Silver State gaming venues won $756.79 million in July, a 26.16 percent decline from the $1.02 billion won in July 2019, according to figures released today by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).
While the July haul was a year-over-year decline for casinos in the largest domestic gaming market, it was a sequential improvement over the nearly $567 million won in June, the first month casinos there were open following a nearly three-month shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
On the Las Vegas Strip, gross gaming revenue (GGR) slipped 39.19 percent on a year-over-year basis to $330.08 million. But that was better than the 61.4 percent decline in the prior month.
Shares of operators with significant Sin City exposure were mixed, according to the NGCB. For example, MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), the largest Strip operator, traded modestly lower, while rival Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) surged more than three percent. Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD), the dominant gaming company in downtown Las Vegas, also traded slightly to the downside.
Still Work to Be Done
While the July win is an obvious improvement over the June figure, there are still headwinds facing Nevada’s gaming industry.
Notably, weekday occupancy rates on the Strip labor in the low 30 percent area because business and convention traffic hasn’t returned in force. Those rates climb to the 50 percent range on the weekends, and surveys suggest the percentages would be higher if a COVID-19 vaccine was readily accessible. That’s not the case, and it could be well into 2021 before the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves a treatment for the virus.
Related to the lower gaming win figures are slumping tax collections. As of Aug. 25, Nevada collected $32.82 million in receipts off the July GGR haul, a 56.33 percent year-over-year decline. That comes as the Silver State’s economy is grappling mightily with the adverse effects of the pandemic. Unemployment there was 14.2 percent last month, though that was a 1.2 percent improvement from June.
Eleven Las Vegas area casinos, including several on the Strip, are still shuttered and some will remain that way until at least June 2021.
Improvement has to start somewhere and while there is no consensus forecast for Nevada monthly gaming figures, word is the July figure topped analysts’ individual forecasts.
An imminent test for Nevada operator recovery efforts is coming with the arrival of Labor Day weekend starting Sept. 4, and there are signs gaming companies are expecting increased traffic. With some other US tourist spots still subject to travel restriction, the Nevada Resort Association is forecasting strong visitation to Las Vegas for that holiday weekend.
Aside from Labor Day, gaming executives believe a near-term rebound for Sin City will be sped along if drive-in markets, namely Arizona and California, flatten coronavirus curves and see some improvement in their own economies. Last year, nearly one in five visitors to Vegas hailed from the neighboring Golden State.