Idea Center

A Winning Idea at the Airport?

Las Vegas' McCarran International and Reno-Tahoe International airports have had slot machines for years. In the past year, public officials in jurisdictions outside of Nevada...
by | July 6, 2009

Las Vegas' McCarran International and Reno-Tahoe International airports have had slot machines for years. In the past year, public officials in jurisdictions outside of Nevada are looking to the two airports for inspiration, in hopes that adding slot machines to airports would provide the revenue to alleviate escalating costs. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that Miami-Dade commissioners voted in support of applying for a permit in order to get a slot machine license -- an early initial step for installing slot machines at Miami International Airport, where operating costs could top $1.1 billion in 2015. According to a memo (PDF) by Miami-Dade County Manager George M. Burgess, if 1,000 slot machines are successfully added inside MIA terminals (where passengers have an average of 90 minutes of free time waiting for their flight), the machines could yield $17 to $20 million a year. While adding slot machines may be a revenue-boosting idea, it's a controversial one.

Photo illustration by Jeff Kubina, available under a Creative Commons license.

In Miami's case, time constraints, pending state gaming laws, permit stipulations, and concerns regarding local government competing with tribal and private entities all provide obstacles to implementation. Other public officials have also tried to implement this idea in the past year with no success. In Maryland's last legislative session, state Del. Eric M. Bromwell sponsored House Bill 777, a bill to put slots at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but the bill did not advance out of committee. In 2008, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon suggested installing slots at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. But the idea was short-lived: time, regulations, and political will barred further development of the idea.

Tina Trenkner
Tina Trenkner  |  Deputy Editor, GOVERNING.com
ttrenkner@governing.com  |  @tinatrenkner

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