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September gaming numbers dismal

by Geoff Dornan
R-C Capitol Bureau

The chief source of Douglas County’s gaming fees posted a 16.8 percent decrease in revenue over last year.

The casinos at Stateline took in $24.5 million for the month of September, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. That’s a nearly 17 percent drop over the prior year.

The news was worse in the Valley where the combined revenues of Douglas County’s non-Tahoe casinos and all of Carson City was just $8.45 million. The combined total suffered what might be its largest drop in monthly wins with a 20.6 percent decrease over September 2007.

September was the ninth straight month with a decrease in total win for Nevada casinos.

“People are definitely spending less, and it comes back again to consumer confidence and how much of their disposable income people are willing to spend ” or whether they are going to spend at all,” Control Board analyst Frank Streshley said.

He said big factors in September that lowered the gambling activity were concerns over the massive federal bailout of the nation’s financial system and sharp declines in the stock market.

Also, there were no major special events to draw more tourists into the state.

He said that was especially damaging to the sports book numbers, where win fell 42 percent.

“Probably 95 percent of games are on Saturday and Sunday,” he said.

Beyond that, Streshley said there were no major events in September to draw tourists and a much more turbulent economy to discourage them from coming.

“Win” is a gross figure, with no operating costs or other expenses deducted. It represents casino revenue only, not hotel, restaurant or bar revenues.

Although the statewide drop from September of 2007 was just 5.4 percent, the actual drop was much worse because a chunk of the $1 billion total was from the final weekend in August, which didn’t get reported until September. That occurs when a month ends on a weekend day because the slot machine revenues aren’t totaled until the following Monday.

Streshley said September’s slot machine “coin in” was down more than 14 percent statewide, while total slot revenue, including the final weekend in August, was down just 3.6 percent.

In addition, September numbers were buoyed upward more than 3 percent by a 68 percent increase in Baccarat win to $76.6 million.

“If you exclude Baccarat, win would have been down 8.8 percent,” said Streshley. “But coin in is what really stood out.”

Washoe County took a big hit in September. Washoe’s 20.5 percent decrease compared to the same month of 2007 was the biggest drop there since gaming control began keeping monthly statistics in the early 1980s. For Washoe, September was also the ninth straight month of year-over-year declines with total win just barely reaching $77 million.

At North Shore casinos in Washoe, the decrease was 22.6 percent to just $3 million in winnings. And that compares to a September 2007 which was 5 percent down from the year before that.

Even Elko County, which has been the state’s least damaged reporting area because of the strength of the mining industry, suffered in September. Win there fell to $24 million ” 12.6 percent less than September 2007.

Streshley said there were a number of factors, including an “unfavorable calendar” with one less weekend than last year. In addition, last September was a strong month with total win up 7.5 percent.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750. The Associated Press contributed to this story.