Nevada casinos top $1B in gaming revenues in March; LV Strip totals up 67% Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · April 27, 2021 at 3:57 pm Nevada’s gaming revenue figures for March offer some comfort the state is showing the beginnings of a rebound from the year-long economic devastation brought about by the pandemic. Casinos statewide collected more than $1 billion in gaming revenues during March, an increase of 72.6% compared to the same month a year ago when gaming was halted for 78 days due to COVID-19. The Gaming Control Board said Tuesday the figure was the first $1 billion month for Nevada since February 2020 and the state’s highest single-month total since February 2013. The overall March 2021 total increased 4.3% compared to pre-pandemic March 2019. Las Vegas Strip casinos collected $501.4 million from gamblers, a 67.2% increase from last March, while Reno casinos collected $59 million, an increase of 163.7%. Downtown Las Vegas casinos saw revenues jump 63.4% to nearly $71 million. In fact, the downtown market was one of five statewide reporting regions that set single-month records total gaming revenue. Gaming Control Board Senior Research Analyst Michael Lawton said pent-up customer demand drove visitation while the increase in casino customer capacity from 35% to 50% on March 15 coincided with the excitement of the first weekend of the NCAA’s “March Madness” basketball championship. The tournament was canceled a year ago. “March 2021 represented the perfect storm for gaming activity in Nevada,” Lawton said. “However, these numbers also benefited significantly from stimulus payments allowing for increased spend by customers across the state including locals and visitors.” Casinos on the Strip and throughout Southern Nevada’s Clark County are expected to increase to 80% capacity on Saturday and the levels could go to 100% once 60% of the eligible population has received its first COVID-19 vaccine. Several Las Vegas casino operators are providing free COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, as part of the effort to inoculate frontline gaming workers. In-house clinics have been launched by MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resort, Las Vegas Sands, Red Rock Resorts, Golden Entertainment, Boyd Gaming, and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Casino revenues jump but are they sustainable A boost from high-end baccarat play was one area that benefitted the state in March. Casino revenues from the game were $68.2 million, an increase of 58.5%, with wagering down 2.9% to $349 million. Casinos held 19.54% of all baccarat wagers, compared to a nearly 12% hold last March. Revenues from slot machines increased 64.8% to $772.1 million, which marked the second-highest single-month slot revenue total in state history, Lawton said. The question on most minds is whether or not the increase is sustainable, or was March an anomaly. Global Market Advisors Partner Brendan Bussmann said the March figures were a “welcome surprise” that showed “the resiliency of the Strip and the industry’s ability to bounce back.” But will the trend continue? “I would expect that we will see a strong spring as people want to get back out,” Bussmann said. “The challenge will be to sustain these numbers over the course of time but with capacity increasing, it will provide further opportunity for consumers to come back and enjoy a full experience. As gaming is allowed to reopen, staffing and lift remain strong concerns to keep up with demand across gaming and non-gaming amenities.” Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said there was a sense of optimism from Strip casino operators concerning visitation. Both MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment said the return of convention and meetings business was needed to boost midweek occupancy and business. “MGM has seen an improvement in forward-booking pace, while it noted the dynamic between the weekends and the weekdays is showing the power of the operating model,” Beynon told investors. For the first three months of 2021, Nevada gaming revenues are down 3.6%. Strip gaming revenues are down 20.2%. However, downtown gaming revenues are up 8.4%, and Northern Nevada’s Washoe County, which includes Reno, is up 26.7%. Visitation to Las Vegas increases Las Vegas tourism officials said Tuesday the market drew its highest single-month visitor count in more than a year during March. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said the Strip and surrounding areas drew 2.23 million tourists in March, up 44.8% from February and up 45.7% over March 2020. However, when compared to a pre-pandemic visitation of almost 3.7 million visitors in March 2019, the overall visitor count was down roughly 40%. For the first three months of the year, visitor volume is down 39.8% compared to a year ago and 50.8% compared to the first three months of 2019. Overall hotel occupancy was 55.5%, as weekend occupancy reached 77.7% and midweek occupancy reached 47.8%. Convention visitation was still zero in March but is expected to improve due to some shows in April. The first large-scale tradeshow, the World of Concrete is scheduled for the Las Vegas Convention Center June 8-10. “Once meetings and conventions return, it will provide some additional opportunities for a boost to return back to pre-pandemic levels,” Bussmann said. Sports betting records Nevada sportsbooks collected $39.3 million in revenues during March, reversing a loss of $37.9 million a year ago. Wagering increased 354.3% to $640.7 million. Both revenues and handle were all-time records for March. The wagers were the third-highest single-month total of all time. Mobile sports wagering accounted for 60.1% of the total handle. A year ago, sports betting all but shut down after March Madness was canceled and professional sports leagues halted their seasons until late summer. Las Vegas airline statistics McCarran International Airport saw more than 2.57 million passengers in March, a 24.7% increase from March 2020 and the facility’s first year-over-year passenger increase since the pandemic began. The March figure was also a 60% increase compared to February. Through the first three months of the year, passenger volume is down 43.5% from 2020. While domestic airline passengers were up 32.6% compared to a year ago, international travel continues to lag as McCarran saw just 17,150 passengers from foreign destinations during March, a decline of nearly 87%. For the first three months of 2021, international travel is down 93.2%. Southwest Airlines, McCarran’s busiest air carrier, saw 892,517 passengers in March, a 47% increase over March 2020. The figure was 68% higher than in February. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.