Nevada Casino Revenue Tumbles 27% in January, but Market Shows Some Signs of Recovery

  • Casino revenue was down 27% to $761.8m, with Strip venues accounting for 91% of the drop
  • Some northern Nevada casinos saw growth because of an increase in domestic and drive-in play
  • Sportsbook stakes increased 29% for the month as operators cashed in on the Super Bowl
  • Caesars’ CEO has confirmed a rise in hotel bookings this week, prompting recovery hopes
The Welcome to Las Vegas sign in Nevada
Despite reporting a 27% year-on-year drop in revenue, Nevada’s casinos saw a few signs of recovery in January with growth in sports betting and the revenue of some northern casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A mixed bag of results

In its first monthly revenue report of 2021, Nevada’s gambling industry continued to suffer from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s casino revenue fell 27% year-on-year to a total of $761.8m.

Strip casinos accounted for 91% of the state’s decrease in casino win

The Nevada Gaming Control Board released the state’s gambling revenue data on Thursday. Board analyst Michael Lawton blamed the decrease partially on the poor performance of Las Vegas. He said Strip casinos accounted for 91% of Nevada’s decline in casino win.

It wasn’t all bad news, however. Although total casino revenue fell year-on-year, it represented an increase of 11% from December 2020. Casinos in some northern Nevada counties even reported revenue growth in comparison with January 2020. Meanwhile, the state’s sportsbooks posted strong results, with total stakes up 29% to $646.7m for the month.

Taking a closer look

The Nevada Gaming Control Board shared the first 2021 monthly gaming revenue report to its Twitter page:

According to the data, Nevada’s casinos generated $526.5m from slot machines, down 27% year-on-year. Revenue from table, counter, and card games saw an even steeper decline of 36% to $235.4m. Lawton attributed a large portion of the overall decline to a drop in baccarat play, which was down 74% at Strip casinos.

In contrast, casinos in Washoe County and Elko County in northern Nevada saw growth year-on-year. Lawton said casinos in these counties are more likely to focus on domestic and drive-in play, saving them from the impact of low travel numbers. On the flip side, casinos on the Las Vegas Strip are reliant on visitors from outside of the state.

On Wednesday, the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas reported a 64% decline in January visitor numbers year-on-year. The airport recorded just 1.5 million passengers in the month. In addition to low travel numbers, pandemic restrictions also caused problems for Vegas casinos, with venues restricted to 25% of capacity throughout January.

Sports betting growth countered some of the state’s overall gaming revenue decline. American football was the most popular sport among Nevada bettors in January, with the segment’s handle increase partly resulting from Super Bowl wagers. Players staked a total of $288.4m on the event, generating revenue of $25.6m. Over the entire month, mobile wagering accounted for more than 56% of total sportsbook handle.

Hopes still high for recovery

Despite the continued year-on-year decline of Nevada gaming revenue, casino executives are still hopeful for the market’s swift recovery. Speaking earlier this week, Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg said he believes the region could return to growth “much, much quicker” than expected.

almost like a light switch was flipped”

During a conference call on Thursday, Reeg described a dramatic increase in the number of Caesars hotel room bookings in late January and early February. He said hotels were experiencing their highest levels of activity since the end of the first lockdown in June. It was “almost like a light switch was flipped,” he commented.

Similarly, speaking with VegasSlotsOnline News earlier this month, Betfred exec Stephen Crystal expressed his own optimism regarding the market. The head of Betfred’s US and Canadian development said Las Vegas will come “roaring back” sooner than people think.

“Most people believe it’s going to be a two-, three-year climb back,” Crystal observed. “I am of the view that it will probably happen faster.”

In an analysis piece earlier this week, VegasSlotsOnline News assessed the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on casino markets across the globe, including Nevada and the wider US.