Full-Year 2020 Statistics Show Covid Impact on Las Vegas

No one was hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than the people who lost family members and friends. As of March 2, 2021, more than $2.5M people around the world died from Covid-19, per Johns Hopkins University. There are millions of people currently living with the after-effects of the disease, some still fighting for their lives in hospitals. Many people lost their jobs, incomes, businesses, and livelihoods throughout the pandemic that now spans more than one year.

Nothing discussed in this article is meant to disregard or gloss over that devastation.

With that said, let’s talk about Nevada, specifically Las Vegas.

The pandemic’s impact on the gambling is evidenced in the numbers from the Nevada Gaming Commission, Nevada Gaming Control Board, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Revenue Crashes in 2020

It is no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic severely impacted Nevada gambling revenue. And for parts of the state like Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, the impact was even greater.

From mid-March 2020 through the beginning of summer, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses shut. This happened across America (and much of the world) at the behest of health officials. The pandemic was too new, risky, and downright dangerous.

Months later, as medical experts discovered more about Covid-19 and how people could protect themselves, some businesses started to reopen, albeit slowly and cautiously with limited capacity and limited services. The reopening process continues into 2021. Vaccines are in the production and distribution phases around the world, but mass vaccinations take time.

Meanwhile, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released gaming revenue for the full year of January 1 through December 31, 2020.

First, let’s look at total win from table, counter and card games and slot machines for the entire state.

  • Total 2020 win in Nevada: $7,873,313,471 (down $3.8B or 34.56% from 2019)
  • Total 2019 win in Nevada: $12,031,501,286 (down $12.7M or 0.96% from 2018)

The taxable gross revenue from the same games told a very similar story.

  • Total 2020 taxable gross revenue in NV: $7,857,795,932 (down $3.8B or 32.7% from 2019)
  • Total 2019 taxable gross revenue in NV: $11,675,080,114 (down $126M or 3.2% from 2018)

Entertainment revenue took an even sharper downturn for the state.

  • Total 2020 entertainment taxes earned in NV: $16,439,742 (down $94.2M or 85.15% from 2019)
  • Total 2019 entertainment taxes earned in NV: $110,691,827 (up $3.5M or 11% from 2018)

Tourism Pain for a Tourist-Centric City in 2020

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Research Center tracks a variety of tourism indicators pertaining to Las Vegas by the month and year. The tourism industry took a huge hit in 2020. Not only did the authorities require businesses to shut their doors completely for months, airlines and other modes of transportation also stopped. Until everyone began to figure out how to travel safely – at least as safely as possible – tourism practically stopped for cities like Las Vegas for a few months last year.

The monthly numbers show it best, as with these visitor volume stats:

  • January 2020: 3,545,100 visitors
  • February 2020: 3,333,200
  • March 2020: 1,531,100
  • April 2020: 106,900
  • May 2020: 151,300
  • June 2020: 1,065,100
  • July 2020: 1,438,000
  • August 2020: 1,537,400
  • September 2020: 1,704,300
  • October 2020: 1,856,900
  • November 2020: 1,514,500
  • December 1,247,200

This shows that the majority of people followed CDC guidelines advising against travel. And when people began to travel again in larger numbers in September and October, the second significant wave of positive coronavirus cases relegated many people back to lockdown mode.

Breaking Down Tourism Damage

The entirety of visitor volume speaks volumes, so to speak. Here are the year-over-year numbers:

  • Total 2020 visitor volume: 19,031,100 (down 55.2% from 2019)
  • Total 2019 visitor volume: 42,523,700 (up 1% from 2018)

Las Vegas visitor volume 2020

Visitor volume didn’t improve in January 2021, actually recording a 60.7% drop year-over-year.

Convention attendance was so poor in 2020 that the LVCVA simply put N/A in the October-December spots. For the year, it was definitely a huge hit.

  • Total 2020 convention attendance: 1,717,200 (January-March only) (down 74% from 2019)
  • Total 2019 convention attendance: 6,649,100 (up 2.3% from 2018)

Back to calculating monthly attendees, the LVCVA showed more than a million people in for conferences in January 2021, though that was still an 84.9% decrease from the previous year.

Hotel occupancy rates suffered greatly as well. There are breakout numbers for weekends and midweek, and Strip versus Downtown LV. The hardest hit was midweek occupancy, which is no surprise. The Strip seemed to suffer more than Downtown in the beginning of the lockdowns, but none of the hotels dropped below 1%.

  • Total occupancy in 2020: 30.9% (down 54.2% from 2019)
  • Total occupancy in 2019: 88.9% (down 0.7% from 2018)

Las Vegas hotel occupancy 2020

A slight improvement in January 2021 brought total occupancy to 37.7%, which was only 51.3% lower than the previous year.

As a result of the dropping occupancy during lockdowns, hotels needed to entice customers to return with lower rates. It resulted in an overall reduction of average daily room rates of 9.3%.

Not a Good Year for Visitors

The vast majority of visitors to Las Vegas enter by airplane, though there are quite a few who take buses or drive from states like California, Arizona, and Utah. And obviously, with airlines experiencing such a tough time implementing safety protocols and convincing people to fly again, air traffic into Vegas dropped significantly – more than 50%.

  • Total deplaned passengers in 2020: 22,201,479 (down 56.9% from 2019)
  • Total deplaned passengers in 2019: 51,528,524 (down 3.8% from 2018)

The total airport passengers who got off their flights at McCarran Airport and stayed in January of this year was more than 19,550,738, still a 62.3% year-on-year drop.

The total average daily auto traffic via all major highways is only an estimate, obviously. One route that is tracked by itself is the I-15 freeway that crosses the Nevada/California border at Primm. Others are too tough to track.

  • Average 2020 daily auto traffic via highways: 105,766/day (down 12.1% from 2019)
  • Average 2020 daily auto traffic via I-15: 37,460/day (down 16.2% from 2019)
  • Average 2019 daily auto traffic via highways: 120,335/day (up 1% from 2018)
  • Average 2019 daily auto traffic via I-15: 44,696/day (down 1.6% from 2018)

Average daily auto traffic didn’t improve much in January with only 105,663 per day, as that was a 12.2% annual dip. And people arriving through the Nevada/California border were 37,156, down 16.9%.

Vaccines on the Way

As of March 2, Clark County continues to increase its vaccine eligibility. It now includes all health care workers, along with those in public safety and security jobs, frontline community support, and frontline supply chain and logistics positions. It also includes Nevada residents aged 65 and older.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Clark County, Nevada are not terribly different from other major cities. As of March 2, these were the tallies:

  • Total positive cases: 227,107
  • Total hospitalizations: 13,352
  • Total deaths: 3,871
  • Total positive cases in past 7 days: 1,439

According to the Southern Nevada Health District, casinos remain somewhat of a danger for Covid-19 exposure. Judging by the past year of tracking, people are most likely to contract the virus at a food establishment, followed by a hotel/motel and then at a medical facility. Workplaces are the next most likely places, followed by grocery stores and casinos.

Even so, Clark County seems to be on the downswing of positive cases and has been since January 8. At that point, there were 1,963.4 positive cases reported per day. In the nearly two months since, however, the number has dropped to 95 cases per day on March 2.

Clark County coronavirus cases

As all medical professionals say, it will take some time for life to return to normal – whatever that might look like. With vaccine distribution increasing and health protocols remaining in place for most establishments, that process toward some type of normalcy will continue.

Las Vegas will be back.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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