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August 10, 2022 6 mins

Despite fears of a recession and record-high inflation, pent-up demand for travel and fun are leading people to Las Vegas.  After sheltering for most of the pandemic, older consumers are returning to the Strip, international travelers are also back, and work and fan conventions are filling up the calendar.  Katherine Sayre, gambling reporter at the WSJ, joins us for how people are feeling lucky as Vegas is still booming.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
It's Wednesday, August ten. I'm Oscar Ramirez from the Daily
Dive podcast in Los Angeles, and this is reopening America.
Despite fears of a recession and record high inflation, pent
up demand for travel and fun are leading people to
Las Vegas after sheltering for most of the pandemic. Older
consumers are returning to the strip. International travelers are also back,

and work and fan conventions are filling up the calendar.
Catherine Sayer, gambling reporter at the Wall Street Journal, join
us for how people are feeling lucky as Vegas is
still booming. Thanks for joining us, Katherine, Thanks for having
me well. I love a good Vegas story, and I'm
happy about this one right now. What we're seeing is
despite inflation being at a four decade high and people

very nervous about a looming recession that could be happening,
people are still turning out to Vegas and droves and
it's booming out there. We just got some news from
MGM Resorts. We got news from Caesar's and their company,
and they're saying that they're having tons of is. There's
a lot of people spending money out there and it's good.
Although they are scared about what could be coming on

the horizon. They're saying they're in good spirits right now.
So Catherine, just tell us a little bit more what
we're seeing out there in Las Vegas. Absolutely, you know,
I've been visiting Vegas throughout the pandemic, you know, starting
with the first weekend of the country shutting down, through
the closures and all the way until now, and the
recovery in Vegas has been pretty stunning. Lou came back first,

the leisure travelers, in particular the young folks who weren't
as scared of COVID as older folks, and so they
really started letting into Vegas gambling at like, you know,
historic record levels. We're now on our sixteenth consecutive row
of one billion dollars in gaming revenues in Vegas. And
now other groups are starting to show up. Yeah, we're

starting to see older consumers that were, you know, a
little shaky at first, right, they were still unclear about
what was going on throughout the pandemic. International travelers are
coming back, and conventions. We're seeing the Islanders really start
to increase for conventions out there. So that all just
attracts a lot of people a lot of business out there.
I live in southern California, so Vegas is kind of

long time been one of those easy getaways for me,
and I was literally just talking about going to Vegas
a couple of weeks ago, trying to get a little
time going. So it's it's been on my mind even
But that's what they're seeing out there. And so tell
us what some of these exacts that are saying for
these big casinos and how they're feeling about it all.
They're feeling pretty confident, of course, watchful of all the

economic measures where we're all looking at about a possible recession,
but expressing a lot of confidence. You know, we think
about Las Vegas as a gambling town, but from a
business perspective, they think about it as an event town.
And so, like you mentioned, we've got some bigger and
bigger conventions coming back since for the first time since
the pandemic began. And why are those conventions so important? Well,

they fill the hotel room midweek. You know, the companies
haven't had a tough time so far getting people in
on the weekends, but they've been so pretty slow, pretty
cheap weeks without those conventions, and so that's a good
sign for those companies as well. Yeah, tell me a
little bit more about the hotel rates and how that's
kind of evolved over the pandemic, because right now we're

seeing some weekend stays at some of the higher end properties,
right but they're starting around five hundred dollars a night.
I mean, the the hotel rates have jumped back up absolutely.
You know, I talked with travelers who people love Vegas.
So when I start talking with people who go there,
it's not even a like once every few years thing.
This is a four or five times a year's thing,
and it's great to talk to them sort of take

the temperature and so, yeah, these hotel rates are going up,
particularly on the weekend. You know, the overall average on
the strip right now is a hundred and sixty seven dollars,
but generally for rooms at these mid to higher end properties,
you're going to be paying a lot more than that. Yeah,
and you know, we have to look back obviously what
happened throughout the pandemic. You know, Vegas really kind of

was emblematic of some of these pressures that these risk
towns were really facing. And you know, when everything started
closing the unemployment in the Vegas area was more than
thirty one in April. I mean, that is crazy, but
that's due to all those shutdowns. Tell me a little
bit about what's going on with what we're seeing in
these gambling revenues, right, because as we're seeing inflation really high,

we're fearing a recession coming on, people are still still
getting out there and spending a lot of money. That's right.
You know. I spoke with one longtime local economist and
he made a few points about kind of what's happening
with spending. Las Vegas has been seen as still a
lower cost alternative to even like foreign travel from US,
and you want to just feel like you're really escaping.

It's still cheaper comparatively. And you know, they're all of
these events now that they've added They've got the Raiders
now Allegiance Stadium, you know it was being constructed when
the pandemic hit and that opened. Now they've got the Raiders,
all kinds of sports events coming up. So that's drawing people,
um with all kinds of interest, and they're willing has
spent you know, they've been saving while on lockdown. They've

got all this cash in their savings accounts and for
now they're willing to spend it instead of lock it away.
And so, uh, you know, we talked about some of
the executives and how good they're feeling and all that.
What are they doing to prepare for the next year,
and you know, some of this kind of uneven economic
news that we're hearing because if things do turn people
right away are gonna start kind of tightening those purse strings.

You know, So some of this leisure travel, some this
gambling money they might have be you know, wanting to use,
they're gonna pull back on that. So how how are
the casinos gearing up for that? At least, you know,
the chief executive of MGM Resorts told investors this week
that you know, they're certainly keeping an eye on this
and that they're looking at their expensive they're looking at
their labor costs, and they have a plan to react

in the events that things go downhill. Las Vegas, as
well as the country, has been through this before. In
two thousand and eight. O nine was a very difficult
time for Las Vegas, and you know, ten thousand of
the sixty union nice hotel casino workers in Las Vegas
still aren't back, so these casinos are operating with fewer
people already to save expenses. Wow. Well, I'm a fan.

I love Vegas. As I mentioned, it says close, get
away from me. So it makes me happy to hear
that they're doing well right now and hopefully we can
continue that. Catherine Sayer, gambling reporter at the Wall Street Journal,
thank you very much for joining us. Thank you. I'm
Oscar Ramors and this has been reopening America. Don't forget

effort today's big news stories. You can check me out
on the Daily Dive podcast every Monday through Friday. So
follow us on iHeart Radio or wherever you get your
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