The Destination versus the Convenience Gambler: Is There Really any Evidence of a Distinction?

Casino proponents want you to believe that the universe of casino gamblers is divided into two groups, “destination” gamblers, who want to make an event out of their gambling trips, and “convenience” gamblers, who are interested in more frequent but less expensive trips. Based on this hypothetical partition, casino proponents claim that a Harrah’s casino in West Warwick won’t cannibalize gaming revenues at from Lincoln Park or Newport Grand. Lincoln and Newport are convenience facilities, they say, and convenience gamblers won’t be interested in the things a destination gambling facility will provide.
It is difficult to look at Rhode Island’s gambling revenue numbers and take this argument seriously.
First of all, the term “convenience gambling” doesn’t really capture what goes on at Lincoln Park. According to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s Center for Policy Analysis’ 2006 New England Casino Gaming Update (performed by the same research group who performed the pro-casino Rhode Island Building Trades study), the typical gambling visit of a Lincoln Park patron is a larger event (measured in dollars lost) than the typical gambling trip of a Foxwoods patron. The average Lincoln Park gambler from Rhode Island loses an average of $154 per visit; Foxwoods gamblers from Rhode Island lose only an average of $129 per visit. (Philosophical question: Should it still be called gambling when you know you’re going to lose over the long haul?). Does it make sense to associate the gamblers who spend more-per-visit with convenience-oriented behavior?
In addition to spending more money, Lincoln Park patrons also make many more trips per year to gamble than do Foxwoods patrons (or Mohegan Sun patrons). On average, the average Rhode Island-based Lincoln Park patron makes 18.45 gambling trips per year. By contrast the typical RI Foxwoods patron makes only 5.19 visits per year (and the typical Newport Grand patron makes only 5.68 visits per year). The large amount lost per visit to Lincoln Park times the large number of trips per patron means loss per patron at Lincoln is staggeringly high — $2,850 per patron per year.
Lincoln Park patrons aren’t “convenience” gamblers, they are “heavy” gamblers, looking for the nearest place where they can gamble very large amounts of money very often.
Another result from the 2006 Casino Gaming Update casts doubt that these “heavy” or “convenience” gamblers won’t choose to make frequent trips to a West Warwick casino instead of Lincoln Park. The study looked at what percentage of Lincoln Park/Newport Grand patrons had visited Foxwoods/Mohegan Sun and vice-versa. The study found that most (meaning numbers in the 80% range) Lincoln and Newport patrons have made a visit to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, but most Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun patrons haven’t visited Lincoln or Newport. The sensible conclusion is that the most significant partition of the gambling population is not between destination and convenience gamblers, but between slots-only players and more diversified gamblers. Diversified players are not satisfied by slots alone, so they go to the destination casinos (Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun). Slots players, on the other hand, will go anywhere where there are slots (Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, Lincoln Park, or Newport Grand) regardless the other activities that might be available.
Since slots players are going to go anywhere there are slots, the idea that Rhode Island’s significant population of heavy gamblers isn’t going to take some of its many trips each year to West Warwick and reduce the state?s Lincoln Park’s revenue is self-serving speculation. And fiscally speaking, because Rhode Island has become so addicted to gaming revenues to balance its budget, it is potentially ruinous speculation.

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Greg
Greg
14 years ago

I believe this argument to be a waste of time and an attempt to muddy the waters.
Simply put, the indians got screwed over by the white man hundreds of years ago and again by John Chafee. They’re willing to say or do anything to get payback even if it means the obliteration of this state as long as they get paid.
Just to get back at the white man.
Unfortunately for them, their leadership is too stupid to realize the white man will still own 95% of the casino and is just using them to get a sympathy vote.
I don’t see Question 1 getting more than 40% of the vote next week. I just can’t see it happening.
What I’d REALLY like to know is what’s up their sleeves once they lose this fight at the ballot after years of ‘let the people decide’.

Bobby Oliveira
Bobby Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear Greg,
I have no idea what the Narragansetts might do but I do know what everybody else has planned. In order:
1.) Massachusetts files their coin-op bill.
2.) BLB executes their option with either Governor.
3.) Somebody buys Newport Grand (Mr. Wynn?? he’s been here)
4.) Johnston files its own legislation.
5.) Trump files an injunction versus BLB.
6.) BLB goes to the Supreme Court.
7.) The new owner of Newport Grand, who may also own the “banquet rights” to the Newport Armory, files an Amicus brief.
8.) We end up with casinos in Newport and/or Lincoln and/or maybe Johnston.
9.) The Narragansetts, you remember them, file a discrimination suit in Federal Court.
10.) We get the 3rd casino in Charlestown.
You still sure you wish to vote “No”??

Marc Comtois
14 years ago

Bobby,
Honest question: re: “8.) We end up with casinos in Newport and/or Lincoln and/or maybe Johnston.” Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe that any expansion of “casino” gambling (table games) at those sites requires a change in the law, right?
Now, I realize that it doesn’t necessarily follow that a change in the would require the passage of yet another gambling referendum, but at the very least, the RI polity will have to keep their eyes open for special deals.
Finally, I’ll vote “No” every time.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Dear Bobby,
If you’re so good at predicting the future, please tell me who’s going to win the Super Bowl.
Otherwise, label your speculation as such. Your endless “I know everything” attitude wore itself out about a year ago.

Robert Oliveira
Robert Oliveira
14 years ago

Dear Marc,
It’s supposed to. However, I have seen “crib notes” that suggest that anything that happens at Lincoln and Newport cannot be considered an expansion of gambling.
Greg,
For the last year or so, I’ve been on a roll. The only exception was Matt. Hey it happens. Vote against me if you wish but some other folks would consider that unwise.

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