Reno-Tahoe tourism indicators light up in August |

Reno-Tahoe tourism indicators light up in August

Bill O'Driscoll
Downtown Reno, as seen from the outdoor climbing wall on the Whitney Peak Hotel.

August brought the heat in more than just the weather.

The height of the summer tourist season propelled a blistering 10.1 percent rise in gross gaming revenues in August across the Reno-Sparks region compared with a year earlier, a state report shows.

The findings in the monthly report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board parallel separate data from the tourism sector revealing a 10 percent year-over-year rise in visitor counts in August — fed in large part by Northern Nevada’s biggest special event, Hot August Nights.

That resulted in a nearly 20 percent jump in taxable room revenues across Reno-Tahoe and a record average room rate of $123.08 in the hotels category, which comprises 66 percent of all rooms across the region, up nearly 8 percent from August 2016.

“It was a really good month,” Michael Lawton, Gaming Control Board senior research analyst, said of the report on the total “gaming win.”

Washoe’s increase was nearly matched elsewhere across Northern Nevada. The August “win” in the Carson City-Carson Valley gaming corridor rose 9 percent over the year and the win among casinos at Stateline on the south shore of Lake Tahoe improved by 7 percent.

It was also a banner month for filling hotels rooms across Reno-Tahoe.

According to the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority, more than $44 million in taxable room revenue was collected in August, fed in large part by visitors’ willingness to open their wallets for hotel rooms.

And it wasn’t just gamblers and tourists. Business travelers, too, helped, said RSCVA CEO Phil DeLone, against the backdrop of the region’s surging economic development.

“All of Northern Nevada is on a significant, steady upward path being driven by companies that have moved into Northern Nevada, Tesla, Switch,” DeLone said of the major players at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center business park east of Sparks.

Together with the region’s slew of summertime special events, notably Hot August Nights, he expects August’s success to spill over into September with its own array of events including the Reno National Championship Air Races, Nugget Rib Cook Off and Street Vibrations.

DeLone applauded the major resorts for their ongoing efforts to spruce up their properties, be they gaming properties such as the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno and Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks or non-gaming properties such as the Whitney Peak Hotel and Renaissance Reno in downtown Reno.

“Both are doing exceedingly well,” DeLone said of the nongaming lodgings. “We don’t really have any ugly ducklings anywhere right now. That really helps.”

On the gaming front, the state report showed that for the greater Washoe County region, the improving revenues were broad-based: slots, table games and sports betting.

“All the games did pretty good,” Lawton said, citing sports betting’s 300 percent jump fueled in large part by huge interest in the Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor title bout in Las Vegas won by Mayweather in the 10th round by technical knockout.

Wagering on the boxing match comprised a small segment of the total gaming win of $77.3 million in Washoe County in August.

The broader 10.1 percent increase in total gross gaming revenue over August 2016 is more important, Lawton said, because it helped push Washoe County’s gaming win for calendar 2017 to date into positive territory for the first time.

“It was a tough winter and spring for Washoe,” Lawton said.

Add in the corresponding rise in visitor counts in data provided by the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, and the trend in improving tourism is apparent, he said.

A month from now, the September gaming win report will reveal how the region fared against September 2016, when gross gaming revenues rose tepidly, including a 3.6 percent increase in Washoe, a 1.5 percent rise in Carson City-Carson Valley and a 2.3 percent rise at Stateline.

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