The first three months of 2013 have sparked cautious optimism for the economic recovery of Nevada’s casino industry.
A new report for March appears to build on that trend.
Statewide gaming revenues grew 7.04 percent in March to $914.8 million, the state’s second-straight monthly increase. On the Strip, gaming revenues grew 13.13 percent to $507.6 million, the second straight double-digit increase .
For the first three months of the year, statewide gaming revenues are up 2.6 percent. Strip gaming revenues are up 6.7 percent.
Following release of the figures Friday by the Gaming Control Board, analysts told investors they wanted to see more than just three months of Strip gaming revenue totals before deeming the patient fully cured.
Last year, Strip casinos reported gaming revenues of $6.2 billion.
“Looking over the last several months, we believe results point to a continued uneven recovery on the Las Vegas Strip, with some positives and some negatives,” JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said.
The March results followed February’s $1.073 billion revenue take statewide, which included a record-setting $696.1 million in gaming revenues from Strip casinos.
The month was fueled by a calendar switch for Chinese New Year, which attributed to record baccarat wagering.
In March, high-end baccarat play once again helped boost the Strip’s results.
Revenues from the game were $76.6 million, a 93 percent increase from a year ago. The amount wagered on baccarat was $686.9 million, up 39.1 percent.
For the first three months of the year, Strip baccarat revenues are up 25.5 percent.
Without baccarat, Strip gaming revenues in March still would have been up 5.2 percent.
Deutsche Bank gaming Carlo Santarelli cautioned that the baccarat results masked relatively flat figures in other gaming areas, such as slot machine play.
“Said simply, we believe the underlying trends are not as strong as the headline would suggest,” Santarelli said.
Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski echoed similar concerns, saying the baccarat numbers weren’t a surprise since the major Strip casino operators had reported first-quarter earnings.
“All told, March results were in line with management’s recent commentary, as it appears strong international visitation continues to pace the broader Strip recovery,” Wieczynski said.
“Slot volumes, generally a good indicator of U.S.-sourced leisure travel demand, were flat, suggesting modest headwinds continue to persist within the leisure segment.”
OTHER REVENUE RESULTS
On a whole, Clark County gaming revenues grew 7.42 percent in March. Downtown casinos saw gaming revenue totals increase 5.33 percent. Other areas of the county, such as Laughlin, North Las Vegas and the Boulder Strip, all suffered monthly declines.
Analysts were disappointed the locals markets didn’t show results in the same vein as the Strip. Slot machine wagering in the locals market was down more than 2 percent during the month.
“The slot volume numbers continue to show relative weakness,” said Union Gaming Group Managing Director Bill Lerner.
Washoe County, which includes Reno, saw gaming revenues increase 9.48 percent. Reno’s casino market experienced a 10.8 percent increase during March.
Gaming taxes collected in April based on March’s gaming revenues were $78.3 million, an increase of 9.62 percent over the same period a year ago.
For the first 10 months of the fiscal year, gaming tax collections are up 3.78 percent.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.