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The gambling slowdown that began early this year is taking a serious toll on Las Vegas, with banks, investors and private-equity funds growing as tightfisted as the consumers who are gambling less in the slumping economy.

Once believed to be recession-proof, casinos are proving to be highly vulnerable to the economic downturn, which is striking the industry at a bad time. Las Vegas is entering its lethargic summer season, and a boom-time frenzy of grand expansion plans and private-equity buyouts has left casinos laden with debt.

Now, Wall Street is treating many gambling companies like a roll of the dice. Shares of several gambling companies have tumbled dramatically this year, washing out billions of dollars in market valuation. After topping $98 last fall, shares of casino giant MGM Mirage for example now trade below $35.


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