Gaming changes: Number of slot machines on the Strip hits lowest point in more than a decade

Players hope dealer Nikki Chang is good to them in the Hells Belles Party Pit inside of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Thursday, July 21, 2011.

When it comes to gaming in Nevada, casino revenue reports tell the same story over and over again: Visitors aren't spending as much as they did before the recession and gaming has fallen second to food, shopping and shows.

The number of slot machines and poker tables in the valley has steadily declined. Casino floors in Nevada lost about 38,000 slot machines between 2000 and 2012, according to data from UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research and the state Gaming Control Board.

On the Strip, the number of slots dipped by more than 13,000 over that period, leveling out at about 45,600 machines last month. That's 5,000 fewer slots than in 1995. The drop came despite the opening of the Wynn, Encore, Aria and Cosmopolitan, each with about 1,800 machines.

The number of table games also dropped, from just under 1,100 in 2009 to 887 in 2012.

Why? Analysts attribute the decline to several factors.

    • Kyle Hansen

      Economic downturn

      Though almost 40 million people came to Las Vegas last year, they spent a lot less than their counterparts did in 2007.

      In 2007, visitors spent an average of $1,300, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In 2012, they spent only about $1,000. Overall, the drop in spending accounted for a loss of about $500 million in gambling revenue.

      As a result, casinos "pulled back on the number of machines on the floor,” said Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst with the Gaming Control Board.

    • Kyle Hansen

      Improved technology

      Before sophisticated computers stormed casino floors, resorts had to rely on multiple machines to offer gamblers different denominations of play.

      Now, most machines offer the option of multiple denominations on a single platform, eliminating the need for extra machines. Single machines regularly allow players to gamble for pennies, nickels, quarters or dollars.

      "The casino floor is changing," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research.

    • Kyle Hansen

      Poker trend wanes

      The poker trend peaked in 2006 but has declined since, said Bill Zender, a table games consultant.

      The mid-2000s brought the World Series of Poker into the mainstream, skyrocketing the popularity of the game. Casinos followed the trend and rolled out more tables.

      Now, the popularity of live poker is shrinking, Zender said. A similar phenomenon is playing out in casinos, with several Strip resorts closing their poker rooms.

      Meanwhile, the number of baccarat tables is growing while the volume of blackjack tables has declined.

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