Nevada Casino Gaming Revenue Plummets Down 40% In March

Posted on May 4, 2020

Last week the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that the amount of money won by Nevada casinos in March fell by almost 40% compared to the same period last year. Gaming revenue for the state was $618 million in March. That’s a decrease of 39.57% from March 2019 when casinos won $1.022 billion.

The reason for the huge decrease in gaming revenue for Nevada is the closure of all casinos in the state on March 17 to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Different drops for different regions

Nevada casinos in different parts of the state have different types of customers. In fact, even casinos in the Las Vegas area have various gambling guests. High rollers and large casino corporations dominate the Vegas Strip. Downtown Las Vegas and the suburban casinos cater to a variety of tourists and residents.

Not only are there different casino operators, but the guests play varying games and have varying budgets. Casinos on the Vegas Strip won $299.9 million from gaming customers in March. That’s a decrease of 45.67% from last year.

Meanwhile, casinos in downtown Las Vegas weren’t hit as hard on a percentage basis. These casinos won $43 million. That’s only a decrease of 25.92% from the previous year.

Nevada sports betting demolished

The amount of money won by Nevada sportsbooks was crushed before casinos were even closed. The NBA suspended its season five days before casinos were told to close their doors. Other major sports, including the NCAA basketball tournament, aka March Madness, followed the NBA’s lead.

March is chock full of college basketball games for bettors. Between the large volume of college basketball conference tournament games and the 63 games (plus play-in games) during March Madness, Nevada sportsbooks lost one of the largest cash generators of the year. For comparison, the entire NCAA basketball tournament typically sees as much money wagered as the Super Bowl.

Nevada sportsbooks saw a massive 76.3% decrease in its sports betting handle compared to last March. It was the lowest monthly handle for Nevada since 1993. March Madness typically draws less-experienced sports bettors, which means that sportsbooks typically win more of the wagers placed.

Without March Madness, Nevada sportsbooks only won $1.5 million from $141 million wagered in March — a 95.5% drop from a year ago.

April gaming revenue will be much worse

April’s gaming revenue in Nevada will be much worse. While casinos were closed in the middle of March, they’ve remained closed for the entire month of April. Additionally, video poker and slot machines in bars, taverns, supermarkets and gas stations have also been turned off.

The only gaming revenue in Nevada for the month will come from one of the following sports wagering apps that remained open for the month:

  • BetMGM
  • Caesars
  • Circa Sports
  • William Hill

These four sportsbooks were only available to current customers. Players must visit a brick-and-mortar casino first to set up a new sports wagering account. Since casinos were closed, no new accounts could be opened and funded.

Nevada doesn’t have full online casinos like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, but it does have an online poker website. WSOP.com was also operational, while brick-and-mortar casinos were closed in April.

Nevada casinos reopening

Nevada casinos won’t reopen on until mid to late May at the earliest. Gov. Steve Sisolak says casinos will be able to open again during the third or fourth phase of his reopening plan.

Regardless of the opening date for brick-and-mortar casinos, the four sportsbook apps will have some company. A Westgate SuperBook representative says the app will be turned on again on May 7.

When casinos do open for business again, don’t expect to see a return to normal business right away. During its first-quarter earnings call, MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said the company would open properties in phases. Bellagio and New York-New York will be MGM Resorts’ first two Las Vegas casinos to reopen. There could be another casino opening depending on demand.

While MGM Resorts doesn’t have a health and safety plan for reopening yet, the company will have one in the next two weeks. They say that casino floors will have to be reconfigured to allow proper spacing. This should mean fewer table games and machines will be available right away. As a result, gaming revenue should be lower even after the casinos open.

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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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