LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s casinos have taken on more debt than ever before, shifting the finances of the state’s largest industry into unprecedented territory, according to an analysis of state gambling data by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The study released by UNLV Center for Gaming Research found that total liabilities for the state’s casinos have grown 18-fold since 1984 to $51.2 billion during the fiscal year that ended in June 2011. But with $22 billion in casino revenues for that same period, the money they were pulling in was only five times the amount from 1984.

The center’s director, Dave Schwartz, said that since 2008, casinos have owed more in long-term debt than they collectively earn in revenue each year.

“This says that the growth that we saw and the investment that we saw in the middle of the decade was quite different from what we saw in the middle of the 90s,” Schwartz said.

The years just before the Great Recession were the best — and most optimistic — years for Sin City casinos, as developers were eager to build more megaresorts and casinos seemed to fill hotel rooms and slot machines as quickly as they could build.

The success led to aggressive financing for construction and the pricey privatizations of Caesars Entertainment Corp., then Harrah’s Entertainment, and Station Casinos Inc. Both corporate buyouts left the companies with significant debt.

Casinos in Nevada collectively lost $14.2 billion before taxes from July 2008 to June 2011.

Schwartz said that since fiscal 2009, general and administrative costs for things like interest payments and write-downs have consumed more than half of all casino revenues in the state.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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