Slots in a stupor!

Jun 17, 2008 7:06 PM

By David Stratton | The soft economy continued to take its toll on Nevada casinos as gaming revenue slipped to $1 billion in April, a 5 percent slide compared with the same month last year, the state’s Gaming Control Board reported last week.

The slump was the fourth straight month of declining revenues, and the sixth straight month of slumping slot revenues.

The April win brought the total win for the fiscal year to $10.58 billion, about 0.5 percent below the total for the same period in the previous fiscal year.

On the Las Vegas Strip, gaming win slipped 1.3 percent to $524 million. However, the slide could be partially attributed to a drop-off in visitor volume of about 1.5 percent, according to statistics released by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

Other Southern Nevada markets didn’t fare as well: downtown casinos saw revenue slide 6.8 percent; Laughlin was down 6.4 percent; Mesquite was down 34.6 percent; North Las Vegas was down 22.4 percent; and the Boulder Strip was down 12.2 percent.

In Northern Nevada, casinos in the Reno-Sparks area suffered an 11.8 percent slide in casino win, the tenth straight month of declining revenue.

Slumping slots

A closer look at the gaming revenue report revealed that slumping slot revenue accounted for most of the April decline.

Slot win slipped 8.9 percent statewide, the sixth straight month of declining revenue. Table games in Nevada actually raked in 4.4 percent more than they did a year ago.

The trend continued on the Las Vegas Strip, where slot win slid 7.7 percent while table game revenue increased 6.5 percent in April.

In the Southern Nevada locals markets, which rely heavily on slot play, slot win was down 13 percent on the Boulder Strip, and a whopping 23 percent in North Las Vegas casinos.

The state’s declining slot win would have been worse if it weren’t for the machines’ collective hold percentage, which reached an all-time high of 6.4 percent in April.

Slot machines held about 5.9 percent a year ago.

On the Vegas Strip, slot machines held 7.3 percent of the amount wagered by customers.

A slot’s hold percentage – which is often equated to how "tight" a machine is – is the amount retained by the machine after all the jackpots are paid.

Penny slots continue to fuel the ever-increasing hold percentage. In April, penny slots held more than 10 percent statewide, and more than 12 percent on the Vegas Strip.

Ironically, penny slots are the only denomination of machine that continues to post increasing revenues. In April, penny denomination machines statewide won 10 percent more than they did in April 2007.

As noted above, table game revenue statewide increased in April. Blackjack fueled most of the increase as its win was up 12.3 percent. Revenue from the craps tables was down 1.5 percent; roulette was down 1.4 percent; and baccarat was down slightly at 0.6 percent.

The amount raked in by poker parlors was off 8.4 percent while the state’s race books were down 6.4 percent.

Sports books in Nevada had a good April as they won $8.8 million from bettors, a healthy 236 percent more than a year ago.

Fueling the increase was solid betting on basketball, up 214 percent, and a good first month of the baseball season, which generated 15 percent more revenue than in April 2007.