SimCity Strategy Guides
It is unclear whether or not Maxis intended the Gambling specialisation to be a right royal pain the *ahem*, but it has proven to be so for a lot of Mayors. I'm sorry to say that I don't have any magic solutions that will make your casinos an instant hit, but this article does contain a few tips and observations I have picked up, which I hope will help... with any luck!
The following sections can be found in this article:
It is virtually impossible to create a thriving gambling specialization if your city has poor levels of commercial demand stemming from lack of regional demand. This is one aspect, in additon to crime (see below) that can make this type of specialisation a poor choice for multiplayer games. Even if you have great cooperation from your neighbors, you're asking quite a lot of them if you need them to drastically reduce their commercial zoning in order to provide visitors for your tourist based industry.
If you are creating your own region then it makes sense to try and plan in advance which city within a local connected group, is to become the tourist focus. Some cities do seem to have naturally greater commercial demand, typically cities that have coastal areas or rivers running through them (at least that is my impression). Commercial demand in one city can be bolstered by having neighbors who have mostly residential and industrial focus, but you will need to consider mass transit across all the connected cities to really make the most of your business. It's all well and good putting in a train station, but if none of your neighboring cities are using the line, it will provide very few travellers.
If you haven't ventured into the murky business of gambling in SimCity before then be prepared to spend a LOT on police cover. If you're playing a multiplayer game then you should warn your neighboring Mayors to be prepared to spend a lot on police too.
It is important to remember that tourists hate crime just as much as your residents. Putting down a casino first and then your first police station later on is a bad idea, it is much better to place the casino after you have already developed good police coverage in the area (lots of blue on your crime data map). Crime, once it takes hold, tends to get exponentially worse (well, not quite, but it can certainly seem like it). It's also not enough to have a police station on one side of the map and a casino on the other, you will need to have them as close as possible and ideally on the same side of the street where police cars actually patrol (watch them for a while to be sure about this before committing to putting down an expensive casino).
Here are some general considerations to keep in mind when using casinos
Creating a successful casino city, and in particular casinos that actually make money, is about judging where tourist hotspots are. Putting casinos on streets where there is heavy tourist traffic means they'll be much more likely to make money. The huge and obvious problem with this is, how the blazes do you know where tourists go when you have no tourists? And you can't attract tourists until you put down... er a casino or tourist attraction! The mind boggles.
Well, obviously they do, but they don't just walk across anywhere, they will always go to the nearest intersection and then cross. This is important to consider when thinking about placing either casinos or tourist attractions, because they might do great on one side of the street, but badly on the other.
In the absence of tourists to watch when starting out a casino city, I recommend using the commercial data map to watch your shoppers instead. Tourists and shoppers have a couple of key things in common, they will use similar types of locations, they will also move in similar ways, low wealth shoppers will take the bus, as will low wealth tourists. Medium and high wealth shoppers will use streetcars to get to medium and high wealth shopping areas. Looking at shoppers using your commercial centers will likely tell you which side of the street is a better choice for a start, they'll also show up any oddities in your existing mass transit system (otherwise known as "why on earth are there so many shoppers over in this crappy district? Oh, yes, there's a street car stop...").
I mention this, because quite recently I read a bizarre thread by someone asking for casino help on another site. The poster had apparently had lost so much money on casinos she had had to set up an electronics industry to pay for it.
Certainly it is very easy to lose a lot of money, but I realized there was one obvious point she had missed. The basic casino is only $15,000. Why lose hundreds of thousands an hour leaving your casinos in the wrong locations when you can waste just a few thousand using the basic one to figure out better locations? Spend a little time watching your tourist map, see where they are going and put down just a basic casino and see what happens. If it loses money continuously for days on end, bulldoze it, pick a different spot, maybe even just on the other side of the road if you feel the location in general *should* work. When you hit upon a place that brings it into profit, add a module (just one). Wait for a while, see if it continues to make money, if it does, expand it, then wait a while and perhaps think about where you might put a second one (not next door).
When Sims move around in search of a suitable location they will go from whereever they are, to the nearest suitable location by the most convenient route. If you have a stream of tourists walking down a street they won't 'decide' to go this casino, or that casino - they'll simple roll into the first one they come to if it's appropriate for their wealth level. If you have two casinos that both accept low wealth tourists, the one that is furthest away from where your tourists are emerging from, will not start to receive visitors until the first one is full up. That's fine if you've got way more visitors than capacity, but if you don't, then there's a good chance the latter one will start losing money.
If you can arrange your mass transit or road network so that you get equal quantities of tourists coming in from both directions that is great, but very hard to achieve and maintain. Instead I'd probably suggest spreading them out, or only putting casinos close together if they cater for different wealth levels. So long as your upmarket casino isn't in a slum neighborhood full of negative buildings and crime, your high wealth tourists won't mind that there is a cheap casino next door (keeps the riff-raff out after all!).
Tourists don't like traffic jams and will walk a shorter distance than normal residents (only 200 meters, rather than 400). They will be more inclined than residents to use mass transit however, the type of mass transit they will use will depend on their wealth level. Low wealth tourists prefer buses, medium wealth Sims prefer the train and high wealth Sims will use the ferry or plane to arrive in your city where possible. Once there all wealth levels use streetcars if they are available but low wealth Sims will still favour buses over all other transport options if they are available.
In that respect it is a good idea to put tourist attractions and casinos on streetcar routes and bus routes. Fortunately the streetcar does also diminish the 'side of the road' problem I mentioned earlier, being in the middle an' all! Not only that, but using streetcars and bus stops to 'connect' one form of transit to another will help your tourists to get about. There is an argument in favour of restricting stops only to areas where you want your tourists to go (stuff the residents who might want to get to work), however to be perfectly honest I've seen no observable evidence of that strategy working in my own games!
A tactic that I find actually does help enormously, is to imagine yourself in the city, how convenient would it be to get from the train station to the Opera House, or to the Sci Fi casino (whether or not you'd consider going to either is probably immaterial)? Needless to say, Sims are stupid and make bizarre pathfinding decisions, but at least if you can visualize an easy route that takes you from entry points to attractions via mass transit stops, there's a chance that it might work for your Sims.
As I mentioned in the first section of this article, mass transit not only works within cities, but also to connect cities. If your neighboring cities have municipal bus depots, passenger rail stations, even their own ferry terminals and airports, it'll help your tourist industry greatly. After all, if you go to the airport or the train station it's probably because you want to travel somewhere else, rather than because you think it'll be a nice day out! Maintaining inter-city mass transit connections cuts down on traffic on the regional highway, which is highly important for tourism and for commuters.
For more information:
Another somewhat obvious, but also rather basic aspect of a successful gambling city, is that it's very easy to get caught up in worry about casinos losing money, or trying to keep up with the crime, whilst forgetting about everything else.
Issues like pollution, low land value, zone abandonment, unemployment, homelessness etc, also impact on tourism because they affect the desirability of your city. If residents don't want to be there, then tourists will not want to be there either. One aspect of gambling vs all the other specializations, is that it's raw material, tourists, is in endless supply. There's no point at which it'll run out, and therefore there's no time pressure to meet HQ demands for profit. Although individual zoned buildings might whine about recent transgressions, individual Sims have no memory of past events. In that respect it doesn't matter if your city becomes an awful flea pit. Shut down your casinos, make some changes to your city and try again, as soon as you start making positive changes, find good locations, fix 'background' problems etc, your casino business will start working again.