Revenue rise in Vegas

At last, signs of a lasting recovery

February gaming revenue jumped 32.9 percent on the Las Vegas Strip according to the latest official statistics, lifting shares of MGM Mirage, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp. And Nevada state-wide gambling winnings were up almost 14 percent.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board revealed this week that land casinos' winnings increased to $946.6 million, compared with $831 million in February 2009, with most of the momentum coming from the Strip, where casinos won nearly $568 million, up 33 percent from $427 million in the same month last year.

Associated Press reported that this is the largest increase in casino win on the Strip since November 1999.

Gaming Control Board spokesman Frank Streshley said a positive calendar where both the Super Bowl and Chinese New Year fell entirely in February had helped push the numbers upwards, generating high visitor volume from high rollers in Asia and Pacific Rim countries.

Analysing the stats, Associated Press reported that February's statewide posting is the largest monthly casino win increase since December 2006 and the first double-digit increase since July 2007.

Streshley commented: "We've either hit bottom or will be slowly climbing out."

Gamblers wagered $11.7 billion on slot machines and card games, with $8.9 billion wagered on slots (down 2.3 percent) and $2.8 billion on table games (up an impressive 37 percent) from the same month a year ago.

Baccarat, a high-roller game, was again a popular choice for gamblers, generating $1.2 billion in wagers (up 130 percent) and $206.1 million in earnings for the casinos Streshley said.

Taxation from gambling during February brought $47 million into state coffers, down some 28 percent from February 2009, largely because of credit play. Casinos do not pay taxes on markers — short-term loans extended to players — until the debt is collected.

Elsewhere, casinos in northern Nevada's Washoe County reported winning $60.9 million, up 2.7 percent for the first monthly increase in 32 months, whilst in Reno, casino winnings of $43.9 million was an increase of 4 percent. South Lake Tahoe continued to battle, dropping 15.4 percent to $14 million as a result of increased competition from tribal casinos in California.

In related news, Reuters reported that gambling revenue in Macau will reach close to $1.68 billion for March 2010, underscoring sustained growth in the world's largest and fastest-growing gambling market.

Stanley Ho's casino flagship SJM Holdings retained the biggest share of the market, at around 30 percent, while Sands China, the Macau unit of Las Vegas Sands, was second with around 20 percent.

Macau casino revenue last hit a record in January 2010, when revenue rose 63 percent from a year earlier to $1.80 billion.

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