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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Industry Analyst Peers into Gaming's Crystal Ball

29 September 2004

The American Gaming Association reports that there are 443 commercial casinos operating in 11 states in the United States in addition to Native American casino developments in 29 states.

Many state legislatures around the country are contemplating legalizing some form of gambling, which will expand the industry even more. Close to home, Kentucky and Ohio are looking for ways to combat the flood of expendable income and tax dollars that pour into the Southern Indiana gaming market.

To get a glimpse of what the future may hold, I placed a call to one of the gaming industry's most knowledgeable and respected economic analysts, Sebastian Sinclair, president of Christiansen Capital Advisors. I asked him if he thought Ohio and Kentucky may enact riverboat legislation, but he responded by saying he thinks it'll take another direction:

"I think the novelty of the concept (of riverboats) has worn off," Sinclair told me. "When the riverboat industry developed, most of the boats had to cruise, but that's no longer true. And if Ohio or Kentucky wants to authorize riverboats, and they're going to require those boats to cruise, they're going to be at a competitive disadvantage to the boats in Indiana, which are already taking business from them.

"What happened is this: It became a political animal. For some reason, the whole political concept of authorizing these riverboats, which had a historical basis plying the Mississippi, became a politically accepted solution to expand gaming. I just don't see that now because if you look around, these riverboats aren't really riverboats. They're casinos that just happen to be on boats.

"In the early 90's riverboat legislation was a political necessity, as, to a great extent, I think racinos are a political necessity today. There's political benefit in trying to protect an agrarian business in a lot of markets. One of the arguments is that, okay, we're just expanding gambling in places where it already exists."

Sinclair appears to be right on target. The original concept of riverboat gambling as it applied to Illinois and Iowa in the early 90's required the vessels to leave port for regularly scheduled daily excursions. They evolved into permanently docked facilities, and in many cases, barges, that give the feel of a land-based casino experience.

Whenever and wherever the tenth Illinois riverboat license goes, some plans call for it to be placed in a manmade basin! How's that for stretching the original riverboat concept?

The wave of the future would appear to be introducing slots to existing race tracks, which are already state licensed and regulated wagering facilities. And if you listen to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, brick and mortar land-based casino complexes could be just around the corner.

CASINO NEWS: If you've ever brought your children along for an overnight stay in the hotel at Harrah's Joliet Casino or enjoyed a family "dining out" night with the kids at the Union Station Buffet, rest assured those days are over.

In keeping with a corporate emphasis on responsible gaming, the casino in May instituted a policy of only allowing guests over the age of 21 to stay in the hotel. Earlier this month the "over 21" goal was actualized when the original turnstiles to gain entry to the casino were moved and an additional location was added near the hotel lobby.

The move means that three of the four dining options at Harrah's Joliet, including the Union Station Buffet as well as fine dining option Van Buren's and the Winning Streak sports bar are now off limits to everyone underage.

Sister property Harrah's East Chicago Casino & Hotel also has a 21 and over restriction on hotel guests, but so far the Fresh Market Buffet, French Quarter steak house and Winning Streaks grill are still accessible for younger people.

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