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2019 was record year for hosting conventioneers in Las Vegas

Updated January 30, 2020 - 4:06 pm

Las Vegas had the most conventioneers in history in 2019, thanks to the busiest December on record, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Thursday.

Usually a slow convention month, December bucked trends with 356,100 convention attendees, a 60.6 percent increase over December 2018 and the largest December number ever recorded.

The LVCVA said moving the Amazon Web Services conference with 65,000 participants and the Marijuana Business Conference with 35,000 from November to December and the rotation of 20,000 at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists meeting into Las Vegas resulted in the higher numbers.

The strong convention performance boosted visitor volume to 3.5 million for the month, a 6.1 percent increase over December 2018 and also a record for the month. That left Las Vegas with a 2019 total of 42.5 million people, the second highest tabulated.

The 2019 visitor volume total was 1 percent higher than 2018’s 42.1 million, but short of 2016’s record 42.9 million arrivals.

Other indicators climb

The higher December volume also bumped up occupancy rates and the average daily room rate for the month. The LVCVA reported an occupancy rate of 85.1 percent, 5.2 percentage points above December 2018. The average daily room rate of $125.08 was 4.4 percent more than last year’s total.

Nearly every key tourism indicator in December surpassed year-ago levels.

The only indicator that was less in December 2019 from the previous year was daily auto traffic on Interstate 15 at the Nevada-California border. The Nevada Department of Transportation estimated that total at 43,705 a day, 3.1 less than in December 2018.

Nevada casinos also won an average of more than $1 billion a month from players in 2019, 1 percent higher than the previous year, as the state tallied another billion-dollar month in December.

It was the seventh time this calendar year that win exceeded $1 billion in a month, the most since calendar year 2006 when it was exceeded nine times.

The state Gaming Control Board on Thursday reported 2019 win of $12.032 billion after December win of $1.058 billion was added. Of the more than $12 billion won statewide, $10.356 billion — 86.1 percent of it — occurred in Clark County.

Third-highest total

The win total in 2019 was the third highest in state history, trailing totals accumulated in 2006 and 2007. The 2019 total is 6.4 percent below 2007’s record $12.8 billion win collection.

Gaming win has now increased five straight years and nine of the last 10.

Win totals are important because gross gaming revenue is taxed by the state in varying percentages with a maximum level of 6.75 percent. The Clark County Education Association is circulating an initiative petition to increase the maximum level by 3 percentage points.

The state doesn’t track tax collections by calendar year, but for the first seven months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, the state collected $419 million in percentage fees, 13.5 percent more than it collected for the comparable period a year earlier.

The spread of legal sports wagering nationwide doesn’t appear to have hurt the state. Nevada’s legal sports books won $329.1 million in 2019, a 9.5 percent increase over 2018. Bookies wrote $5.3 billion in wagers, an increase of 6.1 percent. Both were records for the state and the 10th consecutive record achieved for volumes.

Sports wagering handle was $4.5 billion in New Jersey and $1.9 billion in Pennsylvania.

Baccarat battered

Win was up in 2019 over the previous year for slot machine revenue, but table-game win declined, thanks to a 13 percent dip to $1.051 billion in baccarat win and a 2.9 percent decline to $1.113 billion in casinos’ most popular game, blackjack.

“Baccarat win was down after increasing 4.7 percent last year,” said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Control Board. “Baccarat volume decreased 16.9 percent, ending a streak of consecutive increases. Total win excluding baccarat increased 2.5 percent this calendar year after increasing 2.8 percent last year and has increased in five consecutive years.”

The three-month gaming win trend, generally a more telling gauge of activity because it eliminates volatile swings resulting from calendar comparisons, showed a 0.4 percent decline statewide for the months of October, November and December. On the Strip, the three-month win trend was down 2.7 percent and in downtown Las Vegas, it climbed 2.9 percent.

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

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