|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Mar. 10, 2007 - January's statewide gaming win fell almost 2.1 percent when compared with what casinos collected from gamblers in the same month a year ago.
But alarm bells aren't being sounded.
A year ago, state casinos recorded an all-time monthly record gaming win of $1.14 billion, which was a more than a 24 percent jump over the previous year's figure.
Using that comparison, Friday's release of the January 2007 figure, $1.117 billion, doesn't seem very dismal.
"The first thing you have to focus on is the tremendous month the state had in January 2006, especially on the Strip," said Frank Streshley, senior research analyst for the Gaming Control Board, the agency that compiled the statistics. "There were several factors that we were aware of going into January, so these numbers are not much of a surprise."
Streshley said the January 2007 calendar, in which there was one less weekend day than last year, and New Year's Day falling on a Monday, drove down the revenue.
The largest impact, however, was Chinese New Year. In 2006 the holiday, in which baccarat tables inside Strip casinos are traditionally packed with free-spending Asian customers, was at the end of January. This year, Chinese New Year was in the middle of February.
"We would look for solid February gaming volume on the Las Vegas Strip, which should be positively impacted by the timing shift of Chinese New Year," Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Bill Lerner said in a note to investors.
During January, the money wagered by gamblers was down throughout the state; slot machine customers gambled $10.8 billion, down 1.1 percent, while the amount bet on table games was $2.6 billion, down 9 percent.
"That was very much reflective of the calendar," Streshley said. "Most of the business associated with New Year's fell in December while having one less weekend day impacted the amount played."
While the gaming win from slot machines was $740.6 million, up by 0.4 percent, the revenues from table games fell 6.4 percent to $362.6 million.
Statewide, the gaming win was off in almost every reported market.
On the Strip, casinos won $605.4 million in January, a drop of 3.5 percent from $627.5 million 2006. Casinos in Clark County won $967.8 million, off 2 percent compared with $987.4 million last year.
Lerner said that despite what on paper was a down month, he was bullish on the performance of the Las Vegas market.
"Overall, we think gaming revenues on the Las Vegas Strip suggest continued strong health, despite modest levels of visitation growth on limited new room supply," Lerner said. "Further, a limited room supply pipeline over the next few years should lead to a favorable operating environment going forward."
Downtown Las Vegas had its eighth straight month of declining revenues with casinos winning $54 million from gamblers, off 5.8 percent compared with $57.3 million a year ago.
The only area of Clark County that showed an increase was the location covering the balance of the county, where casinos reported $123.3 million in revenues during January, a 12.6 percent increase compared with $109.4 million a year ago.
Lerner estimated that the locals casino market, which accounts for much of the balance of the county numbers, was up a little more than 3 percent in January, predominantly due to the year-old South Point and Red Rock Resort, which celebrates its one-year anniversary in April.
Other areas of Clark County with predominantly local customer play saw their gaming revenues fall from ago. Casinos on the Boulder Strip had a 5.4 percent drop in gaming win while casinos in North Las Vegas were off 3.3 percent.
Streshley cited the fee collections for the first eight months of the 2007 fiscal year, which now total $536.9 million, a little more than 1 percent above the state's Economic Forum' forecast.
"Regardless of the slow start to 2007 the general economic conditions in our state's gaming industry remain strong and we look for another record year," Gov. Jim Gibbons said in a statement.
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