Where the Grass Is Greener – Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I wrote about the 15th anniversary of Green Valley Ranch:

The resort opened with a bang—literally—on December 18, with a gigantic fireworks show at its pool area just before the official 9:30 p.m. unveiling of the casino. Then Station Casinos president Lorenzo Fertitta kicked the gambling off with Rande Gerber, Cindy Crawford, Chris O’Donnell and Christian Slater at a blackjack table.

Read more: Where the Grass Is Greener – Vegas Seven

Two things to add: one, it’s always a pleasant surprise when casinos commemorate their anniversaries. Most of them don’t in any meaningful way. Second, I’ve reached a milestone of my own, where I am writing about anniversaries of casinos that opened when I was in Las Vegas. It started with the Palms’ 10th.

Locals Casinos Are Back in Business in Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I look at the resurgence of locals casinos in Las Vegas:

Since the recession, the locals casino market has endured some tough times, but the 2015 numbers so far suggest those tough times might be over. In particular, North Las Vegas and Boulder Strip properties, after several rough years, are showing revenue increases. Is it because value-conscious visitors are venturing off the Strip? Is it a sign of a reinvigorated economy? Possibly a little of both. Whatever the cause, the stronger neighborhood casino market is a positive sign for Southern Nevada’s overall economic health.

Source: Locals Casinos Are Back in Business | Vegas Seven

Since neighborhood casinos were hardest hit by the recession, their comeback could be a positive sign for the local economy.

RJ Rowley paper posted at CGR

I’ve got a new occasional paper up. This one is a print distillation of RJ Rowley’s excellent Colloquium talk:

Rex J. Rowley. “Where the Locals Play: Neighborhood Casino Landscapes in Las Vegas

ABSTRACT: Neighborhood casinos—gaming properties that target a primarily local market—are an influential feature on the Las Vegas cultural landscape. Such institutions reveal a number of geographical patterns that have important implications in gaming and place studies. The distinguishing characteristics of neighborhood casinos underscore the importance of proximity to a market, a focus that is evident in their advertising strategies. Additionally, the prominence of such casino-resorts within their respective neighborhoods makes them important symbols and indicators of the character of the surrounding community. These unique institutions teach lessons that can potentially be extrapolated to other gaming markets around the country.

Keywords: gambling, gaming, market proximity, cultural landscape, symbolic landscape

View the paper here (pdf)

via UNLV Center for Gaming Research: Occasional Paper Series.

Give it a read–it’s a very informative discussion of how locals casinos evolved and how they fit into contemporary Las Veags.

New Podcast: RJ Rowley’s talk

Today I was fortunate to hear one of the best Gaming Colloquium talks we’ve had in a while: RJ Rowley talking about locals casinos in Las Vegas. Here’s the info you need:

26-January 25, 2011
RJ Rowley, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
“Neon Beyond the Neon: The Geography of Locals Casinos”
In this talk, Rowley discusses his research into the origins of the locals casino phenomenon in Las Vegas. Locals casinos, which cater primarily to residents of the city rather than tourists, date from the 1970s and are a characteristic development of the local landscape. Rowley also links the expansion of the locals gaming market with the proliferation of casino gambling across the United States.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)

View flyer (pdf)

UNLV Gaming Podcasts

If I have time before class, I’ll upload his two maps. Otherwise, I’ll do it tomorrow.

This was a great talk, and a wonderful start to 2011 for the podcast series. I’m chasing a few big interviews which will hopefully materialize soon.

New podcast up–locals casinos and urban growth

We’ve got our latest podcast up over at UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research: the Colloquium talk by our March 2010 Gaming Fellow, Pascale Nedelec, ” Urban Dynamics in the Las Vegas Valley: Casinos and Sprawl.”

Here’s her abstract of the talk:

Las Vegas is well known for its urban sprawl. While the casino industry has played an obvious role in the development of Las Vegas, no systematic study has evaluated the exact nature of urban growth and the rise of neighborhood casinos. This presentation examines whether the neighborhood casinos are a driving force for urban sprawl, or if they are a local outgrowth of residential developments and master-planned communities.

It’s a good listen. As always, you can check it out on the podcast page or on iTunes.

Slot hold and the recession

Were the players complaining about tighter slots right? Well, the answer (since late 2007, at least) is…yes and no. I decided to take a look at how each financial quarter since 2007 broke down for the state, the Las Vegas Strip, and the Boulder Strip. This way, I figured I’d have a good gauge of how casinos catering to tourist (LV Strip) and local (Boulder Strip) crowds responded.

I’m currently hip-deep in a study of slot hold percentages for Nevada and on the Las Vegas and Boulder Strips for the period 1992-2009. Originally, it started with a question: how have casinos reacted to the recession? Have they raised or lowered their slot holds?

There’s some anecdotal evidence that casinos have tightened their slots–if you consider people complaining that slots are tighter anecdotal evidence. Were the players complaining about tighter slots right? Well, the answer (since late 2007, at least) is…yes and no. I decided to take a look at how each financial quarter since 2007 broke down for the state, the Las Vegas Strip, and the Boulder Strip. This way, I figured I’d have a good gauge of how casinos catering to tourist (LV Strip) and local (Boulder Strip) crowds responded. Here’s a chart that sums up what I found:


From the 4th quarter of 2007, slot hold statewide has bounced around slightly, with a tiny net decline, going from 6.08% to 6.02%. The Strip saw a bigger raise in hold percentage, from 6.73% to 7.01%. The Boulder Strip saw a net decline, from 5.35% to 4.96%.

Bear in mind that much of this isn’t just casino managers pulling a giant lever and making all the machines pay back more or less. The slot mix itself has changed, with higher-hold pennies becoming more popular. That complicates things, but doesn’t change the overall effect, which is that slots are paying back slightly better for locals than they were 18 months ago, and slightly worse for tourists.

What does this all mean? Well, we can theorize that locals casinos have responded to the recession by loosening the machines slightly, although nowhere near mid-1990s levels. Strip casinos don’t seem to have changed much–the hold has been fluctuating around 7 percent since 2007.

In June. slot revenue on the Strip declined 16.08 percent from the previous year. In the Boulder Strip reporting area, slot revenue declined by 17.86 percent, despite adding about 2,500 new machines with the opening of M (the Las Vegas Strip, by contrast, lost 755 machines). This is not exactly a ringing proof of the “lower slot hold–watch the customers come back in droves” theory. Of course, one might argue that the slots simply haven’t been loosened enough, or that the slight loosening of the slots prevented an even bigger decline. But then we’re getting into counter-factual arguments that are impossible to refute.

I cannot put into words the satisfaction that comes with devoting a great deal of time to an important question and arriving at an answer that basically boils down to: “Answer unclear–concentrate and try again.”

You can see the chart–with quarterly slot hold data–on a handy pdf right here.

I’m thinking of making this the first in a series of 1-page responses to statistical queries that I’ll post here and at http://gaming.unlv.edu. I’m not looking to supplant the Las Vegas Advisor’s Question of the Day or anything, but since I get a lot of questions about this sort of thing, I figured that this might be a more efficient way of answering them.

So…any statistical questions that I can answer with a little numbers-checking and eighth-grade math?