A slowdown in slot play in the locals-casino market coupled with a slide in table-game play on the Strip combined for a decline in Nevada gaming revenue in August, according to gaming experts.
Nevada casinos reported a 4.4 percent gaming win decline, compared to August of 2006, according to the state Gaming Control Board. It marked the first decline in Nevada’s gaming win in five months.
Locals markets such as North Las Vegas and the Boulder strip, which are heavily dependent on slot play, were down substantially in August. Gaming win was down 24 percent in North Las Vegas and 15 percent on the Boulder strip.
"When you look carefully at the market, in Las Vegas, the affected areas seem to be the locals market," said Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno. "It makes sense because construction is down and the sub-prime crisis has put a crunch in a lot of sectors but not so much in the tourist areas.
"So, if you look at the difference between the (Las Vegas) Strip and the Boulder highway, you find much more dramatic declines in the local-orientated markets."
On the Las Vegas Strip, which accounts for more than half of the statewide win, gaming revenue was down 4.5 percent in August, compared to August of 2006.
The decline in Strip revenues is partially blamed on the lack of special events, major prizefights or high-end concerts there during August, Control Board analyst Frank Streshley said.
Streshley added that gaming analysts could see the decline coming because of the sub-prime crisis and the decline of the housing market in Southern Nevada.
"We assumed there would be a concern (among locals) about a stock market slide and negative publicity on declining housing market values," Streshley said. "We were assuming this would happen, and it did."
Reflecting the drop in Strip tourism was a slide in high-stakes games such as baccarat, which suffered a 12 percent decline in revenue to $70.3 million, and a 5 percent slip in craps win to $31.9 million.
Downtown Las Vegas casinos, partially fueled by renovation and expansion at the Golden Nugget, reported their second straight month of revenue increases. Downtown gaming win jumped more than 5 percent in August to $48.2 million.
In Northern Nevada, Sparks’ gaming win was up 6.1 percent. But Reno casinos were down
1.6 percent, and that was due largely to gamblers who had good luck at table games, especially craps, Streshley said.
The increase in Sparks’ numbers was partially due to a busy month at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, a Nugget official said.
"We had a pretty busy August, really from a casino generated standpoint," CFO Steve Yarrow told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The statewide win of $1.02 billion in August was the amount left in casino coffers after gamblers wagered $13.8 billion during the month. That included $11.4 billion bet in slot machine games and the rest on table games.
A breakdown of the statewide win for August showed that slots accounted for about $682 million, or 67.1 percent, of the total. Over the previous 12 months, slots accounted for only 65.3 percent of the total.
The only category of slots that reported year-over-year increases were penny slots, up 17 percent to $137 million, and $100 machines, up 35 percent to $4.8 million.
The largest category of slots, multi-denomination machines, won $293.3 million in August, down 5 percent from a year ago.
Nevada sports books won $6.6 million in August, up 91 percent, as the books did well on baseball bets, which generated $4.1 million in gaming win, a whopping 394 percent more than a year ago.
The baseball win came on the strength of a high volume wagered, about $88 million, since the books’ hold was only 4.7 percent, significantly below the 6.5 percent the books held on baseball bets the previous three months.
Finally, Nevada poker rooms experienced their second straight month of declining revenues, perhaps indicating the poker boom in the state has leveled off. Card rooms raked $12.9 million, down 5.9 percent from a year ago.