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2007: It was a very ... so-so year

Feb 19, 2008 5:38 AM

Nevada casinos rebounded from a lackluster November to post solid revenue numbers in December, which helped power a modest 1.8 percent gain in winnings for 2007.

In December, casinos won $1.09 billion from players, a 3 percent increase from a year ago. The increase was fueled by slot play, which increased 5.7 percent to $645.5 million. Table game revenue slipped by 0.5 percent.

For the calendar year, Nevada casinos won about $12.85 billion of the nearly $170 billion bet by gamblers, according to Nevada Gaming Control Board statistics released last week.

The win increase was the lowest since 2002, when revenue increased 1.1 percent. Moreover, last year’s win was far below the 9.4 percent average increase of the last three years.

Nonetheless, Gaming Control Board analyst Frank Streshley said any increase during tough economic times shows the gambling industry’s resiliency.

"It says something about the industry when you are able to market the casino properties and increase revenues during these slow times," Streshley told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

In addition to marketing, casinos benefited from higher hold percentages for both table and slot games.

Slot machines last year won $8.45 billion from players, an increase of 1.7 percent over 2006. But the win was the result of a 6.13 percent hold percentage, whereas slots in 2006 only held 6.02 percent.

Thus, more money was actually shoveled through the "looser" slot machines in 2006 — $137.9 billion versus $137.8 billion. The same scenario played out at the tables.

Last year, table games raked in $4.2 billion, a 1.8 percent increase over the previous year. But the win was based on a 13.4 percent hold, versus a 13.07 percent hold in 2006.

Once again, more money was actually bet at the tables in 2006, but the hold percentage wasn’t as high as it was last year.

Among the table games, blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat all won more from gamblers in 2007 than they did in 2006, while 3-card poker, mini baccarat and Caribbean Stud didn’t fare as well.

Penny slot machines won $1.6 billion from players, a healthy 24.8 percent more than they did in 2006. The amount was also the largest of any denomination machine, except for multi-dimensional games, which won $3.6 billion.

In other areas of the casino, Nevada poker rooms generated $167.9 million, only 4.4 percent more than they did in 2006.

The modest increase was dramatically below the double-digit increases poker rooms enjoyed the last three years, indicating the poker craze has peaked and could be on a downturn, as indicated by the 0.5 percent decrease in revenue for the last quarter of 2007.

The state’s race books won $94.2 million from horse players, a 2.3 percent slide from 2006.

Winning from sports wagering also declined last year, from $191.5 million in 2006 to $168.3 million last year, a 12.1 percent slide.

The Las Vegas Strip continued to lead the way in Nevada with gaming revenues of $6.8 billion, a 2 percent increase over 2006.

A major prize fight on the Vegas Strip and a long holiday weekend at the end of the month contributed to the gaming win of more than $1 billion for December, Streshley said.

"This month included a major fight at the beginning of the month with Floyd Mayweather (vs. Ricky Hatton) fight at the MGM Grand," Streshley said. "That was a major draw that included premium high-end players.

"We also had a four-day weekend with New Year’s Day landing on a Tuesday at the end of the month," Streshley said. "People came in for the weekend — Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday — and of course Tuesday is New Years, so we got an extra day."

Downtown Las Vegas posted relatively flat revenues of $632 million, less than one percent more than a year earlier.

Resorts in the Reno-Sparks-North Tahoe areas in Northern Nevada took in $1.05 billion, down 1.5 percent. That included $755 million for Reno, down 1.5 percent. The area-wide drop was the first in four years.

Clubs in Elko County won a record $303.7 million. The 11.6 percent gain over 2006 was the largest for major markets tracked by the state.