Citing the tourism rebound that followed the pandemic shutdown, the board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) approved financial rewards for an additional four executives for the fiscal year ending June 30. These amounted to $287,460 in bonuses and $55,475 in annual salary increases.
The newly announced raises and bonuses are as follows:
- LVCVA Chief Marketing Officer Kate Wik’s annual salary was increased 5% to $341,470 per year with a one-time bonus of $121,594.
- Chief Financial Officer Ed Finger’s annual salary was increased 6% $257,797 with a one-time bonus of $60,801.
- Chief Operating Officer Brian Yost’s annual salary was increased 7% to $251,510 with a one-time bonus of $58,764.
- Senior Vice President of Communications Lori Nelson-Kraft’s annual salary was increased 4% to $212,393 with a one-time bonus of $45,950.
The board said these increases reward the executives for securing Super Bowl LVIII in February 2024, creating the Formula One Vegas Grand Prix race scheduled for November 2023, and adding almost 1 million square feet of meeting space to the Las Vegas Convention Center with the West Hall expansion. (The LVCVA is one of the rare US marketing organizations tasked not only with promoting a city as a business and leisure destination, but also with managing a convention center.)
These rewards come in addition to the 10% pay raise and 50% bonus approved by the board last month for LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill, who now receives $447,608 per year with a one-time bonus of $203,458. Also previously receiving additional compensation was LVCVA General Counsel Caroline Bateman, whose annual salary increased 7% to $219,572 with a one-time bonus of $51,302.
The LVCVA also granted 4% pay raises and one-time bonuses of $2,250 to all of its 240 workers on July 1, at a cost of more than $19 million.
Tourism Rebound Examined
According to the LVCVA, a tourism rebound helped generate record room tax revenue in 2021-22 with $294 million deposited into the LVCVA’s general fund, beating the previous high of $286 million in 2019.
However, that number may be misleading. Casinos are winning more dollars from gamblers than ever before, but visitor volume — one of the key metrics the LVCVA is tasked with keeping robust — remains below 2019 numbers.
Through May, 2022 visitor volume in Las Vegas totaled 15.25 million people. Convention attendance was about two million attendees. Through the first five months of 2019, Las Vegas visitor volume totaled more than 17.53 million guests. Convention volume totaled three million attendees.
The LVCVA is funded by hotel tax dollars guests pay during their stays in Clark County. Hotels within the county must collect an effective tax of 13.38% on nightly charges. Most of that money goes to the LVCVA.
LVCVA Too Large?
The LVCVA says it costs hundreds of millions of dollars each year to keep Las Vegas current and enticing to trade shows and exhibitions. However, others say the agency is too large.
It was only a few years ago that a probe of the government agency by the Las Vegas Review-Journal found that the authority was ripe with fraud. In 2019, Rossi Ralenkotter, the LVCVA’s former CEO who led the agency from 2004 through August 2018, was charged by Clark County prosecutors with two felony counts of theft and misconduct of a public officer.
The criminal investigation came after the R-J’s independent review of the agency. That found $90,000 worth of Southwest Airlines gift cards bought by the LVCVA were improperly used by key officials, including Ralenkotter himself. Ralenkotter, then-Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Tull, and then-Director of Business Partnerships Brig Lawson were each accused by county prosecutors of using Southwest credits to take personal trips on the agency’s dime. Ralenkotter allegedly used $17,000 worth of the vouchers for personal and family trips.
Ralenkotter later pleaded no contest to a lesser misdemeanor charge of violation of a public officer. He served no prison time and was fined $1,000. Local Las Vegas legal experts panned the deal.
Despite the scandal, Ralenkotter was handed a cozy exit package on his way out. The LVCVA agreed to keep him on retainer as a consultant for $15,000 a month. He also collects a nearly $300,000 annual state pension.
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