Nevada Casinos, Vegas Tourism Recovery in 22

A plane takes off from Harry Reid International Airport near the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. 2022 was a good year for gambling and tourism in Nevada. (AP File Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — 2022 was a good year for gambling and tourism in Nevada, where statewide casino profits set calendar-year records and Las Vegas visitor numbers nearly reached pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

“Las Vegas enjoys a steady recovery trajectory in terms of tourism metrics in 2022,” the regional convention and visitors authority said in a report summarizing December and year-end visitor numbers on Tuesday.

“The year ended with 38.8 million annual visitors,” the report said, up more than 20 percent from 2021 and down just under 9 percent from 42.5 million in 2019.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board said separately that 459 major casinos across the state took in an all-time high of $14.8 billion last year, up more than 23 percent from the 2019 calendar year.

That means nearly $945 million in taxes and fees for the state, said Michael Lawton, the board’s senior analyst. That’s an increase of about $8 million compared to 2021 and almost 25% more than $758 million in 2019 before the pandemic.

The numbers are important because casino taxes make up about 17 percent of state revenue, second only to sales taxes in a state that has no personal income tax.

A 10-year bar chart of what the board calls “casino profits” figures shows steady annual increases since 2013, except for 2020, when all casinos and many other businesses across the country have been closed since mid- March to early June 2020

December marked the 22nd straight month in which casinos reported profits of at least $1 billion, an unprecedented high, Lawton said.

“We’re still feeling the effects of pent-up demand from COVID, as well as the overall uptick in interest,” said Brett Abarbanel, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“Our entertainment mix has grown through COVID and beyond,” she said, citing “sports, shows, concerts and, of course, gambling.”

Convention attendance is also recovering in Las Vegas, the visitor authority said. It counted just under 5 million people at conferences and trade shows in 2022, or about three-quarters of the 2019 total of 6.6 million convention attendees.

Lawton noted that a major, new gambling property is opening in Nevada in 2022: Legends Bay Casino in Sparks. Several businesses closed, including the Tahoe Biltmore Lodge & Casino and the Fiesta, Texas Station and Fiesta Henderson properties in the Las Vegas area.

Statewide table gaming earnings of $4.8 billion surpassed the previous record of $4.4 billion set in 2007, Lawton said. House winnings from blackjack and other card games, baccarat, craps and roulette were higher in 2022 than in 2021.

Casino sports betting set a new record last year, earning nearly $447 million statewide on $8.7 billion in wagers, Lawton said. In 2021, those figures were $445 million and $8.1 billion.

Sports betting made using mobile apps accounted for more than 68 percent of sports betting nationwide, up from 65 percent last year, Lawton added.

UNLV’s Abarbanel attributes the rapid growth of online sports betting to a “novelty effect” as more states allow Internet betting and aggressive advertising by legal betting companies.

“Usually that novelty effect wears off after a while,” she noted, adding that current levels of advertising have prompted some states to make what she called “regulatory changes that tighten their original plans.”

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