The Case for the Caskino

This season, Quebec’s Mont Tremblant opened a $61 million casino, connected via gondola to the ski resort’s base area. Sure, gambling and skiing are fine on their own. But do these two great tastes taste great together?

Skiers are risk takers. And many, like me, gamble. I’m not a high roller but I like taking a hard-earned Benjamin to the tables every now and then. We all have ideal winters, and mine involves skiing and gambling at the same place. I call it a caskino. There aren’t enough of them.

During a typical winter, I’ll gamble at the three Indian reservation casinos a half hour from my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, plus make an annual trip to Vegas. I ski too—at three resorts within 90 minutes, and on the odd trip to Colorado. Despite my proximity to both powder and blackjack, I must choose. Ski resorts and casinos should enjoy a symbiotic relationship, like Subway restaurants and gas stations.

Places like Heavenly Resort, on the California-Nevada border, and Mont Tremblant get it. And there are a number of resorts in Colorado that have casinos close by. But these places are more exception than rule.

In 2008, Colorado and New Mexico’s 45 casinos created 10,678 jobs and raised $155.5 million in state and local taxes. Their 35 ski resorts’ profits went to publicly traded companies or deep-pocketed owners. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the number of downhill skiers dropped 14 percent between 2000 and 2008. Over 24 million people consider themselves snow-sports participants, but only 6.5 million skied more than once in 2007. Resorts need more reasons to be visited—and snow tubing isn’t going to cut it.

In January 2009, Vermont’s state auditor, Thomas Salmon, proposed that the state shore up million-dollar budget gaps by putting a casino at Killington. In a letter to legislators, Salmon wrote, “Consider a state-owned casino in a resort area like Killington, with net profits going directly to roads, bridges, and infrastructure.”

So why, when a quarter of the U.S. adult population chooses to spend its disposable dollars at a casino at least once a year, is there resistance to the idea of the caskino? Is it fear of others with dubious morals or just the cacophony of slot machines? I don’t love that noise either, but what if it’s the sound of a healthy ski resort? —Charles Bethea