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Nevada casino winnings drop to $11 billion in 2014; steepest drop on Vegas Strip in December

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada's slow and steady gambling winning streak ended in 2014 with $11 billion captured behind casino cages, down 1.1 percent from a year ago.

The places where the winnings dropped or didn't is what interested David Schwartz, the director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Center for Gaming Research.

The Las Vegas Strip's casinos were down 16.4 percent in December to $555 million and 2.1 percent for the year to $6.4 billion, according to Gaming Control Board statistics released Friday.

Unlike the Strip, downtown Las Vegas, Laughlin, Reno as well as Wendover in Elko County all recorded a better December and 2014.

Generally, casinos in those areas have remained more reliant on gambling revenue versus Strip casinos, which are continuing to evolve in emphasizing everything else: the food, the drinks, the shows and the hotel rooms.

Downtown Las Vegas, for one, saw its average daily room rate drop for the year while its gambling winnings rose. The Las Vegas Strip saw the opposite.

"I think the fact that you have more people coming to town is the more significant indicator," Schwartz said, referring to the record 41.1 million people who visited the Las Vegas area in 2014.

In December, the state's casinos won $950.7 million, an 8 percent drop from a year earlier

Based on December's gambling win, the state collected 22.7 percent more taxes in January for $43.7 million compared with a year ago, a hefty increase that could be attributed to casinos collecting on lines of credit extended to gamblers, making those funds taxable when they weren't before.

The total amount of money gamblers slid into slot machines or converted into chips for table games remained virtually flat, increasing one-tenth of a percent and half a percent respectively. The total amount wagered was $138.4 billion, with the casinos keeping 8 percent.

The amount wagered on baccarat, the highly lucrative but also very volatile table game that heavily boosted the state's casino winnings in 2013, was up again for the third year in a row for $12.1 billion. But for the first time in five years, the state's casinos won less, said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. 2013 was such a good year for Baccarat spending and casino winning that 2014 was difficult to compare, he said.

Lawton said 2014 represented "a bump in the road," and he said he expected 2015 to rebound.

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