The main source for Douglas County's gaming revenue took an unusual downward turn in March after posting positve gains two months in a row, according to information released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board today.
The gaming win for Stateline casinos was down 14 percent in March, compared with the same month in 2011.
The Lake Tahoe casinos reported a $12.73 million win, down more than $2 million from last year. The casinos are still running 4.49 percent ahead of last year's gaming win, with $162 million going into the last quarter of the state's fiscal year.
The Carson Valley area, which includes Douglas County casinos outside of the Lake Tahoe basin, and those in Carson City, posted a 1.98 percent loss compared to March 2011. So far those casinos are running 1.29 percent behind last fiscal year.
Statewide, casinos posted a 10.8 percent decrease, though they've still managed to stay 2.16 percent ahead for the fiscal year.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he was still awaiting full details on the March report, but noted the state is ahead for the fiscal year even with a slow month.
"Of course we want to see numbers going up, but in the big picture this is one month in time, and that for the year we're still ahead," he said. "We're going to have some ups and downs with regard to this but over all Nevada is strong and we're doing well."
All the major Clark County markets were down in March. Downtown was off 11.9 percent and North Las Vegas was down 17.8 percent.
Washoe County fared better, posting a modest 0.45 percent gain, but South Lake Tahoe was also down in March, by 14 percent.
A big part of the story was that gamblers were luckier than usual in March, said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the control board. The percentage of money wagered by players but "held" by casinos was lower than average on games and tables such as 21 and roulette, he said.
If the March hold had matched the 12 month average hold, the statewide win would be down only 3.4 percent. The Strip would be down only 4.2 percent.
Another factor in the Strip numbers was baccarat, the card game played by high rollers. Casinos won $39.8 million from baccarat players in March, a nearly 52 percent decline from March 2011. The volume of play was down and the hold percentage was lower than average, Lawton said.
"The gamblers ran a little bit luckier," he said.
Another factor was that March 2012 is being compared to March 2011, which saw a 5.1 percent statewide gaming win and a 12.9 percent gain on the Strip.
A third was the CONEXPO-CON/AGG event in Las Vegas in March of 2011 that is only held every three years and so did not occur this year, Lawton said.
"So there were some things that added to why this was going to be a struggle," he said. "Even with this, fiscal year-to-date the state is still up 2.2 percent," he said. "And it was a strong quarter for the state. The state was up 4 percent for the quarter.
"My take is it's a bump in the road," Lawton said. "We had a strong quarter. We had five consecutive months of growth. The fundamentals were still there. Our volumes were still up in slots. Our total volume was still up when you combine tables and slots together. We just had a soft month when we look at those table games hold percentages."