The overall economy of the nation and Southern Nevada continues to improve despite the political debt imbroglio and that’s been reflected in the latest tourism and gaming numbers released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Las Vegas gaming and visitor numbers were up across the board, helping to boost statewide gaming revenues. For the first six months of 2011, Nevada gaming revenues are up 4.5% statewide and 8.5% on the strip.Nevada’s tourism based economy looks to a variety of metrics to assess its health. One is the number of people who travel to Las Vegas and the Silver State–the total number of visitors in Las Vegas was up by an additional 7% in June making it the 16th straight monthly increase. The average room rate in the Las Vegas market was up 13% over June 2010—this is a significant measure of the improving conditions in the Southern Nevada tourism market since it suggests that the higher visitor numbers aren’t simply a function of heavy hotel discounting.Although most areas of the state saw increased gaming revenues that wasn’t the case in the languishing Reno market. Washoe County gaming revenues dropped 1.7% while Reno casinos saw a 2.8% drop. The biggest loser in the state, however, was the South Lake Tahoe area which experienced a 28.5% drop from the previous month. Not all of the news from Northern Nevada was bad—Elko County casinos posted a 6.2% increase in revenue.On a month to month basis, gaming revenues—and particularly those in Las Vegas—can fluctuate widely based on casinos wins and losses in the baccarat pit. June was a good month for baccarat winnings, but even factoring out a 30.8% year to year increase in these numbers it was a solid month across the board. Table games excluding baccarat were up 24.2% from June 2010, and slot machine revenues continued their strong performance posting a 1.6% revenue increase representing the largest monthly hold since September 2007. Money wagered on slot machines was up 5.6% representing the fourth straight monthly gain. This is the first time slot machine wagering has increased in four straight months since early 2006.

Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets gaming analyst Steven Wieczynski provides some context to these numbers:

“On the whole, June’s results serve to strengthen our conviction in the gradual Las Vegas recovery story. High-end international play remains strong. June’s results serve to indicate rated domestic play has begun to show signs of life.”

Overall Clark County—which includes the Las Vegas metro area as well as Laughlin—posted a 19.9 percent increase in gaming revenues during June. Three areas – unincorporated Clark County, downtown Las Vegas and North Las Vegas–had declines. The gaming revenues in the Boulder Highway Strip area—which includes heavily populated Henderson—were up 5.6%. For the first months of the year, revenues in the three areas that traditionally comprise the ‘locals market’ (North Las Vegas, the rest of Clark County and the Boulder Strip) are up 2% suggesting a very gradual thawing in this long dormant component of the city’s gaming economy.

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