04/07/2005 11:00PM

Locals like a little flutter, too


Many who visit Las Vegas have this notion that those of us who live here party hard throughout the night on the Strip. Some visitors are shocked to find out that we have schools, grocery stores, and even libraries, although they don't believe we frequent them. In a way they are right, and in a way they are wrong.

According to a survey commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, gambling is increasing among the residents of the Las Vegas area. But gambling is not the favorite activity of the locals. The survey, conducted in 2003-2004 and released last week, shows that going to the movies is the favorite activity outside of the home for 28 percent of local residents, while gambling ranked second at 21 percent. That's up significantly from the last such survey, conducted in 2001-2002, when only 8 percent of the locals listed gambling as their top leisure activity.

The authority has been commissioning these surveys since 1989. In other results of the survey:

* Seven of 10 Clark County residents gamble at least occasionally, and of those who gamble, 43 percent do so at least once a week. More than half (57 percent) of those who say they gamble said they budget $25 or more per day for gaming. Twenty-one percent budget $25 to $49, and 36 percent budget $50 or more. Only 12 percent said they budget less than $10 per day for gaming.

* To no one's surprise, slot machines are the most popular games among locals, but just barely. Thirty-five percent of those who gamble said slots were their favorite, while 34 percent liked video poker best. Of the video poker and slot players, 47 percent said they play the quarter machines, while 34 percent play the nickel versions.

* Among residents who gamble, 29 percent play most often on the Boulder Strip or in the Green Valley area, while 19 percent do so on the Strip, 15 percent in the Summerlin area, 13 percent in North Las Vegas, 4 percent downtown, and 19 percent in other locations. Just over half (52 percent) of respondents who do not usually gamble on the Strip said it was because of the crowds, traffic, and tourists. Twenty-one percent said other places were more convenient and 8 percent said they believed the odds of winning were worse on the Strip. Objections to the downtown area ranged from inconvenience (33 percent) to a bad environment (11 percent).

* Only 19 percent of residents say they gamble only when they have out-of-town visitors.

* Seventy-two percent of local gamblers consider themselves to be either very light or light bettors. Twenty-two percent consider themselves moderate and only 5 percent believe they are heavy to somewhat heavy bettors. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of residents who gamble say they are a member of at least one casino slot or players club.

* About one-quarter (26 percent) of locals said they gamble at least occasionally in convenience stores, grocery stores, or gas stations, which is down significantly from the 33 percent in the 2001-2002 survey. Among those who do, 38 percent said they gamble at those locations once a week or more, 37 percent once or twice a month, and 23 percent less than once a month.

* Twenty-eight percent of Clark County bettors said they gamble at local bars and restaurants at least occasionally. Among those who do, 31 percent said they do so once a week or more, 36 percent once or twice a month, and 32 percent less than once per month.

Finally, although the survey did not make a distinction between sports betting and horse betting, it did ask the following question: Which type of gambling game do you play most often? The answer "race/sports book" drew a response of 4 percent.

I suggest they ask that question again on the afternoon of May 7.

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