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Howard Stutz

Baccarat, Laughlin, football betting shine in tepid gaming month

2 December 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Even a somewhat dismal gaming month like October had bright spots.

Baccarat business continued to shine, Laughlin is trending upward and football wagering kept the Nevada casino industry from a larger overall decrease.

Casinos statewide collected $954.3 million from gamblers during October, a decline of 2.58 percent compared with the same month a year ago, the Gaming Control Board said Wednesday. The results ended a two-month run of increased gaming revenue figures.

On the Strip, gaming revenues fell 5.06 percent in October to $551.3 million.

For the first 10 months of 2013, Strip gaming revenues are up 2.4 percent over 2012 while statewide totals are up 1 percent.

RBC Capital Markets gaming analyst John Kempf described October as “a relatively weak month, which could have been worse if not for strong baccarat play on the Strip.”

In Las Vegas, baccarat revenues increased 16.5 percent to $151 million while wagering on the game grew 28.7 percent to $1.1 billion.

However, despite the positive baccarat totals, slot machine revenues on the Strip declined 10.9 percent. Wagering on slot machines fell 2.4 percent to $3.3 billion.

Gaming Control Board Senior Research Analyst Michael Lawton said there were two factors that weighed into the slot machine numbers.

Because of the 2012 calendar, September ended on a weekend, sending a portion of the slot machine revenues into October 2012, skewing the figures. Also, the 140,000-attendee Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week convention held its 2012 show over both October and November. This year’s show exclusively took place in November.

David G. Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, said a 9 percent decline in slot machine hold percentage on the Strip was “good news for players, who got slightly more bang for their slot dollar, but bad news for casinos.”

Schwartz said baccarat represented more than 27 percent of the Strip’s total revenues, “a number that was inconceivable several years ago.”

Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski said he still believes the Strip’s overall recovery is “in full swing” with an encouraging 2014 convention calendar lining up.

“By and large, October results were a tale of two stories, as healthy baccarat volume gains were more than offset by sluggish slot and roulette volumes,” Wieczynski said.

There were two bright spots during the month.

Statewide wagering on college and professional football set an all-time monthly record of $342.6 million. Revenues from football wagering increased 390.2 percent to $18.1 million, which compared to a loss of $6.2 million in October 2012.

Also, Laughlin’s gaming revenues increased 11.5 percent to $41.2 million, which was the largest increase in the Clark County market. Laughlin gaming revenues have increased in four of the last five months. Slot machine wagering in Laughlin has grew in seven of the past eight months.

“Laughlin has been trending positive,” Lawton said.

Clark County as whole saw gaming revenues fall 2.34 percent during the month. The Strip’s declines were offset by increases in other reporting areas, including the Laughlin figure, a 2.87 gaming revenue increase from the Boulder Strip and a 4.95 percent increase from casinos in the balance of Clark County, which includes much of locals market.

Kempf said the hold percentage for table games helped boost the local gaming market results.

Nevada had two online poker websites operating during October — Station Casinos’ Ultimate Poker and Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s However, state gaming regulators won’t break out the revenues from Internet gaming until a third website is launched.

Las Vegas-based Union Gaming Group has attempted to “decode” the results from online poker, saying the numbers may be “baked” into card game numbers from the Balance of Clark County. That figure was up 52.6 percent to $1.9 million in October.

“This would imply that online poker did roughly $600,000 in gaming revenue,” Union Gaming Managing Director Bill Lerner told investors. “We believe this is notable given that there haven’t been many tangible financial results yet from online gaming.”

Lerner said New Jersey, which launched online gaming on Tuesday, could provide some “tangible glimpses of online gaming revenue” when Atlantic City reports its January monthly revenue report.

Nevada collected $60.9 million in gaming taxes through Nov. 25, based on October’s gaming revenues. The figure was an 11.89 percent increase compared with the same month a year ago.

For the first five months of the fiscal year, game tax collections are down less than 1 percent.