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Gamblers lost $34 billion at U.S. casinos in 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gamblers lost $34.1 billion at U.S. commercial casinos in 2007, according to a report by the American Gaming Association (AGA) released on Wednesday.

That is up about 73 percent from the casinos’ gross gaming revenue of $19.7 billion 10 years ago and a 5.3 percent increase over 2006.

The AGA said the equivalent of one quarter of the U.S. adult population visited casinos in 2007 and made more visits to casinos than in any previous year. About 54.5 million visitors made 376 million trips to casinos last year, an average of nearly seven trips per visitor, the AGA said.

“The casino entertainment industry has experienced high levels of growth and maturation in recent years,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, chief executive of the AGA.

“In looking at the last decade, it is evident that we are not only an economic force on a national level, but that we are major players in the local communities where we provide steady jobs and economic development.”

U.S. commercial casinos employed 360,633 people in 2007 and wages -- including salary, tips and benefits -- totaled $13.8 billion, the AGA said.

State and local governments received $5.79 billion in tax revenue from the casino industry in 2007, up 11.3 percent from 2006 and more than double the $2.5 billion of 1998.

CASINOS ‘ACCEPTED’

Iowa and Mississippi had the most significant increases in gross gaming revenue from casinos last year, up 16.2 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

The AGA said upcoming projects in places including St. Louis, Las Vegas and Atlantic City would inject billions of dollars into gaming jurisdictions through jobs, tax revenue and wages.

The trade association said much of this investment will be in non-gambling facilities such as spas, dining and retail.

“These projects mean not only immediate jobs in the field of construction, but long-term, good-paying jobs on the horizon,” Fahrenkopf said.

The AGA cited an annual survey conducted for its report that found 84 percent of U.S. adults viewed casino gambling as “acceptable for themselves or others.”

The AGA said 86 percent of those polled believe people in individual communities should be allowed to decide “what is best for them with respect to casino gaming.”

And the poll found that 84 percent of casino visitors are “responsible” by setting a budget before they start gambling.

The U.S. gambling industry has expanded rapidly in recent years, as more states allowed casinos and existing gaming parlors expanded.

But casinos have started to feel the pain of a slowing U.S. economy. A number of prominent gaming companies, including MGM Mirage Inc and Wynn Resorts Ltd, reported deteriorating quarterly earnings in the last three weeks.

And on May 5, privately held casino operator Tropicana Entertainment LLC said it filed for bankruptcy protection.

Editing by Andre Grenon and Braden Reddall

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