Casinos Hit Hard in November

November was not a good month for Nevada casinos—that much is clear in the Gaming Revenue Report released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board this morning.  I’ve done a little number-crunching and distilled what I’ve found into the usual monthly reports over at the Center for Gaming Research: a historic monthly comparison and a six-month summary.

First things first: from a revenue perspective, this was a terrible month, with an 11 percent decrease in win Statewide, and a 13 percent drop on the Las Vegas Strip. For a while, high-end play was bailing out much of the big players, with baccarat gains making up for a slowdown in slots. Not so in November: the total level of baccarat play fell by more than 16 percent. Maybe well-off gamblers were leery of the impending fiscal cliff; maybe they weren’t in a spending mood after the election; maybe Asian high rollers opted to play closer to home. Whatever the cause, November was a weak month for baccarat.

Outside of that, the results were better than they appear: actual levels of play, measured by slot machine and table handle, actually went up statewide. The average hold percentage, however, fell, which led to the drop in revenues. Think of it this way: players got luckier and kept more money in November.

True, that’s a moral victory at best, but it indicates that the overall demand for gambling is still there: it’s not growing by leaps and bounds anymore, but it’s steady. That’s more than can be said for Atlantic City, which posted its December results today; in 2012, Atlantic City casino win shrank by 8 percent, continuing a pattern that started in 2006, before the recession. If Nevada goes ahead to post a 1 to 2 percent gain for 2012, that will be lower than most projections, but definitely better than Atlantic City.

One of the big factors in November was a disastrous run for sports books (or, to see the positive, a superlative one for bettors). Boulder Strip casinos alone posted a net loss of $3.5 million in their sports books, which nearly erased its entire table games win for the month. It’s a reminder that the house always wins in the long term, but in the short term, things can get dicey.

The trend for the past six months doesn’t inspire much excitement. Over that period, casino win statewide is up by 4 percent, with the Las Vegas Strip outperforming at a 5 percent gain. Downtown Las Vegas has declined by 4 percent, while casinos on the Boulder Strip have seen their win shrink by 17 percent—a commentary, perhaps, on the still-fraught nature of the local economy.

It looks like Nevada will have a better 2012 than Atlantic City, which isn’t saying much, but the industry—and the state itself, which is reliant on the tax dollars it generates—is still looking for the rebound to start in earnest.