Nevada’s Live Poker Scene Still Going Strong Despite Global Health Pandemic

3 min read

Nevada poker rooms are still raking in the dough despite COVID-19 and seating limitations. The UNLV Center for Gaming Research data suggests the Silver State’s poker industry is in good shape.

Nevada poker rooms
Nevada poker rooms such as Bellagio have plexiglass dividers at the tables. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Casinos were forced to shut down in mid-March at the direction of Gov. Steve Sisolak. They weren’t permitted to reopen until June 4, but most poker rooms statewide remained closed. Since then, Nevada has seen a significant increase in open card rooms and available poker tables. And players have returned to their favorite rooms in droves.

Most of the state’s poker revenue is generated in Las Vegas, which was home to 31 card rooms pre-coronavirus. Reno also boasts a solid poker market, with popular rooms such as Peppermill and Atlantis in the area.

Pre-Coronavirus Nevada Poker Revenue

Before COVID-19 struck, the Nevada poker industry was booming. In July 2019, the state set a monthly record with $22,227,000 in rake. That topped even the best months during the poker boom era. Since Black Friday in 2011 and pre-coronavirus, overall poker revenue is down compared to the boom era.

In most non-WSOP months for the past five years, statewide revenue has been lower than $10 million. From Jan. 2005 until July 2011, poker rooms raked in at least $10 million each month, except for three months — Feb. 2005, Sept. 2010, and Feb. 2011 — per the UNLV Center for Gaming Research.

Compared to the COVID-19 Era

When the casinos reopened on June 4, most card rooms remained closed. Only four poker rooms in Las Vegas reopened that first weekend, but that number has since grown to 18 out of the original 31. In Reno, there are currently three open rooms (Atlantis, Grand Sierra Resort, and Peppermill), along with one in nearby Lake Tahoe (Carson Valley Inn).

In the five months prior to March 2020, Nevada poker rooms raked in at least $10 million in revenue each month. And March was off to a great start — $6.5 million — before being shut down on the 17th.

Since reopening, the total available card tables went from 189 in June to 294 in August. Due to many poker rooms remaining closed, and seating limitations imposed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, that’s still far fewer than pre-coronavirus. In March, total poker tables exceeded 530, which is well off the 1,002-table record set in July 2010.

Revenue is holding steady despite the table limitations. In June, Nevada’s poker rooms raked in $8,711,000 in gross revenue, the lowest-grossing full month since April 2013 ($8,564,000). That’s still quite impressive considering the seating limitations, decrease in poker rooms/tables, and a global health pandemic that’s keeping some poker players away.

Revenue remained steady in July at $8,838,000, which may seem like a negative at first look. But when you factor in that the WSOP Online Bracelet Series took place that month, taking many players away from the poker rooms to play online, the result was quite impressive. August figures fell to $7,169,000, the lowest since Jan. 2004. That’s to be expected as revenue drops off from June and July in August every summer.

We’re still waiting for UNLV to release last month’s results.

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