Despite Covid, Nevada’s casinos had an historically healthy year in 2021—the state reported a record $13.4 billion in gambling revenue.
The total gaming jackpot last year also beat pre-pandemic numbers in 2019 by 11.6%, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The last all-time high was in 2007 when the state reported $12.8 billion in gaming revenue.
Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, says that revenue increased last year across all areas of Nevada, with 11 out of 18 gambling markets setting gambling revenue records in 2021.
“The reasons for the record level of gaming win recorded this calendar year began with the successful rollout of vaccines, which eliminated capacity restrictions on the gaming floor,” says Lawton.
Once restrictions were lifted, pent-up demand for gambling propelled Nevada on a record 10-month streak of more than $1 billion in monthly revenue. “This demand was being driven by healthy consumer savings as the result of stimulus payments and the sustained rebound of leisure travel,” says Lawton. “Additionally, the return of special events and entertainment continued to boost gaming win to record levels.”
Slot machines remained Nevada’s cash cow. The state collected $9.2 billion last year.
Revenue from The Las Vegas Strip for all of 2021 increased 7.4% over 2019—a good sign that Sin City has bounced back from the pandemic-induced recession. In a report published late last year, Fitch Ratings predicts that 2022 will be another growth year for Las Vegas and U.S. regional gambling markets with gross gaming revenue estimated to outpace 2019 levels, despite tourism being down by 10% compared with 2019.
Roulette helped bolster the numbers with a total win of $428 million last year, an all-time record. Nevada sportsbooks collected $8.1 billion in wagers and won $445.1 million during 2021—both all-time records. (The previous high came in 2018 when gamblers wagered $5.3 billion and sportsbooks won $329.1 million.) For the last three months of 2021, sportsbooks recorded more than $1 billion in wagers. “This threshold had never been reached,” says Lawton. And mobile sports betting accounted for 64.6% of total sports wagers statewide, up from 57.1% in 2020.
Slot machines remained Nevada’s cash cow in 2021. The state collected $9.2 billion last year from slots—another all-time record for the state and a 16.4% increase over 2019.
Brendan Bussmann, partner and director of government affairs with Global Market Advisors, who covers the gaming industry, says the record-setting year is a sign that the gambling industry is booming after a disastrous 2020.
“It was a great year for the gaming industry,” says Bussmann. “It shows the resiliency of the industry to be able to bounce back from one of its worst years seen over the course of time. Last year also shows that Nevada’s number one industry survived and thrived along the way.”
Bussmann says the main takeaway is that the recovery is not yet complete. Regional and local gaming has continued to excel, but The Strip, despite record revenue numbers, still has room to grow.
“We’re not in full recovery,” says Bussmann. “If you look at the numbers, on their surface, it looks like we’re more than back from the pandemic low because of the growth and the record year, but you have several segments, like business and international travel, that still aren’t back.”
Research firm Macquarie wrote in a note published this week that it “remains bullish” on Vegas and expects a strong recovery no later than 2024. The firm gives MGM its top pick rating.
It’s not all rosy for gambling stocks. Macquarie downgraded regional casino company Red Rock Resorts, which is majority owned by the billionaire brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, from outperform to neutral. “We find more value in other names in our coverage universe,” the firm writes.
Wynn saw its stock price dip 24% over the last year due to concerns over Macau’s licensing process and 4% just this week after news broke that its looking to sell its mobile betting outfit WynnBet for steep discount. Macquarie remains neutral on its stock while the company’s VIP business is still being hurt by covid restrictions in Macau. Las Vegas Sands, which sold its Vegas properties, saw its stock price drop 37% over 2021 due to concerns in Macau. But Macquarie is keeping its “outperform” rating because “we believe Las Vegas Sands remains best positioned to capitalize on the China recovery,” the firm writes.