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Baccarat results boost casinos; analysts see other upbeat indicators

Baccarat results helped Nevada casinos end 2014’s two-month gaming revenue slide in March.

But analysts said there were other positive indications, beyond the totals produced by the high-end card game, that point toward an overall market turn-around.

The Gaming Control Board said Tuesday gaming revenue statewide increased 7.6 percent to $982.2 million during the month. On the Strip, gaming revenue increased 10.9 percent to $560.7 million.

The figures followed statewide gaming revenue declines of 13.7 percent in February and 2.7 percent in January.

Nevada gaming results — primarily the Strip — were helped along by special events, new attractions and large conventions that brought more visitors to town.

In turn, while year-over-year baccarat revenue increased 39.9 percent in March, blackjack revenue jumped 6.1 percent, craps revenue grew 36 percent, and slot machine revenue was up 3.8 percent.

Control Board Senior Research Analyst Michael Lawton said slot machine wagering figures on the Strip have increased for three consecutive months, offering a sign that visitors are spending more on gaming and not just nongaming amenities.

As for baccarat, the game which has been credited with keeping the casino industry afloat in the aftermath of the recession, revenue grew to $101.8 million on wagers of $703 million, which was relatively flat total compared to March 2013. Casinos held 14.47 percent of all wagers, as opposed to 10.25 percent last year.

“Baccarat was a good month, but there were other positive metrics,” Lawton said.

Special events included the large ConExpo-Con/Agg construction trade show at the Convention Center in early March; the opening of The Linq retail, entertainment and dining attraction on the Strip; the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup event, and several college basketball tournaments.

“The Las Vegas Strip numbers were pretty solid,” Union Gaming Group analyst Robert Shore told investors. “Historically, March has been one of the strongest months for Las Vegas demand.”

Shore noted the Strip’s slot machine volume, but also said the market “is becoming younger, increasingly international, more affluent,” and spends most of their money on restaurant offerings and nightlife attractions.

“This new demographic isn’t generally spending time on slot machines,” Shore said.

Clark County as a whole saw gaming revenue increase 9.5 percent as every reporting segment, except for Mesquite, reported an increase. North Las Vegas casinos experienced the highest percentage revenue increase in the county, up 15 percent. Downtown Las Vegas casinos also experienced a double-digit revenue increase in March, 12 percent.

The control board said the state’s three Internet poker websites collected $926,000 in gaming revenue, an increase of 12.2 percent over February’s results. For the first 11 months that Internet poker has been legal in the state, total revenue has been $9.4 million.

Shore said multistate gaming compacts are needed for Nevada to grow its Internet poker player pool.

While Southern Nevada basked in the glow of positive gaming revenue results, Northern Nevada slipped.

Reno casinos saw gaming revenue tumble nearly 11 percent, same as Washoe County as a whole.

Gaming taxes collected through April 25 based on the March revenue figure was $84.1 million, a 7.39 percent increase over the same month a year ago. For the first 10 months of the fiscal year, gaming tax collections are up less than 1 percent.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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