Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: / home page:

19 March 1999[1]

[This page printed from:

© [All Rights Reserved.] For a slide presentation made by my wife, Sadie, and me at the AAUW [American Association of University Women] Meeting in Chico, California, March 19, 1999.


GENERAL INTRODUCTION [Charlie Urbanowicz résumé] [On teaching at CSU, Chico] [October 23, 1997 item about teaching at CSU, Chico]

"Gambling is now bigger than baseball, more powerful than a platoon of Schwarzeneggers, Spielbergs, Madonnas and Oprahs. More Americans went to casinos than to major league ballparks in 1993. Ninety-two million visits!" (The New York Times Magazine, July 17, 1994)
SOME OTHER INTERESTS [Spring 1997 Sabbatical Overview]

Risk-taking is not new to the United States of America and we have had a long and lengthy history of "gambling" throughout history. Records reveal that games of chance were always a part of the American heritage and one should know that although gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, it was only in 1910 that gambling was declared illegal in Nevada. For twenty-one years, from 1910 to 1931, Americans did without "legal" gambling, but that changed since gambling was such a major part of American life. New Jersey authorized gambling in 1978 and the Congress of the United States passed IGRA (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) in 1988 and the environment in the USA has rapidly changed in the past decade! [Urbanowicz on Darwin] [February 4, 1998 Orion article about Darwin research] [Urbanowicz on Darwin "streaming video" available on the WWW]'98_Millennium_Paper.html [On Technology and the "future"]


You can legally gamble (or be "entertained") in 48 of the 50 states (with Utah and Hawai'i being the only exceptions to date) since you can: (a) go to 10 states that have non-Indian Nation casinos; (b) participate in state lotteries in 36 states (as well as the District of Columbia); (c) go to local card rooms; (d) or go to 20 states that have some sort of Indian Nation gambling. Competition abounds everywhere and Native American Indian casinos are in competition with one another, as well as in competition with non-Native American locations. Although the November 1998 elections saw the passage of Proposition 5 in California, Proposition 5 is still being decided in the courts as to how it will be implemented and since I am not a legal expert I can only "gamble" on a guess: we will have expanded gaming activities in California on Native American lands because (#1) people like to gamble (or be entertained in this manner) and (#2) certain segments of this industry are all for the expansion in California: from equipment manufacturers, through management consultants, to construction companies. Gambling is big business, with staggering dollar amounts involved. [1998 paper for the CSU, Chico Anthropology Forum, October 9] [1998 classroom presentation, October 8] [1998 paper presented at the 14th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Williamsburg, Virginia, July 29]

For comparison purposes, the Reno Hilton has approximately 100,000 square feet of gaming space, Harrahs at Lake Tahoe has approximately 84,000 square feet of gaming space, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas has approximately 175,000 square feet of gaming space, the Grand Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, has approximately 140,000 square feet of gaming space, and Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut has some 300,000 square feet of gaming space! Foxwoods is big!! (Incidentally, one American football field is 57,600 square feet and one acre is 43,560 square feet.)

On Reno: "Union Pacific Railroad has put $60 million in property and funds into an escrow account that Reno officials will use to put railroad tracks in a trench through downtown. ... Construction of the project is supposed to begin in November 2001 and end in August 2004." (Robert Anglen, 1999, "Railroad Opens Account For Reno Project" in Reno-Gazette Journal, March 5, page 1C)

On Reno: "Since it opened in 1995, the [National Bowling] stadium has posted annual operating loses ranging from $576,000 to $1.63 million." (John Stearns, 1999, "Panel Seeks Solutions" in the Reno Gazette-Journal, February 19, page E1 + 3E, page E1)

On Reno: "...the holding company for Hilton Casinos, told the board [of Equalization] only that the Flamingo Hilton agreed with the [Washoe County] assessor's recommendation for a 20 percent cut in the taxable value of the main casino block from $62.5 million to $50 million." (Susan Voyles, 1999, "Flamingo Hilton Loses Bid For Tax Reduction" in Reno Gazette-Journal, February 27, page 3B)

On Reno: "In 1998, a year when new home construction was tops in the nation and unemployment nearly vanished, Washoe County job growth slowed to its lowest levels. ... The gaming industry was rocked in 1998 with the closing of two downtown casinos during the fourth quarter [of 1998]. The Riverboat Hotel-Casino and the Holiday-Casino, citing the difficulty of surviving the winter, issued pink slips to 550 workers." (Ken Alltucker, 1999, "Gaming Jobs Decline" in the Reno Gazette-Journal, February 28, page E1 and 6E, page E1)

On Reno/Lake Tahoe: "Harrah's does not report individual results for its Tahoe and Reno properties, but Reno is thought to have been flat in recent years as competition has intensified and visitation sagged. It sits south of the railroad tracks downtown, a difficult operating area where six casinos have closed in four years. Cash flow for Reno-Tahoe was $69 million last year, beating $66.2 million in 1997, but less than the $80.2 million in 1996." (John Stearns, 1999, "Rogers Resigns From Harrah's" in the Reno Gazette-Journal, March 6, page 10B)

On Las Vegas: "More than 2.5 million passengers passed through McCarran International Airport in January [1999], a 9.1 percent increase in passenger traffic compared with January 1998." (Reno Gazette-Journal, February 20, 1999, page 10B)

On Hawai'i: "Tourism to Hawaii continues to plummet, creating bargains. In January [1999], the last month for which statistics are available, the average room rate dropped more than $3 to $146.73, according to PKF Consulting. In Waikiki, rates tumbled nearly $13 to $125.62, a 10% decline. Hawaii's hotel occupancy is at its worst levels since the 1991 recession, down more than 2 percentage points to 71.2% in January. Experts blame the economic slowdown in Asia, which accounts for a third of the islands' visitors. Japanese visits dropped 6.3% in '98." (USA Today, March 19, 1999, page D1) PS: And because of the need for visitors, I predict that within the next few years, there will be some form of legalized, state-sanctioned, gaming/gambling in the State of Hawai'i.

On Tunica, Mississippi: "Sheriff John Pickett III resigned and pleased guilty to extortion, the latest member of his department felled by corruption charges unearthed during a federal investigation of the casino-rich county." (USAToday, March 2, 1999, page 3E).

In general: "Bankruptcy filings hit new records [in the USA]. ... More Americans filed for bankruptcy in 1998 than ever before but the rate of increase dropped from the previous year, federal court officials reported Monday [March 1, 1999]. More than 1.44 million bankruptcy petitions were filed last year--an increase of 38,000, or 2.7 percent, from the more than 1.4 million filed in 1997." (Associated Press, Chico Enterprise-Record, March 4, 1999, [page 8A)

Specifically: The metropolitan area of Chico-Paradise, California, has a bankruptcy rate of 11.1/1000 households, which is below the national average of 13.6/1000 households (and below the California average of 17.2/1000 households). The Chico-Paradise area, however (according to The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 1998, page CA4), has the second highest rate in the state of California of "Chapter 7" bankruptcies (96 percent of all filings): Chapter 7 occurs when individuals liquidate all assets to pay creditors. Please note that Memphis, Tennessee (approximately 45 miles northeast of Tunica, Mississippi, mentioned above), has a bankruptcy rate of 42.3/1000 households, the highest rate in the country,

In general: "Gambling, Religion on Collision Course Throughout The South. Video Poker, riverboat casinos sweep Bible Belt." (Sue Anne Presley, 1999, San Francisco Chronicle, March 6, page A7)


"The unit of survival [or adaptation] is organism plus environment, We are learning by bitter experience that the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself." Gregory Bateson, 1972, Steps To An Ecolopgy Of Mind, page 483)

ON Las Vegas: "The world's fourth largest pyramid flanks the nation's ninth largest airport in America's fasting growing metro area. From triple-digit temperatures to snowy mountain ski runs, Las Vegas thrives on extremes. For a million-plus residents [and approximately 30,600,000 visitors in 1998, which the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority wishes to increase to 36,400,000 by the end of the year 2000], it's a bumpy ride. ... I was reminded of the competing theories on the fate of the universe: expansion to the point of oblivion, eventual collapse under its own weight, or a delicate balance resulting in permanent equilibrium. Las Vegas faces a similar set of possibilities. And for the city of the Next Big Thing, how that plays out will be the biggest thing of all." (William R. Scott, 1996, "Believing Las Vegas" in the National Geographic, Vol. 190, No. 6, pages 58-81.)

On a typical day in the early-1990s in the USA, people wagered approximately $627,000 every minute of every day on all types of commercial gambling and all of these commercial ventures made a profit of ~$57,000 per minute! Data from 1997 indicates that the 'win' was approximately ~$84,000 per minute in the USA. All gaming ventures, however, are not a sure thing: this week, Newsweek had the following about Donald Trump concerning a Kansas City, Missouri, casino and how Trump is "buying the Flamingo Hilton (which Hilton spent $120 million in building) for a paltry $15 million." (Karen Springer, "Gaming: The Donald Goes West," Newsweek, March 15, 1999, page 54).

On Nevada: "Washoe County casinos benefitted from favorable weather to ring up a record January [1999], according to figures released Wednesday [March 9, 1999] by the Nevada Gaming Commission. In fact, casinos statewide collected more than $800 million in gaming win for the first time since the state required monthly reports in 1983.... Statewide, Nevada casinos collected $807.2 million in January, up 16.6 percent from a year earlier [stress added]." (Ken Alltucker, 1999, "Casinos Hot In January" in the Reno Gazette-Journal, March 11, page 1E and 3E, page 1E) PS: The article also pointed out that downtown Las Vegas went from a January 1998 "win" of $63,600,000 million to a win of only $63,100,000 million in January 1999 (or a decrease of -.8 percent) while the "Las Vegas Strip" went from a January 1998 "win" of $353,000,000 to a January 1999 win of $432,000,000 (or an increase of 21.7 percent); remember, "casino winning = gambler losing."

In October 1998, Steve Wynn (Chairman of Las Vegas Mirage Resorts, Inc.) opened his $1.6 billion Bellagio destination-resort in Las Vegas, Nevada (a 3000 room facility); his other destination resorts in Las Vegas include The Mirage (opened in 1989 with 3049 rooms) and Treasure Island (opened in 1993 with 2900 rooms). When The Mirage opened in 1989, it was reported that Wynn's organization needed $1,000,000 per day just to cover operating expenses; concerning the newly opened Bellagio, on October 26, 1998, Time reported that a "record $2.5 million a day [will be needed] to make the new Bellagio pay for itself."

On Foxwoods Resort and Casino: When it opened on February 15, 1992 it employed 2,300 people; in January 1999, Foxwoods employs 11,000 people. "Since Foxwoods Resort and Casino opened in February 1992, the business has poured many hundreds of millions of dollars into the regional and state economies. The [Mashantucket] Tribe contributes 25 percent of all slot machine revenues directly to the state. That money, which the state redistributes to all of Connecticut's municipal governments, totaled $824,793,482 from 1992 through December 31, 1998." Pequot Times, February 1999, page 3)

Thomas Austin Preston (also known as Amarillo Slim) stated it well when he was quoted as saying that some "dudes [are] in the category of guessers, and guessers are losers" (Anthony Holden, 1990, Big Deal: A Year As A Professional Poker Player (Viking), page 164). I also follow the words of Steve Wynn: "If you wanna make money in a casino, own one."

VARIOUS WEB SITES PERTAINING TO THE "GAMBLE OF GAMING"'97.html [1997 paper for the Northern California Geographical Society Meeting, November 9] [1996 presentation for the Chico Breakfast Lions Club Meeting, Chico, California, December 10] [1996 paper for the Northern California Geographical Society Meeting, December 8] [1996 paper for the CSU, Chico Anthropology Forum, April 11)

OTHER Web Sites That Might Be Of interest (and cited in some of the above pages) include: [1997 Statement by the League of Women Voters of Hawai'i dealing with Gambling in Hawai'i] [Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center] [7/28/97 press release referring to Tunica, Mississippi] [Comstock Bank] [State of Nevada Gaming Commission] [Listing of Casinos in the United States of America]

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[1] © [All Rights Reserved.] This handout accompanied a slide presentation made by my wife, Sadie, and me at the AAUW [American Association of University Women] Meeting in Chico, California, March 19, 1999. To return to the beginning of these pages, please click here.


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Copyright © 1999 Charles F. Urbanowicz

Anthropology Department, CSU, Chico
19 March 1999 by CFU