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March gaming win plunges 39.6% statewide, 45.7% on Strip

Updated April 29, 2020 - 3:52 pm

Everyone knew it was going to be bad.

On Wednesday, the public found out how bad, knowing that as horrible as it is, it’s only going to be worse next month.

The state Gaming Control Board reported Nevada’s 440 licensed casinos won $618.1 million in March, a 39.6 percent crash compared with the same month a year earlier.

It was the lowest win amount recorded since February 1998 and came after three consecutive months of win totals exceeding $1 billion. February 2020 win was the third-best February total on record, achieved in part because it had an additional day in a leap year and Chinese New Year fell then instead of in January.

The declines left win totals for three-quarters of the fiscal year down 2.2 percent to $8.752 billion.

Could be worse

Gaming win is important because a percentage of it is collected in gaming taxes and goes into the state’s general fund.

Through Tuesday, the state had collected $37.1 million in March gaming taxes, a 53.6 percent decline from the amount collected a year earlier.

For the fiscal year, collections stand at $598.1 million, about even with the same nine months a year earlier.

“Looking at the numbers that came out today, it shouldn’t necessarily surprise anyone that the numbers are down,” said gaming industry analyst Brendan Bussmann of Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors, LLC.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “I know that before things were shut down that it didn’t look like it was going to be necessarily a great month anyway because of the way the calendar fell. But we’re still waiting for the next shoe to drop. I think the worst number is the one that happens in April when it’s virtually zero and then we begin the climb out.”

Win was down dramatically because casinos operated only 17 days in March. It was the day after St. Patrick’s Day, usually a festive time in Nevada casinos, when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the state’s nonessential businesses, including its gambling halls, to close in a bid to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Only one market of the 20 monitored by the Control Board was spared.

The board reported win on the Boulder Strip was up 1.8 percent to $71.6 million for the month. Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Control Board, said the increase was due to collections timing anomalies.

The hardest-hit market in the state: North Lake Tahoe, which reported a 65.2 percent decline in win to $725,545.

Clark County win plunged 38.1 percent to $546.5 million, the Strip was off 45.7 percent to $300 million, and usually resilient Downtown Las Vegas fell 25.9 percent to $43.5 million.

Slots and sportsbooks

The three-month gaming win trend, generally a more telling gauge of activity because it eliminates volatile swings resulting from calendar comparisons, showed a 10.6 percent decrease statewide for the months of January, February and March. On the Strip, the three-month win trend was down 12.4 percent and in downtown Las Vegas, it fell 6.3 percent.

As bad as it was, April’s numbers, to be reported at the end of May, will be worse because casinos will have been closed the entire month as government policy leaders, health care professionals and businesspeople looked for answers on how to reopen safely.

Lawton said win was down in every casino game category. Game and table win was off 57 percent to $149.5 million statewide with the amount wagered down 59.5 percent to $1.05 billion. Casinos won 14.2 percent compared with 13.4 percent a year earlier.

Baccarat win was $43 million, down 19.7 percent.

Statewide slot machine coin-in was off 54.2 percent to $4.7 billion, and casinos’ slot win percentage was 10.1 percent compared with 6.6 percent a year earlier.

The shutdown in professional sports and the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament affected sportsbooks.

Books won $1.5 million, down 95.5 percent and the amount wagered, $141 million, was down 76.3 percent. Bettors triumphed when they played, with sports pool hold at 1 percent compared with 5.4 percent a year ago.

Sports wagers made with mobile apps won $3.8 million on $88.9 million in wagers with a hold of 4.3 percent. Lawton said mobile sports transactions accounted for 63 percent of all sports wagers.

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

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