Nevada win takes a dive in January

Mar 11, 2008 6:00 PM

By David Stratton | It wasn’t a good start for the new year as gaming revenue in Nevada slipped nearly 5 percent in January, the Gaming Control Board reported Friday.

Nevada casinos in January won $1.06 billion from gamblers, a 4.75 percent decline from January 2007.

The slide occurred in nearly all areas of the casino – slots, poker, table games, race and sports all reported weaker year-over-year results.

Experts said that poor road conditions due to inclement weather in Northern Nevada, and the closure of the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas because of a hotel fire could have contributed to the revenue slide.

"For the final week of the month, (Monte Carlo) was taken offline, and that definitely had an effect on the gaming numbers," said Frank Streshley, analyst for the Gaming Control Board.

On the Las Vegas Strip, gaming win declined 1.3 percent to $597.3 million. The soft opening of the new Palazzo in January may have helped off-set loss of revenue at the Monte Carlo.

The decline in Northern Nevada was more pronounced as Washoe County’s gaming win dropped 9.46 percent.

"It was a tough January, weather-wise," Steve Yarrow, the chief financial officer for John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "I can’t quote you the number of days that the pass (Interstate-80) was closed. But I know when you compare it to last year, there were a lot more road closures this year than last year.

"The weather absolutely had an effect, but the economy also had an effect," Yarrow said. "I don’t think it was just the weather."

The Southern Nevada locals market was also a big factor in the declining numbers, experts said.

Casinos on the Boulder Strip were down 16 percent, North Las Vegas was down 15 percent and downtown Las Vegas was down 6.71 percent when compared to January a year ago.

"The thing that is striking is that it looks like the locals market has really gotten hit this time," said Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno. "The weakness in the locals market is clearly a byproduct of the weakness in the economy at large, especially in construction, and the increased nervousness of everybody about a pending recession or a financial meltdown."

Mesquite, in northeast Clark County near the Utah border, was the only area of Nevada that showed an increase of more than one percent in gaming win. Casinos there raked in $13 million, a 25 percent increase from last year.

A closer look at the statewide numbers shows that slot win slipped 5.2 percent to $702.3 million, while table games slid 3.8 percent to $348.9 million.

Most of the state’s table games experienced double-digit declines except blackjack (down 9.3 percent), Three Card Poker (down 8 percent), Let It Ride (down 3 percent), craps (nearly even at plus 0.4 percent) and roulette (up 22 percent).

All denominations of slot machines posted declines from January 2007, except penny slots (up 11.4 percent) and $100 slots (up 2.9 percent).

Incidentally, the "hold" on penny slots – the percentage the casino retains on all money played – was a whopping 11.28 percent, the first time in history a slot hold in Nevada has eclipsed 11 percent.

Revenue in poker rooms declined 7.9 percent to $12.7 million.

Pari-mutuel wagering in the state’s race books was off 11 percent, although sports books won 21.7 percent more from bettors than they did a year ago.

Helping to bolster the sports book ledgers was a 45 percent increase in money won on football, plus a 115 percent increase in the amount taken in on parlay card action.