|By Rod Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 11, 2005 - Nevada casinos kept up their record-ripping pace of growth in September with only their third-ever billion-dollar win.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Thursday reported September's statewide win was $1.01 billion, up 9.6 percent from $924.6 million a year earlier.
For the three months ended Sept. 30, the total gaming win for casinos was $3 billion, up 12.1 percent from $2.6 billion in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year.
The September win, the amount left in casino coffers after gamblers wagered $13.7 billion, marked the 14th straight month of record-setting growth.
Only in April, generally the strongest month for Las Vegas as a destination, and May, the first month after the opening of Wynn Las Vegas, have casino revenues previously passed the magic mark of $1 billion.
Gov. Kenny Guinn was impressed by the numbers.
"Nevada's economy continues to boom," he said. "Our gaming industry is doing a tremendous job of keeping the Silver State at the forefront as a tourist destination through expansion and marketing."
Frank Streshley, senior research analyst for the state Gaming Control Board, said the rapid growth was somewhat surprising. State officials had expected a slowdown because of soaring gasoline prices, but it never materialized.
Wynn Las Vegas, the newest resort on the Strip, helped keep consumer interest in Las Vegas as a destination strong, he said.
For the Strip in September, gaming win was $541.2 million, up 17.8 percent from $459.4 million in September 2004.
Table games outpaced slots, increasing to $359 million, up 25.7 percent, with $122.9 million won at blackjack, up 42.7 percent; $51.8 million won at baccarat, up 19.2 percent; and $31.7 million won at mini-baccarat, up 17.3 percent from a year earlier.
Streshley said that $81 million of the $89 million increase in casino win statewide came from table games.
September was an all-time high for blackjack, and the only time the volume of play in baccarat was higher was this past Chinese New Year's, he said.
The total casino win at slot machines, however, increased to $643.4 million, up 0.6 percent from September 2004.
Brian Gordon, a partner in the Las Vegas-based financial consulting firm Applied Analysis, said the results overall were fairly positive, but mixed given the sources of revenue for the month.
"The unusual thing we saw during the month was relatively slow growth in slot machine play," he said.
Streshley said part of the slow slot-win growth can be explained by the timing of collections from ticket in-ticket out machines, which should self-correct next month.
However, Gordon said operators are taking slot machines off gaming floors, which also contributed to the decrease.
"Operators are using space in more creative ways with restaurants, retain and refurbishments. The (high) level of room rates consumers are willing to pay demonstrates the relative value of visitors to Las Vegas markets compared with a few years ago," he said.
"If they have the discretionary income to afford elevated room rates, it suggests they have the capacity for increased spending," Gordon said.
He also said, "The numbers do confirm the industry remains strong through the third quarter, which also confirms the recent earnings reports.
"We have yet to see any indications of a slowdown which bodes well for local gaming operators," Gordon said.
He attributed the strength of the Nevada gaming market to effective marketing campaigns and publicity for Las Vegas as a destination.
"Also, we've had an increase in room inventory at the Bellagio and Caesars Palace which has expanded the supply side of the equation," he said.
Strip revenues posted the second-best month on record, with a win of $541.2 million, up 17.8 percent from $459.4 million a year earlier. For Clark County, the win was $837.1 million, up 11.1 percent from $753.1 million in September 2004.
Mesquite had an all-time record win of $12.7 million, up 27.8 percent from $10 million a year earlier.
The win increased to $24 million, up 4.7 percent from $23 million in North Las Vegas; to $49.7 million in Laughlin, up 4.7 percent from $47.4 million; to $99.1 million, up 7 percent from $92.6 million in Washoe County; to $21.1 million, up 2.5 percent from $20.6 million in Elko County; and to $11.3 million, up 11.6 percent from $10.1 million in the Carson Valley area.
The gaming win dropped in only three areas of the state: North Las Vegas, where it dropped 7.2 percent to $24.0 million from $23 million; the Boulder Strip, where it dropped to $71.1 million from $73.6 million; and South Lake Tahoe, where it fell to $31.1 million, down 13.9 percent from $36.1 million in September 2004.
In October, the state collected $68.1 million in gaming taxes based on taxable revenues generated in September. That was a 10.7 percent increase from $61.5 million a year earlier.
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