Nevada casinos won $1.113B in February

Pahrump Valley Times
Nevada casinos won $1.113B in February

If there was going to be a month that state gaming win fell below $1 billion, it probably would have been February with its 28 days, right?

Not so.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Wednesday announced that the state’s 433 major casinos won $1.113 billion from gamblers for the month, an all-time record for a February. It also was a record 12th straight month win topped the $1 billion mark.

Gaming win — the amount casinos collect from players of slot machines, table games and other gambling — was up 44.1 percent from February 2021.

February’s win totals also topped the amount casinos won in January.

But one analyst said the future may not be as bright.

Warning signs

Control Board Research Analyst Michael Lawton warned storm clouds could be on the horizon, thanks to higher gasoline prices, inflation and new COVID variants on the rise. And, beginning in March — the first month of the $1 billion-plus win in the current streak — comparisons will be harder.

“Our comparisons are going to become extremely difficult in the upcoming months and we are optimistic that this level of gaming win will continue,” he said. “However, as you are aware there are a great deal of macro-economic and geo-political events that are happening in real time which are concerning and it is unknown how it could impact the trends we have been witnessing for the past year.”

Gaming win is important to the state because a percentage of it is collected and deposited to the state’s general fund.

February tax and fee collections through Monday were at $58.9 million, a 34.5 percent increase from a year ago. For the first seven months of the 2022 fiscal year, collections are up 35.4 percent over the previous year to $525.4 million.

Lawton attributed the strong February to sporting events and concert performances in Las Vegas.

Strong events calendar

“This month’s results were supported by an incredibly active entertainment and sports calendar which included Garth Brooks, George Strait, Justin Bieber, Billy Joel and Metallica on the musical front in addition to hosting both the NHL All-Star Game, the NFL Pro Bowl and the return of a traditional Super Bowl party atmosphere with COVID-19 restrictions including mask requirements being lifted,” Lawton said. “This could possibly be the strongest event calendar I have seen in my 12 years analyzing gaming win in the state.”

New York-based J.P. Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said February numbers shined despite COVID issues.

“Las Vegas Strip demand was resilient in light of ongoing omicron impacts during this time period,” Greff said in a Wednesday report to investors.

It was the third-best February ever for the Strip.

Win on the Strip had the highest percentage increase of any market monitored by the Control Board with win up 71.9 percent to $599.1 million.

Every Southern Nevada market saw gaming win up by double-digit percentages.

Clark County win climbed 50.4 percent to $949.9 million while downtown Las Vegas was up 33.9 percent to $69.2 million.

One decline statewide

Only South Lake Tahoe saw numbers decline in February with win down 3.9 percent to $19.7 million.

Even Washoe County and Reno showed double-digit percentage increases with Sparks and North Lake Tahoe up 7.8 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

One of the big reasons for the strong February was the record Super Bowl LVI handle that month. Statewide, 179 sportsbooks took $179.8 million in wagers, beating the previous record of $158.6 million set in 2018. The books won $15.4 million for a win percentage of 8.6.

Clark County’s 98 sports-betting operations won $9.3 million on football bets in February for a 5.5 percent win percentage.

Local sportsbook operators were happy to see crowds in their facilities on Super Bowl Sunday to watch and bet on the single sports event with the highest handle. And the large crowds spill over to other casino games as well as other Las Vegas entertainment.

“These events bring in the people and drive the restaurant revenue, drive the room revenue and the shows fill up,” said Jeff Stonebeck, director of trading for MGM Resorts International.

Stonebeck said it was a refreshing difference from two years ago when resorts were closed for 78 days as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. Stonebeck didn’t disclose MGM’s gross gaming revenue, but said sportsbook crowds have returned.

“When we first opened up, we were the only entertainment besides the casino itself,” Stonebeck said. “There were no shows and restaurants weren’t open. Everything is open now and people are still betting and many more people are betting than they were three years ago before COVID.”

March numbers

Stonebeck expects March numbers to be strong as well after seeing record wagering on the NCAA College Basketball Tournament.

“We get the same people who come out every single year for it,” Stonebeck said. “It’s an annual ritual for a group that will get four, five or six guys who come out every year. A lot of people don’t pay attention to college basketball until the tournament.”

He expects events like the Super Bowl and the March Madness tournament to grow in Las Vegas, even after Arizona approved sports wagering and California is on the verge of getting it with proposals on the November ballot.

“I’m sure it will make a small dent in our handle,” he said. “To what extent, I really don’t know. We’ve been wrong before saying it’s going to hurt us and it hasn’t. A lot of those people like to come over from Southern California for the Vegas experience, and there just happens to be sports betting going on.

“Yes, Arizona is one of our states that we draw people from,” he said. “Arizona has had a large handle and growth in sports betting there, but it doesn’t seem to affect us. Still, Vegas is Vegas. There’s nothing like the Las Vegas Strip in Los Angeles or San Diego.”

[email protected] or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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