Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Nothing proclaims "AMERICA!" more uniquely and loudly than defiantly gaudy Las Vegas. From dusty desert to "America's Playground" within just a generation, it has arguably become an economic thermometer, a neon sign (what else?) of flashing green or red, following the state of the Union's lucre. After flashing green for several years, the latest color is a light amber: The famed Tropicana just filed for bankruptcy.

Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau/LVCVA

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority compiles a jackpot-ful of data on the number of visitors, conventioneers, gaming revenue, etc. stretching back to 1970. The following chart (click to enlarge) plots the gaming revenue of all casinos located in Clark County.


Gaming revenues were up an anaemic +2.2% for the whole of 2007, while the first two months of 2008 are -4%. Obviously two months do not make a trend, but BINGO! it isn't, so far.

Meanwhile, after holding pat at roughly 130,000 rooms for several years, the Strip's casino operators are (belatedly?) betting on rollicking good times. Construction planned and under way is scheduled to increase hotel and motel rooms 29% to 171,000 by 2010. Convention space is also set to increase by 4.8 million square feet. Other proposals with as yet undetermined completion dates could add another 33,000 rooms and 8,000 time-share units.



  1. Something tells me that going into the future there will be far fewer time shares being sold.

    From the looks of things, it appears that the casino operators were doing some speculative gambling themselves -- gambling that the permagrowth model of their industry will lead to ever-expanding "marks" (people willing to gamble at their establishment). The conventional wisdom has been that casinos are "recession proof."

    Oh well, so much for that idea. Or maybe this portends just how bad this recession (depression?) really will be.

    Maybe this will slow the overuse of water in the area.

  2. And to think that my old college town was staking its future on replacing the Bethlehm Steel mills with a casino complex. What will there be to do now when visiting the ol' alma mater.

  3. I just saw this this morning:

    "Household debt now exceeds GDP for the first time in history, while total credit market debt is about 350% of GDP."

    It came from Hussman funds weekly report.

    Yep, no problem there. Move along.

  4. On the bright side, we may finally be able to book a room on weekends 1 and 2 of March madness

  5. Dear yoyomo, re: Bethlehem

    go to my first blog


    and look for the Dec. 7, 2006 post.


  6. Trying to locate the Dec 2006 post you referred to, I found myself reading your writings from that period. Funny, there were not many comments back then (compared to now), though your posts were as interesting at those times as they are now. Would this increase in the number of readers of economic blogs be yet another indicator of the current mood of the population, maybe?

  7. Today's New York Times has an article on the formerly "recession-proof" Las Vegas (and another article on the "new titans" of Las Vegas, who include the Fertitta brothers, who own the UFC, and Andre Aggasi). My favorite part is about a new television ad Las Vegas is running to encourage spontaneous trips: "Do it without thinking!"

  8. Steve Wynn will buy the Tropicana and blow it up. He'll need a theme for the replacement hotel. Bangalore Las Vegas?

    Sad to see LuckyS so cranky in yesterday's post. He wants us to work more so that we don't bankrupt his country. To get some perspective he should visit the US and sample our wide range of dysfunctional personalities (and this is after putting the most spectacular 1% is prison). I assume that when non-English speaking countries watch our President the translators clean up most of his errors so they don't get a true feel for that man's.....capacity.

  9. Have you noticed that when the stock market goes up, the number of comments on this blog goes down and vice versa.

    There is an inverse relationship between the readership of this blog and stock market.

    When the stock market and US$ goes down everything here is more believable but when the stock market goes up - the talking heads on CNBC like Mr. Kudlow reign supreme.

  10. Thanks Hel, for the trip down memory lane. I really appreciate it.

  11. Dink,
    Did you have a chance to take a look at the link I left you on yesterday's post? What amazed me was how horrified the factory owners were at the thought of the workers having any free time on their hands (the idle mind is the devil's playground):

    The Gospel of Consumption @

    the adress is all one line but it doesn't fit in the box

  12. Isn't the Tropicana specific element related to New Jersey's denial of license last December and consequent bondholder actions -- all, perhaps, to do with the earlier acquisition by Columbia Sussex?

    Once upon a time Las Vegas was, well, Las Vegas...
    and then became increasingly 'Disneyfied'. Too bad.

  13. Anon and Hell, you broke the rule! You know what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas!

    Dink, I was actually refreshed by Lucky's comments... I occasionally forget there is a sucker born every minute. His comment reminded me not to forget this fundamental fact.

    Hell, I too read your '06 posting (is a little depressing)-- The only thing I can;t read from your posting is whether you view gambling as different from any other form of 'leisure' (travel/spa's/movies/etc...).

    If one were to think of gambling as leisure, then is spenind money/resources on gambling any different than spending it on any other form of leisure (TV/Movies/books/tropical vacations/etc...).

    What % of our economy's money today is spent in leisure? Whatever is our historical benchmark? And what is the international benchmark?

    FYI-- one thing I have learned from first hand experience is there are many asians out there who like to gamble-- America is not the only country with this problem.

  14. Hellasious wrote:

    "From dusty desert to "America's Playground" within just a generation..."

    To which I'll add that, given the water supply situation ("Lake Mead could dry up by 2021"), there's no small probability that Vegas will again become a 'dusty desert' or, at the least, become a much smaller Las Vegas.

    Environmental News Service

  15. Okie,
    There's a chart over at the AutomaticEarth showing total debt (including foreign) at 475% of "national income" ($53Trillion):


    source:FedRes, USTreasury, BEA

    I don't know what is meant by national income vs. GDP & GNP

  16. Read!


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