Las Vegas Casino Win Plummets as COVID-19 Hammers Visitor Numbers

  • Sin City casino winnings and visitor numbers were down for the eighth consecutive month
  • Gaming figures for the rest of the state have bounced back from the pandemic
  • In Clark County, the Strip alone accounted for 82% of October’s casino win decrease
  • Last month, Vegas hosted nearly half the number of tourists it had a year ago
  • Nevada’s sportsbooks announced a record $659.6m wagered in October
gambling machines inside a Las Vegas casino
As the US battles a second COVID-19 wave, Las Vegas casino win totals have slumped and visitor numbers dropped for the eighth month in a row. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

October winnings down 19.5%

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the US, Las Vegas casino gaming win and visitors to Sin City slumped for the eighth consecutive month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) announced respectively on November 24.

Nevada’s casino win for October was $822.7m. This was 19.5% down on October 2019, a halcyon month where casino coffers jingled to the tune of over $1bn in winnings. Last month’s win represents a slight upward tick on September’s $821.1m, although it’s a decline of 22.4% on the previous year.

The drop in casino win also affects the state’s general fund in gaming tax. The NGCB posted its Abbreviated Revenue Release in a tweet, showing October tax revenue down 18.9% to $50.5m:

Overall, gaming win across the state of Nevada has bounced back from the pandemic, with the notable exception of Clark County. Across the Silver State, the only areas in the red are in Southern Nevada and include Clark County, the Strip, Downtown Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Laughlin, and the Boulder Strip. The Strip alone accounted for 82% of October’s decrease.

COVID-19 continues to vex Vegas tourism

Vegas’s casino win is down because COVID-19 is keeping visitors away. In October, Sin City hosted nearly half the number of tourists it had a year ago. Pandemic-derived challenges include limited air travel and an absence of mid-week convention business.

nearly half the number of tourists it had a year ago

It’s also not yet clear what effect Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s Emergency Directive 035, effective 12:01am on November 24, will have on visitors to Las Vegas. The revised capacity limit for casinos to 25% also applies to restaurants and bars.

The NGCB yesterday posted an infographic with key facts about the three-week “statewide pause” on Twitter, along with a link to its industry notice:

Las Vegas casinos are already reacting to the lower customer demand, with many not opening during the week. Most recently, MGM Resorts International announced that hotel operations at The Mirage and Mandalay Bay will be closed Mondays through Thursdays starting November 30.

The reason for Sisolak’s latest directive is that, in the week leading up to November 22, Nevada reported around 2,002 COVID-19 cases daily, with fatalities also on the increase.

Brighter outlook for locals market

While the news might seem bleak for Vegas, October markets across the rest of the state were actually up on the same month last year.

According to The Nevada Appeal, the Silver State’s oldest daily newspaper, NGCB analyst Mike Lawton attributed this to October 2020 having two extra weekend days than last year, and the fact that Nevada’s northern and western markets depend on local patrons. “The recovery is going to be uneven between markets that rely on local play vs. markets that rely more on destination air travel,” the Appeal quoted Lawton as saying.

a faster recovery than the Las Vegas Strip gross gaming revenue”

In a note to investors, Wall Street gaming analyst Joe Greff of J.P. Morgan said the Las Vegas locals market “is exhibiting a faster recovery than the Las Vegas Strip gross gaming revenue […] which makes sense given the general Clark County area population and retiree base in the area.”

The news was also good for Nevada’s sportsbooks, with a record $659.6m wagered in October.