Vegas visitors up

Mar 16, 2010 5:30 PM

Nevada casinos started the year off in lackluster fashion as they reported gaming revenues of $883.3 million in January, down 3.2 percent from the same month last year.

Casinos raked in $908.6 million in January 2008.

Even though the drop-off was minimal, it was discouraging in that last year’s revenues were already down 14.6 percent from the previous January, and this year’s figures included a full month of ARIA’s contribution at CityCenter.

However, experts point out that two major events usually held in January – the Super Bowl and Chinese New Year – were held in February this year, and that the combined revenues for January-February could be significantly better this year than last.

Nonetheless, there were a few bright spots in the Gaming Control Board’s revenue report, which was released last week.

Nevada’s sports books, fueled by the NFL playoffs and college bowl games, posted revenues of $15.3 million in January, a 93 percent year-over-year increase.

Football accounted for $4.1 million, a 325 percent increase, while basketball added another $9.5 million, a 16 percent increase over a year ago. Parlay cards were also a winner for the house; they generated $1.7 million, a 272 percent increase with a "hold" percentage of about 37 percent.

In the casino, baccarat once again did the heavy lifting as tables raked in $108 million, a 12 percent increase from a year ago.

The only other game to post a revenue increase was roulette, which generated $24.4 million, a 10.9 percent year-over-year increase.

Blackjack accounted for $82.8 million, down nearly 12 percent from last year.

Overall, table game play was relatively flat compared to a year ago; January’s win was $315.7 million, about 0.3 percent less than a year ago.

Nevada’s slot machines generated $556 million, a 4.6 percent drop-off from a year ago.

Penny slots continued to attract players; its win of $146.9 million was a 2.9 percent increase from January 2009.

The only other slot denomination to post an increase was $100 slot machines; their win of $3.9 million was a 50 percent increase from a year ago.

Nevada’s 103 poker rooms reported a drop-off in their rake (the amount charged per seat); revenues of $11.5 million was down 8.9 percent from a year ago.

While gaming revenues were down, visitation to Las Vegas – which accounts for more than half the state’s income – actually increased.

Las Vegas hosted more than 2.8 million visitors in January, a 4 percent increase compared to January 2008.

January marked the fifth straight month of increased visitation.

Even though there were more visitors to Las Vegas, the amount spent in the casinos slipped about 3 percent compared to last year.

On the Las Vegas Strip, casinos reported January revenues of $495 million, a 3 percent drop-off from the previous January.

In downtown Las Vegas, casinos raked in $38.2 million, about 2.1 percent less than a year ago.

The results are in line with national trends that indicate visitation to casinos may be on the rise, even though customers are spending less money.

Holly Thomsen, a spokesperson for the American Gaming Association, said the industry’s own surveys show steady or slightly rising casino attendance, even if gamblers are betting less.

The drop-off in gambling revenue doesn’t necessarily mean customers are spending less on their forays into Las Vegas.

Other surveys indicate that rising costs – airline, bus transportation, food and beverage, entertainment, shopping and accommodations – have cut into many visitors’ gambling budgets.