U.S. Land Gambling Scene Remains Bleak
December 11, 2008 (InfoPowa News) — Several hospitality and entertainment publications are commenting on the latest U.S. casino resort statistics released this week, with one report complaining that the Vegas crowds were evident … but they were not spending at previous levels.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that October numbers were bad, with visitors down 10.2 percent from last October, although there were still 3 million visitors to the city. Hotel occupancy was down 8.5 percent for the same period; average room rate was $115.68, 14.3 percent less than last October.
Hotel occupancy in Vegas is down 3.2 percent year to date, which means it's been sliding more heavily since the big crunch hit in September.
Strip gaming revenue was 25.8 percent off last October's; downtown's down 19.6 percent, which indicates that players are being more parsimonious with their dollars.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported mid-week that land casinos in the gambling state won approximately $905 million from gamblers in October 2008, a significant 22.3 percent less than they did in the same period in 2007.
Control Board senior research analyst Frank Streshley said it was the largest year-over-year decline since the state began recording on a monthly basis back in the 1980s, blowing away the previous record decline of 15.2 percent in May this year.
Streshley says there are two reasons for the record decline. The first and most obvious is the recession and the resulting acceleration in the decline in spending and visitation. The second is that the comparable month, October 2007, was the best month on record in terms of statewide gambling win ($1.16 billion), capping off three or four years of strong growth. Looking ahead, he sees the percentage decreases coming in lower for the rest of the fiscal year.
"Percentage-wise, I'd be surprised to see these double digit declines continuing [because] now we will start comparing to some pretty weak months; November of last year was down 14 percent on the previous November," Streshley says. "So percentage-wise it should flatten out but dollar-wise we will be in a difficult period for some time."
In Clark County, which accounts for most of the total, gaming win was down 24.3 percent to $757.5 million. On the Las Vegas Strip, which accounts for the bulk of the Clark County total, gaming win fell 25.8 percent to $475 million from $639.8 million in October 2007, the statewide results from which were 9.6 percent ahead of October 2006.
Gaming win in Downtown Las Vegas, which had been dropping more quickly than the Strip, came in at 48.3 million, down 19.6 percent from $60.1 million in October 2007. Gaming win on the Boulder (Highway) Strip came in at $62.9 million, off 28.2 percent from $87.6 million in October 2007. The biggest year-over-year decrease was seen in North Las Vegas. Gamblers lost $18.5 million there in October 2008, down 34.5 percent when compared to October 2007.
In Washoe County, home to the Reno, Sparks, and North Lake Tahoe markets, gaming win was $78.1 million in October 2008, down 9 percent from $85.8 million in October 2007. The overall percentage averages out a 7.4 percent decline in Reno, which accounts for about three quarters of the total, a 10 percent decline in Sparks, and a 15.6 percent decline in North Lake Tahoe.
The only market to post a gain was the Carson Valley area, which saw its October 2008 gaming win increase by 3.47 percent to approximately $10 million.
For the fiscal year-to-date (July 1 to October 31), statewide gaming win totals $3.84 billion, which is 12.5 percent below the same 2007 period. Clark County is running 13.4 percent behind 2007 for the fiscal year-to-date, the Strip is 13.8 percent behind and Downtown is behind 13.7 percent.
North Las Vegas is running 16.9 percent behind last year's pace. The Fiscal YTD decline in Washoe County and the individual submarkets therein are very similar to the October 2008 results. The Carson Valley area remains 7 percent behind for the year despite the positive results in October.
Over in Atlantic City the news was equally depressing as local operators reported that they had won 7.8 percent less from gamblers in November than they did a year ago.
Half a month with a smoking ban, coupled with a severe economic downturn that has left people with little money to spend or risk in the casinos, caused yet another dismal month for the gambling halls.
Only two of the 11 casinos reported an increase, while six reported double-digit decreases.
Business Week reported that the November numbers constituted another ominous sign for two of the most endangered casinos in Atlantic City.
Resorts Atlantic City, which missed an interest payment last month that could lead to default on its loans and jeopardize the future of the city's first casino, was down 23.5 percent. Its sister property, the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort, fared even worse, posting a decline of more than 30 percent for the month.
All told, the casinos won $345.5 million in November. Slot revenue fell by 12.4 percent to $228.4 million, while table game revenues increased by 2.8 percent to $117.1 million.
For the first 11 months of the year, casinos won $4.2 billion, down 6.7 percent from the same period in 2007.
This will be the second straight year that casino revenues declined in Atlantic City after 28 years of consecutive increases, Business Week points out.
Trump Marina Hotel Casino, which is in the process of being sold to a New York developer and former protege of Donald Trump, was down more than 27 percent. The Showboat Casino Hotel was down 14.3 percent; Bally's Atlantic City was down 14 percent, and the Tropicana Casino and Resort, which will soon be taken into bankruptcy court to be sold, was down 10.8 percent.
Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was down 9.7 percent, and the perennial industry leader, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, was down 2.9 percent.
The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was virtually flat for the month.
The three Trump casinos also skipped this month's interest payment to bond holders, although they are allowed to do so under their agreement with investors. Their parent company, Trump Entertainment Resorts, is trying to restructure its debt.
Harrah's Resort Atlantic City has fared better — it saw a 9.4 percent increase.