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Howard Stutz

Nevada gaming revenues top $1 billion in January

9 March 2012

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- They're not throwing cold water on the first time in more than three years that Nevada casinos have collected more than $1 billion in gaming revenues in a single month, but analysts want to see February's gaming revenues before starting the celebration.

Thanks to a calendar change that caused the lucrative Chinese New Year celebration to fall in January, Nevada casinos collected more than $1.038 billion from gamblers during the month.

That was an 18.4 percent increase over January 2011 and the state's first billion-dollar month since September 2008, some 40 months ago.

On the Strip, casinos saw gaming revenues increase more than 29 percent, collecting more than $623.5 million from customers.

The Strip's numbers were helped by $365.2 million collected from table games, the single highest revenue month in the state's history for wagering from baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette and other games.

The figures, released Thursday by the Gaming Control Board, also showed marked improvement in areas outside the Strip. For the first time since September 2007, every reporting area in Clark County had monthly gaming revenue increases.

Baccarat, the game favored by high-end gamblers associated with Chinese New Year visitation, had its second-highest month ever for revenues and wagering.

Casinos collected $194.1 million from baccarat players, an increase of 199 percent, on wagers of $1.6 billion, a 163.3 percent increase.

Gaming analysts said they wanted to see how February's numbers for the state and Strip play out for an equal comparison.

"Take Vegas' strong January print with a grain of salt as results were helped by the Chinese New Year calendar shift," said Susquehanna International gaming analyst Rachael Rothman.

Still, the Strip's total, which was the fourth-highest revenue month ever, is hard to ignore.

Revenues from blackjack and craps were down 12 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively, but roulette revenues grew 27.8 percent.

Smaller games, such as minibaccarat and sports wagering, each recorded nearly 30 percent increases.

"The headline number was particularly strong, with (the) total gaming revenue marking the highest level since October 2007," said Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon.

He said MGM Resorts International executives noted in their fourth-quarter earnings call that January was a good month.

"So, while the headline growth was strong, we think it was somewhat built into expectations," Beynon said.

Control board senior research analyst Michael Lawton said gaming revenues would have been up 2.8 percent on the Strip even without baccarat.

Nomura Securities gaming analyst Harry Curtis said the $194 million casinos collected from baccarat in January almost equaled the combined $200 million collected for both January and February last year.

"We need to look at (the months) combined to adjust for the holiday shift," Curtis said. "That number is still encouraging."

The only solid number on the books for February is the $93.9 million wagered on the Super Bowl.

That is the second-highest ever recorded, and sports books collected more than $5 million in revenues.

Lawton said the Super Bowl and Chinese New Year were close on the calendar in 2011. Having the two events spread out over two months "makes it a bit smoother."

Clark County gaming revenues as a whole in January topped almost $925.5 million, a 21.6 percent increase.

In addition to Strip resorts, double-digit increases were reported by casinos downtown (13.7 percent) and North Las Vegas (15.6 percent).

Lawton said the Las Vegas locals market was up almost 7.9 percent on a whole in January.

"While (the) numbers are very encouraging, we continue to remain somewhat apprehensive about the overall recovery in the Las Vegas locals market due to lackluster job and wage growth, coupled with declining housing metrics," said Bill Lerner, Union Gaming Group principal.

January's gaming revenue figures were reflected in what the state collected in gaming taxes in February.

Because much of the results were based on high-end gambling, taxes aren't collected until markers for credit play are settled.

The state reported almost $57.4 million based on January's revenues, a 16.5 percent decrease over the same month last year.

State gaming tax collections are down 2 percent for the first eight months of the fiscal year.
Nevada gaming revenues top $1 billion in January is republished from