Nevada Casinos See March Rebound as Revenue Tops $1bn for First Time Since Pandemic Began

  • Nevada saw its highest monthly gaming win in eight years in March, amounting to $1.07bn
  • Las Vegas Strip casinos drove growth, with revenue up 67% y-o-y to a total of $501.4m
  • The return of March Madness fueled the third-highest number of sports bets in state history
  • Pent-up demand and easing of restrictions played a part in the rebound, according to analyst
Woman playing slot machine
Nevada’s casino industry bounced back from the pandemic in March, with gaming revenue topping $1bn for the first time since the crisis began last year. [Image:]

The recovery continues

After a difficult year, things are certainly looking brighter for casinos in the gambling capital of the US. In March, Nevada gaming revenue surpassed $1bn for the first time since the pandemic began, increasing 73% year-on-year.

the highest gaming win figure since February 2013

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) released its March figures on Tuesday, with clear signs of a rebound for casinos in Las Vegas and across the state. March’s $1.07bn total represents the highest monthly gaming win figure since February 2013, and an increase of more than 4% in comparison to March 2019.

March Madness also contributed to a successful month for Nevada sports betting. Sportsbooks in the state processed $641m in bets for the month, bringing the US’s total post-PASPA handle to more than $50bn for the first time.

A closer look at the figures

According to the NGCB data, casinos on the Las Vegas Strip led the way in the state’s March rebound, generating $501.4m in gaming win for the month. That represents an increase of 67% from March 2020 and growth of 44% month-on-month.

Las Vegas was not the only market to see growth. Five other areas across the state set all-time records for casino winnings. These include downtown Las Vegas, the Boulder Highway area, the rest of Clark County outside of Las Vegas, Elko County, and the Carson City area.

the second-highest slot win total in state history

Slot machines contributed a large portion of Nevada’s revenue for the month, with casinos generating the second-highest slot win total in state history at $772m. Baccarat play also boosted profits, with revenue up 59% year-on-year to a total of $68.2m.

Meanwhile, the state collected $96.7m in taxes from March gaming revenue, up 161% from 2020.

March Madness takes hold

Because of the public health threat of COVID-19 last year, the NCAA president canceled March Madness 2020 for the first time since 1939. It returned with a bang last month and saw Nevada sportsbooks capitalizing on pent-up demand, taking the state’s third-highest number of monthly sports bets ever.

basketball handle reached $501.5m

Understandably, basketball was the focal point for Nevada betting in March. Total basketball handle reached $501.5m last month, accounting for 78% of the state’s total sports bets. The figure represents an increase of just over 1% from the year before the pandemic starting March 2019.

Mobile betting handle accounted for 60% of Nevada’s overall total, coming in at $385.1m for the month. That is a significantly smaller percentage than the US’s other largest markets. Mobile betting accounted for 92% of Pennsylvania handle last month, and 91% in New Jersey.

Reasons for the recovery

As reported by AP News, Michael Lawton, senior Nevada Gaming Control Board analyst, described March as “the perfect storm for gaming activity” in the state. In his reasoning, he pointed to post-pandemic demand, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and the NCAA basketball tournament, also noting the benefit of pandemic stimulus payments on customer spend.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak eased Nevada occupancy limits from 35% to 50% on March 15, providing the state’s casinos with 17 days at half capacity last month. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has since announced plans for a further easing of restrictions on May 1, with Las Vegas casinos set to operate at 80% from that point.

Starting May 1, Governor Sisolak intends to transfer control of county restrictions to local governments. According to his roadmap announced earlier this month, the governor expects all casinos across Nevada to return to full capacity by June 1.

In addition to increased capacity limits, Nevada also saw growth in travel numbers. On Monday, McCarran International Airport announced it handled almost 2.6 million passengers in March, an increase of around 961,000 from February. While this figure is down 41% from March 2019, it represents a rise of 25% year-on-year.

Despite these beneficial conditions for casino operators, Lawton still expressed surprise over the sheer pace of recovery. “I don’t believe anyone imagined this level of gaming win,” the analyst commented.

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