— Health

Vegas hitting jackpot as pandemic-weary visitors crowd back

LAS VEGAS (AP) – To Mike Anger in Midland, Michigan, a $100 round-trip airline flight and $260 for five nights at a Las Vegas hotel made it too easy to say yes. “How could I turn that down?” the 39-year-old electrician asked, holding a tall vodka drink, basking in 90-degree temperatures, and soaking in the sights of street entertainers and tourists on Friday in a downtown casino pedestrian mall.

“I’m having a blast,” said his friend, cosmetologist Jade Topor. “Pretty much what I expected.”

Las Vegas has been almost elbow-to-elbow lately with pandemic-weary tourists looking for excitement and entertainment after casinos rose from 35% to 50% occupancy on March 15 under state health guidelines.

Capacity limits in Las Vegas casinos drop Saturday again – allowing 80% occupancy – while person-to-person distancing goes from 6 feet (1.8 meters) to 3 feet (0.9 meters). Masks are still required.

“People were just yearning to go someplace and let loose,” said Alan Feldman, a former casino executive now a fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He observed the first arrivals of people ages 60 and older recently vaccinated with time and disposable income.


Analysts said pent-up demand, available hotel rooms, and $1,400 pandemic recovery checks from the federal government have contributed to the rush.

“People are feeling more comfortable traveling as science appears to be getting ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst at Applied Analysis in Las Vegas.“Late spring and early summer tend to be strong months for traditional, domestic leisure travel,” Aguero said.

Economic markers now are ringing up a revival on the resort corridor that was ghostly quite a year ago. Statewide casino winnings in March topped $1 billion, the best monthly mark in eight years. State regulators said half of those winnings were reaped on the Las Vegas Strip.

early June. That drove the Nevada jobless rate in April 2020 above 30% – the highest ever in any state. The state now reports the rate at 8.1%.

Every Sunday, another weekly measure of demand arrives. A nearly 20-mile (32-kilometer) line of vehicles jamming southbound Interstate 15 near the Nevada-California state line. Lanes reduce from three in Nevada to two in California.

“You have visitors coming throughout the week, all leaving simultaneously,” Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Smaka said. “It’s hectic every Sunday.”

Carlo Santarelli, the gaming analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities, said the boom “accelerated in March, driven by increased vaccinations, spring break, and March Madness,” the NCAA basketball championship tournaments.

“It’s pool season, better weather,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, a senior Convention and Visitors Authority spokeswoman. “It’s still cold in the Midwest and Northeast.” Restaurants now can go to 80% occupancy, accept walk-in diners, and seat tables of 12. Buffets can allow self-service supervised by employees.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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