A global recession did very little to slow down the demand for one of life’s more entertaining sins: gambling. The only difference now is how they’re doing it and where they’re doing it. Macau, China has been flexing its increasing dominance in the gambling industry and local and state governments are increasingly pushing to legalize gambling as a way to increase tax revenues. Some states are even using mobile computing to allow gambling on the go!
Worldwide, Las Vegas is known for its lavish casinos and its glitzy shops to spend all your (possible, but highly unlikely) winnings. It suffered multiple hits by rapidly expanding the number of hotel rooms right as the downturn hit. It is now trying to recover by lowering nightly rates, but is still suppressed by the high unemployment and slow economy in the United States. Macau, on the other hand, has benefited from the booming economy in China as more and more people have visited Macau to test their luck in the new casinos. Casino operators have realized this market opportunity and MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts have all built casinos in the country. The operators have brought the Las Vegas glitz with them exampled by Las Vegas Sands’ Venetian Macau, the largest casino in the world and the 5th largest building in the world.
In the United States, states such as New Jersey, Illinois and Nevada are scrambling to stimulate their gambling industries and replace tax revenue lost during the recession. Gambling revenues in New Jersey fell 9.6% in 2010 and 13% in 2009 and law makers are rushing to pass legislation to help struggling Atlantic City. Several gambling bills have been suggested and include allowing online gambling and a bill designed to increase horse betting by giving the racing industry $30 million over 3 years. Illinois lawmakers are hoping to expand the gambling industry in an effort to create 50,000 new jobs, despite opposition from the current industry. Nevada just approved an application that would allow sports bets to be placed from its citizens' mobile devices and would be the first state to allow mobile gambling.
Another strong trend is the continued growth of online gambling which increased 12.5% this past year. The largest sector was sports betting which was helped by the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. On the other hand, the fastest growing sector was bingo which was helped by positive regulatory changes in many countries.
Regardless of how wise it is to promote gambling at such at economically sensitive time, one thing is certain: people want to gamble and lawmakers are fully supportive.