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The Nevada Independent

Another billion-dollar gaming revenue month for Nevada, but Strip still lags

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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Nevada casinos have been on a heater since March.

But Strip resorts are still looking for a hot hand compared with the rest of the state.

June gaming revenue figures released Thursday by the Gaming Control Board marked Nevada’s fourth straight month that casinos statewide collected more than $1 billion in revenue. The overall total, $1.19 billion, fell short of May’s all-time single-month record of $1.23 billion.

Control Board Senior Research Analyst Michael Lawton said Nevada last recorded four straight billion-dollar revenue months in 2008, from January through April.

Compared to 2019 – 2020 monthly gaming totals were skewed by COVID-19 shutdowns, capacity restrictions and operating limitations – June saw an increase of 14.6 percent in total gaming revenue statewide. Last year, casinos statewide collected just $566.9 million in gaming revenue during the month after reopening on June 4.

A single month record statewide slot machine revenue figure of $868.1 million was the primary factor in June’s overall total. Wagering on slot machines statewide was $11.4 billion, up 19.7 percent from June 2019.

“The recent surge in statewide gaming win is the result of several contributing factors which include strong demand, the return of leisure travel, customers with savings that can be attributed to stimulus and the return of core customers including customers 55 and over,” Lawton said.

The past three months established the state’s largest-ever gaming revenue quarter — a combined $3.46 billion collected by casinos, besting the 2006 fourth quarter when Nevada casinos collected $3.266 billion.

Pedestrians walk on the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

New mask mandate

June marked the first full month that casinos statewide were allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity without COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s unclear what the new mask mandates that go into effect after midnight on Friday might have on gaming operations. Because of spiking COVID-19 numbers and following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation, the Control Board issued an order Tuesday for all casinos in Clark, Washoe and 10 other counties that requires employees and customers – regardless of vaccination status – to wear facial coverings while indoors.

Truist Securities gaming analyst Barry Jonas said in a pair of research notes to investors Wednesday that management for both Red Rock Resorts in Las Vegas and Atlantis owner Monarch Casinos in Reno didn’t believe the mask mandate would disrupt any recent favorable gaming and visitation trends.

“Monarch’s local customer mix is used to wearing masks, a sentiment echoed (by) Red Rock,” Jonas said. He added the mask mandate is not specific to just gaming.

“We think it’s too early to fully know the impact from this new policy, but we note the first quarter saw impressive results even with the same mask mandates,” Jonas said.

Strip recovery slow

Unlike much of the state, the Strip is still finding its footing.

During June, Strip casinos collected $610.6 million from gamblers, a decline of 1 percent from June 2019. The month included less than a week of operations from the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas, which opened before midnight on June 24.

Analysts noted the return of live entertainment in June, as well as the Strip’s first full-scale conference and tradeshow in more than a year when World of Concrete was held at Las Vegas Convention Center.

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Vice President of Research Kevin Bagger said convention and group visitation data for the month is still being gathered. In addition to World of Concrete, Las Vegas saw attendance from three other shows that “helped support midweek business,” Bagger said.

Lawton said the conferences and entertainment were “positive events for driving visitation.”

Slot machine gambling propped up the Strip’s overall totals in June with a 34.4 percent increase in revenues to $376.8 million, compared to June 2019. Wagering on slot machines was $4.3 billion, a nearly 21 percent increase from 2019.

However, high-end baccarat play, a driver of Strip gaming activity, continued to lag behind 2019 totals. Baccarat revenues of $42.5 million were down 73.1 percent during the month.

Strip casinos collected a combined $1.75 billion in gaming revenues for the April-through-June second quarter, the third-highest quarter ever for the Strip. The figure fell short of the all-time record of $1.79 billion in the 2006 fourth quarter and $1.78 billion in the 2007 fourth quarter.

The Strip still trails Nevada’s overall recovery. Statewide, gaming revenues are up 1.5 percent for the first six months of the year compared to 2019. Strip gaming revenues are down 11.3 percent for the same time frame. Clark County as a whole, the Strip, North Las Vegas and Laughlin are the state’s only reporting areas down for the calendar year compared with 2019.

As for Las Vegas visitation, the LVCVA said more than 2.97 million visitors came to Southern Nevada in June, 3.2 percent more than 2.88 million visitors in May. June was the sixth consecutive month-over-month increase. However, the June total was 17.6 percent lower than June 2019.

Bagger said hotel occupancy reached 75.9 percent in June, a 5 percent increase over May but down nearly 16 percent from June 2019. Weekend occupancy reached 90 percent while the market’s average daily room rate of $127.90 surpassed June 2019 by 6.2 percent.

Circa Resort & Casino. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Record breaking month for downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas is a different story.

The market recorded an all-time single month gaming revenue total of $79 million, breaking April’s previous mark of $76.3 million. For the April-through-June quarter, downtown’s gaming revenues topped $230 million, shattering the previous record of $183.6 million set in the 2019 fourth quarter.

Analysts credited last year’s opening of Circa Resort Casino with fueling downtown revenues as a whole.

Circa owner Derek Stevens, who also operates D Las Vegas and Golden Gate in downtown, said Thursday he was upbeat by the state’s overall numbers as well as downtown’s total. He cautioned, however, that it’s still early in the recovery.

“Month to month or a single quarter is not enough of a time frame to look at things,” Stevens said. He said Las Vegas needs international travel and the convention business to return because downtown casinos profit from those visitor segments.  

On Tuesday, Boyd Gaming said its two downtown casinos – a third, Main Street Station, remains closed – took in $38.3 million in revenues in the second quarter, a 39.8 percent decline compared with 2019. CEO Keith Smith said a continued decline in visitation from Hawaiian customers – its key downtown feeder market – has slowed a return to normal operations.

“We all benefit when the Hawaiian business comes back,” Stevens said.

International travel lags

McCarran International Airport reported 3.81 million arriving and departing passengers in June, which was down 14.3 percent from the 4.4 million recorded in June 2019. However, the figure was a slight increase over May’s passenger total of 3.5 million.

For the first six months of 2021, volume at the nation’s ninth busiest airport is down 36.9 percent compared to the same time period of 2019.

“What we’re seeing the past couple of months is that Vegas is in high demand for travel,” said McCarran spokesman Joe Rajchel. He said airlines have been evaluating the interest and adding flights where needed.

Lack of international airline travel, however, continues to be the largest contributor to the monthly declines compared to 2019. In June, just 53,400 international travelers were recorded during the month, a drop of 83.7 percent. For the year, international airline passenger volume is down 90.2 percent.

McCarran had direct airline flights to and from 11 countries before the pandemic. In June, four airlines serviced destinations in Mexico. Rajchel said airline service to and from Calgary, Alberta in Canada resumed through WestJet during July and will appear in next month’s report on passenger statistics.

Other June highlights

In Northern Nevada, Washoe County saw gaming revenues hit $88.4 million, an increase of 26.7 percent from June 2019. Reno casinos contributed $64.5 million to the total.

Nevada’s sportsbooks reported revenues of $29.2 million, an increase of 76 percent from June 2019. Sports wagering of $545.2 million was a 69.3 percent increase from June 2019. Both the revenue and wagering totals were all-time records for the month.

Mobile sports wagering accounted for 57.7 percent of all sports bets taken in June.

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