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Las Vegas Strip and Reno casinos win more in January; Nevada winnings amount to $953.7 million

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada's casinos may have been bigger winners in January than they were a year ago, amassing $952.7 million from gambling, but don't expect to hear the state's numbers guy cheering.

That's because baccarat still makes Michael Lawton nervous, he said.

The state gambling revenues typically thrive or suffer based on the performance of the volatile but highly lucrative game available in only 27 casinos statewide.

The card game's January winnings boosted casino bank accounts with $137.7 million in January, more than any other casino game besides slots and represented an increase of 69 percent compared with a year ago. But the total amount bet on the game was down 13 percent, said Lawton, the senior research analyst for the state's Gaming Control Board.

It represented the fifth straight month that total wagers dropped, he said. Revenue numbers were up because the state's casinos, the house, kept more than it did a year ago.

"My comfort level has not increased based on this month's results," he said Friday.

Nevada's Gaming Control Board released the latest statistics showing the state's casinos won $952.7 million in January, up nearly 8 percent compared with a year earlier. Gambling revenue was up 15 percent on the Las Vegas Strip and 14 percent in Reno, Nevada. But the winnings didn't extend to downtown Las Vegas, where the amount gamblers left in slot machines and at table games was down more than 10 percent.

The report says Nevada collected $68.4 million in taxes based on the month's gambling revenue, about 2 percent less than a year ago.

While baccarat's behavior toned down his enthusiasm, Lawton said he's starting to see signs that make him feel comfortable.

Slot betting was up 4.9 percent to $8.9 billion in the state, and the Las Vegas Strip has seen one drop in 12 months in winnings from the machines.

Lawton said he expects February's figures to show the impact from the Chinese New Year and spillover from the Super Bowl despite the game itself being less lucrative for sports books this year.

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