Nevada Gaming Revenues Dip in March, but Baccarat Still Rising

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Nevada Gaming Revenues Dip in March, but Baccarat Still Rising
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The state of Nevada saw its first year-over-year decline in gaming revenue in eight months in March, but the news was hardly concerning to gaming industry officials.

Overall, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that Nevada casinos brought in $1.29 billion in revenue, making it 25 straight months in which state casinos won at least $1 billion from bettors.

That total was down 1.7 percent from March 2023, when the state saw total gaming revenues of $1.312 billion. 

Big Wins Set High Bar for Casinos Moving Forward

The March total was also slightly down from the previous month, when Nevada casinos boasted their best February ever, taking in $1.34 billion. That number was buoyed by the Super Bowl, Chinese New Year, and the fact that it was leap year, combining to make it the best February ever for the state’s gaming industry. 

Revenues were down slightly both on the Las Vegas Strip and in Clark County as a whole. 

The continued big wins for Nevada casinos have made it difficult to keep breaking records, according to Gaming Control Board senior economic analyst Michael Lawton.

“Statewide win has not recorded a decrease in eight months, so this month may be disappointing to some at first glance,” Lawton said on Thursday. “March 2023 also had a very impressive events calendar which included UFC 285, the construction industry trade show, ConExpo-Con/Agg, the Western Regional of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games were played at T-Mobile Arena, and lastly, Taylor Swift played at Allegiant Stadium on March 24 and 25.”

Lawton also pointed out that March 2023 saw a new record for slot machine revenue, which was tough to match in 2024. He also said that in each of the last 13 months, Nevada has achieved “either the highest monthly total…or the second-highest total for that specific month.”

Baccarat Can Make or Break Gaming Numbers

One thing that is clear from the numbers is the increasing importance of high-roller baccarat play. While the game has become a lucrative source of income, particularly for Las Vegas Strip casinos, the relatively low house edge and slow pace of play can make it an extremely swingy game, especially when relatively few individuals are making outsized bets.

In March, baccarat revenue was up to $114.7 million statewide, a 75.5 percent increase over 2023’s numbers. The main reason: casinos enjoyed a hold percentage of 18.81 percent compared to 10.33 percent in March 2023. Essentially, the casinos were luckier against the biggest bettors this March, which helped cover declines in other gaming sectors. 

In fact, one of the best indicators of whether Strip gaming revenues – which fell 1.2 percent in March – may be going up or down in the coming months is looking at the hold percentage from baccarat for the previous year. And by that metric, the casinos could be in for a good report next month.

“Looking ahead to April, while we believe gaming volume is slowing, though it has been largely masked by baccarat, Strip gross gaming revenue should get a healthy boost from the easy baccarat-hold comparison, as April 2023 baccarat hold was just 7.1 percent,” Deutsche Bank analyst Carlo Santarelli said on Thursday.

Whether or not that pans out, the Nevada gaming industry is on track to set a record in terms of contributions to the state’s coffers. Over the first nine months of the current fiscal year, gaming tax collections have totaled $841.5 million, up 2.4 percent from last year. The state expects to surpass $1 billion in gaming tax revenue by the time the fiscal year ends in June.