Chinese New Year, Strip increase Feb. gaming win

Baccarat play driven by Chinese New Year handed casinos a 15 percent increase in total win for February compared with January.

Last year, January received the benefit of high-roller play from the annual celebration. As a result, win this January — without Chinese New Year — was down 12.4 percent.

Overall, the $1.07 billion total was the highest since December 2007 and Game and Table win made up more than half of that at $531.5 million — an all time record for the state. Baccarat made up $263.9 million of that — a 131 percent increase over the same month a year ago.

In addition to Chinese New Year, there were a number of special events that helped out the Strip including a UFC heavyweight championship fight, the opening of Nobu Tower at Caesars Palace and the Villa Prive private gaming salon at the Bellagio along with Cee Lo Green’s opening at Planet Hollywood.

The combination drove win on the Strip up 31.2 percent compared to a year ago — which was fortunate for the state since nearly every other reporting area in the state was down in February.

The “win” is what was left in casino coffers after bettors wagered $12 billion. A breakdown shows $3.4 billion was wagered on card and table games like baccarat, and another $8.6 billion was pumped into slot and video poker machines.

The only other bright spots were the two Lake Tahoe markets. South Lake Tahoe reported a 7.8 percent increase to $16.3 million. That is on top of a 10 percent increase a year ago and the fifth increase in the past six months for south shore casinos. Most of the increase came from a $1 million increase in slot win, primarily because the hold increased from 6 percent to 7 percent.

North Lake Tahoe had a dramatic 35.26 percent increase to $2.2 million for the month. Gaming Control Board Analyst Mike Lawton said game and table win increased 132 percent — about $500,000 mainly because 21 win returned to a more normal hold percentage of about 14 percent. A year ago, that percentage was just 6.7 percent for the five north shore casinos.

For the rest of the state, Lawton said an unfavorable calendar hurt total win. Last February was leap year, giving casinos one additional day compared to this February. Lawton said that makes a 3.5 percent difference, all other things being equal.

That difference showed clearly in the Carson Valley area, which includes valley portions of Douglas County as well as the capital. Total win was down 3.37 percent to $7.59 million.

Washoe County was off 1.2 percent for the month — a difference of $732,000. But Washoe was up against a tough comparison since February a year ago was one of that area’s rare positive months — up 8.3 percent over the year before. Washoe casinos have been down now for five consecutive months.

It showed in other small markets as well including Churchill County where total win was down 13.76 percent to $1.69 million. Games play in the 10 non-restricted gaming locations was down 40 percent. While games play in Churchill is only a tiny percentage of the monthly total, slot play was also down dramatically — 12.5 percent to $1.65 million.

The shorter calendar also showed up statewide in the fact that slot win was down 5.2 percent to $542 million and slot volume off some $400 million to $8.6 billion.

February also marked a big month for sports books because the Super Bowl occurred during the month and featured heavy action between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. Sports books won $14.2 million, up 24 percent from the previous year. On football wagers, the win amount was $2.2 million, up 38 percent.

For the fiscal year that began July 1, statewide winnings are up 2.3 percent.

Nevada collected nearly $62 million in taxes based on the February casino winnings. That’s down 12 percent from a year earlier.

Win totals and tax collections don’t always correlate because while casinos record winnings that were made on credit pay, they don’t pay taxes on those amounts until patrons actually pay up. Almost all baccarat betting is done on credit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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