Nevada Casinos Report Almost 40% Drop In Winnings In March

April's Numbers Are Expected To Be Worse

Associated Press
April 30, 2020 - 5:10 am

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Mid-March casino closures in Nevada due to the coronavirus outbreak had a predictable effect, halting a streak of three $1 billion months in house winnings and costing the state half its usual amount of gambling taxes, regulators reported Wednesday.

The statewide casino win figure of $618 million was down 39.6% compared with March 2019, and the $37.1 million the state collected based on monthly figures was down nearly 54% compared with a year ago, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said.

Casino winnings last month were the lowest in 22 years, board analyst Michael Lawton said, and April figures are expected to be much lower following a full month with gambling gone. 

The data shows the effect of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order on March 17 for all 440 gambling licensees statewide to suspend activity to prevent gatherings of people who could spread the virus that causes COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Sisolak is expected Thursday to extend his stay-at-home directive, which also applies to non-essential businesses.

The state unemployment office reported last week that more than 343,000 people filed for jobless benefits in the five weeks since the governor issued his order, or about 24% of the 1.43 million people employed in Nevada in February.

The Gaming Control Board said casino winnings on the Las Vegas Strip were down nearly 46% in the year-to-year monthly comparison, and more than 55% in Reno. 

Lawton attributed a slight increase in figures for the Boulder Highway area in Las Vegas to the timing of collections. He said slot machine volume in the area was down about 54%, as expected.

Sports book business nearly stopped completely, with winnings just $1.5 million in March, down 95.5% from March 2019.

However, Lawton noted that gamblers made nearly $90 million in sports wagers by mobile apps, and casinos reported winning $3.8 million on those bets.

Lawton also noted there were two fewer weekend days last month than in March 2019.

Casino taxes are second to sales taxes as a percentage of Nevada’s annual budget, and casino winnings are a key indicator of state fiscal health. Nevada has no personal income tax.