Nevada casinos register record number of games but COVID remains a problem

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With most of the COVID-19 restrictions lifted, people are flocking to Las Vegas casinos and playing at an all-time high.

But with COVID measures on the rise and stagnant vaccination rates in Clark County and the state, the pandemic could yet cast a cloud over the recovery of Las Vegas.

Statewide gaming victory topped $ 1 billion for the months of March, April and May – the first time since just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – with May setting a record monthly level as casinos brought in a record $ 1.23 billion.

When the Gaming Control Board’s senior economic analyst, Michael Lawton, presented the board’s forecast for the state in early May at the Economic Forum, which helps build the state’s budget projections, the outlook was already much more optimistic by then. than what experts predicted last fall and winter.

But what Las Vegas has seen so far this spring exceeds even these latest projections, according to Lawton.

“We hadn’t expected to post gaming winnings over $ 1.0 billion in three straight months, let alone set an all-time monthly record in May,” he said. .

If June also exceeds that bar, it will be the first time the state has recorded $ 1 billion in four consecutive months since 2008, Lawton added.

Hotel occupancy rates in Clark County have increased every month this year, with weekend rates close to 88% in May. And midweek occupancy rates are also rebounding, reaching 62.8% in May, up about 5 percentage points from the previous month, according to the latest statistics from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“Time will tell if these amounts are sustainable, but we’re off to a good start,” Lawton said. “The fact that meetings and conventions are back on the calendar, leisure travel is bouncing back and special shows and events are back bodes well for our outlook and forecast for in-game earnings being met.”

The strong rebound in Las Vegas did not surprise Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Las Vegas Strategy Organization. Swissman highlighted the pent-up demand for people stranded in their homes over the past year, the relative worth of Las Vegas compared to other travel destinations, and the world-class food, drink and overall experience offered by the city.

“You have all these people who were so anxious to get out of their homes and travel again. And you have Las Vegas being a very easy to get to destination, ”said Swissman.

Swissman noted that the trend, barring a setback, could accelerate when restrictions on international travel are reduced.

COVID threat

Experts say the biggest concern for the industry continues to be COVID-19, especially with major infection measures in Clark County as vaccination efforts stall and more contagious variants of the virus became the predominant strains detected.

This increase in the number of COVIDs in Clark County has prompted Los Angeles County health officials to recommend that residents avoid traveling to Las Vegas. And on Friday, the Southern Nevada Health District issued a new recommendation for all people – vaccinated and unvaccinated – to wear masks again in crowded indoor public places.

Gaming and tourism analysts have stressed that any future restrictions will hamper Las Vegas’s recovery and that the key to preventing those restrictions is to get more people vaccinated.

“The key to the continued success of Las Vegas casinos and the hospitality industry in general will be to see vaccination rates increase. However, as we see an increase in the number of new cases, we will continue to see changes in the guidelines, ”said Amanda Belarmino, assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV.

“Unfortunately, an increase in the number of cases will most likely lead to reduced tourism, reduced income and a return to restrictions. We will have to see what health officials recommend and follow those guidelines, ”Belarmino added. “The key to sustained growth remains increasing immunizations and addressing concerns of the unvaccinated to help allay their fears through understanding and compassion.”

Swissman said he hoped the state could avoid anything beyond the recommendations by encouraging more people to get vaccinated.

“I would hate to see anything happen that could potentially slow down this economic recovery and undo this hard work,” Swissman said.

“Vegas is coming back, but these organizations are just getting to the point where they feel like there’s a little tailwind again. They are far from the level of performance before the first stops, ”added Swissman. “Any shutdown that occurs now gives the impression that it will have a much more negative impact on the industry than the shutdowns that occurred in March. “

Contact Colton Lochhead at [email protected] To pursue @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.



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