That is the number of live poker rooms that have been shut down in just over 2 years in the United States. The most recent victim is the room at the Linq Hotel & Casino.
Poker has been a mainstay of the modern casino since its inception, but it’s becoming a less important part over time. Are people losing interest in table games? Perhaps. But the problem likely runs deeper than that.
Poker Rooms Have Never Been Cash Cows
Poker rooms have never been incredibly profitable for casinos. Compared to slot machines or other traditional gambling activities, poker generates a pittance of revenue.
There’s really no way for the room to make a substantial profit considering that there are typically 30 hands or less dealt per hour at a live table. Add in the wages of the dealers (albeit small) and you aren’t left with much.
However, people used to go to casinos to play poker and stick around to play casino games. According to the extensive calculations by each of these 12 casinos, this added revenue isn’t worth the space that the poker room takes up.
What’s Killing Live Poker?
So if it’s not limited revenue that’s changed in recent years, what could it be?
The Commercialization of Poker
With the popularization of online poker came an increased interest in poker by the general public. TV shows were created (and heavily watched), and Americans signed up and played online at an incredible rate.
This didn’t hurt the casino industry for years, so the mere presence of online poker probably isn’t taking casino players away from the table. In fact, the two markets don’t overlap too much. Casino visitors are there to gamble, and they may or may not play back home.
Are People Burnt Out?
When something gets popular, it often gets overdone to the point that people’s interest simply burns out.
While there are a ton of televised tournaments and online training sites these days, online poker is still going strong. If anything suffered from player burnout, it would be online poker, not live.
The Remaining Possible Cause: The Economy
Digging below the surface reveals that the casino industry is in trouble. In 2014, casinos had revenues of just $2.7 billion. While that sounds like a lot, it’s only about half of revenues in 2006, which were $5.2 billion.
People still like to gamble, but the recession has hit everyone hard. It seems like a logical step to take that having less disposable income means that frivolous gambling and vacations would be the first expense to be cut out.
On the bright side, while it’s likely we haven’t seen the end of poker room closures, when the economy does finally rebound, it’s also likely that we will see many poker rooms spring back to life.