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Don’t discount how meaningful February’s extra day is to gaming

Updated February 26, 2024 - 10:25 am

The calendar is delivering a gift to tourism enterprises this week, but it will take time to determine just how valuable that gift is.

Thursday is Feb. 29, the additional day tacked onto the calendar for leap year, a date that occurs only once every four years.

It means there will be 91 days in the first quarter instead of the usual 90 and 366 days in the year instead of just 365.

That’s one additional day of tumbling dice on the craps table, one more day of coin-in on slot machines, one more hotel room night and one more day of flights into and out of Las Vegas at Harry Reid International Airport.

If you do the math and use averages from last year’s performance, we’re talking about an average $42.5 million a day generated in casinos statewide, $36.9 million a day in casinos in Clark County, $24.4 million a day on the Strip and $2.5 million a day in downtown Las Vegas.

It also means around 149,180 more daily passengers at Reid International based on the 4.2 million who arrived at the airport in February 2023.

As for visitation, we’re looking at potentially another 110,000 people in town based on there being 3.1 million here in February 2023.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, there are now 154,662 rooms in Southern Nevada hotel and motel inventory, and in February last year, the occupancy rate was 82.2 percent. That means roughly 127,000 rooms could be in use if the same occupancy rate prevails. And, at an average daily room rate of $176.64, rooms would generate an additional $22.4 million.

All of that is potentially good news for local companies but, as Michael Lawton, the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s senior economic analyst points out, there are other variables that point to 2024 being a bigger year despite the extra day leap year is giving us.

“I would not assume one day could swing the calendar year up or down, there are just too many other things to consider in my opinion,” Lawton said in an email.

Lawton said in the past 16 Februarys, revenue levels have fluctuated, and in seven of those years, more than $1 billion was generated by the state’s casinos.

The best February on record occurred last year when $1.24 billion was won by casinos.

The fourth-best February on record — 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold — casinos generated $1.04 billion, the best performance in a leap year.

Other leap year totals included sixth-best 2008, $1.02 billion; eighth-best 2016, $989.9 million; and 11th-best 2012, $932.2 million.

Lawton said because there are so many other variables that can affect February results, the extra day may or may not be relevant.

“From a forecasting perspective, the extra day is meaningful for a month,” he said. “However, February can be challenging with year-over-year comparisons when the Chinese New Year falls in February in the comparison year and January in the following year. This does not make for an apples-to-apples comparison.”

He said even without the extra leap year day, February is shaping up to be a great month.

“When we were looking at this February (2024), we were very excited for its year-over-year growth prospects for a few reasons,” he said. “No. 1, it has the extra day; No. 2, Las Vegas hosted the Super Bowl, and lastly, Chinese New Year celebrations fell in February vs. January last year. Of course, hold percentage will be a variable in what February delivers, but from a calendar perspective, it is looking extremely favorable.”

Hold percentage is based on how much the casinos won vs. how much players won, and that’s all a matter of which teams win and by how many points, which cards are dealt, where the roulette ball lands and how the slot machine reels align.

Lawton’s premise that February 2024 will be far better than any other stems from the Super Bowl as there appeared to be more people in town than the 330,000 forecast. Also, the average daily room rate soared in that second week to levels four to five times the usual.

Joe Rajchel, a spokesman for Reid International, acknowledged that based on averages, around 149,000 more passenger could be counted on at the airport this month.

“Even then, it might be a tough comparison to make since February 2024 had the Super Bowl,” he said.

To learn the answer, we have to wait until the end of March when all the February numbers are tabulated and released.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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