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Mesquite bucks trend

Feb 18, 2003 7:20 AM

There was one bright light in an otherwise dim year for Southern Nevada gaming.

Mesquite.

The fast-growing city posted higher gaming and hotel revenues in 2002, bucking downward trends in Las Vegas and Laughlin.

Gross gaming revenue in the city jumped to $109,178,000, a 7.2 percent increase over 2001. That compared to a 0.4 percent decline in Las Vegas metropolitan area and a modest 1.1 percent increase in Laughlin.

Mesquite’s hotel room occupancy was also up ”” a 2.3 percent gain to 82.7 percent. Las Vegas, meantime, dropped 0.7 percent and Laughlin fell 3.3 percent. More impressively, Mesquite’s gains came even with a 2.6 percent increase in room inventory to 2,783, the largest increase among the three markets.

The average price of a room in Mesquite gained, too, climbing 2.9 percent. That outstripped the small gains in Las Vegas (0.4 percent) and Laughlin (0.2 percent).

Mesquite’s rooms are a bargain by comparison: $34.29 per night vs. $38.08 in Laughlin and $76.69 in Las Vegas.

While Mesquite gamblers were shelling out more last year, visitor volume slumped slightly from 1,616,672 to 1,574,872 ”” a 2.6 percent drop. By comparison, Las Vegas visitor volume inched up 0.2 percent. Laughlin tumbled 4.4 percent.

The number of room nights occupied also dipped. Mesquite’s total slipped 2.1 percent to 828,590. Las Vegas gained 0.6 percent and Laughlin declined 3.9 percent. Part of Mesquite’s shift may have been due to the Casa Blanca’s decision to reserve 200 of its rooms for extended stays (more than 30 days).

Mesquite’s gains were mirrored by an increase in average daily auto traffic along I-15 at the Nevada-Arizona border.
For the year, the count was up 8 percent to 21,511. Traffic was up 6.2 percent at the Nevada-California line and 16.1 percent higher on Highway 163 outside Laughlin.

Frank Streshley of Nevada’s Gaming Control Board ranked Mesquite as the third largest growth market in the state behind suburban Washoe County and Las Vegas’ Boulder Strip.

But, unlike Mesquite, both Washoe and the Boulder Strip benefited from a statistical anomaly: new casinos opened there within the past year. Based on "same-store" results, Mesquite’s visitor volume and gross gaming revenue each jumped 14 percent in December 2002 over December 2001.

The Boulder Strip far outperformed the rest of the Las Vegas Valley largely because Green Valley Ranch Station came online and was placed in that jurisdiction. (Though regulators do not specify which properties are within which boundaries, unofficial sources confirmed that move.)

Driven by a 30.6 percent gain in December, gross gaming revenue on Las Vegas’ eastside was up a hefty 8.3 percent for the year to $665.6 million. That now surpasses downtown.

Gaming revenues declined at both the Strip (down 1 percent) and downtown (off 3.9 percent).

Streshley partially attributed the strong December results to a quirk of the calendar. Since Nov. 30 landed on a Saturday, much of the heavy weekend revenue wasn’t counted until a day or two later, which pushed those casino winnings into the next month.