Las Vegas Strip casino winnings down in March despite record-breaking March Madness bets



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LAS VEGAS — March Madness could only do so much.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported Wednesday that the state's casinos kept $951 million of what was gambled in March, down 3.2 percent from $982 million in the same month a year ago.

That's despite wagers on the NCAA Tournament that broke basketball betting records in Nevada's sports books. Sports fans bet $375.3 million and casinos kept some $27.9 million of it, up 43.9 percent from a year earlier.

But overall, the state continued to suffer at the hands of baccarat, the high-stakes card game that can be the difference between a good and not-so-good month for casinos, especially those on the Las Vegas Strip.

Those casinos won $68.1 million from the table game in March, a 33 percent drop from the same month a year earlier. For seven of the last eight months, baccarat's results have been worse than the previous year.

Gaming Control Board analyst Michael Lawton said there was at least one bit of good fortune in the numbers. Gamblers bet more on baccarat in March than a year ago — $818.5 million — ending six consecutive months of a decline in volume.

Sports betting has been on a steady climb, breaking the record for total bet for five consecutive years, Lawton said.

"There are more ways to bet" and more bets to make, he said.

On the Las Vegas Strip, which handles the mammoth portion of the state's gambling business, overall casino winnings slipped 9.6 percent from a year ago to $507 million.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Wednesday that the number of visitors dropped 1.7 percent in March to 3.6 million. The agency attributed the drop to a particularly well-visited March 2014, when the CONEXPO trade show and its 129,300 attendees were in Las Vegas.

Gambling revenue increased everywhere else in Clark County, including downtown's Fremont Street, Laughlin, Mesquite and the region's casinos that appeal to locals. Reno saw its casino win bump up 6.8 percent to $46.5 million in the month.

Statewide, casino winnings have fallen 2 percent for the fiscal year so far, from almost $8.5 billion in 2014 to just over $8.3 billion in 2015 since July.

The state collected $79 million in fees in April based on the March win figures, down 5.6 percent.

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