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LAS VEGAS-October has typically been one of the best months of year for Las Vegas Strip casinos, but last year it was one of the worst and this year was no different, according to data released Thursday by the state Gaming Control Board. Gamblers lost $426.3 million on the Strip in October 2009, down 10.26% from the same month in 2008 thanks to lucky gamblers.

The more startling data is that October 2009 gaming revenue is off 46% from the $784.5 million gamblers lost in October 2007. That is, until you see that October 2007 was the best month in terms of Strip gaming revenue ever.

The good news, for the sake of comparisons anyway, is that there was a big drop off from October 2007 to November 2007. As a result, November 2009 need to come in only 3% better than October 2009 to show improvement over November 2008. If so, it would be the first year-over-year increase of 2009. November results will be released this time next month.

The bad news is that October 2009′s double-digit decline from 2008 occurred despite visitor volumes to the region increasing for the second month in a row, up 3.7% to 3.15 million in October 2009 following a 4.3% increase in September 2009–the only two months this year to post a YoY increase. Gaming revenue in September 2009 was off just 3.6% from the same year-earlier period, by far the smallest year-over-year decline year-to-date.

Gaming Control Board analyst Frank Streshley tells GlobeSt.com that the YoY decline in October was due in large part to luck. Gamblers playing craps, roulette and blackjack had a much higher win percentage than is considered typical and well below last year, he says.

“After two single-digit declines we expected to see more of a leveling off but that was not the case,” he says. “Actual spending on games was up, which is good news, but the casinos did not retain as much as they normally would.”

Thanks to a 60% jump in revenue from Baccarat, a high-end game, Streshley says spending was up despite “tremendous” weakness in slot machines, which are typically played by the mid-to-low range value-type gambler. “Without Baccarat things would have been substantially worse,” he says.

Looking into 2010, the gaming experts at CB Richard Ellis predict that overall revenue from Las Vegas Strip resorts (revenue from gaming, hotels, restaurants and entertainment combined) will increase between 3.0% and 7.0% in 2010 thanks to CityCenter and new towers at the Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood resorts, but it will result in comparable declines for existing properties, they say.

“Las Vegas Strip operators have seen profits evaporate quickly as revenue has declined since 2008,” states the CBRE report. “Conversely, profit potential on the upside should be equally strong when the Strip does recover, but moderate over time as some operators will have to make good on deferred capital costs and begin to push revenue enhancement–re-hiring in key areas, and re-focusing on development and other corporate strategies. Newer properties and those with less deferred capital expenses will fare better in a recovery, as they will not have to play catch-up on those costs.”

Overall, however, CBRE’s forecast is for there to be a lag effect for the Las Vegas Strip to any national economic recovery. “To combat the drastic revenue declines, Strip operators have engaged in practices such as cost cutting, discounting, increasing ‘complimentaries’ (comps) and tightening casino credit standards to maximize profitability,” concludes the report. “GGG believes there will be some lag effect for the Las Vegas Strip to any national economic recovery, as some of these strategies become counterproductive to increasing profitability during an upturn. As such, operators will continue to face most of the challenges in 2010 they faced in 2008 and 2009.”

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