Good news! Nevada’s gaming take rose in 2010, ending a two-year slide. The not-so-good news: That “increase” was a minuscule .1 percent (pit boss rounding error?) and followed a record dip of 10.4 percent in 2009. Still, a win’s a win, as gamblers are fond of saying.
Meanwhile the Asian markets are exploding. Gaming newbie Singapore, with only two casino licensees, raked in $2.8 billion last year, according to estimates by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The financial consultancy expects that number to hit $5.5 billion this year and $8.3 billion by 2014. And last month Macau made headlines when it shattered its one-day record, bringing in $185 million in gross gaming revenue on February 8—more than the Strip’s typical total for a week. That followed a bang-up 2010 in which the 30-odd casinos in the Chinese territory brought in $23.5 billion, a 58 percent increase over 2009.
So Nevada is as flat as Macau and Singapore are robust. Should we be that concerned about casinos in the Eastern Hemisphere? Actually, yes. Buried in Nevada’s 2010 numbers, released last month by the Gaming Commission, is a development that gained little notice but bodes ill for us. For the first time, baccarat eclipsed blackjack as the Strip’s table-game meal ticket. Favored by James Bond in the 007 movies, baccarat is a game few Americans play, available in only 22 of the state’s 329 casinos. Even so, it accounted for a fifth of all Strip winnings and 14 percent statewide. The game’s driving force is an elite group of high-rolling “whales” from Asia. The same group, unfortunately, that Macau and Singapore are building record profits on.