Nevada gaming numbers slumped again in March, for the third month in a row.
Total win for the month was $1.04 billion, leaving the state another $15.2 million behind the forecasts used to build this biennium's state budget.
Gaming tax collections are now a total of $64.8 million behind budget projections.
Although the 1.5 percent decrease compared to March 2007 wasn't a big dip, figures released by the Gaming Control Board Friday clearly showed the nation's economic woes are reducing play by the average gambler.
Gaming analyst Frank Streshley said while total slot win was down only 2.4 percent for the month, the coin in - the amount gamblers actually played in the machines - was down $1 billion to $11.5 billion compared to the same month a year ago.
In addition, casino win from blackjack - the most popular table game for smaller betters - was down 14.8 percent. That is a $19 million decrease compared to the previous March. Baccarat winnings further confirm the reduced play by smaller betters. The main Baccarat games - which primarily cater to high end players - were off just 2.6 percent in March. But Streshley said mini-baccarat, which draws more small players, suffered a 31 percent decrease in total win.
"The economy is definitely having an effect on spending," said Streshley.
Those decreases were partially offset by a 26.5 percent increase in sports book winnings and a 5.4 percent increase in win from craps tables.
According to Streshley, casino operators have been telling him the number of players isn't off by much but that those players are betting less than in previous years.
He said Friday that may be changing, driven in part by gas prices, which didn't seem to be hurting the state's tourist traffic last year. The prices at the pumps, he said, "are now having a definite effect on people's spending habits."
Of the control board's 16 reporting areas, nine reported a decrease in win.
One of the larger drops was in the Carson Valley area, which includes valley portions of Douglas County as well as the capital. The win in March fell more than 18 percent - $2 million - to $8.9 million.
North Shore casinos at Lake Tahoe also suffered, absorbing a near 23 percent decrease in win to $2.4 million.
South Shore casinos at Stateline reported a whopping 54.6 percent increase to $29.8 million. But, Streshley said, part of that was probably February winnings which weren't reported until this month because February ended on a Friday. He said the same probably accounts for a 27 percent increase in North Las Vegas and the 32 percent increase in Mesquite.
Washoe County was down 7.4 percent overall to $84.5 million. It was Washoe's ninth straight month of declines.
Elko, however, continued to enjoy legitimate growth in casino win, fed by the continuing mining boom. Gold prices are over $900 an ounce and the metals in a penny or a nickel are now worth significantly more than the face value of those coins. Gaming win in Elko County rose 3.23 percent in March to $28.2 million.
At 27.4 percent, gaming percentage fees are the second largest source of general fund revenue to the state. The largest is sales and use taxes at 32.9 percent.
Between the two, they account for the lion's share of the budget shortfall, now estimated at $913.7 million total for the biennium ending June 30, 2009.
"Win" is a gross figure, with no operating costs or other expenses deducted. It represents casino revenue only, not hotel, restaurant or bar revenues.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.
Area March win Change
Statewide $1.039 billion -1.52 percent
Carson Valley $8.94 million -18.44 percent
South Shore $29.86 million 54.57 percent
North Shore $2.38 million -22.94 percent
Washoe County $84.5 million -7.36 percent
Reno $62.59 million -3.87 percent
Clark County $871.89 million -2 percent
Las Vegas Strip $517.47 million -4.82 percent