Nevada casinos top $12 billion in gaming revenues for the first time since 2007

Howard Stutz has over 30 years of experience reporting on the gaming industry.

Despite a flat year on the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada casinos hit the $12 billion mark for gaming revenues during 2019, the first time in 12 years the state topped the single-year milestone.

The Gaming Control Board said Thursday casino revenues statewide were $12.03 billion, a 1% percent increase over 2018.

The all-time single-year record for gaming revenue was 2007, when casinos collected $12.8 billion. The Great Recession then gripped the state and gaming revenues declined a combined more than 20% over the next two years. The 2019 total was third largest of all time.

Statewide gaming revenues have now increased in nine of the last 10 years and in five consecutive years.

The year-end figure came despite an essentially flat year on the Las Vegas Strip, which accounts for more than half of the state’s overall total.

In a year-over-year comparison, Strip gaming revenues $6.587 billion in 2019 compared to $6.588 billion in 2018 – a decline of 0.02%.

Control Board Senior Research analyst Michael Lawton said that if baccarat totals for 2019 were removed the equation – casinos saw a 13.5% decline in revenues from the game during the year – Strip casinos would have reported a 3% gaming revenue increase for 2019.

“Six of the markets (in Clark County) posted an increase this year,” Lawton said, highlighting the Strip as the only down market.

Meanwhile, gaming revenues in downtown Las Vegas increased 5.4% to $684.9 million, the market’s largest single year total since 1993.

Nevada’s sportsbooks collected a record $329.1 million in revenues during 2019, an increase of 9.5%. Sportsbooks took in record total wagers of $5.319 billion during 2019, a 6.2% increase from $5.01 billion in 2018. The year marked the 10th consecutive year for record sports wagering totals and was accomplished in the face of an expansion of legal sports betting, which is now available in 14 states.

In Northern Nevada, gaming revenue declined 1.6% for the year in Reno, down 6% in North Lake Tahoe and saw a 2.4% decline in South Lake Tahoe.

December totals

In December, Nevada gaming revenues topped $1.057 billion, the seventh time in 2019 the state reached the $1 billion mark. The figure was a 5.8% increase over December 2018.

Strip gaming revenues were up 4.5% in December to $591.8 million. However, revenues from baccarat declined 27% during the month, which put a damper on the overall figure.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Carlo Santarelli said if baccarat results were “normalized,” Strip gaming revenue would have increased 10.2% in December. Baccarat wagering was down 29.5% in December, the fourth consecutive month of 20% or greater volume declines.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said the December results “were slightly weaker than we expected,” but the revenue per available room trends “appear to be healthy.”

Beynon said casino operators on the Strip were optimistic about 2020, given a healthy convention and event calendar that includes the ConAgg convention in the Spring, April’s NFL Draft and the opening of Allegiant Stadium in August, which will house the Las Vegas Raiders.

Lawton said December’s overall totals were driven by slot machine revenues of $700.1 million, a 10.1% increase.

“This is the largest slot win total since March 2008,” Lawton said.

Wagering on slot machines in December grew 2.3% to $10.1 billion and slot machine volumes have increased in 10 consecutive months.

Las Vegas tourism

A 6.1% percent jump in visitation to Las Vegas during December pushed the overall visitor volume in 2019 to 42.5 million visitors, a 1% increase over 2018. The figures included a record convention attendance of nearly 6.65 million delegates, an increase of 2.3% percent from the prior year.

Scott Russell, director of research for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said December is usually a slower convention month, but the destination benefitted from two events – Amazon Web Services and the Marijuana Business Conference – that brought in a combined 100,000 attendees. December’s convention attendance was a 60.6% increase over December 2018.

Citywide room occupancy in Las Vegas was at 88.9% in 2019. Revenue per available room in 2019 was $117.90, up 3.8%, and the average daily room rate was $132.62, up 2.9%.