Nevada casino win down 11.6 percent in March

May 7, 2009 8:07 PM
by David Stratton |

Nevada casinos continued their freefall in March as revenues slipped 11.6 percent compared to March 2008.

Statewide, casinos raked in $918 million, down from $1.04 billion a year ago. It was the 15th straight monthly decline in casino revenue, according to statistics released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Even though the March drop was the sixth straight month of double-digit declines, it was the smallest decline since September, when revenues fell 5.4 percent. Moreover, the average decline for the five previous months was 18 percent per month.

"The percent decline this month is a sequential improvement from recent months, which is consistent with recent commentary from Las Vegas operators that the market may have begun to stabilize," gaming analyst Robert La Fleur told investors.

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However, the lower percentage drop shouldn’t necessarily be construed as a strengthening of the gaming market, simply because casinos are beginning to compare revenues to months (last year) that posted declines from the previous year.

Thus, over the next few months, one would expect the monthly declines to level off as revenues are measured against months last year that experienced significant drop-offs from the previous year.

It is probably more accurate to compare first quarter revenues, year-over-year.

For the first three months of the year, Nevada casinos won $2.657 billion, about 14 percent less than the $3.117 billion they won during the same period last year.

The three-month total was also the lowest in five years, and put Nevada gaming revenues on par with casinos in 2004, when they collectively won $2.689 billion.

"We’re still reporting 2004 gaming revenue type numbers, so we have a ways to make up," said Frank Streshley, chief of the Gaming Control Board’s tax and license division. "Going forward we’re going to be comparing numbers where gaming revenues declined in the double-digit range every month. So, it seems we’re getting close to the bottom."

Streshley added that some casino operators have reported signs indicating some stabilization in the market. Those signs include a slowing of meeting and convention cancellations, as well as a strengthening of hotel bookings.

Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, which accounts for more than half of statewide gaming revenue, posted winnings of $456.1 million in March, about 12.2 percent less than a year ago. For the first three months of 2009, revenues were down 17 percent on the Strip.

Casinos in downtown Las Vegas fared slightly better as gaming revenues were off just 2.7 percent to $55.2 million.

The news was even worse in Northern Nevada, where Reno area casinos saw revenues plummet 26.2 percent to $46.1 million compared to a year ago. It was the 21st straight month of declining revenues.

Nearly every segment of Nevada casinos posted declines in revenue. The sole bright spots were roulette (up 4.7 percent), Bingo (up 2.7 percent), Pai Gow (up 63 percent), sports parlay cards (up 86 percent) and penny slots (up 2 percent).

Overall, table games accounted for $257.8 million (down 13.8 percent), while slot machines raked in $647.3 million (down 10.8 percent).

Nevada’s 90 race books generated about $5.9 million in revenue, down about 22 percent from March 2008, while the 187 sports books won about $6.1 million, down about 52 percent.

Basketball proved to be the biggest winner for the sports books as they beat gamblers for about $11.5 million, although that was about 32 percent below last March’s levels.

However, that was partially offset by$6.8 million in football "losses," which were most likely cashed tickets from the Super Bowl, future bets and other games.

The state’s 105 poker rooms generated $13.08 million in revenue in March, about 4.6 percent less than a year ago.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: David Stratton