Las Vegas casino resorts and sportsbooks are reporting an uptick in demand fueled by the upcoming March Madness tournament amid increased capacity for large gatherings. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
50% capacity effective Monday
Nevada Governor Steve Sislolak’s emergency directive issued on Friday to ease the state’s COVID-19 restrictions has had an immediate effect, with crowds returning to the Las Vegas Strip in their thousands over the weekend.
Nevada Health Response, an initiative established by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services and the Governor’s Office, announced the news of a capacity increase to 50% for large gatherings, effective March 15, via Twitter:
The news that casino occupancy can increase to 50% this week has fired up the Nevada gambling industry, as casinos and sportsbooks eye a surge in business ahead of the March Madness basketball tournament starting Friday.
Vegas gambling catches March Madness fever
According to a Las Vegas Review Journal report, thousands of visitors flocked to Sin City casinos on Saturday. Mask compliance was not always in evidence as revelers stood shoulder-to-shoulder.
Optimism is building among Vegas sportsbooks as the public shows signs of heightened demand on the back of the cancellation of the 2020 March Madness tournament because of COVID-19.
we are expecting to have a great weekend”
Director of sports marketing at Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Lisa Motley told the Las Vegas Sun: “From everything I’ve heard and seen, we are expecting to have a great weekend to start March Madness.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Mens’ Basketball Tournament, commonly known as March Madness, is one of the most anticipated annual events on the US sporting calendar. The 2021 version of the knockout-format tournament takes place mostly in Indianapolis, Indiana through March and culminates with the Championship Game on April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Downtown Indiana.
A Sin City sportsbook located at Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino has reported viewing-party tickets and table reservations for March Madness selling out two weeks in advance. Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay told the online Vegas daily news site: “The numbers are exceeding expectations despite some of the limitations we’re still dealing with.”
Potential boost to gamblers’ spending power
Gov. Sisolak’s announcement in February that the Silver State would up occupancy levels from 25% to 35%, and then up to 50% starting March 15, is now underway. The plan has dovetailed neatly with President Joe Biden signing off on a $1.9trn stimulus package.
With an additional $1,400 set to appear in many American bank balances as soon as over the past weekend according to federal leaders, the potential extra spending power on Vegas casino floors and sportsbooks could be in evidence come March Madness.
There’s a lot of pent-up demand and I think people are just excited now more than ever”
Another Sin City property experiencing a demand boom ahead of the basketball showpiece is the Sahara Las Vegas, which is on track to sell out its game-viewing areas and hotel rooms ahead of this coming weekend’s sports action. Sahara vice president of food and beverage Anthony Olheiser told the Las Vegas Sun: “We’re getting e-mails and calls every day […] There’s a lot of pent-up demand and I think people are just excited now more than ever.”
Boost for Nevada’s casinos
The double-headed capacity increase and potential spend boost offer a timely respite for many Nevada casinos, 13 of which have remained shuttered since March 2020.
The American Gaming Association (AGA), which tracks casino closures via its website, lists 70 casinos closed and 928 open across the US. An AGA spokeswoman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the majority of all shuttered commercial casinos are in Nevada.