To no one’s suprise, the Nevada casino industry took a big hit in March.
According to state figures, gaming win fell 39.5% to about $618.1 million, as the Las Vegas Strip went dark around the middle of the month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sports betting has all the glitz and glam in this post-PASPA world, so we’ll give you those figures first. Also per state figures, the Nevada sportsbooks reported $1.45 million in revenue, down nearly 95.5% year-over-year. The sports world came to a near standstill just days before the casinos shuttered.
The books took $141.2 million in wagers last month, down from the $596.8 million in wagers in March 2019, which set a record for the best single month in terms of handle. The record was broken in November.
In March, the pandemic took Nevada sports betting back to levels not seen since the early 1990s.
Mobile betting for the full month
Earlier this year, Nevada began releasing figures for online/mobile sports betting, like other states do.
Last month, those sportsbooks took just under $89 million in bets. They remained operational despite the closure of their brick-and-mortar counterparts, though the betting menu was slim pickings.
For comparison with other legal sports gambling markets: Indiana online/mobile books handled about $61 million in March; New Jersey online/mobile books took about $163 million; and Pennsylvania online/mobile books took about $118 million.
It’s worth noting that Nevada is the only one of the aforementioned four states that doesn’t allow would-be sports bettors to register for an online gambling account remotely.
There have long been calls from the industry to reform the regulation. Though it could shake up the market to the detriment of William Hill, there could be an increased appetite to do so after the public health crisis.
Table games vs. slots
If you were following the news closely early in 2020 you definitely noticed the COVID-19 virus as a story that continued to gain international attention. Concern was building in February to the point that there was already speculation that March Madness would be impacted.
Did gamblers start to adjust their behavior prior to when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the casinos closed?
In a year-over-year comparison, slot machine revenue statewide fell 30.6% to $468.7 million. Meanwhile, revenue from table and counter games fell 57% to $149.5 million.
That was a significantly larger decline year-over-year for non-slot offerings.
Revenue isn’t the best indicator here of what happened because luck is involved. Some months bettors perform better than they usually do. So let’s look at the amount bet.
Across the state last month, gamblers bet about $1.05 billion between table games and sports. That figure doesn’t include peer-to-peer poker, live or online, where the betting handle is not recorded by operators.
How much was put into the one-armed bandits last month while the casinos were still open?
Answer: $4.65 billion.
Now we need a year-over-year comparison to give context to the respective handles.
In March 2019, the non-slot games saw $2.59 billion in wagers, while slot bettors risked $10.17 billion.
Non-slot gambling saw a 59.4% decrease year-over-year. Slot gambling saw a 54.2% decline.
While logically it would make sense for people to start to shy away from sitting or standing in close proximity to others at a crowded table game, if COVID-19 had an impact on the gambling behavior inside Nevada casinos last month while they were still open it was minimal.
With casinos across the country closed and no sports other than some international soccer and table tennis, online poker, regulated or otherwise, is seeing some of its best days in years. Nevada is one of just four U.S. states with regulated online poker. Nevada doesn’t have online slots or online table games.
While Nevada releases figures for online/mobile sports wagering, it doesn’t do so for online poker. Legitimate or not, Nevada’s reason is that there is just a single operator (Caesars/WSOP).
Last month, Nevada poker revenue (which includes online) was $6.53 million, down nearly 40% year-over-year. Though a steep decline, it was far less severe than the 57% overall decline for non-slot games.
It is worth noting that Nevada’s accounting of online poker revenue changed last summer, when revenues from tournaments began factoring into the official Nevada Gaming Control Board report. Previously, revenue from tournaments was not included and the poker revenue figure was just cash games.
So, the year-over-year decline for poker in March 2020 compared to March 2019 would have been more pronounced had it not been for the accounting change.
For comparison with another legal jurisdiction, New Jersey’s online poker revenue was $3.62 million last month, up more than 90% year-over-year. New Jersey has several online poker operators and also online casinos that drive traffic to poker, so it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Atlantic City also has just a handful of live poker rooms, while Nevada has 54.
Nevada online poker surely had a year-over-year uptick in March, but we just don’t know how much.