Nevada Casinos Slump But Sportsbooks Boom

Nevada casinos gaming revenue fell through the floor in November but sports books are busier than ever

Regular readers of these pages know all too well how badly COVID-19 has affected the gambling industry. The Australian gambling sector is one of the hardest hit, but matters are worse in Nevada.

Nevada is often referred to as the Mecca of gambling. It has massive, bustling casinos as far as the eye can see. They say New York is the city that never sleeps, but that applied to Las Vegas, Nevada, too.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board publishes figures each month highlighting gaming revenue across the state. The latest figures make sorry reading across the board with the exception of sports betting.

Total gaming revenue weighed in at US$771.2 million for November, which is 17.8% down on November 2019. This sum is almost US$50 million down on the October 2020 figures.

New Capacity Rules Demolish Nevada Casinos’ Revenue

Governor Steve Sisolak is to blame for the huge decline in gaming revenue. Sisolak previously ordered all Nevada casinos to operate at 50% capacity. He halved that again on November 23 meaning casinos in Nevada operated at 25% capacity. These restrictions remain in place until at least January 15 meaning December’s figures will be awful.

Sisolak acted decisively to prevent a full lockdown as seen in early 2020. He went on record to state he will order a full lockdown if COVID-19 cases continue rising.

The famous Las Vegas Strip was worst hit. Casinos on the Strip are more reliant on out-of-town customers than Downtown. Gaming revenue on the Strip plummeted almost 33% to US$349.8 million.

Revenue from pokies in Nevada dropped 14.3% to US$528.5 million. Every product, except sports betting, dropped like a stone.

Baccarat accounted for US$42 million in revenue (down 44.4%) with blackjack making up US$58.1 million (down 32.6%). Craps didn’t fare much better with US$26.9 million (down 15%) neither did roulette US$14.2 million (down 55.4%).

Sports Betting Sets New Record

Sports betting in Nevada was the only saving grace for casinos. Punters turned out in force and generated US$61.8 million in revenue, doubling last year’s figures. This means Nevada sportsbooks enjoyed more revenue than any casino table game.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board said Nevada casinos had an overall win rate of 10.1%. Betting on football (NFL) hit record levels with US$502 million worth of bets processed. This is partly due to an extra Sunday of NFL action thanks to a five Sunday month.

Betting on sports across the state of Nevada weighed in at US$609.6 million. This is an impressive sum but a US$50 million decline on last month’s record.

Sports betting continues to be something of a cash cow for licensed outlets in the United States. New Jersey reported astronomical revenue of US$931.6 million in November 2020. This is a new state record and national record, way more than the $803 million recorded in October.

Some 93.6% of that massive sum stemmed from New Jersey residents places bets via digital channels.

What Next For the Las Vegas Gambling Industry?

COVID-19 continues to batter Sin City relentlessly. The state has seen 227,046 cases and 3,146 deaths since reporting began. Some 1,868 tests came back positive on January 1, with another 10 reported deaths.

An average of 1,853 new cases per day is a 28% decrease from the average two weeks earlier. Cases are falling but are still extremely high compared to some part of the U.S. and across the world.

Clark County is where the vast majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths occur. It is this part of Nevada where Las Vegas is. One in 13 Las vegas residents has COVID-19 or has had it, which is an incredible thought.

It is difficult to see Sisolak relaxing capacity restrictions any time soon. A full lockdown should be avoided if cases continue to fall. It will, however, take a long time before we see packed casinos in Las Vegas, perhaps not even during 2021.