Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Tue February 09 2016

Airport Gambling Could Soon Become a Reality

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | February 09, 2016

Airport Gambling Could Soon Become a Reality

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Airports are always looking for new income streams. The humble food court counters and generic airport bars have given way to mall-like settings with shops and restaurants named after celebrity chefs. On one hand, this development has been great for people who want to have something to do after they pass through security. On the other hand, those travelers who just want to get to their gate as quickly as possible might not see this trend as a good thing. 

Now, at least in one state (beside Nevada), travelers could soon be walking past a different kind of distraction. 

Seeking approval for airport gambling

OTG, a company that runs restaurants and retail spaces at 10 U.S. airports, has filed for an IPO recently. That fact alone is not surprising. OTG handles concessions of all sorts at some of the country’s biggest airports. It is at the forefront of a lot of the newest ideas in airside entertainment. Going public would allow the company to expand to more airports and take its ideas to a national level. (Most of its operations are now concentrated on the East Coast).

Before being approved for its IPO, OTG had to file an S1 form with the SEC. Information on their S1 suggests that the company is trying to get gambling concessions from the state of New York. OTG has said that it is working on a variety of online gaming options that would be offered exclusively through tablet computers installed in airport terminals. This could include lottery-like contests and casino games as well as popular iPad skill games. 

READ MORE: The Rise of Pay-In Airport Lounges

Still too early to make a judgment

Some in the travel industry are of the opinion that if OTG gets a gaming concession for New York area airports, it will set a precedent that could see other forms of gambling come to terminals. Installing slots, video poker or other games could help increase airport revenue in a big way. The idea might even be appealing to taxpayers who live near airports who have undertaken major upgrades with government funding. 

The drawback, of course, is that terminals in New York, and eventually around the country, could start to look like slot-filled Las Vegas McCarran. It is hard to predict what form airport gambling will take, so it is probably a bit premature to start complaining about clanging slot machines and flashing lights. However, if its IPO proves successful, OTG will most likely take the terminal gaming idea with it as it expands across the country.  

READ MORE: 5 Surprisingly Upscale Airport Restaurants in the US

It's not a new idea

Actually, in-terminal casinos might not have to wait for OTG. Government officials in some states have already discussed the notion of using some sort of airside gambling to help raise funds for their airports. This idea has yet to take off, but, again, if one state sets a precedent, others could follow quickly. 

If it is done in a tasteful, discreet way, airport gambling could provide a major new income stream for airports without annoying travelers who just want to get to their gate with as few distractions as possible. 


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