Even though online gambling is gaining more and more fans around the world, it’s the land-based casinos that are raking in the big revenue. So big, in fact, that the Las Vegas Strip alone made over $6 billion in revenue in 2019 and $2.7 billion in 2020 in spite of the lockdowns. That’s a huge chunk of the US gambling industry profits that comprised a little over $43 billion in 2019.
If you’re happy for hundreds of US businessmen and businesswomen who own casinos, you better think again. Unlike Neosurf casinos in Australia and many other online casinos that are owned by individual entrepreneurs, US land-based casinos are not independent. Much like other major industries in the country, it’s owned by the wealthy elites. In the case of casinos, it’s not even a new thing. It’s been there since the birth of the Strip.
The early history of the Strip
The history of the Las Vegas Strip began with organized crime. Back in the times when Nevada was the Wild West of the gambling industry, the mob took interest in the state with legal gambling and started the trend that was about to outlive its pioneers. One of the first casino hotels that became emblematic of Las Vegas was Flamingo Hotel. It was opened in 1946 by two gangsters, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. Their story was even later adapted into a movie.
The period of Las Vegas history from the 1930s to 1960s was heavily influenced by the mafia. Most casinos built during these times were either directly owned or otherwise controlled by organized crime. The trend has continued even later than that. In the 1980s, when the FBI was investigating Stardust casino, they found out that nearly half of the profits were skimmed off by organized crime. In the late 60s, however, the tide started to change.
1966 has marked this change with the eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes buying the casino-hotel he was staying in instead of vacating the penthouse. He ended up buying several other casinos on the Strip, but it was Steve Wynn who started the next age in the history of this place when he built The Mirage in 1987. This casino kicked off the era of mega-resorts, huge, luxurious casino-hotels that attracted visitors not only for gambling but for entertainment.
The corporatization of the Strip
Much like any other area of business in the US, these mega-resorts eventually became highly corporatized. The process began soon as the Wall Street money poured into the area replacing criminally obtained funds of the mob. Wynn, for instance, built The Mirage with money he got from selling junk bonds.
Right now, the majority of the Las Vegas Strip is owned by a handful of corporations. MGM Resorts and Caesar’s Entertainment, in particular, own more than half of the strip, owning an average of 10 casinos in Vegas. Each corporation owns more than 50 casinos around the US. They’ve gained their demonstrably huge position on the market not only by building new casinos but also by relentlessly buying up the competition.
The ties and connections of these corporations are not unlike those of the mob. Caesar’s Entertainment is owned by the Carano family, a clan that is seemingly trying to take over Nevada. MGM Resorts is owned by The Blackstone Group headed by Stephen Schwartzman. Both Schwartzman and the group were involved in scandals, in 2008 when Stephen was profiting off the financial crisis and recently in 2019 for sending lists of residents to ICE.
The rest of Las Vegas Strip casinos are also corporately owned. Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos, and Golden Entertainment own the majority of the remaining casinos on the Strip. These five companies consolidate most casinos in the area and own many more casinos outside of it. This does leave space for a couple of casinos that are owned by individuals, but most of these people are the same elite billionaires who are the first to influence Washington politicians and profit off of crises.
What does this mean for you?
Las Vegas Strip casinos are owned by five corporations and a couple of billionaires, so what? You may not care about it if you’re not big on gambling, but if you are, this is quite a sad realization. On the Strip, there is little place for entrepreneurship, innovation, and trying to please the gambler. It’s all about showing financial growth to the investors. No matter what casino you pick, the money you lose goes into the corporate pocket.
If you don’t want to kick the habit, it’s better to support a local small gambling parlor that’s not owned by the corporate interest or play online.