In the face of a growing online casino industry, the gambling tourism industry may be stronger than ever.
When you hear the term “casino tourism,” it probably doesn’t sound particularly strange to you. After all, most of us still associate casinos with some of the biggest resorts and most exotic locations in the world. Thus, you may immediately think about the Las Vegas strip or the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. Indeed, these resorts remain very popular tourism destinations in much of the world. In fact, according to the Seattle Times, Vegas even broke tourism records in March of this year with 3.7 million visitors.
However, concerns remain about the popularity of live casinos in the face of an increasingly active online gaming community. In the United States, only Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey allow legal online gambling, but more states are almost certainly on their way toward legalization. Also, Internet gambling is already legal in much of the world. Only time will tell what impact increased legalization has on tourism at actual live casinos, but when it comes to casino tourism as a whole? You may be surprised.
It’s logical to assume that increased online gaming activity would cause more gamers to stay home, and that it would essentially make the actual gambling side of casino resorts (as opposed to the shows, dining, luxuries, etc.) somewhat obsolete. While this is undoubtedly true for many gambling enthusiasts, it is also apparent that online gambling companies are opening up new forms of casino tourism, rather than simply detracting from existing ones.
Perhaps the most interesting example is in New Jersey, where casino tourism has taken on a whole new meaning. Home to Atlantic City, the most active casino town in the U.S. outside of Vegas, New Jersey has always counted on fairly generous revenue generated from visitors pouring money into resorts and surrounding attractions. However, it appears that the launch of Internet casinos in 2014 has actually also helped to bring in tourists because significant numbers of gamblers from nearby states are making regular trips into New Jersey simply to book hotel rooms and enjoy legal gambling! Naturally, this could be a very temporary situation if neighboring states ultimately adopt online gambling themselves. Yet, it’s still a factor not many considered in the rise of Internet gambling.
Beyond this development, online gaming companies also invite tourism in more direct ways, often by hosting live tournaments in coordination with online promotions and contests. Incidentally, PartyPoker, which plays a major role in New Jersey’s gaming industry, is also a significant player in promoting live events and partnered with the WPT to set up real-life tournaments at venues all over the world. Most of these events feature a combination of pro players, Internet standouts, and casual players who work their way into the field by winning promotional events online. However, they’re also open to spectators in many cases, which means that online casinos are helping to spawn new live poker events largely for the sake of gaming tourism.
Beyond these more direct impacts online gaming can have on casino tourism, there’s also the idea that the more popular casino gaming becomes—online or elsewhere—the more people will want to visit actual casinos. This is a more vague concept that’s difficult to explain with any specific event or quantify with any exact data, but it’s still easy to understand. Online casinos, when legalized, can meet a much broader audience than live casinos, which means they have more potential to spread gaming enthusiasm and generate new users. And it’s only natural to assume that one result of this is that more people gain an interest in playing at online casinos.
The truth is that no matter how much you love your Internet poker room, nothing quite beats playing a few hands at Mandalay Bay before heading out to its legendary pools for the afternoon and hitting a Cirque du Soleil show at night. Casino resorts are enormous, famous, and wealthy for a reason, and there will always be a value in the total experience of casino tourism as we know it. But for those who have believed that the spread of Internet casinos could damage the industry, the above factors and developments are pretty interesting. It’s beginning to look as if online gaming can only help casino tourism.