America’s casinos generated the most revenue ever for a two-month period

This Jan. 27, 2022, photo shows a gambler playing a slot machine at Caesars casino in Atlantic ...

The nation’s commercial casinos had their best two months of revenue generation in history, the American Gaming Association reported Tuesday.

Paced by Nevada’s $2.192 billion revenue in January and February — a 5.3 percent increase over pre-COVID-19 January-February 2020 — the nation’s commercial casinos won $8.92 billion from players, a 19.1 percent increase over two years ago.

Tribal casinos weren’t counted in the comparisons but were believed to have had similar increases.

Other states that had high numbers were Pennsylvania ($802 million), New Jersey ($755 million) and New York ($631.6 million). By percentage increase, the strongest state performers were New Hampshire (201.3 percent to $9 million), Michigan (100.4 percent to $484.6 million), Oregon (76.1 percent to $5.4 million) and Colorado (55.9 percent to $207.5 million).

Only five of the 28 states monitored by the AGA that offered casino gambling two years ago had declines.

The five states with declining revenue were Kansas (-11.7 percent to $62.5 million), Louisiana (-2.3 percent to $398.9 million), New Mexico (-6.4 percent to $38.4 million), Oklahoma (-5.2 percent to $22.2 million) and Rhode Island (-13.3 percent to $95.3 million).

The association attributed the lower win for the two Rhode Island casinos to “the highly competitive environment of New England after Encore Boston Harbor opened in June 2019,” adding that Kansas casinos “continue to feel the impact of added competition from a new tribal gaming facility close to the state’s largest commercial casino.”

’Sustained momentum’

“This record start to the year demonstrates the sustained momentum of our industry’s recovery into 2022,” said Bill Miller, the association’s president and CEO. “While it remains to be seen if we’ll match last year’s all-time high, it’s clear that Americans are continuing to make gaming a first-choice entertainment option.”

Locally, Virginia Valentine, president and CEO of the Nevada Resort Association, said the strong gaming numbers are welcome and encouraging news.

“It’s important to keep in mind that we’re in an asymmetrical recovery,” Valentine said. “Gaming revenues are up but the non-gaming areas of resorts and the other key indicators haven’t fully recovered to 2019 levels. That said, people have a strong desire to return to a sense of normalcy after two difficult years, and people feel more comfortable traveling given the tremendous strides made in fighting the virus.”

She said many people were fortunate enough to save money and now they’re ready to spend it on travel and experiences they missed out on due to the pandemic.

“Las Vegas has always been one of the most popular and iconic travel destinations given all the unique experiences, attractions and now sporting events we offer,” she said. “That’s why we typically have more than 40 million annual visitors. There’s just no comparison to other states.”

Potential headwinds

Gaming industry analyst Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization, said the statistics are another example of the resiliency of the gaming industry, but it’s too early to tell whether some of economic headwinds that exist today — inflation, higher gasoline prices and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine — would prevent the industry from seeing three consecutive months of revenue expansion.

“I can’t say I’m surprised with the AGA report but there are some headwinds to face,” Swissman said. “But there also are some tailwinds further out on the horizon. Internet casino gambling is only legal in a few states and that could grow. There are still states that are looking to legalize sports wagering. There can be growth in the land-based verticals with additional jurisdictions legalizing gaming.

“What we’ll see in March is anybody’s guess.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.