While statistics show visitor volume to
Las Vegas has been flat the last two years, a larger percentage of tourists say
they come “primarily” to gamble, and they have been making bigger bets once
they get here.
Those are several of the revealing
results from the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority’s 2001 Visitor
According to the study, Las Vegas
attracted 35,017,317 visitors in fiscal 2001, down about 2 percent from the
Moreover, the study revealed a
diminishing number of first-time visitors ”” 21 percent, as opposed to 29
percent of total visitors five years ago.
“Until Las Vegas comes up with new
mega resorts, like the Steve Wynn Desert Inn property, or other attractions, the
number of first-time visitors will continue to decline,” said Kansas City
travel agent Julie Smith. “Las Vegas experienced its greatest growth, from a
tourism standpoint, during the flurry of construction in the 1990s, when
Treasure Island, New York-New York, Paris Las Vegas, The Venetian and Mandalay
Bay all came on line.”
The lack of compelling attractions has
also affected the reason people travel here. Last year, only 57 percent of
visitors said they came for vacation or pleasure, down sharply from 72 percent
“Obviously, vacationers are looking
at other venues,” Smith explained. “Las Vegas has compensated by booking
more business and convention travelers, who have helped make up for the loss of
Also helping to make up for the loss of
first-time and pleasure travelers has been a significant increase in those who
say they come to Las Vegas “primarily” to gamble: 8 percent last year,
compared to 4 percent five years ago.
As a larger percentage of visitors say
they come primarily to gamble, they have been bringing a larger gambling budget
and making larger bets once they get here. Last year, the average gambling
budget was $607.27, up significantly from the $515.44 budget of five years ago.
With a larger gambling stake, it should
follow that players are making bigger bets ”” both at the tables and at the
slots ”” which appears to be the case. Last year, about 41 percent of table
game players said they gambled at $10 or more minimum tables, up significantly
from 17 percent in 1997 and 31 percent in 2000.
In the casino, 16 percent of the
patrons play blackjack, making it the most popular table game. Craps has a 5
percent following with all other table games getting a 3 percent patronage.
Slots, of course, is the most popular
casino activity with about 72 percent of patrons spinning reels or playing video
while quarter machines are the preferred denomination of choice, there’s been
a migration of players to dollar machines: the percentage of customers playing
dollar machines has nearly doubled to 18 percent last year, compared to 11
percent in 1997. During that time, the percentage of quarter-machine players
dropped from 72 percent to 65 percent.
In the meantime, the percentage of
nickel machine players has remained constant: 16 percent last year, virtually
the same as five years ago.
“I think you’ve seen a topping out
of nickel players,” said Connie Davis, a slot hostess at a Strip casino.
“There’s about double the number of nickel players as 10 years ago, but
they’ve probably reached saturation in the market.”
Davis added that the defection of
quarter players to dollar machines indicates a quest for the “big score.”
“With the wide area progressives and
high-stakes jackpots offered by dollar machines, it’s only natural players
would seek more fertile ground,” Davis said. “Besides, to drop in two or
three dollar tokens isn’t much of a stretch from playing five or six
While visitors have been spending more
in the casino, they’re also paying more for other travel expenses:
”¡ visitors paid an average of $85.34
per night for lodging (hotel/motel), compared to $62.30 in 1997;
”¡ travelers paid $213.17 for food and
beverage, nearly double the $123.87 of five years ago;
”¡ shopping expenditures reached
$106.75 last year, up from $74.77 in 1997.
Finally, the Internet is exerting a
greater influence on visitors’ decisions. According to the study, 52 percent
of visitors last year booked their accommodations online and 36 percent booked
their transportation over the Internet.
In addition, 25 percent of travelers
said they used the Internet to plan their trip, and another 33 percent said the
Internet influenced their decision of where to stay in Las Vegas.
“We’re obviously in the high-tech age,” said the marketing director of a Strip resort. “Our web site is just as important as any advertising campaign or promotion. We can’t afford to have someone pass over our site and not be impressed. The site is the marketing hook of the future, if not the immediate present.”