Football Betting Picks up Slack as Baccarat Power Wanes

by , Nov 21, 2012 | 1:00 pm

Forget about baccarat for at least one month.

Football wagering revenues offset declines in baccarat results during September, propelling Nevada to a modest gaming revenue increase.

Statewide, casinos collected $892.7 million in gaming revenues in September, a 3.3 percent increase compared to the same month a year ago according to figures released Thursday by the Gaming Control Board.

On the Strip, casinos collected $496.5 million from gamblers during the month, a 1.2 percent increase over September 2011.

Baccarat results – which have predominantly been the stepping-off point for whether or not that state and the Strip had a positive revenue month over the past few years – declined in September.

Strip baccarat revenues fell 4.8 percent to $77.5 million.

Football betting, however, made up for the losses at the tables.

During September the amount wagered on sports increased 21.7 percent to $420.5 million, while the amount casinos collected was $53.4 million, a 165.4 percent increase.

Customers wagered $312.7 million alone on college and professional football. Of that, casinos collected $43.5 million, an increase of 271.6 percent over September 2011.

Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Michael Lawton said there were several reasons for the high figures.

September 2012 had one extra weekend than September 2011, which meant two extra days of football betting which helped boost wagering totals.

Lawton said that in discussions with sports book operators, he was told the betting public tends to wager more on the favorites against the point spread. However, favorites in both college football and the National Football League did not fare as well against the point spread during September. That led to a more profitable month for the sports books.

The hold by the sports books on all wagers was 12.69 percent in September. A year ago, the hold was 5.82 percent. Lawton said 5 percent hold is considered normal.

“It was a record month overall and it was a record month for football,” Lawton said.

The modest increases statewide and on the Strip did not surprise the analyst community. Major casino operators has previously reported third quarter earnings, which included September’s modest growth trends.

“We continue to believe Las Vegas is in a gradual recovery, despite this year’s unpredictable results,” Wells Fargo Securities gaming analyst Dennis Farrell Jr. told investors. “Volatility is likely going to continue in the fourth quarter as cautiously optimistic management commentary encounters challenging gaming comparisons.”

On the Strip during September, table game revenues, minus baccarat, grew 4 percent while wagering activity fell 1 percent. Slot machine wagering increased 2 percent while revenues grew 1 percent.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said the fact that Strip casinos collected $5.9 million more in September compared with a year ago thanks largely to sports wagering wouldn’t move the needle in any direction in the eyes of investors.

“We think third-quarter results showed a slight step back in the Las Vegas recovery, particularly on the nongaming side,” Beynon said. “However, this was widely anticipated by the market, in our view.”

Clark County casinos on a whole grew revenues 3.7 percent during the month, fueled partly by a 24 percent jump in revenues from casinos along the Boulder Strip. The balance of Clark County and downtown casinos saw revenues climb 6 percent, while North Las Vegas casinos grew revenues 7 percent.

For the first nine months of 2012, statewide gaming revenues are up 1.9 percent over the same nine month of 2011, while Strip gaming revenues have increased 2.5 percent.

State gaming taxes collected in October based on September’s gaming revenues increased 38.2 percent to almost $71.1 million. For the first four months of the fiscal year, gaming tax collections are up almost 13.6 percent.

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