Nevada revenues slip again in July

Sep 16, 2008 7:06 PM

Staff & Wire Reports | Nevada’s gaming revenues continued to spiral downward in July, with one gaming analyst calling the trend the worst since the early 1980s, when Nevada regulators began tracking casino profits.

Statewide, gaming revenues fell about 13 percent to $997 million, compared with the same month last year. The slide was steeper on the Las Vegas Strip, where revenues of $519 million were 14.7 percent less than a year ago, according to figures released by the Gaming Control Board.

July was the seventh straight month of declining revenues, and the third straight month that the amount fell below $1 billion.

"This is the worst decline or group of months we have had," said Frank Streshley, senior research analyst for the Gaming Control Board. "We have had some recessions, but we have never had a run like this, other than Sept. 11."

The decline was felt across the board, affecting virtually all regions of the state as well as the type of games people play.

In downtown Las Vegas, revenues were down 16.4 percent, while locals-oriented casinos in North Las Vegas and the Boulder Strip were down 21.8 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively.

The revenue slide was less severe in Northern Nevada, where Washoe County’s gaming win dropped only 3.8 percent, with Reno casinos experiencing just a 1.1 percent decline.

The state’s sole bright spot was South Lake Tahoe, where casinos’ gaming win of $40.8 million was up nearly 11 percent compared to July 2007.

Industry experts speculated that the resorts in Northern Nevada attract a larger percentage of vacationers than Southern Nevada, which often deters travelers with its purgatory-like weather in July and August.

Indeed, visitor traffic to Las Vegas in July dropped 5 percent compared to a year ago, the largest monthly decline in five years.

According to figures released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, passenger traffic through McCarran Airport was down 9 percent, while daily auto traffic on I-15 at the California border slipped 7 percent.

A statewide breakdown of casino revenues showed that slots were down nearly 11 percent, while table games were down about 17 percent.

The only live game that actually increased revenues was pai gow, fueled by strong Asian play.

Among slot machines, only penny slots and $100 denomination slots recorded increases in gaming win. Penny slots raked in about $153 million or 1 percent more than a year ago, while $100 slots generated $5.9 million, an increase of nearly 2,000 percent.

The state’s poker rooms generated about $14.4 million, about 9 percent less than a year ago, when the popularity of poker in Nevada had reached its peak.

Nevada’s race books won about $7.2 million, 12 percent less than a year ago, though the state’s sports books actually lost $1.9 million, a 160 percent decline from last year.

The sports books’ losses were the result of NBA future bets, which were paid out after the finals were played in June.

"There were a lot of 100-1 and 150-1 tickets on the Boston Celtics to win it all," said one Las Vegas sports book director.

Future bets are placed before the season starts and paid following the NBA championship.

Baseball bets generated about $1.3 million in revenues for sports books in July, but the hold was only 1.4 percent, far below the 4.3 percent books held the previous three months.

"There are a lot of astute baseball bettors out there," the sports book director said.