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The terminology "pre-Sept. 11 figures" finally can be eliminated from discussions on the health of Nevada's gaming industry.
State casinos won $10.6 billion during calendar year 2004, a 9.7 percent increase over 2003's total win of $9.6 billion and the highest total win in Nevada history, the Gaming Control Board reported Friday.
The win also marked the first time the total cracked the $10 billion barrier.
Frank Streshley, senior research analyst for the control board, said the increase was the largest percentage jump in five years, with 10 of the 12 months reporting new records. March 2004 was the largest single month ever in Nevada with a win of $930 million.
"What makes this impressive is that we did this without the opening of any new resorts and without the addition of a tremendous amount of new casino space or hotel rooms," Streshley said.
"The Bellagio opened a new tower in December, and that's the most significant opening in 2004."
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, tourism figures decreased somewhat, especially travel to Nevada from foreign destinations. State gaming win decreased from 2000's $9.59 billion to $9.47 billion in 2001 and $9.44 billion in 2002, then climbed back slightly in 2003.
Gaming analysts have used the term "pre-Sept. 11 figures" as a way of describing a base point of comparison in determining the health of the industry.
"Gaming and the tourism industry are firing on all cylinders," Streshley said.
"I think we're past the comparison (to gaming figures before Sept. 11), and Nevada has moved on."
Brian Gordon, a partner in Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, said the industry became more innovative in bringing back customers. The 2004 numbers validated those efforts.
"What happened after Sept. 11 was really a catalyst for the operators and the tourism leaders to develop new strategies and come up with ways to bring customers back to Las Vegas," Gordon said.
"Now we've moved beyond that, but the operators will now have to build upon those efforts to continue the growth Las Vegas is experiencing."
On the Strip, the major gaming houses accounted for 50.5 percent of the state's overall total, winning $5.3 billion in 2004, a 12 percent jump over 2003's total win of $4.8 billion.
Casinos along the Boulder Highway and in Henderson, which constitute an area labeled the Boulder Strip, surpassed Reno in total gaming win for the year, collecting $791.7 million from customers, an increase of 14.6 percent over the $690.9 million won in 2003.
The rest of Clark County, which includes properties at Primm, Jean and outside of the Strip and downtown areas, won $948.1 million in 2004, the second-largest amount for an area in the state. The total jumped 15.4 percent over 2003's figure of $821.5 million.
"What stood out is that local customer gaming has been strong, which accounts for the increase in the Boulder Strip win," Streshley said.
Every area of the state included in the report showed increases, though some were small. Reno's total win of $742.1 million was a 0.03 percent jump over 2003's total of $739.7 million, the first increase in five years for Northern Nevada's largest city.
Casinos in North Lake Tahoe had a 14 percent increase in gaming win, collecting $41.8 million in 2004 compared with $36.7 million in 2003. Streshley said the reopening of the Crystal Bay Club and an expansion to the Hyatt accounted for the jump.
Win from slot machines statewide was $7.1 billion in 2004, up from $6.8 billion in 2003. However, the percentage of the total gaming win from slots fell slightly, from 67.3 percent in 2003 to 67.2 percent in 2004. Streshley said it was the first time in 10 years the slot win percentage declined.
Poker had the strongest percentage increase of any table game, as the win of $98.9 million in 2004 was a 44.8 percent jump over the $68.3 million won in 2003. State casinos had 544 poker tables in 2004, 144 more than last year.
December helped boost 2004 to its record total as state casinos won $852.5 million, a jump of 11.06 percent compared with the $767.6 million won in December 2003. Strip casinos reported a win of $437.6 million in the month, an increase of 15.49 percent as compared with $378.9 million in 2003.
Streshley said that December was another record win and that the turnout for the National Finals Rodeo helped kick off the month.
Marc Falcone, gaming analyst for Deutsche Bank, said baccarat win fueled the results of Strip casinos over the last three months of 2004.
"For the fourth quarter, Las Vegas Strip results were very impressive, as evident from recent operator earnings reports. Slot volume grew nine percent, while baccarat volume improved 70 percent," Falcone said.
"All in, Las Vegas Strip win improved 14.8 percent in the fourth quarter, to $1.34 billion, with baccarat posting a huge increase."
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