Las Vegas casinos post their biggest month in EIGHT YEARS
Las Vegas casinos are roaring back to life, posting their best month in eight years as the vaccine rollout and pandemic fatigue spur gamblers to return to the tables and slots.
In March, casinos across Nevada raked in more than $1 billion for the first time since the pandemic began, a 73 percent increase from the same month last year, according to a report on Tuesday from the State Gaming Control Board.
Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip accounted for half of the state's house winnings, taking in $501.45 million for a 67 percent bump.
Experts say the return of the NCAA 'March Madness' basketball tournament, which was cancelled last year, as well as fresh injections of individual stimulus cash all played a role in driving huge business for casinos.
Masked and unmasked pedestrians walk across Las Vegas Boulevard, Tuesday in Las Vegas. In March, casinos across Nevada posted their best month since 2013
People play craps while wearing masks and between Plexiglas partitions as a precaution against the coronavirus at the opening night of the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas last month
Nevada casinos reopened last June, but had seen sluggish uptake amid pandemic fears and capacity restrictions.
'I'm extremely hopeful and I am extremely confident that Las Vegas is going to not only recover but is eventually going to see even greater high marks, just as it has after every single downturn in the last 40 years,' Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at UNLV's International Gaming Institute, told the Las Vegas Review Journal.
'If you look at every single one of them, when it's recovered, it's recovered to new highs and I expect that's exactly what will happen here,' he added.
However, Feldman sounded a note of caution, given that the pandemic is not yet fully defeated.
'I don't think it's quite yet the time to claim victory,' he said. 'I think it's a little too early. It's certainly a great sign, and I don't want to diminish the importance of what's happened, but I think it would be a little bit too early to claim victory just yet.'
Derek Stevens, owner of Circa, the D Las Vegas and the Golden Gate in downtown Las Vegas, told the newspaper that March Madness was a major driver of casino revenue last month.
Experts say the return of March Madness was a key driver of casino revenues. Above, Davion Mitchell #45 of the Baylor Bears celebrates on the court after winning the tournament
'I think the one thing that happened in March was that there was so much pent-up demand to come to Vegas, but really there was some specific pent-up demand for March Madness, not just the first week but the second week as well,' Stevens said.
'The second week was exceptionally strong, far stronger than what we would have anticipated. I'm hoping now that (the impact of) March Madness is two weeks long.'
The gaming board said that sports pool win and volume were all-time records for the month of March, and the number of bets taken marked the third-highest of any month ever.
Sports pools won $39.3 million for the month, up $37.9 million from last year, or 2,605 percent. The amount wagered in sports pools was $640.7 million, up $499.7 million, or 354 percent.
'I don't believe anyone imagined this level of gaming win,' Michael Lawton, senior Nevada Gaming Control Board analyst, said of the report showing casinos in the state reported house winnings at the highest total since February 2013.
The $1.07 billion reported last month topped even the $1.02 billion the board charted in March 2019.
Lawton called March 2021 'the perfect storm for gaming activity in Nevada.'
'Demand was obviously a driver,' he said, 'in addition to capacity being increased to 50% on March 15 and the NCAA basketball tournament being played, after last year´s cancellation.'
One analyst called March 2021 'the perfect storm for gaming activity in Nevada' (file photo)
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which launched a new advertising campaign on Monday, reported Tuesday that it tallied more than 2.2 million visitors in March.
The tourism figure was down 40 percent compared with the same month two years ago, but up from the 1.5 million tourists the authority tallied in the first half of March 2020, before casinos and other businesses were closed to prevent people from gathering and spreading COVID-19.
McCarran International Airport said Monday it handled nearly 2.6 million passengers last month, up 961,000 from about 1.6 million arriving and departing passengers in February.
In March 2019, by comparison, the airport counted 4.4 million passengers on the way to a record-setting 51.5 million travelers in 2019.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, loosened occupancy limits statewide from 35 percent to 50 percent on March 15, and plans to leave coronavirus mitigation measures to local jurisdictions on May 1.
The Strip is seen deserted last year after pandemic restrictions shut casinos down
Sisolak has set a June 1 target for lifting all statewide restrictions except face coverings, which will still be mandated.
Many rural counties plan to lift all restrictions except mask rules May 1. In Las Vegas, occupancy limits will be relaxed but not lifted completely this weekend at businesses including stores, spas, saunas and strip clubs.
The Gaming Control Board said Friday that casinos in Clark County can go to 80% occupancy starting May 1.
Lawton, the board analyst, said spending on gambling is believed to have gotten a boost after direct payments of up to $1,400 went to most Americans under the $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief measure.
Lawton noted spikes in five other reporting markets set all-time records for casino winnings: downtown Las Vegas, the Boulder Highway area, the rest of Clark County surrounding Las Vegas, Elko County and the Carson City area.
Statewide slot winnings totaled $772 million - the second-highest total in history - and slot machine volume was the highest since July 2008, Lawton said.
Nevada sports books handled almost $641 million in March and won $39.3 million, second in the nation to New Jersey where sports pools handled $859 million and won $60.7 million.