Casino Transparency Comes in Several Flavors

In my day job as director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, I see a lot of casino-related numbers. Most of them are provided by the regulatory bodies that police gambling in the various
jurisdictions where it is legal. I know “jurisdiction” sounds like something a detective would say on a police procedural show, but it’s actually the most accurate word to use there, since it includes states, nations, and even a nation-state.

These jurisdictions have vastly different levels of transparency with the gaming numbers they collect. On one end of the spectrum is New Jersey. I’m sure you’ll agree that the Garden State is one of the finest in the union for lots of reasons, but you probably didn’t know that the quality of its publicly released gaming data is one of them. Since the 2010 transition from the Casino Control Commission to the Division of Gaming Enforcement as chief auditor, there’s been a decline in the quality of data released, but New Jersey still ranks far above other jurisdictions. Each month, the DGE releases a Monthly Gross Revenue Report that features details for each individual casino. These filings are incredibly detailed—you can learn how many quarter slot machines the Atlantic Club has, the hold percentage on roulette at the Borgata, and the amount wagered on Double Attack Blackjack at Resorts. You can use them to track, in real time, how well the different casinos are doing. True, it doesn’t give you the entire picture, but it’s incredibly helpful. (I’m thinking about this stuff today because I just produced a large but readable report detailing the financial performance of Atlantic City’s casinos for the first half of 2012.)

At the other end of the spectrum lies Singapore. The Casino Regulatory Authority of Singapore releases next-to-no information on the financial performance of its casinos. Trying to track the overall development of the industry is tough, because you need to dig into the financial filings of the companies that run the two casinos there. It’s still possible, but it’s not nearly as much fun as
having an “official” set of numbers.

Nevada is somewhere in the middle. Each month, the Gaming Control Board issues the Gaming Revenue Report, which for me personally means several hours of work harvesting the most useful data for inclusions in the two reports I produce each month, a comparative historical analysis looking at the monthly results for the month in question since 2004, and a rolling six-month analysis, which
captures the latest trend. There are no numbers for individual casinos; rather, the state’s 328 (as of the May report) nonrestricted gaming locations are divvied up into reporting areas such as “Las Vegas Strip,” “Washoe County Sparks Area” and “Elko County Balance of County.” To make matters slightly more complicated, the GCB does not issue a list verifying which casino is in which reporting area. Sometimes this is obvious: the Bellagio is clearly going to be in the Las Vegas Strip group. Other times, it is not; the M Resort is included in the Boulder Strip group even though it is on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Still, there are practical reasons against New Jersey-style (nearly) full disclosure: New Jersey only has 12 casinos, and its monthly revenue report is a compact 24 pages. If Nevada produced a document with a similar level of detail, it would run approximately 656 pages. Every month. Even if you are an unabashed casino statistics nerd, that might be too much of a good thing.

While it makes apples-to-apples comparisons difficult or impossible, the varying levels of transparency and disclosure in gaming statistical filings, at the very least, provide some challenges for the analyst and make the job interesting.