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Nevada casinos struggle in April

Nevada casinos managed to win $3.6 million in April despite their statewide closure for COVID-19 when gamblers settled for mobile sports betting and internet poker play. 

The $3.6 million win amounts to a 99.6 percent decline compared to April 2019, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which released the statistics Friday morning. A year ago, statewide casinos won $936.4 million. 

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“The revenue recorded in April was the result of mobile sports betting and interactive poker which were not suspended during the month of April or May,” said Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Michael Lawton. “The losses you see in many markets are the result of sports wagers, primarily football. Winning football tickets were cashed from prior months, and there was wagering on the NFL Draft in April.”

For the state’s fiscal year of July 1st through April 30, gaming win has decreased 11.43 percent. 

The win in Clark County in April was $3.7 million but the statewide win was lower with a $78,633 loss in Washoe County. South Lake Tahoe lost $1,480. 

The Las Vegas Strip won $3.39 million while downtown Las Vegas won $436,207. The Strip won $481.8 million in April 2019. Downtown won $61.7 million. 

Casinos closed effective March 18 and have the go-ahead to open June 4. 

But that wasn’t the only bad news.

Passenger traffic at McCarran International Airport fell 96.4 percent in April and Las Vegas visitor volume fell 97 percent last month, and as Las Vegas reopens Thursday the leading airline operating at McCarran said they’ve only recorded “modest improvements” in bookings to the city so far. 

That fits the narrative from analysts who said people will be reluctant to fly for now and that drive-in traffic from Southern California, Arizona and Utah will be the key to the city as casinos resume operation. In April, average daily auto traffic on the I-15 at the California Nevada border was 17,083, down from 46,645 or 63 percent from April 2019. 

Southwest Airlines, the No. 1 airline operating at McCarran, is anticipating a rebound in tourism and convention business by adding more flights for Las Vegas with existing routes as part of its updated schedule. Already though, prices to Las Vegas  have started to increase on its website for early June flights.  

A Southwest spokesman, however, told Gaming Today on Friday that “we’ve seen very modest improvements network-wide, which includes Las Vegas.” 

Southwest had 69,289 passengers pass through McCarran in April, down 95.5 percent from 1.5 million in April 2019, according to the Clark County Department of Aviation. 

Overall, McCarran reported 152,716 passengers passed through the airport in April, down from 4.2 million in April 2019. There was no international travel at the airport and Hawaiian Airlines had no flights go through either. 

For the year through, McCarran has handled 10.2 million people, down from 16.2 million or 36.9 percent year-over-year. 

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Friday that there were 106,900 visitors in April, down from 3.5 million in April 2019. May will see similar numbers when they’re released in a month. Casinos shut down effective March. 18. 

The total occupancy rate of 148,755 rooms was 1.7 percent in April, down from 91 percent in April 2019. The average daily room rate was $60.50, down from $130.40 in April 2019. The average revenue per available room was $1.03, down from $118.66 a year ago. 

Southwest, which extended its flight schedule from Oct. 31 through Jan. 4, said it’s bringing travelers additional flights and new routes to include leisure travel for the autumn and winter holidays. As Southwest looks toward the end of 2020, the carrier is adding a more robust schedule for business travelers with more frequencies and more nonstop flight options from Las Vegas in addition to Phoenix, Denver, and Nashville, the company said in a statement. 

“We’re rounding out our plan for this unprecedented year with our business travelers in mind with a fourth quarter schedule that brings them new routes across the country. We’re also offering more flights for all of our customers in places such as Denver, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Phoenix,” said Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “We anticipate business travelers will hit the road with a heightened focus on costs, so we’re pairing unmatched schedules with our value and hospitality to welcome them back, whenever they’re ready to travel. Never before has Southwest been more primed to emerge as the preferred choice of corporate travel as the business climate across America begins its recovery.” 

Spirit was No. 2 with 28,143 passengers, down 93 percent from 401,241 in April 2019. American had 18,455, down 95 percent from 371,772; Delta had 12,609, down 97.1 percent from 438,173; United had 6,656, down 98.1 percent from 358,354; Alaska had 5,176, down 94 percent from 86,037; Frontier had 3,393, down 98.1 percent from 178,030. JetBlue and Sun Country had fewer than 2,000 passengers in April. Allegiant had 199, down 99.8 percent from 100,072 in April 2019. 

“We expect demand for Las Vegas flights to increase as the hotels and events reopen, in fact we’ve already seen an uptick in bookings since the June 4 date was announced by Governor (Steve) Sisolak,” said Hilarie Grey, managing director of corporate communications for Allegiant Travel Company