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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Online poker, World Cup bets highlight gaming jump

28 July 2014

LAS VEGAS -- How nice was June for Nevada casinos?

Online poker revenue cracked the $1 million mark for the first time since the results have been publicly reported.

Wagering on World Cup soccer accounted for the state’s highest-ever month in the “other sports” category of sports wagering, which included a 116.3 percent in increase in revenue.

Still, Wall Street remained somewhat reserved after the Nevada State Gaming Control Board on Friday released figures showing the state and Strip recorded their highest monthly revenue increases in 2014.

“We expect investors to be satisfied, but not ecstatic,” said Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon.

Statewide, casinos collected $906.9 million from gamblers, a 14.4 percent increase compared to a year ago.

Strip casinos collected almost $532.4 million, an increase of almost 22.5 percent.

The Strip totals were helped by baccarat, which had the highest revenue and wagering totals for June.

The game contributed $132.8 million in revenue to casinos, a 155 percent increase over June 2013. Gamblers wagered $1.086 billion on baccarat, 57 percent more than a year ago. The hold percentage — what casinos held based on the wagers — was 12.4 percent, compared to 7.6 percent last year.

Strip casinos also played lucky on slot machine wagering. Casinos collected $241 million in revenue from slots, an increase of 9 percent from a year ago. The increase was the largest jump in more than a year and halted two straight months of declines in slot machine revenue.

Customers wagered almost $3.2 billion on slot machines during, an increase of 4 percent

Wells Fargo Securities gaming analyst Cameron McKnight said Strip revenues were up 8 percent when removing the effect of baccarat.

Still, McKnight said he viewed the results as a positive for Wynn Resorts Ltd., Las Vegas Sands Corp., and MGM Resorts International.

Analysts said the Strip’s baccarat numbers have impressed investors for the past three months.

Union Gaming Group analyst Robert Shore said there may be a correlation between strength in Las Vegas and recent weak baccarat numbers out of Macau.

“Recent commentary and channels checks indicate Las Vegas Strip properties are seeing an increase in Chinese visitors,” Shore said. “This meshes with our thesis that the primary driver of VIP softness in Macau is politics, not the economy.”

For the first six months of 2014, gaming revenue is up 1.5 percent statewide and 3.4 percent on the Strip, which also experienced a 17.3 percent gaming revenue increase in May.

Gaming Control Board Senior Research Analyst Mike Lawton said gaming revenue from Strip casinos was down 5.5 percent for the first three months of 2014 but has increased 14.4 percent over the last three months.

Shore said the Strip’s revenue since the beginning of the year came from nongaming segments, such as nightlife, restaurants, and the hotel rooms.

“The growth in the gaming segment is an added catalyst to the Las Vegas Strip recovery,” Shore said.

The World Cup soccer tournament from Brazil was the primary driver for $5.9 million in revenue in the “other sports” category of sports wagering. The amount wagered in the category — which includes hockey, auto racing and boxing — was $53.4 million, an increase of 184.3 percent from a year ago.

“We see the bump every four years,” Lawton said in reference to World Cup soccer.

During June, Nevada’s three online poker websites — Ultimate Poker, and Real Gaming — collected a combined $1.037 million in gaming revenue. Nevada’s first poker website began operating 15 months ago. Analysts said the figure was helped by activity associated with the World Series of Poker, which took place at the Rio during the month.

Shore said the state’s online poker results will continue to be soft until Nevada’s agreement share players with Delaware takes affect.

“In the future, multi-state poker compacts could be a more impactful revenue event given a larger base of players, and due to the liquidity dynamic,” Shore said.

Clark County as whole experienced a combined gaming revenue increase 17 percent. North Las Vegas casinos recorded a 22.7 percent increase in June while casinos along the Boulder Strip saw gaming revenue increase 17 percent.

Downtown casinos saw gaming revenue jump almost 12 percent in June, which helped reverse an 8 percent decline in May.

Northern Nevada markets weren’t as lucky in June.

Gaming revenue in Washoe County as a whole was down almost 3 percent and Reno casinos saw a 3.1 percent decrease. North Lake Tahoe casinos experienced a 15.4 percent decline.

Nevada collected almost $43.6 million in gaming taxes during July based on June’s gaming revenue total, an increase of less than 1 percent compared to a year ago.

Gaming regulators also released the state’s fiscal year 2014 gaming revenue totals.

Statewide, Nevada casinos collected $11.2 billion between July 2013 and June 2014, an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous fiscal year. Strip casinos collected $6.6 billion, an increase of 5.2 percent.

Lawton said Strip casino revenues represented 58.9 percent of the state’s total for the fiscal year. Baccarat revenues accounted for 25.5 percent of the Strip’s overall total, an all-time high.

Statewide, revenue from slot machines of $6.7 billion represented 60 percent of the state’s overall total, the lowest percentage for the game since fiscal year 1991.