Las Vegas-bound casino visitors face among the highest gasoline prices in the US. This could impact the number of visitors and COVID recovery in the gambling capital.
This week’s average in Nevada was $5.12 a gallon for regular unleaded. Diesel fuel hit a record at $5.47 a gallon, according to AAA. The Nevada average for regular in March 2021 was $3.10.
Stephen Miller, an economist at UNLV and director of research at the Center for Business and Economic Research, points out that fuel prices increase the cost of vacationing in Las Vegas and Reno. That is true for those either driving or flying into the cities. Higher costs may mean less travel.
Frequent visitors to Las Vegas or Reno can cut the number of trips,” Miller told Casino.org.
The price is so high that Las Vegas Metropolitan police recently warned motorists to watch out for gasoline thieves over the summer.
Higher Prices for Vacations
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) said it’s continuing to monitor the number of people headed to Las Vegas.
It’s premature to know if rising gas prices will impact travel,” Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications at the LVCVA, told Casino.org this week.
But some say these prices could have an impact on how people spend money in Vegas. The current high prices at the pump could impact entertainment plans, according to the Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows the gambling sector.
People will certainly have less funds for entertainment,” McGowan told Casino.org.
But McGowan cautioned that regional casinos will lively be much more affected than Vegas.
“Since the New England casinos are basically regional casinos — where people make day trips to go to the casino — the price of gas will negatively impact [these] casinos,” McGowan said.
National Record Price
Nationally, gasoline this week increased on average 20 cents from last week, John Treanor, a spokesperson for the AAA, told Casino.org. The national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is now $4.43, the AAA reported.
The price of gasoline is “directly related” to the cost of oil, Treanor further explained. Various reasons being floated for the increase are the Ukraine war, the ban on Russian oil, and the curtailment of drilling, as well as canceling oil and gas leases in the US by the Biden administration.
To address the impact on tourists, gamblers, or even convention attendees, casinos can offer a free tank of gas for out-of-state visitors, or even free parking, Miller said. That would offset increased transportation costs.
Las Vegas Economy Still Recovering
The higher gasoline prices have hit Las Vegas, as its economy continues to recover after the downturn linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of visitors heading to Las Vegas remains lower than before the pandemic, Miller said. Reno is in a better position.
Visitor volume has not yet recovered to its prior peak in Las Vegas, but remains about 500,000 short in March 2022,” Miller said, citing seasonally adjusted data. “Reno has exceeded its prior peak from May through September 2021, and then again by 26,000, not seasonally adjusted data, in March 2022.”
But rather than the number of visitors, many casinos and other businesses are even more worried about filling vacant positions, Miller said. Nationally, there are two jobs open for every person seeking employment, he added.
The current economy also has led the Federal Reserve to address a difficult challenge. “That is, can the Fed navigate the narrow path to a soft landing?” Miller explained.
The risk of a US recession is now estimated at between 30% and 50%.
“Consider it like landing a fighter jet onto an aircraft carrier with too short a runway,” Miller said. “It would be easy to slide off the end of the carrier into the ocean — recession.”
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