Vegas is back in the money
After a turbulent year in 2020, the lights of Las Vegas are shining brighter than ever before. According to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board this week, September saw the state’s gaming revenue exceed $1bn for the seventh month in a row at $1.16bn. That represents a rise of 41% from September 2020 revenue.
The last time VegasSlotsOnline News spoke with SCCG Management CEO and Vegas gambling industry veteran Stephen A. Crystal, things didn’t look quite as bright for Nevada. The state had just reported a 35% year-on-year drop in full-year casino revenue for 2020, and casinos continued to struggle with capacity restrictions and other COVID-19 measures.
In light of Nevada’s impressive recovery since that first discussion, VSO News caught up with Crystal again this week to get his view on the market’s resurgence.
Despite its poor performance in 2020, you were always bullish about the Vegas gambling market’s ability to fight back. But did you really expect this speed and level of recovery?
I did. Back then we were starting to see some of these trends that have now taken root. It’s about understanding the psyche of the average American who was looking for a place to blow off steam and bring events and entertainment back into their life.
another example of Vegas leading the way”
Vegas has always been a leading indicator. In the past, it has been surprisingly resistant to recession and downturns. This is yet another example of Vegas leading the way as we come out of the pandemic.
Can you give us some of the main reasons why Vegas has experienced this substantial uptick in revenue since the beginning of the year?
I think there are five main reasons.
One of these is pent-up demand. This isn’t unique to Vegas as it can be said of any city or locale where people are back out spending money. It’s definitely enhanced in Vegas though, because of how much we have to offer here.
Obviously, compared to pre-pandemic levels, Americans have had limited travel options. Now, the ability to get a flight and come to Vegas is still plentiful. It’s a very attractive destination whether you’re driving in from California or flying in from one of the regional centers.
We have also started to see the return of live events. We held the Electronic Daisy Carnival music festival with 500,000 people, we’ve held NFL games with 60,000-70,000 people, and the headliners and concerts are back.
we’ve got groups, small conventions, and even larger conventions returning”
Then we’ve also started to finally see the group travel return. We’ve been relying more on low-level traffic with people looking to spend their discretionary money here, either driving in or flying in. Now, we’ve got groups, small conventions, and even larger conventions returning to Vegas.
Finally, even with the mask mandate, which we do have here unlike a few other places in the US, people still feel freer in Vegas compared to other places in the country.
Outside of traditional casino gambling, sports betting revenue increased 37% month-on-month in September. How integral do you think the growth of this vertical has been for Vegas’ resurgence?
A lot of people were concerned when gambling started to open up state by state with riverboats and Indian casinos. I was never of that view because there’s only one Vegas. The more that people participated in local gaming and then came to Vegas to do their favorite form of gambling, it ended up lifting Vegas as well.
all we’ve done is educate a growing number of people in betting”
The same can be said in the sports betting category. Now that we’ve opened it up to 20+ states, many of them online, all we’ve done is educate a growing number of people in betting. Now, when they come to Vegas they can practice and enhance their experience through what we offer here.
Do you think the growth of Vegas’ gambling market can continue?
I think the growth will continue for sure because there are more events, and there is more group business coming in. I think it will continue until people want us to invest more in customer service and some of the other elements they are accustomed to.
Right now, they’re not demanding a high level of service or amenity. The casino companies can be very efficient with how they spend their capital, making them very profitable. But over time the customer’s going to demand more for the dollar that we want to take from them, and that’s going to make things a bit tighter in terms of the profits companies can make.
That said, I think for the next year at least we will see continued growth as things open up and larger groups continue to arrive in Vegas.