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February's gaming win by Nevada casinos wasn't the double-digit increase from a year ago, but the $909.5 million collected from gamblers was still respectable in casino watchers' eyes.
The figure, the single largest amount ever won by the state's casinos in the month of February, was a 3.77 percent jump from last year's total of $876.5 million when gambling houses benefited from a jump-start in the economy, new hotel inventory on the Strip and an extra day due to the Feb. 29 leap year falling on a Sunday.Advertisement
"In general terms, that day was probably worth about 5 percentage points in the overall win," Frank Streshley, senior research analyst with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said Friday.
Strip casinos continued to fuel the state's economic engine, winning $462.7 million in February, a jump of 4 percent compared with the win of $444.6 million a year ago.
Overall, Clark County casinos won $765.8 million, an increase 4.66 percent as compared with the $731.7 million won a year ago.
"We believe the 4 percent Strip growth is fairly robust given the very tough (comparison) and the unfavorable calendar," Bear Stearns gaming analyst Joe Greff said in a note to investors.
Laughlin, however, showed its first decline in 13 months with casinos along the Colorado River winning $55 million, a 2.49 percent decrease compared with the $56.4 million won a year ago.
Downtown's gaming win was relatively flat in February with casinos wining $58 million as compared with $57.5 last year.
Northern Nevada continued to show the effects of inclement weather in February. Washoe County casinos, which includes Reno and the Incline Village area of Lake Tahoe, had their win totals drop 3.93 percent during the month; casinos in South Lake Tahoe were down 12.53 percent from last year.
Still, it wasn't as if Nevada's casinos didn't have an opportunity to win more.
The overall gaming drop on the Strip -- the amount wagered by customers -- was $5.8 billion, almost 20 percent more than a year ago. However, the win percentage was 8 percent, compared with 9.2 percent a year ago February.
The figure was even more dramatic for baccarat.
Gamblers wagered $751 million on baccarat -- more than 177 percent higher that last year. However, the win percentage was 7.75 percent versus 19.58 percent a year ago.
Streshley credited a healthy business from the weeklong Chinese New Year's celebration and the effect of the Super Bowl and its several days of pregame hype all feeding state's casino coffers.
"The customers were just a lot more lucky in February," Streshley said. "There was a record drop, but casinos just played unlucky and were well below their average hold."
Streshley said if casinos had won their average, the gaming win for February would have about 15 percent rather than less than 4 percent.
Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Marc Falcone said the strong drop foreshadows a strong quarter for the industry's major companies.
"Overall, both February and quarter-to-date volumes were strong, signifying the continuation of strong demand on the Strip, in our opinion," Falcone said. "However, a lower hold percentage detracted somewhat from the story. Still, we believe the first quarter in Las Vegas is shaping up to be strong."
Throughout the state, the total amount wagered for tables games such as blackjack, craps and baccarat was up 42.5 percent from a year ago, however, the win percentage for that segment was 5.9 percent, compared with 9.9 percent a year ago.
Overall, the state's win percentage on the amount wagered was 11.3 percent, as compared with a win percentage of 15.21 percent in February 2004.
Greff viewed the large amounts wagered as a positive for the market, especially for the high-end business associated with baccarat.
"Baccarat drop on the Las Vegas Strip (is) indicative of robust growth in the high-end segment of table play," Greff said. "Over the last 14 months, baccarat drop is up 126.6 percent as high-end players, especially from Asia, continue to return to the market after the Asian financial crisis, September 11th (2001), and the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) events."
Greff said the increased baccarat play also bodes well for the April 28 opening of the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas, which is expected to cater to a high-end customer.
"The Strip has been a unique market in that it has historically exhibited a 'if you build it, they will come' visitation phenomenon," Greff said. "We think Wynn Las Vegas helps the overall market."
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