UNLV Gaming Podcast, Update

I’ve had a busy day at the Center for Gaming Research. First, I interviewed Rick Santoro, security consultant, and produced the interview into podcast form. The result was the 38 UNLV Gaming Podcast:

Rick Santoro
Santoro is a thirty-year verteran of casino security who has worked executive protection, conducted investigations, and managed security departments for two of the biggest names in the business, Steve Wynn and Donald Trump. In this January 31, 2012 interview, Santoro discusses his career in casino security, issues facing casinos and other public and private sector organizations today, and Interbrief.org, his security/risk management consultancy.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)


It’s a great interview with an expert who really knows his stuff. Santoro worked for Steven Wynn for ten years and Donald Trump for twenty, and shared several stories about his time with both.

I also published the January 2012 Center for Gaming Research Update, which summarizes everything that’s been done at the Center over the past month. With seven reports, one occasional paper, a podcast, and lots more happening, it was a busy month.

Nevada (Average) Casinos, 2011

I just posted three new reports over at the Center for Gaming Research. Together, they provide a snapshot look at the revenues and expenses of casinos in three very different Nevada markets. Here they are:

Average Big Las Vegas Strip Casino, 2011 
A statistical summary of the average Las Vegas Strip casino (with annual gaming revenues of over $72 million) with both gaming and non-gaming revenues and information on employment, taxes, and expenses

Average Downtown Las Vegas Casino, 2011
A statistical summary of the average Downtown Las Vegas casino (with annual gaming revenues of over $1 million) with both gaming and non-gaming revenues and information on employment, taxes, and expenses

Average Reno Casino, 2011 
A statistical summary of the average Reno/Sparks casino (with annual gaming revenues of over $1 million) with both gaming and non-gaming revenues and information on employment, taxes, and expenses

I’ve been doing these reports since 2009, mostly because I use them to answer questions about casino gaming in Nevada. I figure that since I’m putting together the information anyway, I might as well share it with people. And it makes answering questions over the phone easier, since I can usually just point someone to the pdf and walk them through it.

I might do a few more historical ones to get a better sense of the changes over time, and I might expand it to smaller markets, too.

UNLV Gaming Podcast 37: Paul Steelman, Part II

I was lucky enough to record part two of my planned two-part UNLV Gaming Podcast interview with Paul Steelman. I’ve posted it to the site and iTunes. Here’s the description:

37-December 20, 2011
Paul Steelman
In this December 20 interview, Sarno Award-winning casino architect Paul Steelman discusses several of his projects, Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, and the future of casino architecture. Part II of II

Listen to the audio file (mp3)


This was a lot of fun to record. Towards the end when Paul was showing me the Steel Pier slideshow things broke down a little and, since you can’t see what he’s showing me, you might be a little in the dark, but I tried to narrate as much as I could. It shows how spontaneous the talk was. There’s a lot of really good material in both interviews.

As I move forward in my quest to get interviews with all of the Sarno Award winners, I’ll say this: Paul has set the bar very high.

Also, as an Atlantic City native I’m both wowed and cheered by his plans for Steel Pier. You get a sneak peak (well, sneak listen) in the interview, and we’ll find out more in a few weeks with the official announcements.

Occasional Paper 11: Nevada Licensing

After last week’s G2E-packed schedule, I’m glad to have a little time to post the Center for Gaming Research’s latest Occasional Paper:

Paper 11: October 2011

Robert D. Faiss and Gregory R. Gemignani. “Nevada Gaming Licensing: Qualifications, Standards, and Procedures.”

ABSTRACT: The process of acquiring a Nevada gaming license is long and consists of several procedures. Although the process is time-consuming, it is far from Byzantine or obscure; each step, as defined by statute and precedent, flows logically from the one before. This paper provides an overview of licensing process in Nevada, with additional information on the reasoning behind several of the procedures involved.

Keywords: Nevada, gaming, regulation, casino, licensing

View the paper here (pdf)

I asked Mr. Faiss for provide me with this paper because of the many questions I’ve gotten about licensing in Nevada. I thought it would be a great chance to get valuable information about how the process works into the public sphere.

If nothing else, reading this 15-page paper will give you an appreciation for everything that goes into getting a Nevada gaming license.

Here’s an excerpt that will give you a taste of what to expect if you want to own a Nevada casino:

Those who have never been the target of a government investigation—and even those who have—are often surprised at the scope and depth of a Nevada gaming license investigation. As a former White House presidential assistant, the author can attest that the Nevada gaming license investigation is far more extensive and intrusive than the highest U.S. security clearance investigation.

Applicants are asked to explain and sometimes justify personal behavior and business transactions dating back several years. Some refer to the investigation as the most trying experience of their lives. When they file an initial application, they have only one assurance: if they have any transgressions in their pasts, Nevada’s gaming agents will most likely dig them up.

Robert D. Faiss and Gregory R. Gemignani. “Nevada Gaming Licensing: Qualifications, Standards, and Procedures.”

Exhaustively detailed and solidly researched, this is as good a primer on the licensing process as you’re likely to ever get without retaining your own counsel to explain it to you.

New CGR paper: “Nevada Gaming Statutes: Their Evolution and History”

One of the best things about my job at the Center for Gaming Research is that I get to read and share some great articles. A few weeks ago, I attended the i-Gaming workshop put on by Lionel Sawyer & Collins–you might have read about it (here’s a good Gaming Today piece). Reading through the voluminous notebook the organizers gave to all the participants, I saw some clear, concise writing about the historical evolution of Nevada’s gaming statutes.

I’d seen this before, in International Gaming Law, but it dawned on me that the general public would be well served by getting access to such a good summary of the development of gambling’s legal Nevada framework. So I asked Bob Faiss if it would be OK to reproduce part of the workbook as an Occasional Paper. He readily agreed. The result is the tenth paper in our series:

Robert D. Faiss and Gregory R. Gemignani. “Nevada Gaming Statutes: Their Evolution and History”

ABSTRACT: Throughout the past eighty years, Nevada gaming has changed considerably. Nevada’s gaming laws have both reflected and influenced that change. At every step of the way, regulatory changes paved the way for the growth and evolution of Nevada’s gaming industry into one of the world’s largest and best regulated.

Keywords: Nevada, gaming, regulation, casino

View the paper here (pdf)

Papers like this really further the Center’s mission of sharing easy-to-understand information about gambling and casinos with the public. I hope that it gets a lot of readers–it’s a great summary that I think makes understanding the current state of Nevada gaming that much easier.

UNLV Gaming Podcast 31 is up

I’ve got the first UNLV Gaming Podcast in about 6 months posted. It’s Kah-Wee Lee’s excellent Colloquium talk. Here are the details:

31-September 15, 2011

Kah-Wee Lee

"Taming Vice: How Machines and Architecture Changed the Culture of Gambling"

Lee is a doctoral candidate in the department of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation looks at the taming of vice in the context of postcolonial urbanism. Taking as his sites the recent casino developments in Singapore and Macau, he looks at how architectural design, urban planning and other environmental technologies help to draw the line between what is tolerated and what is not. His work at the Lied Library focuses on the historical evolution of gaming machines as part of this larger trajectory.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)

View flyer

via UNLV Center for Gaming Research: Podcasts.

It’s a very interesting talk–it’s fascinating to get another perspective on how gambling is contained (Lee is from Singapore and speaks about that city-state’s casinos). Hopefully’ I’ll be lining up some good interviews between now and the next Colloquium talk in December.

Updated 2004-2011 poker study up

While answering questions about the impact of the Black Friday indictments on Nevada poker, I thought I’d take a look at what impact previous interdiction attempts (the passage of UIGEA, the implementation of UIGEA) had on Nevada poker. So I compiled a month-by-month summary of Nevada’s poker results for the past seven years. Because I didn’t want to keep all of the fun to myself, I turned my table into a little Center for Gaming Research report that you can now enjoy:

From 2003-06, Nevada poker saw an unprecedented boom, with revenues nearly tripling. From roughly the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2007, revenues then stabilized, showing continued small increases. Following a major jump in June 2007 (coinciding with an earlier start for the World Series of Poker), revenues then declined steadily. Since July 2007, poker revenues have increased year-to-year only five months out of forty-three.
In general, poker has, since 2006, become steadily less profitable for Nevada casinos. The win per table has fallen dramatically to early 1990s levels. The large number of tables, however, indicates that it is still an amenity that many choose to provide, though it does not produce significant revenues on its own.

Nevada Poker, 2004-2011

If you want to read my analysis based on the report, check out this Two Way Hard Three post.

Six-month NV gaming analysis

Each month, there’s a lot of sound and fury about what the results released by the Gaming Control Board really mean. And each month, when asked what I thought, I used to look at the numbers, compare them with the previous year’s, and speak.

Last year I decided to shift perspective a little by adding more historical depth. With monthly reports from 2004 onward freely available, I figured it was lazy not to use them. So I started comparing the recently released number for February 2011 with not just February 2010, but every February from 2004 to 2011.

This let me see the overall pattern a lot better, and even though it involves some work, I think it’s worth it, because it provides some more context for the numbers.

I think this is important because both investors and industry leaders make decisions partially based on the numbers, and I think that the more people understand about them, the better decisions they’ll make. It might not be able to predict the future, but the historical perspective will undoubtedly give people a much better grasp on the present.

For a while now, I’ve been playing around with another way to contextualize the numbers. Around the third quarter of last year I started putting out a “Year to Date” report that including data from the start of the calendar year. But early in the year, that’s not much value, and late in the year it’s just too much data that’s good for guessing what the year-end totals will be, but not necessarily telling you which direction the industry’s heading in at the moment.

So to provide that, I’ve put together a new report: Nevada Gaming Statistics: The Last Six Months. Here’s the explanation and the executive summary for the inaugural edition:

Continue reading “Six-month NV gaming analysis”

Feb. Nevada number comparison

I’ve got the Nevada gaming revenue comparison and analysis for February up. Here’s the executive summary:

For Nevada’s gaming revenues, February 2011 had little to celebrate, though in some ways the numbers aren’t as dire as they seem at first glance. Comparatively, the Strip continues to outperform much of the state, but it is still reading water. As of today, the 3Q 2010 “baccarat recovery” is over.
Statewide, slot handle declined by 3.3%; higher hold percentage kept the drop in win to 0.49%. Table play cooled off considerably, with a 14.81% decline from the previous February, which had the benefit of a higher than average baccarat hold. The decline in baccarat revenue almost exactly matched the drop in hold percentage, as the amount played on the game remained nearly constant This small bump, centered on the Strip, wasn’t enough to compensate for the general torpor of the market, though table handle as a whole rose slightly.
On the Las Vegas Strip, slot handle fell, but a 9.08% jump in hold percentage meant that slot revenues actually increased slightly (3.17%). This speaks to the continuing weakness of the broader gambling market in Las Vegas. Table revenues declined by what appears to be an alarming 17.10%, but the return of baccarat hold to a normal level (11.71% vs. 17.04%) was largely responsible. Table handle overall increased by 3.86%, indicating a moderate increase in demand. Interestingly, the number of baccarat tables decline for the first time since at least 2004, indicating that the “baccarat recovery” of late 2010 may have been short‐lived.
Downtown Las Vegas continues its slide, with declines in every category save one—table hold increased slightly. Since February 2004, Downtown revenues have shrunk by 31.04%. It’s clear that this is a market in dire need of a turnaround.
The Boulder Strip, a weathervane for local Las Vegas play, also saw declines, though not as severe as the Downtown area. Cheeringly, slot handle increased by 2.09%, and it may be that the fall in slot hold percentages to under 5%, if sustained, will help draw slot customers back.
Washoe County remains a market in decline: overall revenues fell by 8.55% from February 2010, and have fallen 31.04% since February 2004. The decline in table revenue (‐14.85% year to year and ‐45.13% since 2004) is particularly troublesome.

Nevada Gaming Statistics: February Comparison

I’m working on a commentary piece about the numbers for Two Way Hard Three, as well.

RJ Rowley paper posted at CGR

I’ve got a new occasional paper up. This one is a print distillation of RJ Rowley’s excellent Colloquium talk:

Rex J. Rowley. “Where the Locals Play: Neighborhood Casino Landscapes in Las Vegas

ABSTRACT: Neighborhood casinos—gaming properties that target a primarily local market—are an influential feature on the Las Vegas cultural landscape. Such institutions reveal a number of geographical patterns that have important implications in gaming and place studies. The distinguishing characteristics of neighborhood casinos underscore the importance of proximity to a market, a focus that is evident in their advertising strategies. Additionally, the prominence of such casino-resorts within their respective neighborhoods makes them important symbols and indicators of the character of the surrounding community. These unique institutions teach lessons that can potentially be extrapolated to other gaming markets around the country.

Keywords: gambling, gaming, market proximity, cultural landscape, symbolic landscape

View the paper here (pdf)

via UNLV Center for Gaming Research: Occasional Paper Series.

Give it a read–it’s a very informative discussion of how locals casinos evolved and how they fit into contemporary Las Veags.