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Vegas gaming bounce in April changes outlook on the market

As Nevada sets a record for April casino revenue, analysts suggest high-end customers will continue to visit and pay higher room rates.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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The investment community has been bracing for a downturn in Nevada’s gaming market.

April’s gaming and tourism results released Wednesday may have changed some minds. 

Following a 1.2 percent statewide revenue decline in March, the Gaming Control Board said Strip gaming revenue increased nearly 7 percent during the next month, fueled by an increased hold percentage in high-end baccarat activity.

Also, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) said tourism to Las Vegas increased by almost 4 percent in April and convention attendance jumped more than 36 percent compared with last April.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said he expects gaming results on the Strip will continue to show revenue increases through the end of June. He said the leadership of Las Vegas’ two largest hotel-casino operators, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, predicted increased visitation but also higher hotel room rates through the end of 2024.

“We expect Strip gaming revenue to moderate but we see further growth in non-gaming [spending] given the programming from sports, entertainment, and a strong convention calendar,” Beynon wrote in a research note.

He suggested Las Vegas will see high-end luxury customers continuing to show a willingness to spend. Lower-income Las Vegas visitors, however, “may be feeling the pinch.”

The control board said casinos statewide collected more than $1.2 billion from customers during the month, a nearly 7 percent increase from a year ago and a record figure for the month. With almost $1.1 billion coming from Clark County, the Strip led the state’s reporting markets with $666 million.

April’s gaming revenue totals followed a March that brought the state’s first decline in eight months.

“April traditionally is not the strongest month for gaming revenue,” said Michael Lawton, the control board’s senior economic analyst, adding that the total revenue figure was the lowest so far in 2024.

Strip revenue totals were helped by high-end baccarat play, which increased to $76.7 million, an 80 percent jump from a year ago. Wagering on the game increased almost 10 percent to $662.9 million while the percentage of wagers held by casinos was almost 11.7 percent, up from 7 percent a year ago.

Lawton said Strip gaming revenue excluding baccarat was up 1.2 percent.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Carlo Santarelli noted Wednesday that the Strip benefitted from “the easy baccarat hold comparison,” but also from the calendar with March ending on a Sunday, sending slot machine revenue from that weekend into April. The Strip’s slot machine revenue increased 5.1 percent to $409.3 million.

Customers gamble at The Strat on May 18, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Vegas visitation increases

The LVCVA said the market drew more than 3.5 million visitors in April, which included 503,500 convention attendees from shows such as the International Security Conference (20,000 attendees), Google Cloud Next show (30,000) and the Craft Brewers Conference (12,000).

The Strip also saw several concerts and special events in the month, including UFC 300 at T-Mobile Arena.

Overall hotel occupancy on the Strip reached 85.5 percent, up 1.2 percent from a year ago. LVCVA Vice President of Research Kevin Bagger said the increase — along with a 6.6 percent jump in the average daily room rate to $182.20 — was notable given that more than 4,000 additional rooms were in the market compared to a year ago.

Gaming markets in Southern Nevada, except Laughlin and North Las Vegas, rebounded from March with downtown and Clark County’s neighborhood areas reporting double-digit increases.

An 11.1 percent increase to $82.7 million for downtown nearly wiped out the area’s 12.5 percent decline in March. Lawton credited a 13.4 percent increase in slot machine revenue and a 19.9 percent jump in sports betting revenue for downtown’s April total. Downtown casino revenue is down less than 1 percent in the four months of 2024 compared to a year ago.

The balance of the Clark County region, which primarily consists of neighborhood casinos outside of incorporated areas, reported $163.2 million in gaming revenue, up 24.5 percent. The figure included results from Durango Casino Resort, which opened in December.

JMP Securities gaming analyst Jordan Bender noted Wednesday that the entire Las Vegas locals market, which includes North Las Vegas and Henderson, saw a 16 percent increase in gaming revenue from last April, despite some commentary from casino management during quarterly earnings conference calls that the market was softening.

“The backdrop is attractive, in our view, with easy comparisons in the next two quarters and continued strength at the high end, benefiting Red Rock Resorts,” Bender wrote.

Tahoe rebounds, but Reno gaming revenue dips

The Washoe County markets saw gaming revenue declines for a second consecutive month. 

Reno casino revenue fell 5.9 percent to $59.3 million and Sparks revenue was down 8.9 percent to $13.9 million. 

However, South Lake Tahoe recorded the state’s largest year-over-year monthly increase — 31.6 percent to almost $18 million. Lawton said the calendar pushed the last weekend of March’s slot machine revenue reporting into April and fueled a large portion of the revenue increase for the four major resorts.

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