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The Las Vegas Poker Market Is Finally Growing Again

Nevada Poker Revenue Up Nearly Six Percent Year-Over-Year

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March was a great month for poker rooms in the Silver State.

According to state figures released this week by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the 62 poker rooms statewide generated a combined $10.15 million in cash game revenue during the month, an increase of 5.68 percent year-over-year. The last time March rake grew by more than half a percentage point year-over-year was back in 2007, when revenue of $15.1 million was an increase of 7.8 percent, according to data compiled by the University of Nevada Las Vegas. The following March, revenue fell nearly 10 percent. The height of Nevada’s poker boom was in 2007, but revenues soon thereafter declined and then stagnated thanks to UIGEA.

Strictly in terms of revenue, the last time the poker industry raked in more than $10 million in March occurred four years ago, when the rooms in operation then generated $10.3 million.

March 2014 was also the last time a non-World Series of Poker month broke the $10-million mark. The annual WSOP, which begins in late May and runs through about mid-July, balloons Nevada’s poker market thanks to a massive influx of tables.

Going back to May 2017, the Nevada poker industry has seen year-over-year growth in 10 of the 11 months, with the only decline happening in January of this year and it was less than a tenth of a percentage point. There hasn’t been a winning streak like that in years.

The 567 tables statewide in March generated an average of $17,900 in rake during the 31 days, the highest that figure has been for a non-WSOP month since January 2005. That’s not necessarily a good thing for poker players, however, as the number of tables was the fewest since January 2005, when there were 562 tables.

In other words, the poker supply in Nevada hasn’t been this low in about 13 years, but there’s still strong demand for the game. The Nevada poker market is currently worth close to double what it was in 2003, the year Chris Moneymaker won the main event, and it’s finally starting to grow again. Over the 12 months prior to April 2018, revenue of nearly $120 million was up 1.8 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.

Since 2007, poker revenue has declined in eight of the 10 calendar years, with the largest gain happening last year when revenue grew just 0.6 percent compared to 2016.

The winning streak—so far a modest one—is likely to continue given the launch of online poker liquidity sharing between Nevada and New Jersey, which kicked off on Tuesday. Online poker is the key to Nevada’s live poker market seeing sustained growth going forward.

“The proliferation of casinos across the United States has decreased the need for players to travel to Nevada to play poker,” Michael Lawton, Senior Research Analyst for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told Card Player in an interview last year. “At this point the consensus is that traditional poker will not experience any significant growth without a national interactive component to support growth in traditional poker by introducing new players to the game."