Gaming Revenue: Casinos Have Best-Ever April - Wednesday 14th of June 2006

by Howard Stutz

Las Vegas Gaming Wire

NEVADA For the first time in 2006 Nevada casinos didn't win more than $1 billion from gamblers in a given month.

But don't think for one minute that casinos suffered during April.

Nevada gaming regulators said Friday the state's gambling halls had their largest gaming win ever for the month of April, collecting $989.8 million from customers. The figure was a 12.7 percent increase, eclipsing last year's total of $878.3 million.

"Going into April, we actually anticipated the numbers being much softer," said Frank Streshley, the Gaming Control Board's senior research analyst. "Usually, April is one of the softer months and given that Easter fell in April this year, we just didn't think it was going to be that strong."

In addition to Easter, Streshley said the April 15 tax deadline sometimes causes potential casino customers to hold back on discretionary spending.

Gaming win for January, February and March topped $1 billion statewide and analysts hinted the total could return in that category in May.

During April, gamblers wagered $13.6 billion statewide; $11.4 billion on slots, a 3.3 percent increase from a year ago; and $2.2 billion on table games, up 12.7 percent from last April.

In Clark County overall, gaming win jumped 13.9 percent to $824.2 million, compared with $723.5 million a year ago. On the Strip, casinos won $516.4 million, a 15.4 percent increase compared with $447.6 million in April 2005.

Streshley said that Las Vegas numbers in April included a full month of operations from Wynn Las Vegas, which celebrated its first birthday on April 28. Also, the $925 million Red Rock Resort in Summerlin opened April 18, giving a boost to the overall Clark County numbers during two weeks of operation.

In the 12 months since Wynn opened, Streshley said Strip casinos have increased their gaming win 17.1 percent.

Bear Stearns gaming analyst Joe Greff, in a note to investors, said Nevada casinos exceeded last year's figures despite having an unfavorable calendar, nine weekend days as compared with 10 weekend days in April 2005.

"The locals market posted very impressive gains," Greff said.

"We think this strength bodes well for Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming Corp. and supports our outperform ratings on shares of both. We also note that this robust growth was generated while Station Casinos' new Red Rock property was only open for two weeks in April," Greff also said.

On the Strip, baccarat wagering and win both increased despite the lack of any special events or holidays that would attract high-end customers. Baccarat win was $55.8 million, an increase of 15.3 percent compared with $48.4 million in April 2005. Gamblers wagered $382 million on baccarat, 37 percent more than the $278 million wagered a year ago.

Streshley wouldn't credit Wynn Las Vegas or any other individual Strip property as the reason for the increase.

"There is nothing to tie it to," he said. "It just seems like individual players came to town."

In downtown Las Vegas, where the monthly gaming win had shown a year-over-year decrease in nine of the last 11 months, casinos had a relatively flat April, winning $52.3 million from gamblers, compared with $52 million in April 2005.

Statewide, gaming win increased in areas that had been down in recent months because of inclement weather.

In Reno, casinos won $65.9 million, an 8.2 percent increase compared with $60.9 million last year. In South Lake Tahoe, casinos won $28.7 million, a 21.9 percent jump compared with $23.6 million a year ago.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said April's gaming continued to fuel the state's primary revenue source.

"As we grow closer to the end of the current fiscal year, the fact that April's gaming win is an all-time record for the month speaks volumes for Nevada's continuing legacy as one of the world's top tourist destinations," Guinn said in a statement.

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