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NEVADA -- Nevada casinos roared to an all-time record gaming win of $12.6 billion in 2006, fueled by free-spending gamblers frequenting the Strip's glitzy gambling halls.
The revenues, reported Friday by the Gaming Control Board, marked an overall increase of 8.3 percent compared with the $11.6 billion won by casinos in 2005.
Strip casinos were the state's barometer. The gaming win was almost $6.7 billion in 2006, a jump of 10.9 percent compared with $6 billion in 2005.
A breakdown of the win shows that the Strip accounted for $6.69 billion of the total. That's a record, but not enough to fend off Macau, which reported last month that it topped the Strip for the first time in 2006 with gambling revenue of $6.95 billion.
"Macau probably has surpassed the Las Vegas Strip gaming win," state Gaming Control Board analyst Frank Streshley said in releasing the Nevada report. "But there's a lot of uncertainty because the computation of their gaming win may not be the same as ours. It may not be a true apples-to-apples comparison."
The 2005 figures were fed by the opening of Wynn Las Vegas in April of that year. In 2006, no new casinos opened on the Strip while two properties closed: the Boardwalk in January and the Stardust on Nov. 1.
Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Frank Streshley said the Strip accounted for 53 percent of the state's total gaming win. In 1990, he said Strip casinos accounted for 47.3 percent of the state's overall gaming win.
"The growth on the Strip really took place in the first half of the year," Streshley said. "We had a slow couple months in the summer, but the last two months of the year gave us very strong numbers."
The 2006 gaming win was helped by the month of December, in which casinos statewide won $1.06 billion, a 17.1 percent jump over the previous year. Strip casinos reported gaming revenues of almost $610 million, a 23.4 percent increase compared with $494.1 million a year ago.
"Strip trends were very strong in December, which we note was further buoyed by a solid New Year's Eve weekend," Bear Stearns gaming analyst Joe Greff said.
Streshley said strong table game play during the month helped the Strip casinos' total. While the annual National Finals Rodeo in the beginning of the month brought thousands of customers to Clark County over two weeks, the only nonannual special event was the Dec. 30 Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden between Chuck Lindell and Tito Ortiz which attracted a sellout crowd of 14,607.
"There seemed to be a lot of high-end play during that time, coupled with New Year's Eve," Streshley said.
During 2006, nine of the 12 months reported a gaming win of more than $1 billion statewide, including an all-time one-month record of $1.141 billion in January.
Statewide, gamblers in 2006 wagered $138 billion on slot machines, 3.8 percent more than in 2005, and $32 billion was bet on table games and in race and sports books, a 9.8 percent increase. Out of the combined $170 billion gambled, the casinos' take statewide was $8.3 billion from slot machines and $4.3 billion from tables and race and sports wagers.
In 2006, almost $7.6 billion was wagered on baccarat, a 28.3 percent increase from the previous year. That translated into a gaming win of $835.8 million for the casinos, a 25.6 percent increase from 2005.
"One of the things we noticed was the growth on the games side, and much of that was due to increased play in baccarat," Streshley said. "It seems like the Strip properties are doing an increased effort to market baccarat play."
Twenty-one remained the most popular table game with $11.2 billion wagered in 2006, a 6.1 percent increase, that translated into a casino win of $1.38 billion, a jump of 11.1 percent over 2005.
Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Bill Lerner said the figures show the value-oriented customers are returning to Nevada casinos after staying on the sidelines for several months, worried about high fuel costs and soaring interest rates.
"I think that's behind us and those customers are what have accounted for the increases in visitor volume and the busy airport," Lerner said. "Gaming revenues on the Strip suggest continued strong health. A limited supply pipeline over the next few years should lead to a favorable operating environment going forward."
As a whole, Clark County reported a gaming win of $10.6 billion in 2006, a 9.5 percent increase compared with $9.7 billion in 2005. Streshley said Clark County accounted for 84.3 percent of statewide gaming revenues, a figure that has steadily grown since 1990 when the county made up 74.8 percent of the state's casino win.
Within Clark County, the area reported as Balance of the County had the highest year-over-year growth in gaming win of anywhere in Nevada during 2006.
Helped by the April opening of the Red Rock Resort and the December 2005 opening of the South Coast (now named South Point), Clark County's unincorporated areas reported a gaming win of almost $1.3 billion, a 20.3 percent increase from $1.07 billion in 2005.
On the flip side, downtown casinos reported their second straight year of decreased gaming win: $630.4 million, down 3.6 percent compared with $654.1 million in 2005. Last year's gaming win was a 1.3 decrease from 2005. Downtown ended 2006 with seven straight months of decreasing casino revenues.
Streshley said the February closing of the Lady Luck and a hefty construction and remodeling schedule at the Golden Nugget contributed to some of downtown's woes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
NEVADA GAMING WIN
BASED ON TAXABLE GAMING REVENUE COLLECTED FROM GAMING ESTABLISHMENTS WITH RESTRICTED AND NONRESTRICTED GAMING LICENSES.
North Las Vegas
Balance of county
* Washoe County includes Reno, Sparks and North Lake Tahoe
SOURCE: State of Nevada Gaming Control Board
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