The NCAA basketball tournament has so far given Las Vegas Strip casinos a much needed boost in business, both in the sports books and on the casino floor.
The opening weekend of the tournament generated about 4.2 percent more "game usage" or casino visitation than last year’s tournament, according to a report released last Friday by Majestic Research.
On a casino-by-casino basis, business was up, on average, about 1.7 percent over last year.
"The second largest sporting event of the year (for gamblers) still drew a crowd, even in the current macroeconomic environment," said Matt Jacob, gaming analyst for Majestic Research.
Jacob added that the increased casino traffic was welcomed by officials, but wasn’t enough to signal an end to the downturn casinos face as a result of the economic recession.
"These positive trends were likely the result of cheaper rooms, promotional activity, and pent-up demand, as people still want to gamble, but are being more selective about when and where," Jacob said. "We believe these trends are an exception to the overall weakness in the Las Vegas market, however, and do not expect them to continue."
Whether or not they continue, casinos welcomed the positive results following poor showings in January and February.
Casino visitation was down roughly 3.7 percent on the Strip in January/February, with same store visitation down about 6.7 percent.
Benefiting most from the spike in visitation during the tournament were casino table games, whose usage was up roughly 15.7 percent over the same time last year. Slots were off about 1.6 percent.