The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported a gaming win of $1.06 billion in March, a gain of 72.6% when compared to March 2020
By Buck Wargo – SiGMA US correspondent
Travellers during spring break as well as the March Madness college basketball tournament were strong factors that helped Nevada rebound with casinos’ strongest gaming win since February 2013 and third highest sports betting handle of all time.
The good news comes ahead of Nevada release of further restrictions on May 1 and further measures the following month when casinos will be completely open up to full capacity.
In its latest announcements, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported a gaming win of $1.06 billion in March, a gain of 72.6 per cent compared to March 2020 when casinos were shut for almost three months. The gaming win was 4 per cent higher than March 2019.
The gain wasn’t surprising since 2.57 million passed through McCarran International Airport, nearly one million more than February and the highest monthly total since the reopening.
However, these numbers are still well below the 4.4 million mark registered in March 2019.
Nevada increased its gaming capacity from 35 to 50 per cent on last month, days ahead of the start of the NCAA basketball tournament whose watch parties are a big driver of tourism.
“March 2021 represented the perfect storm for gaming activity in Nevada,” said Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst with the Control Board.
“Demand was obviously a driver, in addition to capacity being increased and the NCAA basketball tournament being played after last year’s cancellation. However, these numbers also benefited significantly from ($2,000 per person) stimulus payments allowing increased spending by customers across the state, including locals and visitors.”
The NCAA tournament fueled strong sports betting handle with $640.7 million bet in March and $39.3 million won by casinos.
The sports pool win and volume were all-time records for March, while the handle was the third highest total all-time, Lawton said.
Brent Pirosch, a gaming analyst with CBRE, said it was a “strong March, but more work needs to be done.”
He called it “a good step in the right direction” with gaming win up 43.9 per cent from February.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported the city had its highest turnover since February 2020 with 2.2 million visitors, which was nearly 45 per cent higher than February 2021. Despite the gains it was still down 40 per cent from March 2019 when it was 3.69 million.
The hotel occupancy in March was 55 per cent, which was up more than ten per cent from February.
Las Vegas is counting on weekend visitation with a 77.7% occupancy on those days since large conventions haven’t yet resumed. Drive-in visitor traffic from California is even 6.5 per cent higher than March 2019.
“The challenges of diminished air traffic (especially international travel) and convention business are a drag on the recovery,” Pirosch said.
"However, we are entering the traditionally strong summer months of leisure holidays with May, June, and July being the strongest months.”
Daily room rates are expected to rise with increased demand. They were $104 on the Strip in March, 33 per cent below $144 in March 2019.
“I have strong expectations that vaccine distribution and relaxed travel restrictions will coincide nicely with historically strong visitation patterns for the Strip,” Pirosch said.
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