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Chris Sieroty

Nevada gaming revenues down nearly 11 percent in March

11 May 2012

Nevada gambling revenues totaled $854.5 million in March, a 10.8 percent decline compared with the same month last year. The double-digit decline in revenue was preceded by two months of modest gains.

The state posted revenue increases of 5.7 percent in February and 18.4 percent in January, according to figures compiled by Nevada gaming regulators.

Analysts described the drop as a short-term blip.

"While the headline number is clearly weak, March results were impacted by ConExpo cycling out of the market, timing of slot collections, and low baccarat and tables hold," said Bill Lerner, an analyst with Union Gaming Group in Las Vegas. ConExpo is a major triennial convention and will not return to Las Vegas until 2014.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board said Thursday that most of the state's gaming centers saw their revenues decline in March. The Strip's total was $448.6 million, down 14.9 percent from March 2011.

Downtown Las Vegas reported an 11.8 percent decline to $43.3 million, while Boulder Strip posted $62.7 million in revenues, a 16.9 percent decline.

Casinos in North Las Vegas earned $22.5 million, a 17.7 percent decline, while Laughlin reported $49.8 million in revenues, a 2.3 percent decline from March 2011.

Mesquite was the one bright spot in Southern Nevada, as casinos there reported revenues of more than $12.7 million, a 7.18 percent increase from March 2011. Overall, Clark County reported a 12.2 percent decline in March gaming revenues to $733.4 million.

Joseph Greff, an analyst with J.P. Morgan, said he expects gaming revenue growth in April to be flat or in the single-digit range, "given the unfavorable calendar" with two less weekend days in the month.

State officials collected $71 million in taxes based on the March winnings, which is down 10 percent from the same month last year.

Total slot machine revenue in Nevada was $579.7 million, a 6.7 percent decrease from March 2011. The state's numbers from table games were down 19 percent in March to $263.8 million.

Baccarat, the game favored by high-end gamblers, reported a 51.6 percent decline in revenues in March to $39.78 million. Baccarat hold was 8 percent, which was 3.5 percent below the normal hold of 11.5 percent.

Adjusted for normalized hold, baccarat win would have decreased 30.6 percent to $56.8 million. Lerner said baccarat results were up against a tough year-over-year rate, with figures up 55.1 percent to $81.8 million in March 2011.

"While high-end play was clearly weak even after adjusting for hold, the 'mass-market' volume was better," Lerner said. "The good news is now with the first quarter on the back burner, the second quarter event calendar is fairly robust and should drive demand in the coming months."

Revenues for blackjack and craps were down 16.9 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, roulette revenues were down 18 percent in March.

Smaller games, such minibaccarat posted a 62.8 percent gain in March, while revenues for Pai Gow were off 29.2 percent.