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Nevada gaming win up but Las Vegas Strip casinos see decline

Southern Nevada visitation fell for the fourth straight month in September and most key tourism indicators were below 2017 levels, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Tuesday.

The LVCVA attributed the lackluster performance to there being one fewer weekend day compared with September 2017 and decreased convention attendance due to show rotations out of the market.

Visitor volume was at 3.458 million for the month, off 3.1 percent from a year ago, with convention attendance down 5.6 percent to 437,800, citywide occupancy off 3.7 percentage points to 87.4 percent, and the average daily room rate down 2.2 percent to $136.23 a night.

Convention attendance was below 2017 levels for the fifth time in nine months and volume was down for the seventh month this year.

2016, 2017 records safe

After three quarters of operation, visitor volume is down 1.3 percent compared to 2017 making it less likely that Las Vegas will surpass 2017’s total of 42.2 million visitors, which was off from 2016’s record 42.9 million. The city also will be hard pressed to equal 2017’s record convention attendance of 6.6 million with levels being down 2.7 percent to 5 million after nine months.

In January, the LVCVA projected a 1.2 percent increase in visitor volume for 2018.

The LVCVA reported that Pack Expo, a trade show that brought 46,000 people to Southern Nevada in September 2017, met in Chicago this year.

The only tourism indicators showing improvement from September 2017 were the daily average highway traffic volume (up 2.4 percent to 117,421 vehicles per day) and Clark County gaming win.

Clark County and state casino win showed modest increases in September, but the 50 Strip licensees had declines for the month, quarter and past 12 months, the state Gaming Control Board reported Tuesday.

State gaming win, the amount collected by casinos for gambling, was up 1.3 percent over September 2017 to $991.2 million for the month and Clark County’s 210 licensees reported a 1.5 percent increase to $843.4 million. The statewide increase ended a two-month streak of declines in July and August.

But Strip win showed weakness for the month as well as in three- and 12-month trends.

The three-month gaming revenue trend for the Strip, generally a more accurate gauge of win activity because it eliminates volatile swings resulting from calendar comparisons, shows win down 7.22 percent for July, August and September compared with those months in 2017. Over the past 12 months from September, Strip win was off 1 percent from the previous year.

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the administration division of the Control Board, attributed some of the Strip decline to unlucky play by the casinos.

“When you look at the Strip, we are encouraged by the fact that slot volume was up a solid 3 percent and slot win was up 5 percent,” Lawton said Tuesday in an email. “Additionally, table volume excluding baccarat was up 4.7 percent. Unfortunately, the Strip didn’t hold well in all the major games with the exception of roulette and that was the main reason games win was down 11.7 percent.”

Calendar didn’t help

Gaming analyst Joseph Greff of J.P. Morgan, in a note to investors, also said the calendar affected win in September.

“The September calendar was unfavorable, with nine weekend days in 2018 versus 10 in 2017,” Greff said. “Looking ahead, the October calendar is neutral with eight weekend days in 2018 versus 10 in 2017.”

Lawton said he is encouraged that through the first nine months of the year the state is up 2 percent and all the 19 major markets monitored by the state, including the Strip, are in positive territory through the first nine months of the calendar year.

He said double-digit percentage increases in September for the Boulder Strip (up 27.5 percent), North Las Vegas (up 22.4 percent) and downtown Las Vegas (up 11.6 percent) were primarily the result of the timing of data collection.

Lawton also said the state set a record for sports pool win at $56.3 million a record for bets taken at $571 million.

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

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