Locals casinos on uptick

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Las Vegas’ neighborhood casinos and the spending by local residents continues to carry the day for the most part. And they’re about to get another boost thanks to a September to remember on the sports calendar that will bring more people to their properties.

Overall, while Nevada casinos saw revenue improve from June’s 45.5% drop to a decline of only 26.1% in July compared to July 2019, locals’ casinos outside of the Boulder Strip and North Las Vegas saw revenue rise 6.25%. When factoring in North Las Vegas and Boulder Strip, the locals’ market fell 8.2% for July, but that’s way outperforming the Strip and downtown that were down 39.1% and 20.6%, respectively.

In a sign of strength in breaking it down per slot machines and table games available amid social distancing protocols, locals’ casinos set a record in July, CBRE gaming analyst Brent Pirosch said. People showing up are gambling more than ever at $169 revenue per unit per day, besting the previous market of $143.

“It’s a good number,” Pirosch said. “There’s no question about it, and a signifier that things have improved. Things are better than expected, and people were pleasantly surprised by the numbers.

“We have really good momentum right now. It’s hard to make too many predictions, but when the win per unit is up and win per visitors are up, that’s nice to see.”

There were even some positives on the Strip despite overall revenues falling 39.1% compared to July 2019. The gambling spend per visitor to Las Vegas was its highest ever recorded at $188, bettering the previous high of $179, Pirosch said. The win per machine per day on the Strip was $281, which he said was high, but short of any record.

“The rise in revenue from June to July on the Strip was much higher than the increase in (in slots and table games),” Pirosch said. “That gives us some confidence that we’re seeing actual growth. It didn’t just come from new properties opening. It came from more people and people are gambling more.”

Even though visitation was down 70.5% in July, there were 1.4 million visitors, which was a gain over 1.1 million in June.

The average daily rate on the Strip at $115.68 and $59.74 downtown helped weekend occupancy reach 54.4%, besting the 41% occupancy in June. That’s still down from 91% occupancy in July 2019.

McCarran International Airport traffic fell 64% in July, which shows how much Las Vegas is relying on drive-in traffic from California. Those traffic numbers at the end of August have finally moved ahead of those in August 2019 and travel experts have long pointed to this coming Labor Day weekend as the strongest weekend since the June 4 reopening.

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“Driving is really the best way for people to get here now by hopping in their car and showing up for a good time,” Pirosch said. “But it’s going to take us a long time to recover (with air travel).”

Sports bettors from California and Arizona as well as locally are expected to show up in Las Vegas in greater numbers in September. Labor Day weekend has the Kentucky Derby and the second weekend has the start of the NFL season and first major conference college football games. 

Not everything, however, looks optimistic. Midweek business remains down because there are no conventions and that won’t change until 2021.

MGM Resorts International laid off 18,000 employees across the country on Monday. It’s not known how many are in Nevada, but some of those employees will be called back when there is a growth in visitation.

In addition, Pirosch said it will be difficult to sustain the win per unit and win per visitor numbers. Some analysts have predicted the reduction in federal unemployment benefits starting in August will impact people going to locals’ casinos.

There’s more optimism than pessimism. September and October are traditionally some of the stronger months for Las Vegas compared to August. And Nevada’s COVID-19 caseload is trending lower heading into September, which should ease some concerns of people thinking about coming to Las Vegas.

About the Author

Buck Wargo

Buck Wargo is a former journalist with the Los Angeles Times and has been based in Las Vegas as a business, real estate and gaming reporter since 2005.

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