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Las Vegas visitation slips, but Nevada gaming win cracks $1B mark

Convention attendance was off 16.7 percent and January visitor volume was down 3.3 percent, but the average daily room rate soared for the month to the highest level in history, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Wednesday.

In addition, state gaming win cracked the $1 billion barrier for the first time in a year, but the Strip showed the steepest monthly decline among 20 markets monitored in Nevada, according to the state Gaming Control Board.

The three-month win average, generally a better indicator of gaming trends than monthly reports, also was down.

LVCVA analysts said shifts in convention dates hurt January numbers. Downtown’s International Market Center, a home decor trade show, which drew 50,000 people, and Surfaces, a flooring show that brought in 24,000 attendees, moved from January to February this year.

Giant CES, Southern Nevada’s largest trade show with about 175,000 conventioneers, affected weekend occupancy because it moved from a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule to a Tuesday-through-Friday format this year.

Room rates up 9.1%

The LVCVA reported visitor volume of 3.4 million with 612,900 convention attendees in January. Occupancy fell 1.9 percentage points to 83.8 percent, but the average daily room rate climbed 9.1 percent to $163.90 a night, the highest ever recorded.

The high rate comes at a time when critics have called out Las Vegas for raising resort fees and imposing fees to park their cars.

The occupancy rate also was down at a time when room inventory was off 1.3 percent from 2017 to 146,715 as renovations continue to take rooms offline at Palace Station, Palms and Monte Carlo, among others. Because of the shift of CES dates, weekend occupancy was off 5.7 percentage points to 86.9 percent, but midweek occupancy was only up 0.2 points to 82.6 percent.

In a report issued Wednesday, Joseph Greff, a gaming analyst with J.P. Morgan, said he expects revenue per available room in Las Vegas to go up around 2 percent in 2018 and that the city will experience low-single-digit percentage growth in visitation.

Meanwhile, the state Gaming Control Board reported win of $1.01 billion statewide, a 2 percent decline from January 2017. Strip win was off 8.9 percent to $554.8 million in January.

For November, December and January, win averaged $961.4 million, down 1.3 percent from a year earlier. For the Strip, win averaged $537.3 million a month, a decline of 6.1 percent from the previous year.

36th time over $1 billion

It was the 36th time the state has recorded more than $1 billion in monthly win, a level first achieved in March 2005. The highest monthly win ever came in October 2007 when the state recorded $1.165 billion. January’s win total wasn’t among the top 10 months ever recorded.

The Strip decline dragged down Clark County overall, but other markets showed gains in January.

Overall, Clark County win was off 3.7 percent to $892.1 million. The strongest Southern Nevada market was the Boulder Strip, up 6.8 percent to $90.6 million. Laughlin was up 3.5 percent to $45.7 million, Mesquite climbed 4.5 percent to $11 million and North Las Vegas was up 0.4 percent to $28.8 million.

Downtown Las Vegas, which paced percentage growth for most of 2017, was up 1.8 percent to $56.5 million.

Of the markets monitored by the state, only the Strip and North Lake Tahoe showed declines in January. But the Strip’s volume — its win represents 54.7 percent of the entire state — resulted in the statewide decline.

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the Tax and License Division of the Control Board, attributed the decline to a tough comparison against a strong January 2017 and the fact that Chinese New Year, usually a big magnet for international visitation, occurred in February this year, but in January in 2017.

Chinese New Year a factor

“There was an unfavorable calendar compared to January 2017 with one less weekend day,” Lawton said in an email. “Secondly, and more importantly, Chinese New Year festivities began in January last year, but this year the celebrations were held entirely in February. With all that, we are pleased with this month’s results considering the calendar issues and the billion-dollar comparison. I anticipated a larger decrease than what was recorded.”

In January 2017, the state won $1.04 billion, which was a 12 percent increase from the year before that.

J.P. Morgan’s Greff said January Strip baccarat win was down 28.2 percent with the drop off 22.1 percent, but a higher-than-normal hold of 15.8 percent. He also said gaming revenue for locals casinos was up 8.2 percent year over year for the month.

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

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