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California on Path to Become Nation's Gambling Capital

By Chuckmonster on Wednesday, 25th August 2004 3:23pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


SACRAMENTO A state once skeptical of wagering is in the midst of a gambling boom that could double casino revenue in coming years.

In time, according to gambling industry officials and economists, the Golden State almost surely will pass Nevada as the nation's biggest gambling venue.

The fast expansion of gambling marks a major shift for the state. For 50 years from 1933, when the Depression-era electorate approved horse racing, to the mid-1980s gambling remained limited in California.

"People liked gambling; they would drive to Nevada," said Roger Dunstan, who in 1997 wrote a study about gambling in the state for the California Research Bureau, part of the state library. "But they didn't want it next door."

That began changing in the 1980s. As cities approved card rooms in an effort to replace property tax revenue lost after Proposition 13, voters statewide approved the lottery as a way to help pay for schools.

What was a trickle became a flood after ballot propositions in 1998 and 2000 successfully pitched Indian gambling as a road toward economic independence for tribes. Now, the state has more than 60,000 slot machines, the most lucrative game for any casino owner, and tribal casinos generate roughly $5 billion to $6 billion annually.

For now, California's gambling industry remains considerably smaller than Nevada's, which has 220,000 slots and generates more than $9 billion in annual revenue.

Moreover, Indian casinos, which are sprinkled throughout the state, are not likely ever to be concentrated in one area that would rival the Las Vegas Strip as a tourist attraction or gambling center.

Still, the growth in California gambling is sure to continue.

"We're very bullish on California. The market is there. The demand is there," said Scott Nielson, executive vice president of Station Casinos Inc. of Las Vegas. The company has the contract to manage Thunder Valley, the highest-grossing casino in California, owned by the 255-member United Auburn Indian Community.

[ If Vegas=Heroin then California=O'Douls. Sorry folks... ain't even close. - Ed ]



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