Nevada Gaming Down 40% in March
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has released its casino earning report for March, revealing that takings are down almost 40 percent compared to last year. The massive decrease is due to the closure of all casinos statewide initiated on March 17, with following months expected to fare much worse.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) report revealed that the state’s March gaming revenues were $618 million. This is a decrease of 39.57 percent compared to March 2019, when casinos earned $1.022 billion. The figures look even worse for the Vegas Strip in particular.
Casinos on the Vegas Strip took in $299.9 million in March, a decrease of 45.67 percent from last year. Surprisingly, these figures weren’t as bad for casinos in downtown Vegas, whose takings of $43 million was only down 25.92 percent from last year.
While necessary to slow the spreading of the coronavirus, the statewide gambling shutdown has been devastating for Nevada’s economy. According to the Nevada Resort Association, gaming had an annual economic impact of $67.6 billion in Nevada in 2018, making it a vital source of income for a large portion of residents.
Nevada’s sportsbooks have taken a major blow in particular. The NBA was the first major sports league to suspend its season on March 11 after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. Other major sports seasons, like the heavy sports bet generating NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, followed shortly after.
The March Madness tournament includes 63 games that in total generate roughly as much money as is wagered on the Super Bowl. March Madness tends to attract amateur sports bettors, meaning sportsbooks tend to make more money. But this March, a 76.3 percent decrease in its sports betting handle was reported.
When it comes to earnings, the figures are more dismal. Nevada sportsbooks won only $1.5 million from $141 million wagered in March, a 95.5 percent decrease from last year. April and May’s reports are bound to be even worse, with sports bettors having few options to bet on.
As Nevada’s gaming laws require new players to visit a brick-and-mortar casino to create an online sports betting account, only current online registrants are able to bet on future events until casinos reopen. The online sportsbooks that remain open include BetMGM, Caesars, Circa Sports, and William Hill.
This means that unregistered bettors won’t be able to wager on the upcoming UFC tournament scheduled to begin May 19, a major event set to generate huge betting interest. Nevada’s governor Steve Sisolak has said casinos aren’t likely to reopen until late May at the earliest.
Along with the March gaming report, the NGCB has issued a health and safety policy that details how casinos in Nevada can meet safety requirements upon reopening.
Nevada Casinos Reopening Policies
The casino guidelines were published online, alongside a seven-page document for major casino operators and a four-page document for smaller gaming establishments. Both documents require all operators must submit a health and safety plan seven days before their scheduled reopening, including detailed strategies to adhere to policies.
According to NGCB Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan, casinos must prove they can rise to the challenge if they are committed to reopening in time. Douglass stressed that casinos would “look a little different” to ensure social distancing, and that “mass gatherings can’t happen right away”
“We’re definitely going to require a lot of our licensees. They understand they need to get it right… [Patrons and guests] will find the high-level customer service they’re used to, an environment that’s clean and sanitized, [and] employees who are properly trained on COVID and sanitation protocol.”– Sandra Douglass Morgan, Chairwoman, Nevada Gaming Control Board
A number of the health and safety requirements asked of gaming licensees includes:
- Properties must limit occupancy to 50 percent. Head counts, surveillance and slot machine accounting systems should be used to keep track of numbers.
- Floor plan for slot machines must be altered to encourage proper social distancing. This includes removing chairs from every other gaming machine to prevent groups congregating.
- Hand sanitizer and disinfectant must be available to casino employees and guests.
- Social distancing is required at all table games. This would limit three players per blackjack table, six players per craps table, four players per poker table and four players per roulette table.
- All equipment or furniture used by players must be cleaned and disinfected after each player comes in contact with the item and before a new player does.
- Patrons must not be allowed to congregate in groups at sportsbooks, keno lounges, bingo halls and other gaming areas.
- Nightclubs inside a licensed property must remain closed until further notice.
The requirements also stipulate that meetings and conventions will be able to proceed, though bookings will be limited to no more than 250 people. Other policies outline how signage should be used to ensure guests’ social distance, how staff should be trained, and how to prevent customers from using close by gaming machines.