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State Senate President Emil Jones summoned more than 30 representatives of Illinois casinos and horse racing tracks to his Springfield office Thursday to tell them that a legislative push to massively expand gambling stands little chance of passing without them getting behind the effort, sources familiar with the gathering said.

Jones (D-Chicago) and Sen. Denny Jacobs (D-East Moline), an architect of riverboat gambling in Illinois, told casino and track lobbyists and executives, including Arlington Park’s Richard L. Duchossois, they “expected everybody to get on board,” a source said. Jones also stressed it was important to keep Chicago and the south suburbs in the gaming mix.

But even if the casino-horse rivalry that has contributed to the death of past gambling bills ends, the current legislation still appears on shaky ground. As more details emerged Thursday, it became clear there will be plenty of things for opponents to attack in the bill, which is designed to raise $1.8 billion for the cash-strapped state.

The Western and Eastern Frontiers on Gambling

The risk-taking inherent in the lotteries and the gaming so common in Jamestown, paralleled the chance undertaken in the larger enterprise— in a broader perspective.

This paralleled the chance undertaken in the larger enterprise of the movement across the Atlantic and into a new continent.

Setting precedents for Europeans and Americans who followed, the early colonists in Virginia were among the very first to take the gamble that came to be known as the westward migration of English-speaking people in North America.

The lottery, accompanying pioneers to the initial American frontier, symbolized the gambling spirit that has characterized the American West.

Whether seventeenth-century colonizers for the Virginia company vacationers in Las Vegas casinos, westering people have been adventurers.

The English colonies comprised the first in a series of American Wests where the affinity between gambling and the frontier stood out boldly. The experience of migration has continually likened the pioneer to the bettor.

On the frontier as well as at gaming tables, Westerners found opportunities to get something for nothing, and held high expectations about prospects for success.

In both cases, win or lose, the direct exposure to chance and change tested people’s character and made the risk taking worthwhile for its own sake.

Native-born gambling was cultivated not simply on the frontier, moreover, but in a series of West that shaped the new styles differently.

Each indigenous betting practice evolved during a specific time as well as in a distinct setting, and consequently reflected the dynamic culture of the frontier on which it appeared.

Emerging forms of gambling provided a measure of the changing character of successive western societies and an index to the relationship between the East and West.

Styles of gambling that developed on the British imperial frontier in North America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries illuminated the divergence of colonial culture from the mainstream of English civilization.

The difference had been foreshadowed by participants in the early colonization of Virginia. On one shore of the Atlantic, adventurers strove to gain a foothold of the new continent; on the other side, gentlemen speculated in order to enhance their genteel status.

In England, thoroughbred racing suited noble tastes, while in the American backcountry quarter-horse racing developed to meet the needs of the common man on the frontier.

In the mother country, large-scale lotteries financed national government while in the colonies’ local lotteries helped to build a new society. This dichotomy between East and West contributed to the emergence of a distinctive style of gaming that persisted in America over the next two hundred years.

Gambling can have both good points and bad points. It can be both beneficial to many a population, however, it can also have certain negative effects. For now, we are going to focus on the positive effects of gambling, and the good that it could bring to a community. In the end, it is up to you to judge and take your stand.

For a number of people, especially those coming from religious groups or organizations, gambling, they say, could have a serious threat over the society and community where it will be introduced. There have been a number of cases of compulsive gamblers coming about who are unable to control their gambling addictions. However, over the years, gambling has also had its share of success stories.

Gambling, especially when it involves some big and popular casinos like those that are found in the Las Vegas Strip, has been beneficial to the economy and population of that particular city. It has been the provider of many jobs for a huge amount of the population. And this does not just involve jobs inside the casinos, but it also involves the jobs that are being offered in the surrounding establishments. If the casinos in the area are very popular, this would attract a lot of tourism. Tourists, on the other hand, would tend to go over for a holiday for not just a day or a night, but for a successive amount of days or even weeks. Therefore, hotel and restaurant businesses and various shops like souvenir shops and shopping malls in and around the area also benefit from the gambling industry. Due to this fact, many jobs are going to be provided to the population in the city and to its neighboring cities, just like what is going on in Las Vegas, Nevada. Because of the amount of work there, there is also a rise in the economy due to the revenues and profits that are soaring high in the area. The standard of living in those types of cities has become high, and the price of property in and around that area has inevitably increased as well. This is a good thing for the vast majority of the city’s population that many other folks from the neighboring towns or cities may also try to flock to the area in the hope of making their lives better as well, as they go over there to find jobs for themselves. There is definitely a lot of money to be made.

So, it is a fact that the gambling industry can also benefit a population greatly, and one must not look solely on its negative effects.

Leading hotel, casino and online travel companies lost nearly $10 billion in market capitalization on Monday, as investors dumped shares over concerns about a looming slump in business and leisure travel following last week’s hijackings and attacks.
Online travel agents were hit the worst, with two leading firms, Sabre Holdings Corp. (TSG.N), operator of the Travelocity Web site, and Expedia Inc. (EXPE.O) shedding 40.9 percent and 33.8 percent of their market value, respectively.

The losses easily outpaced a 4.9 percent drop for the benchmark S&P 500 index and a 6.8 percent drop for the Nasdaq index at the close of trading on Wall Street.

Sabre shares fell $16.13 to close at $23.30 and Expedia shares dropped $12.25 to $24, resulting in a combined loss of $2.7 billion in market capitalization.

The hotel industry was the next hardest hit, with the sector’s top three companies — Marriott International Inc. (MAR.N), Hilton Hotels Corp. (HLT.N) and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (HOT.N) — losing a combined $4.8 billion in market capitalization.

Among the three, Starwood’s shares were down the most on a percentage basis, down 28.4 percent, or $8.40, to $21.15. Hilton shares closed down $2.64, or 23.6 percent, to $8.55, and Marriott shares lost $8.60, or 21.1 percent, to $32.25.

Gaming company shares were also down sharply amid uncertainty about the future for the leisure travel industry.

The nation’s top four gaming stocks — MGM Mirage (MGG.N), Mandalay Resort Group (MBG.N), Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET.N) and Park Place Entertainment Inc. (PPE.N) — lost a collective $2.4 billion in market capitalization during the trading day on Wall Street.

MGM Mirage shares were down the most, losing $6.31, or 22.3 percent, to trade at $22. Mandalay shares were down $4.90, or 20.5 percent, to $19; Park Place shares were down $1.92, or 19.4 percent, to $8; and Harrah’s shares were down $4.11, or 14.3 percent, to $24.60.

There are more tourists filling more Las Vegas-area hotel rooms than ever before. Yet, the coming national holiday reflects a pair of challenges facing the city’s hotel-casino operators.

First, there’s the calendar, which has July Fourth falling on a Wednesday. Does the holiday begin this weekend and end Wednesday or does it begin midweek and end the following weekend?

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expects 275,000 visitors to come to the region during the holiday, which the authority says begins with the Fourth of July.

The 269,000 people who descended on the city last year had the Fourth fall on a Tuesday, at the end of their stay. “What’s the weekend?” pondered one tourism industry executive. “I don’t know.”

The same calendar that robs many workers of a three-day getaway will likely cut into the holiday visits of tens of thousands of tourists, according to Strip executives and industry observers. That could mean lower hotel occupancy and room rates, and less gaming revenue than many casinos would record on an average Fourth of July weekend.

“It’s less than ideal,” said Rob Stillwell, a Boyd Gaming vice president, whose company owns and operates the Stardust, Main Street Station and Sam’s Town, among its holdings. Then, there are the ups and downs of the national and regional economies.

The latest theory making the rounds of Strip and Wall Street offices holds that the uncertain national economy, rising energy and gasoline prices, job layoffs, and the spread of tribal and riverboat gambling have cut into the amount of money many tourists are spending in Las Vegas.

They’re still coming in record numbers. As many as 37 million visitors could hit the desert city this year, up from 35.8 million last year. But the purveyors of the more-is-less theory point to recent slot revenues as proof.

The machines are considered one of the truest gauges of mid-market tourist play in the state. If those fanny-pack-wearing visitors are worried about the economy, the thinking goes, they’ll spend less on Wheel of Fortune, Monopoly and Megabucks, among other games.

The statewide slot win for casinos was up less than 3 percent in January, down slightly in February, virtually flat in March and up 5.5 percent in April, creating a revenue roller coaster of uncertainty.

“You would expect to see some declines given all of the pressure on customers’ discretionary income,” Stillwell said. MGM Mirage’s three casinos at Primm have witnessed that fall-off in slot play among drop-in visitors, said Primadonna Resorts President George Boyer, who declined to cite specific figures.

The trio of hotel-casinos have increased their advertising efforts through direct mail, billboards and radio spots, which air in Southern California. “We have a range of strategies in place to recapture that business,” Boyer said.

Despite the midmarket uncertainty, the operators of high-end properties expect July Fourth results to be strong. Meantime, the city’s marketing arm, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, offers an upbeat assessment of the coming weekend, with a caveat.

“There’s no doubt if you pick any weekday to have the Fourth, the middle of the week would not be the day,” authority spokesman Rob Powers said. “But any projections of gloom and doom are grossly overstating the holiday we’re going to have. The town is going to be full. I would venture to say a lot of people will be taking Thursday and Friday off next week.”