Late spring in Las Vegas has been a wild time. June 4, 2021, was sort of a one-year anniversary for Las Vegas casinos. That date marked one year since casinos reopened after closing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
But Las Vegas is no longer saddled with restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 1, casinos, bars and restaurants are once again open to full 100% capacity. Much of the plexiglass on the casino floors are gone. Wearing a face covering is optional for guests now, as those who are vaccinated do not have to wear masks.
And fortunately for the city’s economy, casinos, bars, restaurants, day and night clubs are all as busy as visitors may remember in 2019.
Welcome back to Las Vegas
So many more people are visiting Las Vegas now that they’re vaccinated and feel comfortable enough to fly again. This isn’t exactly new as each month this year has seen more people visiting Las Vegas. Just look at Vegas casino revenue numbers.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) releases a monthly Executive Summary. This document is available to the public and neatly shares visitation information. The most recent data is from April which is kind of an apples-to-oranges comparison to last year when casinos were closed.
The month-over-month comparison is more useful. The data shows that more people were visiting Las Vegas in April than March. Those visitors are spending more money too. Overall visitor volume to Las Vegas in April increased 15.4% from March.
Passengers left their flights 12.9% more than in March while incoming auto traffic from the region was up 7.2%. More people stayed in Las Vegas hotels. Occupancy was up 10.4% staying on the Vegas Strip in April than in March.
Hotel operators earned much more from these guests as RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) was up more than 29%. This is revenue generated per room but not only on the hotel room. The average daily hotel room rate in Las Vegas was 9.2% higher in April.
Expect to see more of the same when the next executive summary is released. Anecdotally, some hotels on the Vegas Strip were completely booked heading into Memorial Day Weekend.
Prepare to wait
The rapid increase in visitation is a double-edged sword, however. It’s putting a strain on Las Vegas businesses that can’t hire enough people to keep up with demand. The workers are doing their best to offer the great service many expect in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, just about every business is understaffed.
Visitors might want to make restaurant reservations well in advance to ensure they can get a table in Las Vegas. The pent-up demand and higher visitation mean there are long waits at restaurants and bars. Reservations should help visitors secure seats.
Uber and Lyft rides remain difficult to confirm and slow to arrive. There may be more cars available now that surge pricing is allowed. Unfortunately, there still may be a shortage of rides. The higher prices will continue until a sufficient number of drivers hit the road again.
Las Vegas parking fees are back
Last year Las Vegas casino operators lowered prices and offered more discounts just to get bodies in the buildings. Now that visitors are returning hotel room rates are increasing. So are table minimums on the weekends.
The biggest sign that Las Vegas is back is the return of paid parking at some of the largest casinos on the Vegas Strip. These fees were paused while visitation was down. Now that people are returning en masse so are parking fees.
Properties by Caesars and MGM Resorts, plus The Cosmopolitan are once again charging parking fees. Remember that Virgin Hotel Las Vegas is one of the few hotels that have promised to maintain free parking.
Las Vegas shifts into high gear on July 4
Memorial Day Weekend was the kickoff to summer for many. However, that’s only the beginning.
Resorts World Las Vegas is on schedule to open on June 24 with a sort of soft opening. Its grand opening will take place on July 4th weekend. There are multiple events taking place including a bash headlined by Miley Cyrus. (She’s just one of a slew of Las Vegas concerts and shows booked for the second half of 2021.)
After a hiatus, fireworks are returning to the Vegas Strip on July 4th this year. There will be a coordinated fireworks spectacular from the rooftops of casinos up and down the Vegas Strip. Aria, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Resorts World, The Strat, Treasure Island and The Venetian will all participate.
There’s expected to be a massive concert taking place as part of the celebration as well.
Vegas is back – NFL edition
After a year of playing home games at Allegiant Stadium with nobody in the seats, the Las Vegas Raiders are preparing to welcome fans for the first time. Locals can’t wait to catch their “new” local football team in person.
Fans of the road teams are looking forward to visiting Las Vegas to see their favorite team take on the Raiders. Who can blame anyone looking for an excuse to visit Las Vegas? Unfortunately, these games won’t be accessible to most people on a limited budget.
The least expensive ticket price for a team visiting Las Vegas is when the Los Angeles Chargers are in town. The least expensive tickets for the game are $324 on StubHub!
That’s nothing though; tickets for opening night versus the Baltimore Ravens start at $829.
Hotel room prices near the stadium are similarly outrageous. Prices at Delano – the closest hotel to Allegiant Stadium – are $516 plus a $39 resort fee and taxes per night for the Ravens game. The catch is that the hotel has a two-night minimum to get a room here.
Locals aren’t exempt from spending money going to Raiders games. Parking fees for Raiders games will range from $40 to $100. Taking rideshares to and from the game will probably be quicker and less expensive.
More sports coming to Las Vegas
In the rumor mill, Las Vegas could soon be home to an NBA and/or MLB team too. The Oakland A’s seem to be using Las Vegas as leverage to get a new stadium built in California. An NBA team seems more likely as there are investors with deep pockets ready to bring a team to Sin City.
Allegiant Stadium will host WWE SummerSlam for the first time in August. Major boxing matches have been rumored for the football stadium for a while. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see something confirmed this year.
The Las Vegas Bowl moves from being one of the first games of bowl season as it moves to Allegiant Stadium this year. The game will take place on December 30 with a different lineup. A Pac 12 team will take on a Big 10 team in the game for the first time.
Allegiant Stadium will also host the Vegas Kickoff Classic at the beginning of the season. BYU will play Arizona on Sept. 4.
Big bucks for NFL handicapping
Speaking of football, NFL fans might want to get into the Circa football contests. There’s a total of $10 million up for grabs between the Circa Millions and Circa Survivor NFL contests.
Players don’t have to live in Nevada to participate. Interested parties around the world can sign up in person and pay for a proxy to place weekly picks.
Changes at Caesars casinos in Las Vegas
Changes were promised well before the Eldorado and Caesars merger was finalized last year. Caesars sold off a slew of properties in order to get regulatory approval in the year since the deal was announced in 2019.
After the deal went through last year the new regime was able to focus on cost-cutting and reducing redundancies. The COVID-19 pandemic helped Caesars get the ball rolling as reducing expenses was necessary.
Those cuts appear to be continuing in Las Vegas. Laurel Lounges (formerly Diamond Lounges) could be on their way out of Las Vegas casinos. This doesn’t mean they’ll be closing at properties outside of Las Vegas. The VIP lounges serve different purposes in different cities.
Tom Reeg has railed against buffets as being wasteful and not profitable as CEO of Eldorado and now Caesars. The buffets at Caesars Las Vegas casinos are still on the chopping block despite the return of Bacchanal at Caesars Palace. The $65+ buffet is likely the most profitable Las Vegas buffet for Caesars. A couple of others may return but it seems unlikely all will return.
Caesars isn’t long for Rio and won’t operate the casino after 2023. The deal could expire even sooner. The new owners plan to revive the original Brazilian theme of the property. Hyatt is in place to take over hotel operations. A new casino and sportsbook operators haven’t been revealed just yet.
If nothing else, these plans should put an end to the rumor that Rio will be imploded to make room for a baseball stadium.