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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Customers Lose in Casino Tax War

15 October 2003

Illinois gamblers, particularly average players with recreational bankrolls, are the clear-cut losers in the wake of the bomb that the Illinois State Legislature dropped on the casino industry that is arguably the most unfair tax burden ever levied on a state sanctioned and regulated private enterprise.

The latest fallout in response to the 70 percent megaton tax on revenues that went into effect July 1 comes from Harrah's Joliet Hotel & Casino in the form of direct mail letters to Total Rewards members signed by Michael St. Pierre, senior vice president and general manager of the property.

The letter announced that starting last Monday, Harrah's Joliet would be passing the increase in admission tax on to its customers. For middle tier player's club members (Platinum Level), that translates into $2 the first time you enter the casino and $5 each time you re-enter.

The letter went on to say the property was no longer offering a breakfast buffet or hotel room service. Also, the Winning Streaks Stadium Café would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and that lunch wouldn't be served at the restaurant Friday through Sunday.

Talk about throwing progress into reverse! Just a couple years ago, Illinois casinos were lauding the elimination of mandated cruise schedules and boarding times. Patrons were free to come and go as they pleased. Now they're being made to pay for the privilege.

No one can fault Illinois casinos for being forced to adjust to the hostile business environment that has been created for them in Illinois. Not only are services being curtailed, employees are being laid off, hours are being shortened, and jobs eliminated.

Gaming fans, meanwhile, are flocking east of the border to the safer haven of the casinos of Northwest Indiana in Hammond, East Chicago, and Gary where there is now 24-hour gaming, no cutback in services, and no admission price. For many players, it's a choice that Illinois has made a no-brainer.

Call me naïve, but one injustice that Harrah's Joliet is perpetrating against average players is the fact that upper tier player's club members (Diamond Level) will NOT be subject to an initial admission charge to the casino nor will Diamond players and their guests have to pay for re-entry.

It is the very nature of good casino business to cater to the high rollers. But all too often, casinos take average folks with smaller bankrolls for granted. Just as the state is discriminating against the most successful casinos in the state, so are the casinos discriminating against their customers.

Gamblers cannot be equally valued as players. Some bet more, some bet less. But everyone who goes to a casino should be equally valued as a guest.

It's the average folks who are going to lose in this debacle. People who bring fifty or a hundred bucks to have some fun, or senior citizens on fixed incomes who enjoy day trips with their friends, are being factored out of what has become a faulty economic equation.

Illinois is suffocating the best business partner and revenue producer it ever had. My hope is that the state will wake up before it's too late for the sake of the casinos themselves and the people who enjoy them.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp