LAS VEGAS >> Tourists are returning, events are expanding and a wave of wagering is washing over Nevada, where a September casino winnings report showed gambling at pre-pandemic levels.
Casinos statewide took in almost $1.2 billion in house winnings in September, the state Gaming Control Board reported Wednesday.
The figure marked seven straight months of $1 billion or more — one short of a record eight-month streak set in late 2006 and early 2007, before the Great Recession.
Tourism officials in Las Vegas reported separately that hotel occupancy increased to 73% last month and more than 2.9 million people visited the region, down 15% from the same month in 2019 but up 72% from 1.7 million in September 2020.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority characterized the month as a “stabilization,” and noted that nightly hotel room rates have climbed to the highest during the “pandemic era,” to an average of $155.
Increased vehicle traffic on Interstate 15 at the California-Nevada border reflected a return of domestic tourists, but regular international air travel has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Federal authorities have set vaccination requirements for foreign, non-immigrant adults flying to the U.S. beginning Nov. 8.
Statewide, casinos reported almost $1.2 billion in winnings during the month, up 9.4% from $1.1 billion reported in September 2019. That was six months before COVID-19 prompted casino and business closures in March 2020.
“Strong demand across markets, the continued rebound of leisure travel and the return of special events and entertainment continued to propel gaming win past 2019 levels,” board Senior Analyst Michael Lawton said.
For the calendar year, results are now 8% above 2019, he noted.
Sports betting set a record for Nevada, with $786.5 million worth of wagers placed and $54.2 million in winnings reaped by sports books statewide. Lawton said 63% of sports bets were placed through mobile apps.
By comparison, New Jersey’s sports betting industry became the first in the United States to take in more than $1 billion worth of wagers in one month in September.
The robust September casino winnings in Nevada followed a record nearly $1.4 billion statewide in July and $1.2 billion in August.
The state reaped $72.9 million in monthly tax revenues based on the September figures, the report said.
Events during September included two Las Vegas Raiders home games at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, an MMA bout at T-Mobile Arena, a weekend of NASCAR races at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a three-night “Life is Beautiful” festival that drew thousands of music fans to downtown Las Vegas.
Lawton noted that a wildfire near the south rim of Lake Tahoe forced a nearly one-week closure of casinos in Stateline, and highways from California remained closed for most of the month. Casino winnings from South Lake Tahoe were down more than 77% compared with the same month a year earlier, and 69% compared with September 2019.
Disposable income may have been affected when coronavirus relief unemployment benefits expired in September for millions of Americans, Lawton said.
House winnings by Las Vegas Strip resorts totaled $640.6 million last month, up almost 10% from $584.2 million in September 2019.