AN ANTHROPOLOGIST LOOKS AT THE GEOGRAPHY OF GAMING
Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / home page: http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban
8 December 1996 (1)
[This page printed from http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/public_html/Gaming/geo_of_gaming.html]
© [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] This web document for the Northern California Geographical Society Meeting at California State University, Chico, was created by Charles F. Urbanowicz on December 5, 1996, and was last modified on December 6, 1996;
Gaming activities (called "gambling" to some) are a worldwide industry, from California to Connecticut and from Nepal to New Zealand. Gaming is a big business and this brief presentation focuses only on very selected aspects in the United States of America. Although the recent elections saw some setbacks for gambling supporters in certain states (Washingtonians voted down slot machines in Native American Casinos and Nebraskans voted no on off-track betting), voters in Michigan approved three casinos in Detroit and voters in Louisiana voted continued approval for their 14 riverboat casinos as well as the (ill-planned) land-based casino in New Orleans. Louisiana voters, however, in the only national ballot that was called a referendum on gambling did vote to remove video-poker terminals from 35 parishes (or counties) but also voted to keep them in 29 parishes. As of this writing, legalized gambling occurs in 48 of the 50 states of the United States of America and has a great deal of visibility. Brief mention will also be made concerning the newest terrain being explored by many: "cyberspace" and what those implications are for gaming/gambling. [~188 words]
I. INTRODUCTION: BIG AND GETTING BIGGER
"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)
An anthropologist by training (but one who has an interest in "geography" because of travel and research interests), I am fairly certain that human involvement in taking risks goes back to the earliest pre-cursors of Homo sapiens as we were foragers and gatherers going around the planet. Risk-taking continued when "we" took up agriculture ("will the rains come" or "will the crop fail?") and we settled down into relatively permanent, and rapidly-growing, settlements. The gambling, however, that we in this room might do will probably take place at "the Lake" or perhaps at a local Native American Indian Casino. This is the type of gambling that I have been studying for many years.
Long before Europeans came to the Americas it is quite clear that Native Americans partook of "games of chance." Patolli has been documented, with "competitors throw[ing] a form of dice in order to move beans around a cross-shaped board" (Jonathan Norton Leonard et al., 1967, Ancient America; NY: Time-Life, page 159) and 125 miles west of Cancún, at Chitchén Itzá, one can see the largest "ball court" in all of Mesoamerica, measuring some 272 feet in length (Joyce Kelly, 1993, An Archaeological Guide To Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, Norman: University of Oklahoma, page 55). The following is an interesting description of the "game" played on this court:
"This game was both a sport and a sacrificial ritual. It was played throughout Mesoamerica, using a large rubber ball that could be hit by the elbows, knees, or hips, but could not be touched by the hands or feet. The game required the players to wear heavy protective equipment, and much paraphernalia was developed during the Classic period. It was often played in masonry courts, and rings or other markers were used for scoring" (Esther Pasztory, 1983, Aztec Art, NY: Harry N. Abrahams, page 41).
It has also been written that "losers in a sacred game often forfeited their lives" (Philip Kopper, 1986, The Smithsonian Book Of North American Indians Before The Coming Of The Europeans , Washington, D.C., page 55) and that the Aztec deity Macuilxóchitl was the "god of games and feasting" (Esther Pasztory, 1983, Aztec Art , NY: Harry N. Abrahams, page 62) or the "god of music, dance, and pleasure" (Paul Westheim, 1965, The Art Of Ancient Mexico [first published in Spanish, translated from the original German by Mariana Frenk as Arte Antiguo de Mexico in 1950], NY: Doubleday & Co., page 96) or the "god of gambling, dance, and music" (Jonathan Norton Leonard et al., 1967, Ancient America, NY: Time-Life, page 159).
Risk-taking, therefore, is not new to the Americas and the United States has had a long and lengthy history of "gambling" throughout history. I've played poker in Southern California, and in Reno, as well as Lake Tahoe and in Las Vegas; I've played poker in commercial casinos (both in California and Nevada) as well as Native American Indian Casinos (California and Washington State) and I "follow" things that deal with poker (including its decline in some Nevada locations over the past several years. Numerous Reno and Lake Tahoe casinos no longer have poker tables and my favorite change came in Las Vegas: the poker area in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was transformed into a food court!). Anthony Holden wrote a delightful book in 1990 entitled Big Deal: A Year As A Professional Poker Player:
"In retrospect, it seems inevitable that games of chance should have played so large a role in the development of the American character. By the time of the American War of Independence, financed in large part by lotteries, public auctions had been a routine alternative to taxation since Queen Elizabeth I sanctioned England's first raffle in 1566, to finance harbor improvements. In the early seventeenth century it was a lottery that funded the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, North Virginia. ... Risk-taking, by definition, is a fundamental aspect of any pioneer or frontier ethic [STRESS added] (Anthony Holden, 1990, Big Deal: A Year As A Professional Poker Player , Viking, pp. 217-218).
The records indicate that various games of chance were always a part of the American heritage and we should know that although gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, it was only in 1910 that gambling was declared illegal in Nevada. For twenty-one years, from 1910 to 1931, Americans did without "legal" gambling, but that was all to change since gambling was such a major portion of American life. It is interesting to read, for example, of San Francisco in the 1850s and that "Everybody did so" because:
"Gambling was the amusement--the grand occupation of many classes. Judges and clergymen, physicians and advocates, merchants and clerks, tradesmen, mechanics, laborers, miners and farmers, all adventurers in their kind--every one elbowed his way to the gambling table, and unblushingly threw down his golden or silver stake" (Soulé, Frank et al., 1855, The Annals of San Francisco (NY) [as cited in Jim Hicks, 1978, The Gamblers , Time-Life, page 17).
II. PERSPECTIVES: DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TIME
"Gambling has held human beings in thrall for millennia. It has been engaged in everywhere, from the dregs of society to the most respectable circles. Pontius Pilate's soldiers cast lots for Christ's robe as He suffered on the cross. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was regularly accompanied by his personal croupier. The Earl of Sandwich invented the snack that bears his name so that he could avoid leaving the gaming table in order to eat. George Washington hosted games in his tent during the American Revolution. Gambling is synonymous with the Wild West. And 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight' is one of the most memorable numbers in Guys and Dolls, a musical about a compulsive gambler and his floating crap game" (Peter L. Bernstein, 1996, Against The Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, page 12).
Nevada legalized gambling in 1931 and New Jersey followed in 1978, allowing gambling in Atlantic City. After 1978, gambling accelerated and it is a big business, with staggering dollar amounts: on a typical day in the early-1990s, people wagered ~$627,213 every minute of every day on all types of commercial "gambling" in the USA and all of these commercial "gaming" ventures made a profit of ~$56,970 per minute! You can legally gamble (or be "entertained") in 48 of the 50 states and only Hawai'i and Utah have no legal gambling activities. You can: (a) go to 10 states that have either land-based or riverboat casinos; (b) participate in state lotteries in 36 states and the District of Columbia (including multiple state lotteries); (c) go to numerous local card rooms; (d) or go to various states that have some sort of Indian Nation gambling. There are 213 approved tribal ordinances for 208 tribes in 29 states and the nearest location for us is in Oroville), with other Native American locations close-by in Colusa (Wintun Band of Indians, Colusa Bingo & Casino) and Redding (Redding Rancheria, Win-River Casino Bingo).
The latest available information concerning "gambling win" is as follows (and these are all crude numbers):
"Legalized gambling produced a record $44.4 billion in gross revenues during 1995, a $4.6 billion increase from the previous year, according to Christiansen/Cummings Associates study. But the 11.4 percent growth was down from the 15 percent increase in 1994 and the 14.2 percent in 1993, the study said." (Dennis Camire, 1996, "Voters in 8 States to Decide Gaming Issues" in the Reno Gazette-Journal, October 14, 1996, page 1F).
Gross revenues represents the "win" (or "profit"), mentioned above for the mid-1990s of $56,970 per minute; the latest data indicates that for 1995 the "win" is $84,417 per minute (or an increase of $27,447 per minute from the mid-1990s; and at the end of a one-hour presentation, overall the entire industry (casinos and sports book and table games and....) made a profit of approximately $5,065,020. You may now understand why it is big business and corporations (and individuals) are willing to invest what we might term a "small fortune" in refurbishing establishments in order to attract consumers for the "entertainment" of the 1990s! But, it it is not a game or entertainment, but gambling, and the house always has the advantage!
"Casinos offer games with a variety of house edges. The house edge for roulette is 5.3%. If you make a roulette bet repeatedly [on a "wheel" with 0-0], you will eventually lose at the rate of 5.3 cents per dollar bet. [On a "European" wheel with but a single "0" the house edge is 2.7%.] In craps there are bets with different house edges The house edge for the pass line bet is 1.4%, while the house edge for the Big six bet is 9.1% [and it is 16.7% on a single number]. In Keno the house edge is more than 25%. The picture is bleak in state lotteries, where the state has a 50% edge. The gambler who thinks he [or she] will be a winner in repeated play of these games is like the retailer who seels every item at a loss, hoping to make a profit from the increased volume. A few gambling games, like blackjack, have winning strategies for the player [and, supposeddly, there is a video-poker strategy]. But if your criterion for success is a high hourly income, you may end up a failure even when you play a favorable game. I know a professional poker player who says, 'A good poker player makes $20 hour. A really good poker player makes $30 per hour'" (Mike Orkin, 1991, Can You Win? The Real Odds for Casino Gambling, Sports Betting, and Lotteries, page 4).
[TRANSPARENCIES, SLIDES, AND VIDEOTAPE HERE!]
Although the November 1996 elections saw some setbacks for gambling supporters in various states (voters in Washington voted down slot machines in Native American Casinos, Nebraska voters said no to off-track betting, and Ohio citizens defeated a well-financed proposal that would have allowed eight riverboat casinos), voters in Michigan, on-the-other-hand, approved three casinos in Detroit and voters in Louisiana voted continued approval for their 14 riverboat casinos and the (ill-planned) land-based casino in New Orleans. Louisiana voters, however, in the only national ballot that was called a referendum on gambling did vote to remove video-poker terminals from 35 parishes (or counties) but also voted to keep them in 29 parishes (Dennis Camire, 1996, "Michigan One Bright Spot For Gaming" in Reno Gazette-Journal, November 11, 1996, page 1F (as well as 4F).
As of this writing, legalized gambling occurs in 48 of the 50 states of the United States of America and all of the provinces of Canada (and in many locations around the world). Legalized gambling (#1) generates a great deal of revenue, (#2) has a great deal of visibility, and (#3) is creating some interesting partnerships and relationships: entertainment (read "casino") organizations are affiliating with one an other across the continent. Publicly traded corporations, such as Promus are affiliating themselves with Indian Nation casinos in Arizona (Ak-Chin Indian Community), Alabama (Poarch Band of Creek Indians), Washington State (Upper Skagit Indian Tribe), as well as California (Pala Band of Mission Indians). The Verdi, Nevada, hotel-casino operation (under the name Boomtown) is planning a merger with Hollywood Park, Inc., "a California-based operator of card clubs and horse and dog tracks" (John Stearns, "Boomtown, Hollywood Park unit" in the Reno Gazette-Journal, November 14, 1996, page 4C); Boyd Gaming has expanded in Las Vegas and plans on opening "Sam's Town" in the Reno area; and merger approval has recently been given by the Nevada Gaming Commission for Hilton Hotels Corporation to acquire Bally Entertainment Corporation. Acquisitions and expansions and contractions are taking place as we speak.
The "visibility" (and the competition) for the industry should be obvious to all: from the bombarding messages of the state-lotteries, to the mega-resorts being developed in Nevada (and other regions), there is growth and demand for the consumer dollar. From 1931 until 1978, Nevada was alone. Since then, there has been growth and there is competition. Today, Reno/Sparks/Tahoe and Las Vegas must compete against:
"...Indian casinos in 23 states, riverboats in six, and limited land-based casinos in three. Under these circumstances not only is the business model (and operating margins) of Las Vegas casino operators steadily changing--it will never be the same again." (Sebastian Sinclair, 1996, "Forbes Misses Beat On Entertainment" in International Gaming & Wagering Business, October 1996, page 19).
The "generation of a great deal of revenue" does, however, create some problems when that revenue-generation does not meet expectations. Washoe County, for example, recently had a "loss" in gaming revenues for the month of September 1996, and a page 1 headline in the Reno Gazette-Journal of November 17, 1996, had the following: "6% drop in gaming win raises worry about taxes, decline in public service" (John Stearns, page 1); incidentally, Lake Tahoe had a 7.5% decline in their win over the summer months (page E1). When your public money comes from a variable entertainment industry such as tourism, there can be problems when the revenue does not meet expectations. To give one an idea of community-dependence on "entertainment" revenue, consider the case of the city of Commerce, California, the state's largest casino (a 146,000 square foot cardroom with 223 tables):
"The Commerce Club grossed $114 million in its last fiscal year, sending $13.5 million to the City of Commerce--about 40% of the city's operating budget" (Anon., 1996, "Cash-rich and Controversial" in International Gaming & Wagering Business, November 1996, pages 56-57, page 56).
When public money comes from a variable entertainment industry such as gambling, there can be problems when the revenue does not meet expectations.
Returning back to Nevada, allow me to translate these percentage points into "real dollars" (courtesy of the Nevada Gaming Control Board): In 1996 (for the fiscal year ending June 30), the gaming "win" in Nevada (the "profit") was $7.5 billion (or $7,500,000,000 which translates out to a Nevada "win" of approximately $14,260 per minute. In 1992, the Nevada win was only $5.7 billion (or approximately $10,837 per minute); however, below you have some of the latest information comparing the July 1-September 30 period for the 1995 and 1996 fiscal years. Nevada, I believe, is in trouble because revenue growth is modestly going down (or is essentially "flat") when one compares the same three months of these two years. In 1995, the "win" for this period was $1.92 billion and in 1996 the win for this period was $1.9 billion (or approximately $14,450/minute, down some $152/minute from approximately $14,602/minute in 1995).
Ken Adams (a Reno-based gaming analyst) and William Eadington (a Professor at the University of Nevada-Reno) are cited as saying that they "believe that steady growth in Indian gaming in Northern California, Oregon and Washington, plus gaming availability in British Columbia are chipping away at Reno's business" (Reno Gazette-Journal of November 17, 1996, page E1). Something needs to be done.
III. GROWTH AND COMPETITION: SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION
"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).
In my opinion as an anthropologist, four events contributed to today's development of gambling: (a) State lotteries which began in New Hampshire in 1964; (b) the Holiday Inn Corporation entering gaming in 1978; (c) the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by the U.S. Congress in 1988; (d) and human nature. Indian Nation activities have been called the "new Buffalo" and the small Indian casino is virtually a thing of the past. Gambling ("entertainment" to some) has been transformed from a vice to a major industry. Satre, an executive with a publicly-traded company (Promus) that has 15 casinos in 9 states, wrote in 1993: "Socialization, entertainment and winning are the three major reasons why people game at casinos (page 11)." In my opinion, however, individuals not only go for gambling but we also go to try and win and because we also wish to be "a somebody."
With growth and development and comes cooperation and competition! The cooperation takes the form of trade organizations that promote various aspects of the gaming industry. In 1995, an estimated 30,000,000 people visited Las Vegas and in February 1996, eight Nevada gaming companies "donated $200,000 to help attack problem gambling, an illness that affects 2 to 5 percent of the adult population" (Reno Gazette Journal, February 6, 1996, page 3E). Incidentally, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the United States, projected to December 5, 1996, was approximately 266,246,044 [http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/popclock]; and some recent research indicates that "problem gambling" may actually be much higher (Reno Gazette-Journal, Sunday October 26, 1996, page 1B).
The competition is multi-faceted, and takes place in just some of the following ways: legal gambling versus (vs. ) non-legal gambling as well as traditional casinos vs. non-traditional (i.e., Native American Indian Casinos and/or "California Card Rooms"). Nevada vs. New Jersey (and the rest of the nation). Northern Nevada vs. Southern Nevada. The "downtown area" of Reno vs. locations a few blocks away. Reno vs. Sparks. The Las Vegas "strip" vs. "downtown" Las Vegas (and the "Fremont Street) experience. Gambling establishments in "traditional" locations in towns vs. expansion into new "residential" neighborhoods. Las Vegas vs. Laughlin, Nevada. Reno vs. Tahoe. Land-based-casino vs. riverboat casinos; table-games vs. machine games. "Old" games (both table and machine) vs. new machines that are being developed. "Players" (or those seeking "entertainment") vs. casino operators. And-so-forth!
Several recent examples come to mind when thinking about "competition" in the gambling arena: "Nevada sports books pummeled in Tyson fight" and when Evander Holyfield defeated the 25-to-1 favorite (Mike Tyson), millions of dollars were lost by casinos throughout the state (Reno Gazette-Journal, November 12, 1996, page 1). Secondly, at the end of November, 1996, the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitor Authority [RSCVA] had the following statement:
"More tourists are visiting Reno this year than last, but more of them are also visiting Indian casinos and Las Vegas--a potentially significant shift, say market analysts. ... 'The product in Reno is pleasing a lot more people ... but it's disturbing that we have so much competition,' he [Buddy Frank, RSCVA member] said, emphasizing Reno's need to continue improving its product. If it doesn't, he said, 'we could lose (business) far more quickly now than we ever could in the past.' Visits to Indian casinos appear to be rising because more casinos are now located in key Reno feeder markets, like the Pacific Northwest and Northern California." (John Stearns, 1996, "Tourists Like Reno, But Rivals Gain" in Reno Gazette-Journal, November 21, 1996, page 1E).
Native American Indian communities are also in competition with one another, as reports from Connecticut concerning the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe (of the famous Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut) indicate or "local" Western units:
"At least one Indian community isn't thrilled with the passage of Arizona's [November 1996] ballot initiative forcing the state to negotiate with additional tribes seeking a gaming compact. Clinton Pattea, president of the Fort McDowell Mohave-Apache Community, says he expects that two casinos being planned on the nearby Salt River Pima-Maricopa reservation will have a 'drastic effect' on his own tribe's gaming operations. 'We estimate that it's going to reduce our gross revenues by $20 million to $25 million a year,' Pattea said recently, adding that the Fort McDowell casino grossed more than $200 million last year" (Anon., 1996, "Tribe Expects 10% Cut With Rival Casino" in the Chico Enterprise-Record, November 12, 1996, page 6A).
There is a clear indication that changes are coming and there is the need to adapt; indeed, one need only look to the local geographic region and read of the need to "adapt" to changing economic markets in Butte County. In the Enterprise-Record of November 24, 1996 (page 3A) one clearly saw the following: "Rice growers get wake-up call: You must adjust to survive."
Every industry must be aware of the environment in order to survive, be it entertainment, educational, or agricultural. Time changes and all too often, individuals do not change with the times.
We apparently have evolved into a species which has a relationship between gambling and guests: if it is built, they may come. A poignant statement appeared on January 10, 1994, 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]." Note, I personally follow the words of Steve Wynn (Chairman of the Las Vegas Mirage Resorts, Inc.): "If you wanna make money in a casino, own one" but there still are problems! Harrah's established itself in New Zealand, yet in 1995 a New Orleans venture by a unit of Harrah's failed and went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Nevertheless, gambling on the gaming industry appears to interest stockholders. On March 4, 1996, a survey of 417 companies was published in Fortune (Vol. 133, No. 4: 90-98) and based on "eight attributes of reputation," Fortune had two casino firms among the top twenty "most admired" US companies: Mirage ranked #8 and The Promus Companies, Harrah's parent organization, ranked #18. Please note that (a) Mirage was not even listed last year, (b) Mirage Resorts was ranked #1 in the category of "Quality of Products of Services" and (c) Coca-Cola (which was ranked #3) last year is now the #1 "admired" company in America!
IV. IMPLICATIONS OF CYBERSPACE?
What impact will computers and Cyberspace have on the current industry? Individuals are looking at creating "computer slots" to make an interactive video game to wager on! ["Casino Data Is Spinning A New Line Of Slot Machines" in The Wall Street Journal, February 6, 1996] and computer technology is being introduced which will allow casinos "to track games and players--right down to the cards played and the amounts bet" (Reno Gazette-Journal, March 28, 1996, page 3C).
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The potential of Cyberspace has yet to be realized for the gambling (or gaming or entertainment) industry: "Gaming machines need to be more fun and more interactive" were the words from a "Gaming Business Exposition" meeting (Reno Gazette-Journal, March 26, 1996, page 4E). We apparently have evolved into a species which has a relationship between gambling and guests: if it is built, they may come. Cyberspace may be changing that a bit, for the "gaming" revolution will soon be brought directly into the consumer's home, doing away with geographical barriers.
V. TEMPORARY CONCLUSIONS
The poker player Thomas Austin Preston (perhaps better known as "Amarillo Slim") stated it well when he was quoted as saying that some "dudes [are] in the category of guessers, and guessers are losers" (Anthony Holden, 1990, Big Deal: A Year As A Professional Poker Player (Viking), page 164). Incidentally, part of my "geographic interests" include the Pacific Islands; I have read where a Casino is being planned for the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga; and who know what will happen in Hawai'i, one of the two states which does not allow legalized gambling (the other being Utah). With long-range planning (and not "guessing" in mind, please note that in May 1993 an article appeared in Pacific Business News (by Christine Rodrigo) with the title "Sheraton Enters Gaming Industry" and it stated: "If and when gaming is legalized in Hawaii, Sheraton wants to be in a strong position to move to the forefront" (page 2). People (and corporations) plan!
In decision-making, to guess is to lose and to know is to win; it is obvious to this researcher in northern California, that anyone who is at all interested in the "entertainment" industry must also pay attention to the global electronic revolution that is upon us: aside from the fact that we (as a nation) have millions of children and young adults who have grown up in the video-arcade era (already "programmed" for the "entertainment" of the mega-casino), we also must consider the implications of direct "gaming entertainment" into the home. This is not science fiction: "Although many are predicting that applications such as video-on-demand (VOD), home shopping, gambling and gaming [STRESS added] will bring fortunes to its founders, billions will probably be lost before the real winners are found." (George Lawton, 1994, Building the 'ubiquinetwork'--Part 1. Communications Technology, March, pp. 25-32, page 26). The industry itself is well aware of this, as a recent article in International Gaming & Wagering Business pointed out:
"The electronic superhighway now under construction....has profound implications for USGI [U.S. Gambling, Inc., "a fictional holding company for the nation's casinos and slot machines and video poker devices and racetracks and lotteries and other gambling businesses"]. How will commercial games adapt to the fast approaching interactive future? (Eugene M. Christiansen, 1993, Revenues Soar To $30 Billion. International Gaming & Wagering Business, Vol. 14, No. 8 (August 15-September 14), pages 12-35, page 28).
An article in The San Francisco Chronicle of March 30, 1996 somewhat answered this question with the following: "A year ago, gambling and the Net were almost total strangers. Today, their cyberspace marriage has resulted in more than 200 gambling-related sites" (page A5). What impact will computers and Cyberspace have on the current industry? Individuals are looking at creating "computer slots" to make an interactive video game to wager on! ["Casino Data Is Spinning A New Line Of Slot Machines" in The Wall Street Journal, February 6, 1996] and computer technology is being introduced which will allow casinos "to track games and players--right down to the cards played and the amounts bet" (Reno Gazette-Journal, March 28, 1996, page 3C); finally, the potential of Cyberspace has yet to be realized: "Gaming machines need to be more fun and more interactive" were the words from a recent "Gaming Business Exposition" (Reno Gazette-Journal, March 26, 1996, page 4E).
For the moment "gambling" (or "Gaming" or "Entertainment") is in and when it comes to spending money (and going into debt) rationality is apparently out! From Veblen's view, and my own, 20th century human beings have excess leisure:
"It has already been remarked [Veblen wrote] that the term 'leisure,' as here used, does not connote indolence or quiescence. What is connotes is non-productive consumption of time. Time is consumed non-productively (1) from a sense of the unworthiness of productive work, and (2) as an evidence of the pecuniary ability to afford a life [or at least a couple of hours or a weekend!] of idleness [STRESS added] (Thorstein Veblen, 1899, The Theory of The Leisure Class (Chapter III: Conspicuous Leisure") [1967 Viking Edition, page 43).
We have excess time and we are willing to spend money (or go into debt) during that time! Gambling, or "gaming and entertainment" if you prefer to use the term of the industry, is growing and individuals (and social scientists) should be aware of it.
That poignant statement from Time magazine has already been cited: "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]." Note, Urbanowicz still follows the words of Steve Wynn (Chairman of the Las Vegas Mirage Resorts, Inc.): "If you wanna make money in a casino, own one" but there still are problems! Harrah's established itself in New Zealand, yet in 1995 a New Orleans venture by a unit of Harrah's failed and went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
"There is no shortage of reasons why Harrah's Jazz Co., the partnership that was formed to develop and $855 million land-based casino in New Orleans was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late November . But some are more relevant to the overall casino industry than others. Chief among them is whether casinos are really meant to succeed in cities that are already well-positioned in the minds of tourists and locals as something other than a gaming destination." (Charles Anderer, 1996, "What New Orleans Tells Us" in International Gaming & Wagering Business, Vol. 17, No. 1, page 6.)
A recent article pointed out that Harrah's Jazz Co., which owned the New Orleans casino (and which closed it one year ago and filed for federal bankruptcy protection), is now negotiation with Louisiana to re-open the casino:
"For two years, Harrah's Entertainment Corp., the casino's primary partner, wants to pay 25 percent of its gambling revenue instead of the $100 million minimum tax required by state law for the permanent casino. Gov. Mike Foster says he will not go along with that, although the Legislature would have to make the final decision" (Anon., "Harrah's Still Hopes to Reopen New Orleans Casino" the Reno Gazette-Journal, November 23, 1996, page 8B).
Nevertheless, gambling on the gaming industry still appeals to interest stockholders.
There are problems when gambling is considered as gaming, as a 1995 series of articles in the Minneapolis Star Tribune pointed out (condensed in the April 1996 Reader's Digest as "Gambling's Toll in Minnesota: When A State Legalizes Gambling, Everybody Pays"). In addition to numerous tragic details of the effects of "gambling" one reads that "for Minnesota the social costs of gambling are emerging in vivid and tragic detail" (page 105).
Geographically speaking, one need not go to Minnesota to learn about this latest "entertainment" industry. A similar refrain appeared in The Sacramento Bee of February 4, 1996, where (in a "Special Report" on Gambling in California, one could read: "Counting on economic windfall for community is a sucker's bet, critics say" (page A12), but people still make the bets! And with the various competitions between casinos, one could read in the San Francisco Examiner of November 20, 1996 (page B-7), how "Casinos target new immigrants" and they are getting some of them addicted! One should ponder this addiction: it is not a game or entertainment, but gambling.
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1. © [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] For the December 8, 1996 meeting of the Northern California Geographical Society, Chico, California. This current presentation is based on continuing research as well as earlier papers, including one for the Anthropology Forum at CSU, Chico on April 11, 1996. On the WWW, today's current presentation is available at http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/public_html/Gaming/geo_of_gaming.html and the April 11, 1996 paper may be viewed at http://www.csuchico.edu/~curban/FApr11-96.html. This current paper, and the April 1996 one, draw upon yet another paper from 1994: "The Gaming Heritage: A Natural For Some And Problems For Others?" (For the Symposium entitled "Heritage Tourism In The Global Village" at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology , Cancun, Mexico, April 13-17, 1994. (To return to the beginning of this paper, please click here.)
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© [Copyright: All Rights Reserved] Charles F. Urbanowicz
1 August 2001 Slight cosmetic changes by CFU
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