Big events play big role in Laughlin, Tri-state

November 29, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — In October, gambling establishments in Laughlin, the Las Vegas Strip and North Lake Tahoe saw the three most significant increases in total gaming win compared with October 2017 levels, according to statistics reported Tuesday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Laughlin came in third with its win rising to $47.03 million compared with nearly $41.95 million, which is growth of 12.13 percent.

Blake Segal, senior vice president of operations for Caesars Entertainment, partly attributed Laughlin’s revenue increase to strong October attractions. “Events, specifically outdoor entertainment, prove to be a strong draw in the market,” he said.

Gabriel Iglesias played at Harrah’s Laughlin Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater last month. Keith Urban and Rod Stewart performed at the Laughlin Event Center during October.

A variety of other happenings, such as car shows, also drew large numbers of customers, Segal said.

A “healthy economy and higher consumer confidence” among locals and people coming in from Laughlin’s feeder markets are also factors, he said.

Segal also described October weather conditions as “ideal.”

Brad Rutledge, general manager of Gold Nugget Laughlin, agreed that the economy is benefitting the casinos these days.

Nevada’s overall win exceeded $1.06 billion in October. Las Vegas Strip, considered separate from downtown, reported $593.4 million compared to $528.7 million and North Lake Tahoe reported win of $2.23 million this year versus $1.88 million. Those increases are 12.24 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively.

“I believe that the overall improvement in the economy is having a filter down effect that translates to people having more disposable income to spend at recreation and leisure,” Rutledge said. “For our guests this translates to more funds available for gaming.”

To keep customers happy and constantly attract new ones, casino operators pore over operational data in an effort to improve the business itself as well as offer new products or promotions.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal article this week linked the lower October 2017 numbers to tourists’ anxiety after the Mandalay Bay mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017. But area operators said those concerns aren’t a factor among travelers who come to Laughlin.

“They see Laughlin as a better value for their entertainment spend and like the slower and more relaxed pace,” Rutledge said. “Another common theme is that they value the guest experience they receive from our team while in Laughlin.”

Good business for the casinos also makes things better financially for those on the other side of the Colorado River.

“The gaming industry in Laughlin has a very positive impact on the community,” said Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter.

He explained that the vast majority of casino employees reside in Bullhead so they spend their pay and tips there.

Businesses such as L&M Foods, Dot Foods, Sam’s Club and many other small businesses also rely on the resort industry as they purchase supplies and products from them. They also provide jobs.

“Bullhead City and Laughlin have a very symbiotic relationship so when Bullhead City hosts a tournament with 150 soccer teams Laughlin does very well,” Cotter said. “When Laughlin hosts a major event, such as a road race or concert, Bullhead City does very well.”

Laughlin’s resort industry supports many nonprofit agencies and social service programs on this side of the river, Cotter added.

“I see both communities working well together now and well into the future,” he said.

Resort general mangers believe the upward swing will carry through the fourth quarter.

“As we transition to the winter season, I do expect that we will continue to see incremental growth in gaming revenue, “ Rutledge said. “While our visitor volume is down somewhat to that in 2017, there are many positive indicators that show that the market is in good shape from a financial perspective.”

This was the fifth month of 2018 during which Nevada’s win topped $1 billion. The first time it happened was in 2005 and the highest-ever statewide monthly win was in October 2007 when it reached $1.16 billion, according to Nevada Gaming Commission documents.

“I think it is a natural effect of increased economic activity over the entire area,” Rutledge said. “Folks that come in to stay at the casinos in Laughlin are going to venture out and do some shopping or dining in the other areas of the community.”

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