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LAS VEGAS-May was a good month on the Las Vegas Strip, if only by recent comparison. Casinos took $480.8 million off gamblers that month, more than they have in any previous month this year, according to data released Thursday by the state Gaming Control Board. Moreover, the year-over-year spread is shrinking, with Strip revenue down approximately 6.4% from the same 2008 period. The YoY spread from each of the first four months of the year was in the double digits, anywhere from 12.3% (March) to 23.4% (February).

The less impressive data are that YoY gaming revenue on the Strip has been negative for 17 consecutive months, and that the last time the Strip gaming revenue was stuck below $500 million for the first five months of the year was five years ago, in 2004, when there was much less room for people to gamble.

As well, May was a strong special events month so the below average decline might just as well be an MGM mirage as a sign that gaming revenue in the state is close to the bottom of the slide. Events that month included the Pacquiao-Hatton fight and Ultimate Fighting Championship event, and the Jimmy Buffet and Dave Matthews concerts–all at the MGM Grand.

The Downtown Las Vegas market has been down by more than 10% on a YoY basis every month this year except for March, when it was down by just 2.7%, and has been on a YoY decline for 11 months now. That having been said, May 2009 was Downtown’s next best month of the year, down 10.7% from May 2008, which was off 17.3% from $612 million in May 2007, which was a 1.4% improvement from May 2006.

The North Las Vegas and Boulder Strip markets posted increases in gaming revenue as they have almost all year long, but in both cases the increase is due to a new casino properties–the Eastside Cannery and M Resort on the Boulder Strip and Aliante Station in North Las Vegas. In May, gaming revenue on the Boulder Strip was up 10.3% on a YoY basis, while North Las Vegas saw a 2.9% increase.

Statewide, gaming revenue in May was $889 million, an 8.3% decline from $970 million in May 2008, which was a 15.2% decline from $1.1 billion in May 2007. With much of 2008 was down so sharply from 2007, the state Gaming Control Board has been expecting much smaller YoY declines than they have been seeing. GCB senior research analyst Frank Streshley was not available Wednesday for comment.

Las Vegas hotel metrics for May are expected to be released late today or tomorrow by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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