Casinos within airports – are they a positive or negative?

Airport Casino

How many times have you arrived at an airport three hours before your flight’s departure, been near the front of the queue to check in your luggage and then quickly passed through security?

You have now got two hours before being made aware of your departure gate. There may be duty free, a new book to start reading and the opportunity to have a few drinks, but you already accept that passing this time may be slow.

Then the news you always expect and fear. Your flight is delayed. You don’t know why or how long for. What you do know is that you are likely to be bored for numerous hours waiting.

It is times like these where a casino would be a handy inclusion within a departure lounge.

The possibility of a casino within Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

And incorporating casinos within airports is among the proposals of Garry McCarthy, the former Chicago police superintendent and current mayor candidate.

O’Hare Airport has already had an $8.5 billion expansion plan approved, which includes a 25% increase in gate capacity, a new global terminal and new concourses.

Chicago does not currently have its own land-based casino and McCarthy believes adding a casino as part of the airport renovation makes plenty of sense.

During an interview on Chicago radio station WBBM-AM, he said: “The issue with a casino in the city … was all of the problems it causes in the community.

“How about we put a casino in O’Hare Airport where now it’s for travellers coming through and it’s not going to affect the community?”

McCarthy added that anybody entering the casino would need to pass through the US Transportation Security Administration’s security checkpoints, which in turn means they will have a boarding pass to fly.

The potential perks of an airport casino

Airports provide a captive audience. While travellers are waiting to board their flight, they are limited in terms of what they can do.

If someone is returning home from a trip abroad, it is possible they will have some currency that is of little use to them once they leave the country.

Therefore, rather than trying to use all of their spare change on soft drinks and snacks for the flight, they can chance their arm on a few spins of roulette or hands of blackjack instead.

Meanwhile, there is the added bonus of any revenue generated making additional money for the city in question.

However, it would need to be clarified if any laws exist, relating to where money raised at an airport could be spent.

For example, federal law in the US dictates that money made at an airport must also be spent there, preventing cities from using it as a means of increasing funding for schools, health or to boost other budgets.

Airport casinos do already exist

Gambling within airports is far from an alien concept. There are numerous airports worldwide where enjoying this pastime is possible.

Take McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where slots can be located by departure gates and near the food courts.

In fact, just last year one female traveller won $1.6 million from a $5 bet on a Wheel of Fortune Pink Diamonds game.

Head across Nevada to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and another collection of slots can be enjoyed while waiting to board planes.

Fly from the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in Holland and you would have had the chance to spend some time in Holland Casino. Poker, baccarat and roulette are among the different casino games that are offered.

The potential pitfalls of an airport casino

However, there are some negatives to housing a casino within an airport.

Firstly, it increases the likelihood of an airport becoming substantially busy and overcrowded.

Keen gamblers could arrive extra early for their flights or even potentially delay flights while they finish playing games.

What is a player likely to do if they hear the final call for their flight, but they have activated the bonus feature on a slot and they are potentially midway towards winning a jackpot?

Furthermore, with a land-based casino, there is the potential for collaboration with other sectors.

If lots of people are drawn to one place, restaurants could benefit, hotels could benefit or other forms of entertainment could benefit.

This is one of the reasons why casinos are positioned as one element of integrated resorts in some parts of the world. Gambling is just one means of making revenue.

Airports may have a high throughput of people, but they are restricted on how long they can gamble for. For casinos to be most successful, they want players to stick around for as long as possible.