he total was the lowest monthly figure since July 2004, when casinos won us$ 813 million gamblers. June marked the 18th straight monthly decline as the gaming industry continued to be hampered by the sagging economy. Analysts said there’s no telling how low the bar will fall.
“We’re still hearing from the casino operators that weekends are doing well, but filling rooms during the middle of the week is an issue,” Frank Streshley, chief of the Gaming Control Board’s tax and license division, said Tuesday after the agency released gaming revenues for June. “People are coming, but they are just not spending,” he said.
On the Strip, gaming revenues fell 14.8 % during June to us$ 414.5 million, compared with us$ 486.4 million last year. For the first six months of the year, gaming revenues are down statewide almost 13.5 % while the money won from gamblers on the Strip is off 14.7 %.
June marked the end of fiscal year 2008-09 and gaming revenues for the 12 months were almost us$ 10.8 billion statewide, a 13.7 % decline compared with us$ 12.5 billion in fiscal 2007-08. On the Strip for the fiscal year, gaming revenues declined 15.3 % to us$ 5.65 billion, compared with us$ 6.67 billion in the previous fiscal year.
In a report to investors last month following a visit to Las Vegas, Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Joel Simkins said regional casino markets would recover sooner than gambling destinations like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. On Monday, Atlantic City said gaming revenues in July declined 12.7 % while two regional markets, Indiana and Missouri, showed increases during the month of 4.2 % and 4 % respectively.
He said the regional markets will benefit from an improvement in any unemployment trends. “Eventually Las Vegas will have a steady, measured recovery,” Simkins said. “However, with a more staggered wave of supply in future years we think competitive pressures on room pricing and gaming volumes will remain high. It could be many years before we see 2006/2007 level operating metrics.”
Streshley said June is traditionally a light month for gaming revenues. The double-digit decline, however, was the result of gamblers not spending as much money as they have in the past. The amount wagered on slot machines was us$ 9.1 billion, off 10.7 %. Meanwhile, gamblers bet us$ 1.8 billion on table games, a decline of 12.7 %. Streshley said the table games handle was the lowest single-month total since November 2003.
Gaming revenues suffered double-digit declines in every reporting area of Clark County except for downtown Las Vegas, which saw gaming revenues decline 5.6 %. Washoe County saw gaming revenues decline more than 7 %, the region’s 24th straight monthly decline.
Brent Pirosch, who analyzes the gaming industry for the Las Vegas office of CB Richard Ellis, said if the decline in home prices continues to slow, that could signal a turnaround for the locals gaming market. “If home prices do continue to stabilize, we expect to return to more traditional metrics to gauge gaming revenue,” he said, which includes employment numbers and income levels.
The state collected us$ 45.7 million in gaming taxes based on the June gaming revenues, a 13.5 % decrease compared with us$ 52.8 million collected during the same time period last year. There was one bright spot on the Strip. High-end play increased for the second straight month despite the absence of special events that normally correlates with a boost in baccarat volume.
Gamblers wagered us$ 367 million on baccarat, an increase of 13.3 % from a year ago. Casinos won us$ 47.7 million from the game, an increase of 6.5 %. Susquehanna gaming analyst Robert LaFleur said gaming revenues on the Strip would have been off more than 18 % if it wasn’t for the increase in baccarat play.
“This is consistent with commentary from Las Vegas operators during second quarter conference calls that reported higher-end play is holding up better than the rest of the market,” LaFleur told investors. “Recall, MGM Mirage reported that second quarter baccarat volume was up 17 %.”