Nevada’s casino industry posted its third straight annual gaming revenue increase in 2012 as the industry continues its modest recovery amid a sluggish economy.
Analysts noted the results were helped by high-end baccarat play, the game that has bolstered the industry’s bottom line since Las Vegas companies began doing business in Macau in 2004.
Statewide, casinos collected $10.86 billion in gaming revenue in 2012, a 1.5 percent increase over $10.7 billion in 2011.
“We are slowly increasing revenues,” said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. “We are still 15.5 percent below the peak in 2007, but we are gradually moving in the right direction.”
Nevada gaming revenues were $12.8 billion in 2007, Lawton said. On the Strip, gaming revenues increased 2.3 percent over 2011 with casinos collecting $6.2 billion, marking a second straight year revenues topped $6 billion.
In Clark County, six of the seven reporting areas showed annual gaming revenue increases. Only Laughlin was down in 2012, posting a modest 0.6 percent drop in revenue at $462.06 million.
Downtown Las Vegas reported the largest percentage gain, with a 2.5 percent increase last year to $509.14 million, while the Boulder Strip posted a 2.3 percent jump, to $796.6 million. Overall, Clark County posted a 1.9 percent increase to $9.39 billion.
Washoe County, which includes Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe, reported a 2.5 percent decline in 2012, to $727 million from $745.6 million in 2011.
Brent Pirosch, director of gaming consulting at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in Las Vegas, wasn’t surprised by the modest increase in gaming revenue.
“The average gaming patron is not really spending any more than they did last year,” Pirosch said. “It’s more of the same. We don’t expect too much different this year.”
During 2012, Nevada casinos saw revenues increase 0.7 percent from slot machine wagering while revenues from table games increased 2.9 percent.
When baccarat figures are subtracted from the statewide total, Nevada casinos still would have reported a 0.5 percent gaming revenue increase. In 2011, that figure was a 2.4 percent increase.
The back-to-back non-baccarat gaming revenue increase is a first since 2007.
Lawton said 12.7 percent of the $10.8 billion in gaming revenues last year was generated from high-end baccarat play. In 2003, that figure was 3.8 percent.
“We’ve been seeing an increase in baccarat (revenue) ever since our operators began doing business in Macau,” Lawton said.
Wynn Resorts Ltd., MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. operate casinos in Macau. Pirosch said most of the $1.37 billion in baccarat revenue last year in Las Vegas was generated by six Strip properties.
Baccarat revenue in December was up 25.8 percent, to $189.4 million.
“Baccarat play tends to be very event- driven, and marquee boxing fights tend to bring high rollers into town,” said Bill Lerner, principal with Union Gaming Research in Las Vegas. “The addition of a major box event (Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez Dec. 8) clearly benefitted results.”
Slot win generated 62.5 percent of the total gaming win in 2012, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Slot win increased 0.7 percent last year, after increasing 1.5 percent in 2011. Game and table win jumped 2.9 percent in 2012, following a 5.2 percent increase ion 2011.
The agency released the year-end and December 2012 gaming revenue figures Friday.
December was a very good month for Nevada casinos. State gaming regulators said Silver State casinos took in 10.24 percent more in gambling revenues during the final month of 2012 than they did in the same period a year ago.
The Gaming Control Board said casinos won $943.3 million in December, with the state collecting $39.26 million in taxes based on that amount.
“Results were helped by the timing of the Christmas and New Years Eve holidays,” said Joseph Greff, an analyst with J.P. Morgan.
Greff said several months of revenue data points to a “continued uneven recovery on the Strip, with some positives and some negatives, which represents no change from prior forecasts.”
The state’s share in gaming taxes represents a 23.5 percent increase from December 2011.
In December, casinos on the Strip took in more than $588 million, up 13.5 percent from the same period last year. Casino winnings in downtown Las Vegas were up 19.6 percent, to $36.9 million, while North Las Vegas posted a 14.2 percent increase to $19.3 million.
The Boulder Strip reported a 17.3 percent increase to $58.3 million, while Laughlin’s posted a modest 1.7 percent increase in December to $33.2 million.
Clark County saw gaming revenues increase 11.2 percent in December, compared with the same period in 2011. Mesquite was off 5.5 percent in December to $9.1 million, according to state figures.
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal .com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.