With the pandemic still afloat, many people will have to think twice before indulging in many of the same luxuries and entertainment options they were used to doing before coronavirus hit, at least for a while.
With that kind of thinking in mind, Keith Smith, president, and CEO of Boyd Gaming believes that the local market will be the driving force behind Las Vegas’ economic recovery.
And where do many of the locals go to play? Off-Strip properties that typically don’t see as many tourist visitors.
Boyd Gaming owns 10 of those properties across the Las Vegas valley: Aliante, The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, Cannery, Eastside Cannery, California Hotel, Fremont, and Main Street Station Casino. The company owns another 19 casinos throughout the U.S.
History Shows Strip Isn’t Where Rebound Will Likely Happen
According to Smith, the recession period between 2008-2009 served as a reminder of what a season of recovery looks like in Vegas, after it’s been impacted by a heavy financial downturn. While he’s not sure if there’s a direct correlation there, it’s worth considering.
During that timeframe, Smith said that many eyes looked to the Strip as the fuel for rebounding the locals market, but “it never really did.”
Smith said many hoped for the Strip’s health to funnel down into the locals market, but that it took years before that was even able to happen.
The odds of the Strip returning to the levels it was used to at the top of the year before the outbreak took place, will depend on a lot of factors that are being affected deeply right now.
Those factors include the confidence of tourists to travel to Las Vegas, the confidence of people in general in being around large crowds, and the effectiveness of coronavirus protocols that casinos are planning to enact.
Retirees Fuel Locals Market
Retirees make up a huge chunk of Vegas’ locals market.
Smith says a large percentage of Boyd’s gaming is from retirees who live in Las Vegas. And he believes that percentage will remain unchanged or possibly even grow once properties begin opening back up.
Local retirees didn’t have a job when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and they still won’t have a job when things reopen. Their income has generally been unaffected by the outbreak and remains, for the most part, fixed.
In fact, many experts believe that older-Americans are still among the fastest-growing segment of avid gamblers.
Locals Market Poses to be Most Healthy for Reopening
Smith brought up an interesting statistic: A fifth of Las Vegas visitation is made up of international visitors.
However, Boyd’s properties don’t get much international visitation at all. That, in the case of a post-coronavirus-closure world, is a good thing in rebuilding up the locals market.
This is especially true since many are expected to be wary of air travel, even when most of the dust settles on COVID-19.
Many locals who have been feeling cooped up with the state’s stay-at-home order are looking for an escape, and Smith believes his properties will be a part of that escape, especially will all the pent-up demand to leave the house.
Locals won’t have to do much but get in their cars and drive down to the nearest Boyd Gaming property. It’s a win-win market and one that will likely be necessary to help refuel Vegas’ economy.
Plans for Reopening
Boyd Gaming, like many other casino operators in Las Vegas and nationwide, is looking forward to the day when they can reopen their properties. That time is hopefully coming soon.
Smith says that Boyd Gaming will be adhering to strict reopening safety protocols that “will meet or exceed the requirements set forth by health officials” when governing authorities deem it’s the right time to resume business.
“We’re having good, constructive dialogues with state leadership in each of the 10 states where we operate. None have talked about opening casinos in the next two weeks, but they’re all talking about the opening of casinos at some point in the future, which is a good sign that we’re in the conversation,” Smith added.
Smith, whose properties span across the U.S., believes that each state will reopen at their own pace, but hopes their properties will all reopen by early June.
Counting on a healthy locals market to re-boost the Las Vegas economy seems like a safe bet for sure. It seems like the market will be necessary to help Las Vegas rebound more quickly.
Do you think the locals market will see more business than the Las Vegas Strip once casinos reopen?
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Share your insight with us in the comments below!