05/23/2003 12:00AM

Day-trippers taking money elsewhere


Boston-based Analysis Group Inc. recently released a statistical report on Indian casinos, which as a group are impacting Las Vegas casinos. The study, which covered 2002, has confirmed some interesting trends that Nevada's casino industry will certainly continue to watch.

Nationwide, Indian casinos won $14.1 billion last year, about 50 percent more than the $9.4 billion won by Nevada's casinos. The Nevada figure represents a 0.26 percent decline from 2001. Conversely, the Indian casinos showed an 11 percent increase over the $12.7 billion generated in 2001.

In 2002, there were 221 different tribes operating 348 gaming casinos in 30 states, an increase in all categories over 2001. The Indian casinos cumulatively paid $15.5 billion in wages, provided 450,000 jobs, and paid $4.8 billion in taxes.

Indian casinos, like some Las Vegas gaming companies, have reported increased business from casinos aimed at local gamblers. Gamblers who used to take a day trip to Las Vegas are now playing at more conveniently located Indian casinos. Conventioneers and those taking a vacation of several days are still coming to Las Vegas as much as ever.

Indian casinos in California are the biggest concern to the Las Vegas casino industry. According to the Analysis Group study, tribal casinos in California won $3.4 billion last year. That's more than one-third of the money won by Nevada casinos.

Nevada's stateline-area casinos are the most vulnerable to California casinos. Because casinos in such cities as Reno, Laughlin, and Stateline offer no more in entertainment or amenities than California tribal casinos, the convenience aspect becomes the deciding factor. Indian gaming in other states is thought to develop new players and serves more as a feeder market for Las Vegas.

On the road again

Heightened terrorist alerts, SARS, and concerns about the economy won't have stopped tourists from their appointed rounds in Las Vegas during this first of the big three-day weekends of summer.

Las Vegas is the No. 1 Memorial Day destination for Southern Californians. A total of 4.8 million Californians (and 300,000 Nevadans) are expected to travel 50 or more miles from home this weekend, according to a survey by the American Automobile Association.

Ralph Siraco is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Sun and host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show.