Nevada Gaming Win Plummets In May By Double Digits, Down 18.2 Percent on Strip

CARSON CITY – Nevada gaming revenues took a big tumble in May, shrinking by nearly $100 million over the same month a year ago to $885 million for a 10.1 percent decline, the state Gaming Control Board reported today.

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the control board, cited two primary reasons for the double-digit decline: May 2011 was an exceptionally strong month, so the comparison with May 2012 was expected to be a challenge; and high roller card players on the Las Vegas Strip had exceptionally good luck.

The two factors led to an 18.2 percent revenue decline on the Strip to $475.1 million in May over May 2011.

The decline came even as a number of strong special events, including the Chinese Labor Day celebration and a Floyd Mayweather fight versus Miguel Cotto on May 5, lured visitors to Nevada and the Strip in particular.

The “comp” to May 2011 was a challenge because the May 2011 statewide win was 16.1 percent, and the Strip was up 28.9 percent. May 2011 also saw the largest win recorded by the state since September 2008. Since May 2011, there has been only one month where the win exceeded that amount, in January 2012.

Lucky gamblers were the other factor.

“The state was definitely negatively impacted by some really, really poor performance in table games,” Lawton said. “Table games win of $282.7 million was down 26.4 percent, or $101.6 million.”

Baccarat win of $74.3 million was down 48 percent, or $68.5 million in May compared to May 2011. The hold on the game, or the amount retained by the casino out of all the money wagered, was only 8.1 percent versus 12.2 percent last year.

“We don’t normally expect to see single-digit hold percentages for baccarat,” he said.

The hold was low on 21, the other big card game, as well, Lawton said. The win was $72.4 million, down 29 percent, or $29.5 million. The hold was 8.6 percent, versus nearly 12 percent in May 2011. It was the lowest 21 hold percentage ever seen going back to the 1980s, he said.

“We really noticed some statistical anomalies with these table games, and that happens,” Lawton said. “The table games are a lot more volatile than the slot machines. And every once in awhile you will have months where this happens. It’s just unfortunate on a month when the comparison was so difficult.”

There were some bits of good news in the monthly report and in related information. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported today that visitor volume was up in May, by 2.4 percent to 3.45 million visitors over May 2011.

And some smaller casino markets fared well, including a 20.1 percent gain in Laughlin and a 9.2 percent increase on the Boulder Strip. Downtown Las Vegas was down, but only by 2.1 percent.

Washoe County was down 5.2 percent, a better performance than the state overall.

“The Las Vegas locals had a good month, up 6.59 percent, which is good,” Lawton said. “For the calendar year the Las Vegas local markets are up 5.43 percent.”

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Audio clips:

Gaming Control Board analyst Michael Lawton says poor performance in table games was a major factor in the May decline:

071212Lawton1 :14 or $101.6 million.”

Lawton says table games are more volatile than slot machines:

071212Lawton2 :27 was so difficult.”