The July Nevada gaming numbers are out, and I've sliced, diced, and spliced them to exhaustion. After the jump, I'll share my thoughts on what's going on in Nevada casinos.
Each of these gives a slightly different perspective on the month; one compares July to July, going back to 2004, and the other looks at the recent trends.
Looking from year-to-year, it's hard not to see this July as an improvement, if only because the state posted a moderate increase (nearly 4% year/year) without the Strip having a humdinger of a baccarat month. That points to a possible broader recovery for the gaming market throughout the state. Well, at least in the southern part of the state--the north still has its problems.
The best news that July brought is that, statewide, slot handle increased, as it did in June. This is, in my opinion, the best barometer for the true demand for gambling among players. The slot handle, if you'd like a reminder, is the total amount of money that people played in the month. Let's say you put $500 into a slot machine, playing $3 a spin. After 500 spins, you might have hit a few small jackpots and won enough to keep you playing. At that point, your total handle would be $1,500, not $500, which is just your total coin-in (or, more accurately, cash-in).
A bigger handle means that people are actually playing more. Either they're bringing more money with them, or they're not cashing out when they win.
Combined with a lower hold percentage(down just slightly, but still down), that means people are getting more bag for their gambling buck, which will probably translate into more satisfaction and more return visits.
Looking at the last six months, things look even better. May and June were great months, even discounting the return-to-normalcy baccarat hold bounce the Strip got in June. July was a decent month, and not a spectacular one, and that's again good news. Table revenues on the Strip continue to remain a strength, with five straight months of increases.
It remains to be seen what early August's financial market roller coaster will mean for that month's revenues; it's possible that the positive trend that's been building on the Strip and statewide will hit a wall, but it's also possible that visitors weren't spooked and continued to play as they had been.
All in all, it's been an interesting year for Nevada's gaming industry, to say the least. It's not the unvarnished gloom of 2008-10 or the unmitigated boom of 2004-07, but somewhere in between. While that make it harder to analyze, it hopefully makes for more interesting reading.