‘March Madness’ atmosphere lifts Vegas economy from pandemic

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada casinos reported near-record March house winnings, while the airport in Las Vegas reported passenger traffic almost as heavy as pre-pandemic levels and tourism officials marked another big jump in visitor volume.

The state Gaming Control Board reported Thursday the $1.35 billion that casinos statewide reaped was just shy of the best-ever monthly mark of $1.36 billion set last July.

The state and Clark County set all-time records for house slot machine winnings, while the Las Vegas Strip recorded third-highest monthly slot winnings, board senior analyst Michael Lawton said.

“A traditional ‘March Madness’ atmosphere returned,” Lawton said, after COVID-19 restrictions including mask requirements were lifted in February. March featured a NASCAR race, a mixed martial arts bout and NCAA basketball events.

Sports books won almost $40 million on total wagers of $863 million during the month, Lawton added.

The number of visitors to Las Vegas increased to more than 3.3 million in March, up almost 50% from 2.2 million in March 2021, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The authority noted the return of more trade shows and conventions, and said hotel occupancy at the more than 150,000 rooms in and around Las Vegas topped 80%.

Harry Reid International Airport tallied nearly 4.3 million passengers in March, down only about 140,000 from its pre-pandemic total in March 2019 — a year the airport tallied a record 51.5 million arriving and departing travelers.

The airport’s 154,000 international travelers in March was up more than 50% from February, and flights from overseas are scheduled to ramp up in April with additional service to cities in Mexico, Canada, Panama, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

International travel all but stopped during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state collected almost $98 million in taxes based on March casino winnings, the Gaming Control Board said. The figure is important because casino taxes make up about 17% of state revenues, second only to sales taxes. Nevada has no personal income tax.

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