Nevada resorts finished December with a solid 9.6 percent increase in total win, logging the second billion-dollar month of the year.
But some of the smaller markets, including the Carson Valley Area, didn’t fare as well.
The story behind those results was baccarat, which recorded its second-highest total win in state history — $243 million — from a total of $1.6 billion in wagers (third-highest in history). Slot win still brings in more total revenue, but it essentially has been flat for several years, growing an average of just 0.6 percent annually. The share of total win from slots fell to 60.6 percent in 2013.
The “win” for December is what was left in casino coffers after gamblers wagered $12.4 billion on cards and dice games, slot machines and sports betting during the month. A breakdown shows gamblers plunked $9 billion into slot and video poker machines, while $3.4 billion was bet on card and other games.
Statewide, Nevada casinos won $11.1 billion in 2013 — a 2.6 percent increase over 2012. That is the first time total win has exceeded $11 billion since 2008, but it’s still 15 percent less than the peak year of 2007, which produced $12.8 billion in winnings.
According to Gaming Control Board Analyst Mike Lawton, five of the seven markets in Southern Nevada were actually down this year but the baccarat winnings on the Strip pulled the totals up into the black.
Over the past decade, the state’s resorts have become much more reliant on Baccarat. That game now provides 14.3 percent of all state gaming win and 36.4 percent of game and table win. In 2003, Baccarat was just 3.8 percent of total win and 11.7 percent of game and table win.
Lawton said heavy baccarat play was driven by an unusually strong Strip events calendar in December: Beyonce at the MGM, Britney Spears opening her show, a UFC championship fight, Bruno Mars at the Cosmopolitan and Maroon 5 at Mandalay Bay.
Baccarat play was so strong that, if it were removed from the month’s totals, the increase would be cut in half to 4.9 percent.
The Carson Valley Area, which includes valley portions of Douglas County as well as the capital, was down 1.85 percent in December to $7.7 million.
The Carson reporting area saw a decrease not only in table game play but slot play. For the calendar year, Carson was down 0.3 percent to $97.8 million in total win.
South Shore casinos at Lake Tahoe suffered badly in December, but only because December 2012 was such a strong month. The explanation again comes down to baccarat — included in what is called “other games” in that market. The baccarat take was huge a year ago, but it made almost no profit for the Stateline casinos this past December.
The same was true on South Shore “21” tables, which fell 56 percent from a year ago. The result: South Shore win fell nearly 25 percent from $20.9 million to $15.8 million in December.
Lawton said it was simply a matter of player luck this year. The amount played on both games and slots at South Shore was actually up, he said.
“They just ran unlucky,” he said of the casinos.
For the year, South Shore casinos raked in $208.7 million — just 2 percent less than the previous year.
North Lake Tahoe casinos had a very good year, finishing 2013 with $27.1 million in winnings — a 4.6 percent increase from the previous year. North Shore finished the year with a 16.85 percent increase over the December 2012.
Lawton said game and table win at those casinos increased more than 44 percent this past December, erasing a 19 percent decrease in the same month of 2012. All of that increase came from a more than 200 percent increase in “21” table winning as the casinos kept more than 17 percent of every dollar bet, compared with 12.7 percent in 2012.
One positive note was the Reno market, which was up 4.8 percent in 2013. Lawton said the addition of a Barrett-Jackson auto auction at Hot August Nights and the fact both the men’s and women’s ABC bowling congress tournaments were in Reno last year are responsible for the increase. Reno casinos won $550.4 million in 2013.
Sports pool win also set a record in 2013, netting $202.8 million.