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April 25, 2019

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March Madness: Basketball propels state’s nearly $1B gaming win

The Strip From Above

Tom Donoghue /

A bird’s-eye view of the Las Vegas Strip at dusk, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.

Nevada’s gaming revenue nearly hit an eye-popping number in March, driven by slot players, blackjack players and people betting on basketball, according to Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Tax and License Division of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

“We almost did a billion dollars,” Lawton said. We were just shy of that, and if baccarat had done better (we) probably would have been there.”

According to the board’s monthly revenue report released Wednesday, nonrestricted gaming licensees in Nevada had total “gaming win” of $991,023,123 in March, a 7.45 percent increase compared to a $922,329,184 win for March 2016.

Lawton said that sports gambling — which the board lists as part of the table game category — was up, specifically on the NCAA basketball tournament.

“The sports pools win was $31.4 million, up 225.3 percent, and that was driven by basketball,” Lawton said.

“It was an all-time record,” he said. “So needless to say, the activity was generated from NCAA basketball tournament. It was extremely strong and stronger on the win than the volume. Basketball hold was very high, at 9.61 percent.”

Lawton said slot win and non-baccarat table games were other keys to the good news for casinos.

For all of Nevada, slots brought in $655.4 million, a 6.29 percent increase over March last year, Lawton said and non-baccarat table games also did very well.

“Table games were up 9.8 percent, or $29.9 million statewide,” he said. “But table games without baccarat were up 15.5 percent, or $37.2 million.”

Lawton said blackjack was a big driver among non-baccarat table games with a win of $112 .7 million, up 12 percent compared to March 2016.

The board also breaks out revenue numbers for specific gaming areas in the state.

In Clark County, the board tracks the Strip, downtown, North Las Vegas Laughlin, the Boulder Strip and Mesquite. Most did well, with downtown being the standout, seeing a 22.61 percent increase in revenue for March compared to March last year.

A not-so-great showing last year and the opening of the Lucky Dragon (the board uses Sahara Avenue as the north boundary for downtown) contributed to downtown’s higher numbers, he said.

North Las Vegas and the Boulder Strip saw decreases for March compared to last year, 1.59 percent and 8.85 percent, respectively. But that was because, Lawton explained, of the timing of when individual properties calculate their revenue.

“When licensees decide to do the drop and count their money is not consistent across markets, and it’s not required to be on certain day,” Lawton said.

Similar increases in revenue for this March compared to last were found in most of the other parts of the state. Reno saw an 8.08 percent increase, Sparks a 2.06 percent increase and North Lake Tahoe a 7.35 percent increase.

In South Lake Tahoe, revenue was down 2.3 percent. Elko County was up 12.83 percent, and the Carson Valley area was up 1.47 percent. Carson Valley numbers include Carson City, Gardnerville, Minden and all other areas of Douglas County except South Lake Tahoe.

Based on the revenue from the casino industry in March, Nevada collected $80,538,273 in fees in April. That’s a 10.41 percent increase over April 2016’s collections of $72,945,203.

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