[toc]March was a record month for tourism numbers in Las Vegas, but gambling was not the chief source of the uptick. A sign of the times, Las Vegas is flourishing because of its growing status as an entertainment destination, not a gambling mecca.
March was third-biggest month for Vegas tourism numbers ever
According to the Las Vegas Convention Authority, March of this year was the third-biggest ever from a tourism perspective. Over the course of the month, 3.78 million people visited Sin City. The busy March trailed only July of 2016 (3.83 million) and October of 2015 (3.79 million) historically.
There were a few factors working in Vegas’ favor to help generate such good visitor numbers, namely:
- Five weekends during the month
- March Madness basketball tournament
- Later than usual Easter
- ConExpo trade show
ConExpo was just one of a number of conventions in Vegas during the month. Overall, the total number of conventions was down, but convention attendance was up over 13 percent. There were 757,444 convention visitors, 130,000 of which came for ConExpo.
The boom in visitors also resulted in an uptick for hotel room demand. The average daily room rates were up to $149, compared to $140 last year.
College basketball propelled $991 million gambling take
While ConExpo only comes to Vegas once every three years, March Madness is an annual tradition which draws huge crowds to wager on the basketball tournament. This year was one for the record books, with over $31.4 million in sports betting take for the state’s casinos.
The take represents a more than 224 percent uptick in sports betting across the state. Moreover, it helped contribute to the $991 million in gambling revenue for Nevada casinos in March. That overall number is a seven percent increase from 2016. Michael Lawton, a senior analyst for Nevada Gaming Control Board, spoke to the Las Vegas Sun about the surge:
“It was an all-time record. So needless to say, the activity was generated from NCAA basketball tournament. It was extremely strong and stronger on the win than the volume. Basketball hold was very high, at 9.61 percent.”
Sports betting was not the only form of gambling to see year-over-year increases either. Both table games and slot take were up over 2016.
Focus on entertainment key ingredient for tourism success
The gambling take in March should not be ignored, but those numbers are more the result of the tourism boost as opposed to the cause of it.
Since the 1990s, Las Vegas casinos have been shifting focus to providing a destination for not just gambling, but entertainment. Nightlife, restaurants, and retail are now a major part of the business.
The shift continues to play out, such as this week when Wynn Resorts announced it was moving forward on a $1.5 billion project with no gambling elements called Paradise Park.
MGM Resorts is reaping similar benefits off non-gaming ventures. The casino company exceeded first quarter earnings expectations thanks, in part, to the continued success of T-Mobile Arena. The future home of the NHL expansion team Vegas Golden Knights has been hosting major sporting events and concerts since it opened a little over a year ago.
MGM invested in building up the area around the arena as well, creating a number of new restaurants and bars in the area adjacent to Monte Carlo Casino and calling it The Park.
The tourism numbers are doing great with these new innovations, but they will likely get even better once the NHL arrives later this year. That is not the only major sports franchise coming to Nevada either. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders will relocate to Vegas come 2020, once construction on the team’s new state-of-the-art stadium is complete.