Professor says tribal casinos could overtake Nevada casinos

LAS VEGAS - A University of Nevada, Reno professor says casino revenues in California could surpass those in Nevada by 2010 with the legalization of Las Vegas-style Indian casinos.

Quite simply, the March vote of California voters that legalized Las Vegas-style tribal gambling in the Golden State has created a ''scary proposition'' for Nevada's gambling interests, said Bill Eadington, a professor who specializes in the study of gambling.

As much as one third of Southern Nevada's customer base comes from Southern California and gamblers from Northern California frequent Reno-Tahoe casinos.

Eadington delivered his comments Wednesday during the second day of a four-day gambling conference at the MGM Grand Conference Center.

As lawyers and politicians sift through the meaning of California's Proposition 1A, they are attempting to determine whether the measure allows 43,000 slot machines in the state or as many as 113,000.

Eadington projects the difference could translate to a low of $5.1 billion in yearly casino win totals or as much as $10.3 billion.

That figure would be more than twice the $4.5 billion total reported by Las Vegas Strip casino operators last year.

Eadington said daily casino win per machine could be $250 in California. Daily win per machine measures the total retained by casinos from every dollar dropped into a slot machine after payouts to gamblers. It's a gross figure and does not include operating costs or other expenses.

The daily win total per Nevada machine was $102, Eadington said, citing a 1997 figure.

Meanwhile, the March vote will lead to the rapid transformation of the California casino market, Eadington argued, as tribal leaders suddenly have access to slot games offered by big-name manufacturers. The state's tribes can also hire casino executives who have worked in Nevada, New Jersey and other nontribal settings.

In the past, slot manufacturers and gambling executives were reluctant to work in California so long as the legal status of tribal gambling was unresolved.

Manufacturers and executives feared they could lose their gambling licenses in Nevada and New Jersey if they worked at the tribal properties.

The measure also will increase the flow of capital to California's 39 gaming tribes, a figure that could increase to as much as 100 in the coming years.

In recent months, Anchor Gaming, Trump Hotels, Station Casinos, Harrah's Entertainment and Henderson developer Mark Advent have all announced joint ventures with California tribes - moves Eadington characterized as the tip of the iceberg.

''My suspicion is there are probably 20 others in discussion,'' he said.


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