Nevada gambling revenue down again, Blackjack & Baccarat to blame

When we think of Las Vegas, we think of gambling; lots and lots of gambling! We think of young adults who come to party, drink and shoot the dice; of seniors with pension checks burning holes in their pockets as they take to the blackjack tables or slot machines. We picture celebrity entertainers and fancy restaurants, opulent suites in hotels that soar into the clouds. With so many tourists geared in that direction, what most of us don’t expect is to see the state’s gambling revenue falling lower and lower with each passing report.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board released its revenue reports for September, and the results were a 6% fiscal decrease since the same period recorded last year. For those that follow the industry, that in itself may not come as much of a shock. But more surprising is the fact that 83% of those losses were attributed to the blackjack and baccarat tables.

Blackjack is one of those games where a player can increase their odds of winning by following a strict hand-by-hand strategy based on his own cards and those of the dealer. Successful card counters can actually diminish the house edge altogether, turning the tides slightly in their own favor. As such, the blackjack tables represent one area in a casino where the company could stand to lose money. However, it wasn’t just a superfluous amount of winners on the blackjack and baccarat tables that resulted in the decrease in revenue. The figures were compounded by a notable drop in the number of players present at those tables.

Casinos in the state of Nevada produced $901.7 million across the boards in the month of September 2014, a 6% drop compared to the $958.9 million won in September of 2013. It also represents a 2% decrease from the previous month, in which the state reported $920.3 million in wins. Likewise, the August 2014 revenue was down 4.7% from the previous year’s results from the same month, which totaled $955.2 million.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Senior Research Analyst, Michael Lawton, called the results, “a little disappointing,” adding, “I think we expected to perform a little better than we did.”

Last year’s revenue was a highlight for the Las Vegas gambling industry in recent years. However, big bets at the blackjack and baccarat tables were a major factor in those figures. The baccarat tables, in particular, are known for drawing high rollers, often dropping thousands of dollars per hand. Because the odds are some of the most favorable in the casino, the upswings and downswings can be tremendous. Where those games presented an upswing for the Nevada gambling industry last year, they’ve flowed in the opposite direction in recent months.

Lawton also attributed the addition of one more weekend day in September of 2013 as opposed to this year’s calendar month, but said it wouldn’t be enough to make such a remarkable impact. The research analyst cited multiple high-profile attractions in Las Vegas over the time frame that should have sustained foot traffic in the gambling halls, including the Mayweather vs. Maidana bout and UFC matchups.

The only sector of Las Vegas to produce a higher result in year-over-year earnings was the South Lake Tahoe region. Casinos in that area were able to increase their revenue by almost 7%, generating $23.8 million over last September’s $22.2 million.