Share story

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada gambling revenue topped the psychologically important $1 billion threshold in January despite a 2.1 percent year-over-year decline that regulators attributed to the timing of the Chinese New Year and the number of weekend days that month.

Data released Wednesday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board show casinos statewide earned about $1.02 billion from gamblers, a decrease of $21.2 million. The sharpest decline among the markets monitored across the state was the Las Vegas Strip, whose winnings declined 8.9 percent to about $554.8 million.

“We were facing a very difficult comparison,” Mike Lawton, senior analyst with the control board, said of the statewide winnings. “Last January was up 12 percent.”

Lawton attributed the decline to the month having one fewer weekend day compared to January 2017 and the shift of the start of Chinese New Year to February. The timing of the holiday, which traditionally draws crowds of Asian gamblers, in turn, hurt baccarat play — the card game that can be a windfall or whiplash for casinos.

Game and table winnings, which include baccarat, were $359.5 million, a decrease of 10.5 percent when compared to January 2017. Baccarat winnings specifically were $113.2 million, down 28.3 percent. Baccarat volume decreased as well to $715.7 million, a drop of $220.3 million or 23.5 percent.

“If you remove baccarat from the equation, total win in the state would have increased by 2.7 percent or $23.6 million,” Lawton said.

The drop in baccarat winnings influenced revenue figures particularly on the Strip, where the game plays a larger role compared to the smaller markets across the state.

Las Vegas saw its eighth consecutive monthly drop in visitation in January. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Wednesday reported visitation dropped 3.3 percent to about 3.4 million. The agency said the decrease came “against a backdrop of strong room rates,” a temporary reduction in available rooms and changes in the schedules of conventions.

At the same time, McCarran International Airport saw its passenger count climb following a record year. About 3.8 million passengers went through the airport last month, a 2.7 percent increase compared to January 2017.

Gambling revenue at casinos in downtown Las Vegas increased 1.8 percent, bringing in about $56.6 million. Winnings also increased in Reno, up 13.9 percent to about $44.7 million, and at Stateline on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, up 14.9 percent to about $19.7 million.

Lawton said many of the smaller markets benefited from football bettors. Sports books across the state won $25.1 million last month, an increase of 215.8 percent. The books won $7.8 million from football betting, which compares to an $8.4 million loss during January 2017.

“That was primarily due to the fact that during the playoffs, the underdogs covered against the spread in almost every game,” Lawton said. “So, that really helps the sports book, and in turn, the public got beat there on those playoff games.”

The state benefited with about $68.7 million in percentage fees based on the taxable revenues generated in January. That’s a decrease of 8.8 percent compared to the same period last year.