Turns out all those James Bond movies where baccarat casino games are the playground of the rich have some truth to them; the Las Vegas Strip didn’t have great gaming numbers this June, and it’s being directly attributed to a poor showing in baccarat play. But while the rest of Nevada’s casinos are still trying to play gambling revenue catch-up, the Las Vegas Strip, at least, is seeing incremental increases again in slot machine play.
Baccarat and Slots Affect Bottom Lines
The more than 10 percent drop in gaming revenues throughout the Silver State in June – to $434.7 million – was also due to an overall drop in slot play; less glam than baccarat, but certainly a bread-and-butter casino staple. According to recently released Gaming Control Board reports, Nevada casinos across the whole state took in close to $792.5 million in June, and that’s a 4.81 percent dip when compared to $832.5 million for the same month last year.
However, actual slot machine play increased for the third straight month in a row on the Strip itself, which analysts take as a good sign of movement towards recovery. One Sterne Agee gaming analyst, David Bain, said the increase in play per se of 1.1 percent in April, 1.7 percent in May and 0.2 percent in June shows that the less well-heeled, but nonetheless crucial midlevel gamblers are coming back to the Strip and spending money. And revenues from slots for the Strip specifically were up 3 percent.
But there’s no getting around the importance of the higher-limit baccarat players (typically Asian), and their heavy decline affected the Strip’s overall June revenue numbers in a bad way. Drops of a staggering 48.9 percent – down to $52.7 million in June – obviously didn’t go over well with casino brass, and it was certainly partly attributed to less money wagered; are the whales tightening their belts? Baccarat wagers fell 16.8 percent to $690 million, while apparently players were in an overall lucky streak: the casinos’ “hold” percentage – the amount they retain after paying off winners – dropped to 7.63 percent compared to 12.42 percent for June 2012.
Another significant lack that affected the Strip’s bottom line was the lack of a major championship fight, such as 2012’s Pacquiao vs. Bradley match at the MGM Grand, which brings in not only gaming, but luxury spending revenues as well, according to Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Michael Lawton. It all added up to a not-so-pretty Strip picture for June.
“The baccarat decline was $50.4 million and the entire Strip was down $49 million,” Lawton said.
Now for the good news (although not enough to counteract the baccarat issues): poker revenues in Nevada were actually up 8.5 percent for June, and that was the first increase the state has seen in the popular game since February 2012. Included in the numbers were the first revenues from the state’s first legal and regulated online poker site, Stations Casino-owned UltimatePoker. Although Caesars Interactive is waiting to launch their WSOP-branded site, they have not yet been able to pass regulatory hurdles, apparently, and it’s unclear when their Internet site will launch exactly.
According to Lawton, it won’t be until Nevada has three online poker sites going that Internet revenues will be broken out as a separate category from land-based casino poker wager revenues. Overall, Nevada had $15.9 million in poker earnings for June; the World Series of Poker live events bring in thousands of players from around the world, many of whom participate in cash games as well as tournament events, no doubt helping to up these numbers.