Nevada gaming revenues slip for eighth straight month

Oct 14, 2008 5:10 PM

By David Stratton |

Nevada casinos suffered another month of declining revenues in August as lackluster slot play contributed heavily to an overall year-over-year decline, according to the state’s Gaming Control Board.

Statewide, casinos raked in $934 million, an 8.1 percent drop from the same month last year. Revenues on the Las Vegas Strip, which accounts for more than half the state’s gaming win, declined 7.4 percent to $494 million.

August was the eighth straight month of declining revenues, and the fourth straight month that the amount fell below $1 billion.

The largest declines occurred in the southern region of the state, including Clark County, which encompasses the Las Vegas area and extends to Mesquite and Laughlin. Casinos in Clark County saw a 9.4 percent drop in gaming win compared to a year ago.

Locals-oriented casinos in North Las Vegas and along the Boulder Strip took the biggest hits as revenues declined 17.8 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively.

Not surprisingly, the revenue slide coincided with a drop in visitor traffic to Southern Nevada. The volume of visitors to Las Vegas declined 4.3 percent in August, although the slide was less severe in tourist destinations such as Laughlin and Mesquite, which had 1.6 percent and 3.2 percent drops in tourists, respectively.

The revenue slide was less severe in Northern Nevada, where Washoe County’s gaming win declined only 2.4 percent, with Reno casinos actually reporting an increase of 0.9 percent in gaming win.

One of the state’s few bright spots was South Lake Tahoe, where casinos’ gaming win of $30.8 million was up 1.3 percent compared to August 2007.

Gaming win is defined as the amount of money gamblers lost in the casino. It does not include revenue from food & beverage, entertainment, hotel rooms, retail sales, spas and other amenities. Over the past five years non-gaming revenue has grown to more than 50 percent of casinos’ total revenue.

A breakdown of statewide casino revenues showed that slots were down more than 12 percent, while table games were practically unchanged at about 0.4 percent.

Brisk play at the craps tables, baccarat and mini baccarat, as well as Pai Gow, provided enough action to offset declines in other live games.

Among slot machines, only penny slots $100 recorded increases in gaming win. Penny slots raked in about $146.9 million or 7.2 percent more than a year ago.

The state’s poker rooms, perhaps buoyed by the World Series of Poker than ended in July, generated about $13 million, about 1 percent more than a year ago.

Nevada’s race books won about $7.1 million, 9 percent less than a year ago, though the state’s sports books actually increased revenues to $7.9 percent, an 18 percent increase from last year.

The bulk of sports books’ revenues came from football action, most of which were preseason NFL bets and futures bets – which team will win the Super Bowl, who will win the college national championship, as well as over/under totals on team wins.

Because future bets aren’t paid until months after they’re placed, the hold percentage on football bets was more than 17 percent, about three times the ordinary hold percentage for football action.

Baseball bettors continued to beat the books in August as revenues slipped nearly 58 percent to $1.7 million. The hold percentage on baseball bets was only 1.8 percent, about one-third the ordinary hold on baseball.