Updated: COVID-19 sends 2020 Nevada and Strip gaming revenues to their lowest totals since the 1990s

For the first time since 2008 – the heart of the great recession – every Nevada market in the nation’s largest gaming state reported year over year revenue declines, led by the Las Vegas Strip’s 43.3% decrease.

How ugly was 2020 for Nevada casinos?

For the first time since 2008 – the heart of the great recession – every Nevada market in the nation’s largest gaming state reported year over year revenue declines, led by the Las Vegas Strip’s 43.3% decrease.

The state’s 78-day shutdown of the casino industry between March 18 and June 4 in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed the tourism and gaming markets throughout the entire year.

The overall Nevada gaming revenue figure for 2020 was $7.87 billion, according to totals released Thursday by the Gaming Control Board. The figure marked a decline of 34.6% over 2019 when the state recorded just its third $12 billion gaming revenue year in its history.

The last time the casino industry saw a statewide revenue total this low was in 1997 when casinos recorded just above $7.8 billion in gaming revenue.

On the Las Vegas Strip, 2020 gaming revenues of $3.73 billion was the lowest overall total since 1996. Overall gaming revenues in downtown Las Vegas declined 32.2% to $464.2 million. As a whole, Clark County gaming revenues for the year were $6.5 billion, a decline of 36.8%.

Washoe County casinos, which includes Reno, saw gaming revenues decline 21.1% to $676 million in 2020. The overall figure was the Northern Nevada’s market’s lowest total since 1986.

South Lake Tahoe casinos saw gaming revenues decline 19.3% during the year to $182.1 million.

Twice in 2020 – April and May – Nevada casinos overall recorded 99% declines in gaming revenues with limited mobile sports wagering being the only revenue provider in the state.

Meanwhile, December – which didn’t include the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for the first time since 1985 – saw gaming revenues fall 35.3% statewide to $683.7 million and more than 50.6% on the Strip to $292 million.

Gaming Control Board Senior Research Analysts Michael Lawton said December was the state’s worst full month of gaming revenues since August 1997 and the worst full month for the Strip since December 1993.

Nevada casinos are still operating under strict capacity limits of 25%, as well as COVID-19 health, safety, and cleaning protocols, Several Strip resorts have closed all or parts of their operations during the mid-week due to lack of business.

Las Vegas’ convention and meeting business segment has all but disappeared since the end of March. The Strip’s large entertainment venues have also been closed throughout the year.

“Without the NFR, (a) limited New Year’s Eve, along with capacity limitations in addition to the COVID-19 surge, December, although very weak in terms of gaming win, unfortunately, was not a huge surprise,” Lawton said.

Sports betting

For the first time in more than a decade, Nevada sportsbooks saw a decline in overall wagers. During 2020, sportsbooks took in total wagers of $4.3 billion, a decrease of 18.4% from 2019. Sports betting revenues of $262.8 million was a decline of 20.2%.

The pandemic caused the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament’s “March Madness,” one of the largest wagering events for Nevada sportsbooks, and the postponement of Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL until later in the year. The resumption of the major sports leagues, however, included a reduction in the number of games.

The college football season during the fall also saw a reduced number of games.

Sportsbooks accepted wagers – via mobile sports betting – on unusual contests during the state’s 78-day shutdown, such as Eastern European soccer and table tennis.

For all of 2020, sports wagers made via mobile sports betting applications accounted for revenues of $117.6 million on $2.5 billion in wagers. For the year, mobile sports wagers accounted for 57.1% of total sports wagers statewide.

Las Vegas visitation

Disruption from the pandemic sent Las Vegas Strip visitation to its lowest number in 30 years, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Just over 19 million visitors came to Las Vegas in 2020, a decline of 55.2% from the 42.5 million that visited the market in 2019.

Las Vegas last saw 19 million annual visitors was in 1990 when the market totaled 20.9 million. That followed visitation of 18.1 million in 1989.

Convention and meeting attendance was also decimated by the pandemic, with the number of delegates collapsing to a little more than 1.7 million, a decline of 74% from the more than 6.6 million meeting attendees in 2019.

Las Vegas convention attendance reached 1.7 million three times between 1988 and 1991, prior to a large expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the construction of the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

COVID-19, which disrupted travel and led to a prohibition on mass gatherings in Las Vegas, caused 2020 to end with nine straight months of zero convention and meeting delegates.

In December, with the absence of the National Finals Rodeo and a scaled-down New Year’s Eve celebration, visitation to Las Vegas fell 17.6% to 1.2 million.

Total room occupancy in Las Vegas 42.1.% in 2020, down from 88.9% in 2019. The average daily room rate for the year was down 9.3% to $120.31.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgmaing.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

This article is a reprint from CDCGamingReports.com. To view the original story and comment, click here

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