The Casino Environment
Before the recent economic downturn, commercial casinos collected at least $30 billion in revenues each year from 2005 through 2008.1 During this period, US casino owners built new facilities and expanded the size of their existing facilities. As a result of the economic downturn, new US commercial casino construction has come to a screeching halt and casino operators are now focused on existing facility cost reduction.
The Section 179(D) Tax Provisions
Increasingly, casino operators are taking advantage of the EPAct IRC section 179(D) commercial building energy efficiency tax provisions, which have been extended through 2013. EPAct tax deductions are available for qualifying energy reductions in lighting, HVAC(heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and building envelope. (Building envelope consists of the building’s foundation, walls, roof, windows, and doors, all of which control the flow of energy between the interior and exterior of the building.)
The Nature of Casino Properties
Commercial casinos often encompass hotel resorts, which offer attractive packages of services for their corporate and family customers. Casinos are particularly suited to EPAct because of their large gaming floors, hotel occupancy rooms, meeting halls, and parking garages. Each of these features typically consumes large square footage and the EPAct benefit has a potential for up to 60 cents per square foot for each of the three measures described above. Some of the smallest commercial casinos are about 50,000 square feet while most American casinos are typically over 100,000 square feet. One of the largest ones, MGM Grand on the Las Vegas strip is almost 2 million square feet. Hotels themselves are the most favored of Section 179 building category. (See “Hotels and Motels Most Favored Energy Policy Act Tax Properties”)
It is common to think of commercial casinos as located in two states Nevada and New Jersey. While it is true that these two states have the largest commercial casino revenues, there are 12 states with commercial casinos in the United States, the other commercial casino states are: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. Members of the American Gaming Association have publicized some of their commitments to energy reduction. Reporting casinos include Boyd Gaming Corporation, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and MGM Mirage. They have projects which include significant energy savings via cogeneration, ERV(energy recovery ventilation), more efficient HVAC units, replacing incandescent lights with energy efficient lightings, windows with energy efficient day lighting systems, solar thermal storage and numerous other energy saving initiatives.