Those at the Fed and in the financial press are telling us that the economy is turning around. Corporate America is ginning up profits so prosperity on main street can’t be far away.
However, if gaming trends in Nevada are any indication the middle class is hurting. Tourism and gaming peaked in 2007, with middle America making the trek to the gambling city to sit down and play a little blackjack (or 21). Latest figures have blackjack revenue down 31 percent from 2007, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
Last year was the first time baccarat, a game favored by Chinese high-rollers, generated more revenue than blackjack. But the $1.2 billion in baccarat revenue pales next to the $2 billion that penny slot machines generated.
“Penny slots are viewed by the industry as the latest evolution in gambling as mainstream entertainment, attracting casual bettors with carnival themes,” writes Sun reporter Liz Benston. “Baccarat is a world apart, typically played in hushed salons by people who consider themselves serious gamblers.”
So Las Vegas is limping along dependent on high rollers from China and low rollers playing penny slots. “This is why Vegas got hammered,” Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor says. “It needs the middle market.”
As hot as penny slots are, overall slot machine wagering is down 22 percent from 2007 and the games are not as profitable as operators compete for the increasingly tighter gambling budgets.
But maybe Sin City’s hot hand is about to come back. Celine Dion has returned. The Canadian songstress sold out 700 consecutive shows from 2003 to 2007, “bringing in more than $400 million at the box office, more greenbacks than the Rat Pack, Liberace, and Elvis combined. This time around, she’s being touted as a one-woman stimulus bill—worth at least $114 million a year and thousands of jobs, according to UNLV,” write Tony Dokoupil and Ramin Setoodeh for Newsweek.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman couldn’t be happier, “I was just praying that she would come back. Thank God she did.”
Tickets for tonight’s performance range from $182 to $517 each on TicketsNow.
That doesn’t leave much money to play the penny slots.