Nevada casinos won more than $11.9 billion last year, the third-richest haul in state history. Sports betting recorded both record handle and win, with oddsmakers taking $5 billion in bets, and keeping $301 million.

Nevada casinos Las Vegas revenue 2018

Las Vegas showed its resiliency in 2018, as Nevada casinos won $11.9 billion. (Image: Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The $11.9 billion in gross gambling revenue (GGR) represents a three percent premium on 2017 – or a $346 million gain. The Las Vegas Strip accounted for $6.58 billion, a two percent year-over-year increase.

The full-year numbers come in the December revenue report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. December GGR was up four percent, and came in just shy of the $1 billion mark.

Only twice have Nevada casinos won more money than they did last year – 2006 ($16.6 billion) and 2007 ($12.8 billion). 2018 represents a 14.5 percent recovery from recession lows in 2009.

Viva Las Vegas

2018 was supposed to be a turbulent year for Las Vegas and the Nevada gaming industry. The year that began just two months after the October 2017 mass shooting on the Strip had analysts concerned.

Caesars CEO Mark Frissora warned shareholders that many Asian visitors would stay away due to their cultures’ respectfulness regarding an appropriate mourning time following death. The chief executive – who will be stepping down this month – also warned that the company was seeing an overall softening in demand.

The biggest scandal in gaming industry history – numerous accounts of alleged sexual misconduct against Las Vegas tycoon Steve Wynn – and continued increases to resort fees and the removal of free parking, didn’t help ease widespread apprehensions. Hindsight is always 20/20, and with full-year 2018 revenues in, it’s easy to see that Sin City found a way to push through and prosper.

The prosperity is fueling new investments. SLS has upped its $100 million renovation budget, Resorts World is making substantial progress, the Stratosphere is being redone, and Derek Stevens recently announced Circa downtown.

Sports Betting Soars

2018 will forever be known in the gaming industry as the year the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting. Operations have already spread to seven states, and while some might have viewed Nevada losing its monopoly as a negative, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said it would only be a positive.

The parallel would be if you think back on casino expansion throughout the United States,” Murren explained. “That has actually benefited MGM in Las Vegas because people want to go to the market leader.”

“Las Vegas is the undisputed leader. I think the same will happen with sports betting,” the MGM boss predicted.

So far, he’s right. Silver State sportsbooks took more bets than ever last year, and sports bettors lost more than ever, too.

NFL and college football led the way with $1.8 billion in ticket slips printed. Basketball was next at $1.5 billion, baseball third at $1 billion, and the “other” category (golf, hockey, boxing, MMA, etc.) at nearly $557 million.

While $5 billion is a massive number, the illegal market continues to thrive. The American Gaming Association says $6 billion will be wagered on this Sunday’s Super Bowl alone.