When the state Gaming Control Board released its statewide gaming win statistics for 2017 in late January, the headline was the 2.8 percent increase from $11.26 billion in 2016 to $11.57 billion for the 336 nonrestricted locations across Nevada.
“Nonrestricted” properties are the big casinos, roughly defined in Nevada as any place with more than 15 slot machines, which doesn’t count the more than 2,000 convenience stores, restaurants, bars and supermarkets that have a handful of slots to supplement revenue.
The 2017 total is inching ever closer to the all-time Nevada high in 2007 of $12.85 billion in win. Ten years ago, Nevada gaming began its Great Recession dive, with $11.6 billion in 2008 and $10.39 billion in 2009. With the exception of one slip in 2014, the numbers have been steadily climbing ever since those dark days of 2008 and 2009.
While the board’s statisticians give a broad picture of where Nevada gaming is headed, some of the details within the report are fascinating.
With breaking win down by market, reports show which denomination of slot machines produced the most revenue, which table games raised the most, which markets had the highest percentage of slot and table win and how those win percentages changed from the previous year.
With that data, one can theoretically predict which slot machines are the best to play, which markets have “tightened” their slots and in which markets the casinos were luckiest in table games.
It’s important to note that reports are written from the state’s perspective. “Gaming win” means what the casinos won, not the player, because the state is interested in calculating how much tax revenue and fees it would collect for state budgets.
Here are a few of the takeaways from the year-end gaming win report:
— The highest slot win percentage in the entire state was on the Strip at 8.04 percent. That means the casinos paid players 91.96 percent of what went in. The lowest win — and the best for the players — in Southern Nevada was the Boulder Strip at 5.53 percent.
— The biggest change in slot win percentage since 2016 was in downtown Las Vegas: up 0.28 points from 7.06 percent to 7.34 percent.
— The highest table game win percentage in Southern Nevada occurred in Laughlin at 19.41 percent. The biggest increase in win percentage occurred in North Las Vegas, up 2.19 points from 12.78 percent to 14.97 percent.
— The biggest revenue generator by slot denomination was on penny slot machines, mainly because there are so many of them in the market. The board reported win of $3.17 billion on 54,754 machines. Multidenomination machines raised $3.13 billion with 70,568 machines.
— The best win percentage on slots was in Megabucks machines at 12.07 percent. The best for players: the $25 slots, which had a win percentage of 4.97 percent.
— Blackjack continues to reign on the casino floor with 2,582 tables statewide. The next closest was roulette at 457 wheels.
Blackjack produced $1.21 billion in win, 5.4 percent ahead of 2016, and casinos had a 14.8 percent win percentage. That outpaced the 382 baccarat games that produced $1.15 billion, 5.6 percent less than the previous year. Baccarat had a 12.7 percent win percentage.
State officials and casino executives constantly monitor the trends. The state needs to know what revenue it can anticipate for government use while the casinos must analyze how much space they want to dedicate to tried-and-true revenue generators as opposed to new things, whether they be new games or nongaming attractions that could make more money.