Annual Nevada Gaming Revenue Plummeted 35% In 2020

Posted on January 29, 2021

The accounting for visitation and gaming revenues for 2020 are in and the numbers are as bad as expected. Gaming revenue and visitation were both down drastically in December and for the year, with tourism decimated by coronavirus.

Lower visitation to Las Vegas

Even though New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas in December may have been busy enough to a southwest coronavirus super spreader event, visitation was down 17.6% from November and 64% from the previous year. December had a larger dip than some other months in 2020 months since the two-week National Finals Rodeo was moved to Texas and there were limited events on New Year’s Eve.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority (LVCVA), visitation to Las Vegas in 2020 was down 55.2% from the previous year. There was a contrast in those who visited Las Vegas in 2020 that was similar to other months throughout the year.

Many regional visitors from California, Arizona, and other nearby states still drove to Las Vegas. The same report shows that automobile traffic to Las Vegas was “only” down 12.1% for the year.

The big change in visitation was from visitors who fly into Las Vegas from around the world. Through November 2020, the number of passengers deplaning in Las Vegas was down 56.6% from 2019. The accounting from December should show a similar number.

The Vegas Strip was hit harder than downtown and surrounding areas. The other parts of Las Vegas and the rest of Nevada are less dependent on tourists for revenue. Gaming revenue on the Vegas Strip in December was down 16.5% from November and 43.3% for the year.

Gaming revenue drops throughout Nevada

There’s no sugar-coating 2020 gaming revenue. It was bad. Real bad. In fact, the Silver State saw its first year-over-year decline in gaming revenue since 2008.

2020 was a surreal year with Gov. Steve Sisolak ordering all Nevada casinos to close for more than a month earlier this year.

Some casinos were able to generate a few dollars while closed thanks to mobile sports betting apps and WSOP.com. This barely made a dent in overall gaming revenue for the year but it was something.

According to the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC), gaming revenue was down 34.56% in 2020 compared to the previous year. As a result of the lack of tourism, gaming revenue on the Vegas Strip was down a whopping 43.3% from 2019.

“The reason for the decrease to this calendar year was the result of the suspension of gaming operations from March 18 through June 4 due to COVID-19,” the NCG said. “This 78-day closure had a significant impact on gaming win amounts.”

December was a low-light for gaming revenue in Nevada. Casinos won 35.35% from guests in the final month of the year. While most casino games saw a massive drop in revenue in December, there was one positive note.

Casinos won 11.69% more in December sports betting in 2020 compared to the previous year.

A mixed year for sports betting in Nevada

December was a good month for Nevada sportsbooks. However, the year was a different story.

Nevada’s sports betting handle, the amount of money wagered, was $4.3 billion for the year. That’s a decrease of $1 billion from 2019. Casinos won $262.8 million from those wagers. That’s a decrease of 20.2% from the previous year. Keep in mind that one of the marquee betting events of the year, March Madness, was canceled.

Business at sportsbooks started to get slightly back to normal as the year came to a close. This was a record-setting year for sportsbooks from football wagers. The handle for football betting was $1.9 billion in 2020. That was an increase of 2.7%. Sportsbooks won $127.7 million from football wagers. That’s a modest increase of 4.3% from the previous year.

Even with a few hiccups, the NFL mostly kept to its original schedule helping boost confidence in bettors on placing bets. Obviously, major US sports being postponed for a couple of months hurt the sportsbook operators over the full year.

Unlike Colorado residents, Nevada bettors moved on from betting esports and table tennis when traditional sports returned to play.

Nevada sports betting falling behind other states

For the first year ever, New Jersey topped Nevada in the amount of money wagered on sports.

The Garden State may be the first state with a greater handle than Nevada, but it won’t be the last. States with a larger population like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, and Illinois could quickly jump ahead of Nevada.

In addition to having more residents, many of these states have easier online and mobile account setup and funding options. Nevada forces bettors to register for a sports betting account in person at a casino. Nevada sports bettors only have one option for mobile account funding.

Since the states are new, sports betting operators also offer very robust signup offers and special promotions once a player has an account.

Nevada already falling behind on mobile sports betting

Nevada is already falling behind other states in mobile sports betting. Things aren’t so simple for Nevada sports bettors. Even though Nevada has had mobile sports betting apps for a decade, people are still learning about the technology.

Westgate Sportsbook Director John Murray told the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

“More people know about the mobile app than ever before, and that’s why you saw the handle for the NFL go up year over year.”

He continued saying, “We’re starting to push close to 70 percent. Before the pandemic, it was more like 50-50. It’s not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon.”

For comparison, the mobile handle in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania is typically above 80% every month. Only 57.1% of Nevada’s sports betting handle for the year came from mobile sports betting apps. That’s quite a difference.

Nevada has many more casinos than other states. Casinos are ubiquitous in Nevada and visiting is as common as going to the supermarket for many residents. Sports betting in Nevada will continue to fall behind other states for a variety due to a lack of remote mobile sports betting account set up.

Sports bettors in the Silver State were shut out from mobile wagering until a couple of operators started to offer curbside account setup. This only helped a little but the sportsbook operators made an effort to find a workaround.

Population aside, mobile sports betting apps appear to be an easy fix for the NGC and sportsbook operators in the future.

Photo by Lpgiraud | Dreamstime.com
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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