "Upping The Ante: Allowing Indian Tribes To Sue States In Federal Court Under The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act." The George Washington Law Review, Vol. 62, No. 1, pages 123-161. page 124).

Indian Nation Casino activities have been called the "new Buffalo" by many and the small Native American casino can virtually be a thing of the past in some areas; the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere (if not the world) is located on the tribal lands of the Mashantucket Pequot in Connecticut. Foxwoods casino has approximately 300,000 square feet of "gaming" space; the next largest facility in the United States is the Las Vegas, Nevada, MGM Grand (175,000 square feet), and the relatively "local" facilities of the Reno Hilton (100,000 Square feet), or Harvey's at Lake Tahoe (91,000 square feet). Incidentally, one acre is 43,560 square feet in size and an American football field is 57,600 square feet: Foxwoods is big! Proposition 5, to be decided in California next month, could be an interesting one:

"Imagine a California with 40 or more Foxwood-sized gaming facilities, many lining the thoroughfares leading from Southern California to the Nevada border, each aggressively wooing the millions of customers from the population centers of Anaheim and San Diego to the gambling meccas of Las Vegas, Reno, Stateline, and Laughlin. That's the doomsday prediction of some gaming observers watching the action in California.... [stress added]" (Matt Connor, 1998, "Nevada's Bad California Dream" in International Gaming & Wagering Business, July 1998, page 1, pages 26-31, page 1 and 26).

It must be pointed out, however, not all Native American gaming situations in this nation, however, have been success stories; in August 1997 the Lummi Nation Casino, located in the American State of Washington (just south of the Canadian border and the major metropolis of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), was forced to close and 238 people lost their jobs, clearly demonstrating that not every single Native American casino can succeed. Recently, one could read the following: "For Some Indian Tribes, Casinos Are A Bad Bargain" by Matt Kelley (Chico Enteprise-Record, October 4, 1998, page 7A), and the problems of the Hualapai Indian Tribe of Arizona, the Kaibab-Paiute Tribe on the Arizona-Utah border, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe of Washington State, as well as the South Dakota Oglala Sioux tribe. A United States Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesman was quoted: "There's about five tribes that have done very well, but there's 554 tribes in the country."

Nevertheless, please note, that certain elements in Nevada are going to keep busy trying to defeat the California initiative in November 1998:

"A California Indian gaming initiative on the Nov. 3 [1998] ballot poses a threat to Nevada casinos, especially those in the north, a leading gaming analyst said Monday [June 29, 1998]. ... Reno-Lake Tahoe casinos could see visitations cut by a third and gaming revenues cut by $110 million to $130 million a year if the California Indian Self-Reliance Initiative passes.... Nevada casinos understand the risk and are pledging more than $20 million to fight it, beginning in about a month.... the initiative could take a $250-million to $300-million slice out of southern Nevada gaming revenues [stress added]" (John Stearns, 1998, "Gaining initiative Looms." Reno Gazette-Journal, June 30, pages 1E and 3E.)

"...Nevada's gambling expected to sustain significant losses in Indian casinos were allowed to expand. One recent estimate shows northern Nevada losing 15 percent of its casino business to California tribes if a ballot initiative passes in November. ... A recent report by Bear Stearns analysts predicted casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin would lost $260 million to $300 million--a hit of about 7 percent--in the first years that wide-open Indian gambling his California. Casinos in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area would fare even worse, losing 15 percent of their business--$110 million to $130 million--to California Indian casinos." (Reno Gazette-Journal August 18, 1998, page A1 and 6A).

It will be interesting to see what happens next month, given the amount of publicity to date; for more information concerning Proposition 5, please see to be presented later this day. Last month, Steve Wynn (the Chairman of Mirage Resorts Inc. and owner of some of the largest properties in Las Vegas, namely the 3,049 room Mirage, the 2,900 room Treasure Island, and the 3,000 room Bellagio, scheduled to open on October 15, 1998) ) visited Reno and talked about his $1,600,000,000 Bellagio Hotel Casino. While he doesn't think Proposition 5 will pass in California, the following is still interesting:

"Mirage Resorts Inc. Chairman Steve Wynn didn't want to taint his visit to Reno last week with moribund thoughts, but if a California Indian gaming initiative passes in November, Nevada casinos could take a serious hit. And in the north, which gets half its visitors from California, the threat is even chillier, he said. 'They don't get scared enough,' he said of northern casino owners whose contribution to fight Proposition 5 amounts to what he called 'pennies.'" (John Stearns, "Steve Wynn Emphasizes Threat Northern Nevada Faces From Proposition 5." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 27, page 1E)

"Pennies" indeed considering that, once again, that Americans lost some $96,828/minute in 1997!

IV. TEMPORARY CONCLUSIONS: Long-range planning is vital

Cooperation (and competition) takes place between "entertainment rivals" all over the nation: in Detroit, Michigan, Circus Circus is in partnership with MGM Grand and the Greektown/Chippewa Indians to build a major casino in that city and in Reno, Nevada, Circus Circus is a 50 percent partner in the adjacent Silver Legacy Resort Casino; in Las Vegas, Nevada, Circus Circus is a partner with Mirage Resorts in the Monte Carlo Resort Casino but in Atlantic City, in January of this year, Mirage Resorts canceled a partnership agreement with Circus Circus and the Boyd Gaming Corporation for a mega-resort to be built in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is, indeed, a volatile industry! (Anon., 1998, "Mirage Jilts Partners In Atlantic City Project." Reno Gazette-Journal, January 21, page 3D) On December 23, 1997, MGM Grand, Inc. and Marriott International, Inc. "announced they have signed a definitive agreement to develop a 1,500-room hotel on the 114-acre site of MGM's Las Vegas Resort" (Anon., 1997, 'MGM, Marriott To Develop New Hotel" in Reno Gazette-Journal, December 23, 1997, page 3E). Partnerships and coalitions are forming all over the place!

Since 1978 there has been tremendous growth within the "gaming/entertainment" industry and there is competition and there has been (and will be) adaptation to the changing environment(s). Gambling, euphemistically called "entertainment" by some, has made the transformation for the general public from being a vice to a major (and growing) industry. Satre, a leading executive with a publicly-traded company,wrote about the positive aspects of the industry in 1993 (page 11): "Socialization, entertainment and winning are the three major reasons why people game at casinos." In my own personal opinion, however, individuals not only go for entertainment but they also go to try and win and because they wish to be "a somebody."

We appear to be evolving into a species which believes in the relationship between gambling and guests: if you build it, they will come and the proliferation of new gambling locations is amazing. A poignant statement was made in 1994 by Kurt Andersen in Time magazine (page 51): "It is now acceptable for the whole family to come along to Las Vegas that's because the values of America have changed, not those of Las Vegas [stress added]." When one looks at the world picture, however, strangely-enough, perhaps "gambling/gaming" will provide an ultimate solution for some peace elsewhere on the globe:

"Rows of towering date palms are in place, along with flittering brass lamps and plush blue carpeting. And the slot machines are ready to go. A [$150 million] luxury casino, the first in the Holy Land, is about to open here. ...on the edge of ancient Jericho, a sleepy, sprawling town that has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority since 1994. Authority President Yasser Arafat's cash-strapped government is hoping that the facility will attract thousands of Israelis and foreign visitors to Jericho and pour much-needed tax revenue into the Authority's tax coffers. ... Israel has no casinos, and efforts to legalize gambling have long been opposed...." (Rebecca Trounson, 1998, "Cash-Poor Palestinians Let Casino Open In Holy Land" in Reno Gazette-Journal, August 23, 1998, page 1A).

Las Vegas currently has some 106,100 hotel rooms and another 20,000 will be added to the "room inventory" by (or in) the year 2000. Las Vegas currently draws more than 30,000,000 visitors a year, or let us say some 82,192 visitors a day, and for 1997 (according to an industry tracking firm) the city's occupancy was a phenomenal 86.4 percent and more casinos/resorts are being built! (Anon., 1998, "Las Vegas Tops Occupancy Report." Reno Gazette-Journal, May 21, page E1)

Looking to the future, in September 1998 it was reported that the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority was embarking on a $27,800,000 advertising campaign "designed to reposition Las Vegas as a retail and entertainment center." The campaign hopes to increase the current 30,000,000 yearly visitors to Las Vegas to 36,400,000 be the end of the year 2000! "The ads portray Las Vegas as a travel destination with anything and everything in a drive to expand the traditional market base in order to attract new visitors and increase repeat visits." (Anon., 1998, San Francisco Chronicle Datebook, September 13-19, page 80)

As a Seattle, Washington, paper pointed out earlier this year

"Departed mobster Bugsy Siegel would blanch at the idea, but Las Vegas - once touted as a 'Disneyland for adults' - has spent big bucks to transform itself into a family-friendly vacation destination. When other areas of the country began getting into gambling in a big way, Las Vegas began to broaden its tourism base. No longer just a cluster of casinos, Las Vegas today has an array of attractions for all ages. 'Las Vegas is a lot cheaper than Orlando [Florida] (Home of Disney World)'....New attractions range from theme parks to pirate battles, dolphin and white tiger habitats, Star Trek and Atlantis attractions and interactive game venues." (Robert Macy, 1998, "Las Vegas Earns Kudos As A Family Place With Something For All Ages." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Getaways, June 4, 1998, pages 12-13, page 12)

Las Vegas is reinventing itself:

"LAS VEGAS - Never mind the slot machines. Which way to the mall? And the food? Entertainment, shopping and fine dining have replaced gambling as the top attraction for visitors to Las Vegas.... For the first time, Las Vegas is perceived by more visitors as an 'entertainment' destination (50%) than as a 'gaming' destination (48%) the survey said. And international tourists, who make up 19% of the city's 30.5 million annual visitors, list shopping as their leading activity in Las Vegas, followed by dining, then gambling. ... The survey was conducted over the past eight months by Plog and GLS Research of San Francisco and covered more than 8,000 travelers. It will be used as a guideline as Las Vegas shapes future marketing plans. ... 'The fact is Las Vegas will change more in the next two years than it ever has,' said Manny Cortez, the president of the visitors authority. Competition is a growing concern and a reason why major players here are expanding beyond gambling. The survey said that by the year 2000, some 90% of the U.S. population will be within 200 miles of casino-style gambling. It found that 30% of visitors to Las Vegas in the past year would have visited more often if not for alternative gambling destinations [stress added]." (Robert Macy, 1998, "Vegas Visitors Find Fun Without Games." USA Today, July 17, page 1D)

If Las Vegas, and other "gaming" destinations, do not constantly reinvent themselves, problems will surely occur: and they are on the horizon: "U.S. casino profits are expected to fall in the third quarter because of a glut of hotel rooms in Las Vegas and Asia's economic slowdown, which keeps high-rollers at home." (Anon., 1998, "Casino Profits Expected To Fall in Third Quarter." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 25, 1998, page 4E); next week's Business Week magazine (October 12, 1998, page 47) dealing with operators in Las Vegas "spending vast sums to draw upmarket customers" (Ronald Grover and Joe Weber, "Liza Minelli, Neil Sedaka, And...Claude Monet?" page 47). The industry is aware of the problems (or opportunities for growth?) and is going for customers all over the demographic landscape and we read the following in the industry publication International Gaming & Wagering Business for September 1998:

"Picture a Vegas populated not by blue-haired matrons or carriage-wielding baby-boomers, but nose-ringed twentysomethings hitting the slots between Red Hot Chili Peppers shows in the casino lounge. That's a vision many gaming executives are hoping will become a reality as the year 2000 approaches and 57 million Generation Xers begin flexing their sizable spending power." (Jill Bensley and Scott Reilly, 1998, "Like, Let's Gamble Dude." International Gaming & Wagering Business, September 1998, pages 48-50, and 106, page 48)

Gen Xers (and others) "grew up" with technology, and technology plays an important role in the various casinos:

"Slot machines are increasing their share of casino revenue and floor space in Nevada.... Slots generated 63 percent of Nevada gambling revenues in 1997, up from 58 percent in 1990. The machines claimed 83 percent of casino positions in Nevada in 1997, up from 80 percent in 1990. In Atlantic City in 1997, slots were 77 percent of casino revenues, up from 58 percent seven years earlier. Slots took 79 percent of Atlantic City, N.J., gaming positions in 1997, up from 72 percent in 1990. 'Today's casino players demand more sophisticated games....[stress added]'" (Anon., "Revenue From Slots Growing in Casinos." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 29, 1998, page 3E)

Technology drives certain dimensions of our lives and I would like to begin ending with a quote from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson:

"The unit of survival [or adaptation] is organism plus environment. We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself." (Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1972: 483)


"Casinos sure are the place for lonely people." Jesse May, 1998, Shut Up And Deal (NY: Doubleday), page 101.

Corporations appear to be going ahead with their casino expansions, competition be damned! On September 3, 1998, it was reported that the land-based casino in New Orleans (originally proposed by the now bankrupt Harrah's Jazz Company, an off-shoot of Harrah's Entertainment) might be opening in New Orleans in late 1999: "A late 1999 opening date would mean that more than seven years passed from the time the [Louisiana] Legislature legalized the casino to the first time the permanent casino opens its doors to the public." (Anon, 1998, "Casino's Opening Date Unknown." Reno Gazette-Journal, September 3, page 3E) In the local vicinity of Reno, Nevada, a Reno Gazette-Journal headline of October 1, 1998, had the following: "Harrahs May Buy Up Nevada Club, Harolds Club." Harolds Club has been closed since Marh 1995 (bankruptcy) and the Nevada Club closed in December 1997.

What else in the future? From the Reno Gazette-Journal of August 30, 1998:

"Gaming, tourism face many threats in the next six months, making economists wonder whether the industry can maintain its gains. ... Looming threats to the vitality of northern Nevada's tourism engine are: No American Bowling Congress or Women's International Bowling Congress tournament in 1999. The domino opening of four new mega-resorts in Las Vegas starting with the $1.6-billion Bellagio in October. The continued erosion of gaming by Western card clubs and Indian casinos. ... There's also great concern about a California Indian gambling initiative on California's ballot this fall that some fear could lead to a dramatic rise in Indian gaming. Passage could result in 15-percent cuts to northern Nevada gaming revenues, some analysts say." John Stearns, 1998, "Local Economy Sees Modest Growth." Reno Gazette-Journal, August 30, 1998, page 1E and 6E, page 1E.

When Atlantic City, New Jersey, opened the first casino in 1978 (after voters approved "legalized gambling") they began with 33,000 square feet of casino space and had 7,000,000 visitors; on the 20th anniversary in May 1998, it was reported that Atlantic City had 1,176,051 square feet of casino space and get 34,000,000 visitors a year. In 1978, 1,106 individuals were employed by the industry and in 1998 it was estimated to be 48,797 employees. (Alan Sless, 1998, "Atlantic City Scene." Card Player, July 10, 1998, page 61.) For some "square footage" of casino space, please consider the following (in comparison to, say, a football field or one acre):




Foxwoods, Connecticut



MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada



Grand Casino, Tunica, Mississippi



Excalibur, Las Vegas, Nevada



Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, New Jersey



Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada



One hectare = 2.471 acres

107,636 square feet

10,000 square meters

The Reno Hilton, Nevada



Harvey's, Lake Tahoe, Nevada



Luxor, Las Vegas, Nevada



International Soccer Field

84,766 square feet

7,875 square meters

Harrah's, Lake Tahoe, Nevada



The Nugget, Sparks, Nevada



Harrah's, Reno, Nevada



American "football" field

57,600 square feet

5,351 square meters


43,560 square feet

4,047 square meters

The Silver Legacy in Reno, Nevada (and the adjacent Circus Circus has a 50 percent stake in the Silver Legacy) has approximately 85,000 square feet of casino space. Big business!

My own personal ethnographic research has convinced me not to gamble excessively since I have had sufficient "entertainment" at the hands of corporate America. The gambling/gaming entertainment industry is a changing one and gambling itself is exciting and people wish to be excited and perhaps win! Various individuals have studied gambling and consider the research of the anthropologist Hayano:

"Many lay people erroneously believe that the cultural anthropologist studies only ancient or nonwestern cultures, digs in the ground, or otherwise studies primates. A passage from a book by card authority John Scarne stood out in my mind as a prime example: 'The observation of crooked card players is my business, as the observation of nonhuman primates is the anthropologist's.' (John Scarne, Scarne On Cards, p. 4). Cultural anthropology is the study of extant human cultures and societies around the world. As a branch of cultural anthropology, ethnography is devoted to the scientific description of one particular culture or group of people [stress added]." (D. Hayano, 1982, The Life And Work Of Professional Card Players, page 183.)

My research has also encouraged me to follow the words of Steve Wynn (cited by David Spanier, 1992, Welcome To The Pleasuredome: Inside Las Vegas, page 17) on making money: Wynn is quoted as saying "If you wanna make money in a casino, own one [stress added!]"

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Goodman, Robert, 1995, The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America's Gambling Explosion (SImon & Schuster).

Meyer-Arendt, Klaus J. and Rudi Hartmann [editors], 1998, Casinos Gambling in America: Origins, Trends, And Impacts (NY: Cognizant Communications Corporation). [Anthropology Forum 8 October 1998] [July 1998 paper]'97.html [No On Proposition 5] [Advertising Age re California Gaming/Proposition 5] [Legalized Gambling Guidepost] [Hotel On-line] [Fox News]

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VII. VISUALS FROM SELECTED WEB LOCATIONS (sources given below image):


Foxwoods Resort Casino




Grand Casino, Biloxi, Mississippi


Grand Casino, Tunica, Mississippi


MGM Grand, Detroit, Michigan


Treasure Island, Las Vegas, Nevada



(1) © For RECR 232 (Commercial Recreation and Tourism), at California State University, Chico, on October 8, 1998. This paper draws upon an earlier paper presented in July 1998 available at as well as a presentation to be made later today at the "Anthropology Forum" ( To return to the beginning of this page, please click here.

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