Drive-in traffic soaring

Aug 5, 2003 6:02 AM

Drive-in traffic, a key indicator of Southern Nevada tourism, reached record levels in June as travelers from Southern California flocked into Las Vegas and Laughlin.

The total number of vehicles crossing into Nevada from California (at Primm) reached 1.2 million, the most ever for the month of June, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation (DOT).

The number of vehicles was 4.7 percent higher than last June’s figures, and about 4 percent more than in May.

Noteworthy was the 60,000 vehicles that rumbled into Southern Nevada the weekend of June 20-21. "That set another record," said a Dept. of Transportation official. "It was also the first weekend this year, other than a holiday weekend, that topped the 60,000 mark in vehicular traffic."

The Dept. of Transportation official said that higher traffic counts are still ahead.

"Ordinarily, the northbound traffic (into Las Vegas) doesn’t reach a peak until mid-August," he said, adding that traffic in August, traditionally a heavy vacation month, can be 10 percent to 15 percent greater than the other summer months.

Statistics also reveal that drive-in traffic doesn’t appear to be affected by casinos opening in Southern California.

Since 1999, 61 tribes have signed compacts to operate casinos in California. So far there are about 50 operating casinos, half of which are located in Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties.

But traffic flow into Nevada has actually increased by about 11 percent since 1999.

Analysts speculated that the healthy increase in drive-in traffic is a good omen, especially in light of the number of tribal casinos opening in Southern California.

"If people continue to travel to Las Vegas from Southern California, there can’t be much of a cannibalization of casino customers by tribal casinos," said Jeremy Stein of Gaming Research Management. "Who knows, tribal casinos in California may simply be teaching players about Nevada-style gaming."

Stein added that Las Vegas casinos shouldn’t be too concerned about competition. "Regular casino customers are finding the odds better in Las Vegas, plus the mega resorts offer much more entertainment than casino gambling," he said.