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California Blackjack Casinos Spell Trouble for Las Vegas

Oct 4, 2010

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California blackjack players who once made gambling trips to neighboring Nevada casinos are now staying home to gamble locally.

Gamblers used to flock from California to Las Vegas, the internationally renowned gambler’s haven just across their border. However close is relative and not always close enough. In fact, close becomes too far when the competition is significantly closer.

Though many people travel to Las Vegas, also known as “Sin City” to enjoy the “adult Disneyland” which it has become, its most traditional appeal has been for gamblers. For a long time, it was one of very few locations within the United States where gambling was legal. However, over the past decade voter-supported legislation, particularly in California, has allowed and effectively encouraged Native Americans to open casinos on their reservations located throughout the nation.

Whereas prior to 2000, only class II games (bingo and poker) were allowed, now even slots and blackjack card games are permitted.With the law on their side, shrewd investors are building ever more sophisticated gambling complexes, replete with hotels and event centers, along California’s highways, all the way from the San Francisco Bay Area through the Central Valley, and over the Sierra Nevada, and down to San Diego. In 2008, regardless of whether the appeal relates to these amenities or merely their locations, these developments have resulted in approximately $7.3 billion revenues.

By contrast, not surprisingly, punters are no longer finding their way across the border into Northern Nevada’s gambling towns. In Reno, once considered by some “the biggest little city in the world”, the gambling revenue has diminished by 25% during 30 months over the past 3 years. Gambling revenues are down 40% in the nearby towns on Lake Tahoe. Many casinos have been either forced into seasonal closures or out of business entirely.

Though the recession  and competition from online blackjack casinos may account for some of these losses, experts assert that location and not liquidity is more responsible for this loss. The inconvenience is exasperated during the winter when mountain passes are closed as a result of heavy snow. Even when the roads are not closed, it may become necessary to put chains on tires in order to safely navigate the area.

Reno casinos, however, still maintain a few cards in their hand. While their Californian competitors can likewise offer loyalty programs, cheap entertain, and promotional offers through both direct mail and email, the tribes being almost exclusively single-casino operations, they cannot enable punters to crawl through a cluster of closely placed casinos, perhaps finding their luck in the joint next door. Moreover, as a town Reno offers basic suburban amenities. The local clientele are attracted to their superior parking, bright floors, first-class security, and considerable accessibility. Marketing officials for Reno during the last year have taken to emphasizing events and activities which are not casino related.


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