Nevada casinos turn profit in fiscal 2016; first since 2008

Nevada's biggest casinos combined to turn a profit in fiscal 2016 for the first time in eight years, but it wasn't due to gambling winnings, according to an annual report by state regulators.

Room rentals and fees helped resorts generate income of almost $979 million from total revenues of $25.2 billion in the year ended last June 30, the state Gaming Control Board said.

That compared with a net loss of almost $662 million on revenues of $24.6 billion a year earlier.

Casinos across the state recorded net income for the first time since fiscal 2008, board analyst Michael Lawton said Thursday, amid a trend that continues to tilt away from gambling and toward restaurant, retail, entertainment and room rental business.

"It's been a long road to get back in the black," Lawton said. "It's good not only because it's net income for the first time, but because it's net income in all areas across the board."

The revenue figure came in just 0.1 percent below the record $25.3 billion in total recorded in fiscal 2007, Lawton added.

The comprehensive annual report, dubbed the Gaming Abstract, was made public Wednesday. It includes more than 200 pages of data about 273 casinos in the state that grossed $1 million or more in gambling revenues. Topics include number of employees, room occupancy rates and gambling revenue per square foot of casino space.

The report found that 70 casinos owned by public companies statewide accounted for 78 percent of the total.

The report came amid reports of growth from Las Vegas tourism and airport officials.

McCarran International Airport was on pace in December to top the record 45 million passengers handled in 2015. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported a record number of tourists, 42.9 million, in 2016.

The abstract includes data from casinos statewide, on the Las Vegas Strip, in downtown Las Vegas, along Boulder Highway in Las Vegas and in the Reno-Washoe County areas.

The most dramatic change was on the Strip, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"Nevada casino resorts have always been about more than just gambling," Schwartz said in an analysis of the report. He pointed to hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues and retail shopping.

"The revenue pattern of the industry has shifted," he said.

Lawton said the last time gambling revenues accounted for half the profit on the Strip was in the 1997-98 fiscal year.

This year, gambling revenues dropped to 34.2 percent of the total, the lowest percentage ever and a decrease from 34.9 percent last year. Gambling revenue in 1990, by comparison, made up about 58 percent of the total.

Schwartz said that while Las Vegas Strip casinos made about 2 percent more money in fiscal 2016 than they did in 2015, gambling revenues were up less than a quarter of a percent.

Room revenues, by comparison, grew almost 8 percent, and food revenues grew almost 3 percent, he said.