The limits of gambling

People who like to gamble have a lot more options available to them than they used to.

The Marcuses’ three-day pilgrimage had taken them across a region suddenly awash in slot parlors and Las Vegas-style casinos, what with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania getting in on the action. And the competition between the gambling halls is growing fiercer.

Mount Airy, the working-class resort once known for its red heart-shaped bathtubs, is one of three dozen combatants in a market where the only way to survive is by taking customers from a rival.

New Jersey is so worried about a $1 billion drop in annual revenue at its 11 Atlantic City casinos that Gov. Chris Christie proposed a state takeover of the gambling district and a large cash infusion to rejuvenate the beachfront resort.

New York already has electronic slot machines at eight racetracks, including the Yonkers and Monticello raceways, and is trying to get another gambling hall up and running in the biggest market of all: New York City, at the crumbling Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. And the Shinnecocks of eastern Long Island recently won federal recognition as an Indian tribe, allowing them to open a casino, as the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes of Connecticut did.

So Pennsylvania authorized the introduction of table games last month at its thriving slot machine parlors, a move that officials hope will bring even more gamblers and tax revenue to the state. In the year ending June 30, Pennsylvania collected nearly $1.2 billion in slot machine taxes, 23.4 percent more than in the previous 12 months.

I bring this up for two reasons. One, even if all of Texas’ gambling interests see their champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true next year, the casinos and resorts of Louisiana and elsewhere that now attract Texas’ gamblers won’t give up all that business without a fight. They’ll offer incentives, reduce room rates, increase prizes, and generally do things that will decrease everybody’s profit margins. This is something else to keep in mind when you hear yet another rosy projection about how much money gambling will mean to the state.

And two, as a boy from New York City, I can’t read the words “Mount Airy” without hearing this:

They had other seasonal variations, but it’s the “Beautiful Mount Airy Lodge” bit that’s forever etched into my brain. When Olivia and I were in the Hudson River Valley last month, as we were driving from Newark Airport to Hyde Park, we passed an exit for The Poconos, and my dad and I instantly started singing the jingle. Some things, you just never escape. Link and post title via Yglesias, who I’m pretty sure is too young to remember those ads.

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2 Responses to The limits of gambling

  1. William Hughes says:

    I read this article and immediately thought of the jingle as well.

    By the way, this is off-topic, but you mention being with your father last month. The SI Advance wrote this article a couple of weeks back and I thought you might be interested:

  2. Ah, thank you for finding that. I knew my dad was going to speak to someone at the Advance, but I hadn’t heard anything further about it. Nice to know he can still create copy. 🙂

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