80°F
weather icon Clear

As COVID-19 cases rise, fewer tourists come to Las Vegas

Updated July 21, 2020 - 9:38 am

Foot traffic in Las Vegas casinos is starting to slow as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

Roughly 350,000 visitors were estimated to be in Clark County casinos Saturday, the lowest Saturday count since casinos reopened on June 4, according to a Monday note from J.P. Morgan analyst Joseph Greff. More than 400,000 were in casinos the previous Saturday, and roughly 550,000 on July 4.

The analyst attributed the drop to increased COVID-19 cases in Nevada. The Southern Nevada Health District reported 1,288 new coronavirus cases in the state on Sunday, 88 percent of which were in Clark County. It was the fifth day in a row officials reported more than 1,000 cases in the county.

“We view most recent data as neutral to modestly negative,” Greff said in the report, noting that Las Vegas casinos are continuing to reopen despite the drop in visitation. He did not return a request for comment.

Bally’s, owned by the newly formed Caesars Entertainment Inc., is set to open its doors July 23. Penn National’s Tropicana is set to follow suit on Sept. 1.

‘Step backwards’

The report was based on data from Visitdata.org, which tracks foot traffic from 13 million opted-in Foursquare users.

Daily visitation in Clark County casinos during the week of July 12 was estimated to be 44 percent lower than the average rate in February, before the pandemic wreaked havoc in Nevada. The previous week, there was a 38 percent drop.

The analyst views the most recent data as “a modest step backwards” and said it was somewhat expected, given the continued increase in COVID-19 cases and declines in consumer spending.

Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization in Las Vegas, said in a normal year a dramatic decrease in visitation for the two weekends following a three-day holiday weekend is typical, but this drop was amplified since it was the first holiday weekend since casinos’ reopening.

Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors LLC, said travel restrictions in other states, quarantine mandates and limited air traffic could also hinder visitation rates.

A lack of meeting and convention business, limited traditional entertainment offerings and rising cases in neighboring states such as California and Arizona — two major sources for drive-in traffic — could also hurt numbers, said Greg Chase, founder and CEO of Las Vegas-based Experience Strategy Associates.

“It’s important to remember that the drive-in market is going to be the lifeblood of the Las Vegas casino business for the foreseeable future,” he said. “As the public continues to stay home in fear of what they keep hearing about spikes and record cases, the less they will want to venture out, especially to a city that is a melting pot of visitors mainly from current hot spots.”

He said these factors make it risky for casino operators to continue reopening properties at their current pace.

Regional vs. Strip

“The demand thus becomes thinner spread amongst the current inventory,” Chase said. “This is why you are starting to see more companies offer no resort fees and increase promotions.”

But Swissman said operators’ “tremendous insight” into future visitation volumes through future room reservations is driving them to continue to reopen properties throughout the summer.

“However, it is the lack of group, convention and business visitation that may likely cause those same operators to shut down some of their assets during midweek time frames to better match supply with demand,” he said.

While there are fewer visitors, those who do come are spending more time inside casinos. The median visit duration in Clark County casinos since reopening is 7 percent higher than the average levels in February.

Greff says this is indicative of more dedicated, “higher quality” players traveling to Las Vegas.

The report also says Strip properties are probably faring worse than those that cater to locals, which have advantages through their exposure to sports betting revenue, a stronger post-pandemic operating-expenditure structure and “better than feared” gross gaming revenue recovery levels.

“Given recent trends, we prefer regional operators such as (Penn National Gaming) and (Boyd Gaming) over Las Vegas centric operators,” Greff said.

Bussmann expects visitation rates will continue to fluctuate until the number of reported cases drops and other states end quarantine orders.

”The challenge to visitation would be if orders come down that would shut down the Strip, which would be devastating to the industry,” he said.

Chase said there will always be people willing to come to Las Vegas, regardless of regulations or case counts. But, in order for visitation rates to grow, “that depends on the larger percentage of the population who you just haven’t seen quite ready to travel yet.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
MGM Resorts announces “Viva Las Office” program - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International announced its new “Viva Las Office” program that encourages business travelers to work remotely from the Bellagio or Aria.
Las Vegas housing market sees record prices despite pandemic
Las Vegas’ housing market is “on fire” despite the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating effect on the economy, as sales totals surged and prices hit another all-time high last month. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sahara Las Vegas gets COVID-19 regulatory complaint - VIDEO
Sahara Las Vegas is the first property on the Las Vegas Strip — and the first in Southern Nevada — to receive a regulatory complaint related to coronavirus safety protocols. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CEO unsure if Palms will reopen - VIDEO
Frank Fertitta III, chairman and CEO of Red Rock Resorts, said the company doesn't know if or when the Palms or three other Station Casinos properties will reopen. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two Las Vegas visitors win mega progressive jackpots - VIDEO
Two visitors to the Las Vegas Strip won mega progressive jackpots on table games Friday - one at Caesars Palace and another at the Flamingo. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
D Las Vegas pulls back on dress code policy - Video
The policy barred people with face and neck tattoos from entering the downtown Las Vegas hotel-casino. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amazon warehouse safety measures
Safety measures have been set up at the Amazon warehouse in North Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Stadium hits substantial completion milestone
Nine-hundred-and-ninety-three days after the groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 13 2017 on what was then a 62-acre lot of dirt, the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium, home of the Raiders, now holds its own in the Las Vegas skyline.
Tropicana hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip up for sale - VIDEO
Gaming and Leisure Properties, landlord of the 35-acre Tropicana, is looking to sell the Las Vegas property and rent it back or sell it outright.
Circa Sports bets big on NFL handicapping contests - Video
A little more than six weeks before the NFL’s scheduled season opener, the Circa sportsbook is staring at a potential multimillion-dollar loss. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sisolak: Bars in four counties to stay closed - VIDEO
Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in four counties, including Clark County, will remain closed to help fight COVID-19. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa CEO comments on minor construction flaw
Circa CEO Derek Stevens, who also owns D Las Vegas and Golden Gate, said he had originally planned to fix a misplaced glass panel, but it may be here to stay.
Circa Las Vegas casino gets 1st six-ton exterior sign - Video
The under-construction Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas gets its first exterior sign bearing its name Thursday morning. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wynn Resorts Ltd. to place workers on furlough - VIDEO
Wynn Resorts Ltd. will put workers at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore on furlough, effective this week. This comes after paying its Las Vegas employees throughout the 78-day Nevada casino shutdown. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Switch, Capital Dynamics break ground on developments - Video
The project, Gigawatt 1®, includes the largest behind-the-meter solar plus battery project in the world. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small crew removes scaffolding, shoring from MSG Sphere project - Video
The MSG Sphere at The Venetian has a skeleton crew on the job site to keep watch on the project, but workers recently removed scaffolding and shoring from the site. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Amid the pandemic, Southern Nevadans are falling behind on mortgages - Video
As Nevada’s foreclosure moratorium ends, homeowners must figure out how to pay off any missed mortgage payments. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Casino foot traffic slows as COVID-19 cases rise - VIDEO
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Las Vegas casino foot traffic is starting to slow, according to a J.P. Morgan analyst.
Las Vegas entrepreneur Andrew Fonfa dies at 68 - VIDEO
Andrew Fonfa, a developer of the Lucky Dragon hotel-casino just off the Las Vegas Strip, died at age 68.
Las Vegas casinos modify smoking policies - VIDEO
On June 18, Las Vegas Sands Corp. updated its health and safety plan to ask table game players and spectators to refrain from smoking or vaping.
Tourists compare pre-pandemic Vegas to today's restrictions - VIDEO
We spoke with tourists walking up and down Las Vegas Boulevard about their experience so far amid pandemic restrictions, and how it compares to their last time in pre-pandemic Vegas. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Boyd Gaming Corp. has laid off at least 2,500 Nevada employees - Video
On May 22, the casino operator issued letters warning of possible impending layoffs . affecting anywhere between 25 and 60 percent of employees. The company had approximately 10,000 employees in Nevada.
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas gives notice of potential layoffs - VIDEO
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas sent the state notice of potential layoffs at the 3,000-room property on the Las Vegas Strip.
Is Nevada the ‘gold standard’ for casino coronavirus response? - Video
Whenever experts begin comparing gaming jurisdictions, you’re bound to hear the phrase “gold standard” dropped in the conversation. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World Las Vegas activates 100,000-square-foot LED screen - VIDEO
Resorts World Las Vegas activated its 100,000-square-foot LED screen on its west tower on Independence Day, showing a digital fireworks display. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Station Casinos president dies in watercraft accident - VIDEO
Richard Haskins, president of Red Rock Resorts Inc. and Station Casinos, died Saturday in a watercraft accident in Michigan, according to a statement released by the company. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hockey arena opponents erred in ballot initiative - Video
Opponents of a minor league hockey arena in Henderson collected enough verified signatures to put the disputed project on the November ballot, but then a problem emerged: A procedural error on the petition.
Layoffs at 'The Drew' force staff to sue owner
Rj Business reporter Eli Segall talks about the lawsuit and the future of the unfinished hotel and casino.
Vegas tourists react to mask mandate - VIDEO
Governor Steve Sisolak announced on Wednesday a mandate to wear face masks starting Friday. Down on the Las Vegas Strip tourists reacted on camera to the news. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA #VegasSmart social media campaign brings awareness to wearing a mask - Video
Now that Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced requirements to wear masks in public settings in the state, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will attempt to deliver the message to prospective visitors via their #VegasSmart social media campaign. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST