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U.S. casinos may take economic hit

LAS VEGAS – The steady growth of commercial casinos in the past decade could take a hit next year because of a slumping economy and setbacks in building new places to play.

A survey released Wednesday by the American Gaming Association showed that U.S. commercial casino revenues were up 5.3 percent to $34.1 billion in 2007. But casino jobs were down 2.3 percent, with casinos in Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois cutting jobs, according to the study.

The study said commercial casinos lost about 8,500 jobs in 2007, and employed fewer than 361,000 workers in 2007 compared with 369,000 in 2006.

In March, bids for new casinos were rejected in Massachusetts and Kentucky. Coupled with failed attempts to build casinos in Ohio and Nebraska two years ago, some say rapid expansion of casinos has slowed.

“We’re facing some difficult economic times,” said American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf. “People said for years that we were recession-proof. I’ve been saying we’re not recession-proof, we’re recession-resistant.”

Revenues jumped ahead at the 41 racetrack casinos across 11 states, which reported $5.3 billion in gambling revenue in 2007, up 46 percent from $3.6 billion the previous year, according to the study. Employment at those properties rose 22 percent.

The American Gaming Association survey did not attempt to track results at casinos run by American Indian tribes.