Las Vegas Strip Finishes Bad Year with Bad December, Casino Win Halved

Posted on: January 28, 2021, 09:25h. 

Last updated on: January 28, 2021, 10:45h.

The Las Vegas Strip is the main artery of the US gaming industry’s heartbeat. But in 2020, it was nearly on life alert.

Las Vegas casino revenue Nevada
People celebrate the end of 2020 and the ringing in of the new year in downtown Las Vegas. Nevada casinos statewide are coming off their worst year in more than two decades. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The main drag capped off the most difficult year with yet another poor performance. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) on the Strip last month was $292 million. This figure is a nearly 51 percent reduction from December 2019.

Statewide, casinos kept $683.7 million of gamblers’ money during the final month of 2020. That represents a 35 percent year-over-year drop.

Slot machines led the way, with the terminals winning $459 million. Penny slot revenue was down more than 38 percent. Baccarat tables generated revenue of $63.2 million, and blackjack $48.4 million. The table win for those games was respectively down 17 percent and 55 percent from December 2019.

Oddsmakers held $40.6 million of the sports wagers placed. It was a lone bright spot on the December report, with sports betting revenue increasing nearly 12 percent.

Casinos Suffer Worst Year in Decades

Las Vegas Strip casinos reported GGR of $3.73 billion in 2020, their lowest haul since 1999. The casino floors won 43 percent fewer gaming dollars during the 12-month period.

COVID-19 resulted in Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) forcing the state’s casinos to close their operations in mid-March. They remained dark until early June.

While the gaming floors resumed business, domestic and travel restrictions ravaged visitor volumes. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will later today release full-year travel statistics. But through 11 months in 2020, visitor volume was down 54.5 percent.

Nevada’s economic engine and largest taxpayer and employment sector has been devastated by the continuing impacts of the pandemic,” Nevada Resorts Association President Virginia Valentine told The Nevada Independent.

Fewer people meant fewer gamblers. Blackjack, craps, roulette, and baccarat all posted more than 40 percent year-over-year GGR declines.

Not one metered-market area in the 2020 full-year gaming revenue report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board showed a gain from 2019. The market that fared the best during the pandemic was Lyon County (-13.4 percent), which accounts for a negligible amount of the state gaming industry.

Recovery Roadmap

The coronavirus vaccine has arrived but in limited numbers. Its distribution in Nevada has been slow compared with other states.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Census Bureau, Nevada ranks No. 44 in vaccination speed. Just 4.9 percent of the state’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

By comparison, Nevada’s neighbors are faring better. Oregon has administered at least one dose of the vaccine to 6.5 percent of its residents, Utah 6.3 percent, California 5.5 percent, and Arizona 5.3 percent.

“A critical component of our recovery depends on the distribution and acceptance of the vaccine,” Valentine added. “The sooner hospitality employees, which represent roughly one in every four Nevada jobs, can be vaccinated, the swifter we can restore our tourism-based economy, welcome back large events and trade shows, reopen dormant businesses, and bring more Nevadans back to work.”