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Was 2019 a good year for Nevada casinos? The numbers tell the tale

Updated February 2, 2020 - 8:29 pm

Was 2019 a good year for Nevada casinos?

New gaming win numbers from the state Gaming Control Board and visitation data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority can help answer that question — and many others on the minds of analysts.

There are a lot of takeaways from the two reports.

Were Nevada sportsbooks hurt by the arrival of nationwide, legalized sports wagering?

The state’s approximately 200 books scored a record handle of $5.3 billion and a record win of $329.1 million — the 10th straight year of volume increases. It seems nationwide legalization has only fueled more interest in betting here — just as numerous book executives expected.

The LVCVA reported a record 6.6 million conventioneers in 2019. Why does that number seem so low?

That figure represents convention attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Privately operated convention centers attracted millions more visitors.

Executives with companies like MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have indicated they have favorable convention calendars for 2020 and beyond. Those companies are looking smart for upgrading their convention facilities (MGM), adding convention capacity (Caesars and Wynn) and building new amenities for shows (Sands’ accessibility to the MSG Sphere, set to open next year).

More than 60 percent of tourism revenue is generated by nongaming amenities. Companies with convention facilities or easy access to the Las Vegas Convention Center can count on greater midweek hotel occupancy, higher room rates and more food and beverage purchases on conventioneers’ expense accounts.

Resorts World Las Vegas and The Drew Las Vegas should join that club in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

What’s going on with baccarat, and should we be worried?

Baccarat drop of $835.3 million was down $339.6 million, or 28.9 percent, from 2018. Baccarat win only recorded four monthly increases in the 2019 calendar year, and volume only rose twice.

Here’s the really bad news for baccarat: 2020 is off to a horrendous start because of travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Many Asian high rollers aren’t playing here because they aren’t traveling here.

We should learn more when the Gaming Control Board releases January and February gaming numbers and when Wynn and MGM report earnings in the next two weeks.

Slot machines continue to generate more win for casinos than table games, and coin-in for slots increased in every Southern Nevada market. Statewide, players dropped nearly $115 billion into slot machines, a 2.1 percent increase from 2018, and played $29.6 billion on tables, a 5.3 percent decrease.

Clark County mirrored statewide trends, but the figures for downtown Las Vegas and the Strip are veering in different directions. Coin-in for slots on the Strip was $42.2 billion, up 3.6 percent (highest in Clark County), and downtown coin-in was $6 billion, up 2.5 percent. Meanwhile, table games drop on the Strip was $22.3 billion, down 8.4 percent from 2018 (second-biggest decline in the state), while downtown’s was $2.1 billion, up 14.5 percent (second-largest increase in the state).

Why is downtown Las Vegas on such a roll?

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Control Board, said traffic is being driven downtown by sports betting, especially through mobile wagering. The entry of Circa Sports into the market last summer is partially responsible for the boost, and when the sportsbook at the new Circa resort opens in December, it could drive even more traffic with fans wanting to see what Derek Stevens is calling the world’s largest sportsbook.

Is it my imagination or are slot machines getting tighter?

If you somehow detected slot machines were tighter this past year, you’re probably right. The casino slot win percentage statewide increased 0.05 of a percentage point, from 6.85 percent in 2018 to 6.9 percent last year.

In the big picture, it’s an undetectable difference.

But if you’re into that type of thing, the Strip slot win percentage moved from 8.12 percent to 8.16 percent, and downtown it went from 7.66 percent to 7.78 percent. Maybe slot players are migrating to the Boulder Strip, where slot win percentage moved in favor of the player, from 5.81 percent to 5.78 percent.

On table games, the statewide casino win percentage was up 0.38 points to 13.84 percent. On the Strip, it moved from 13.46 percent in 2018 to 14.09 percent last year. Downtown players benefited, with table win moving 0.61 points from 11.04 percent in 2018 to 10.43 percent last year.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. The MSG Sphere is a project by Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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