US Casino Operators Encouraged by March Business, Consumer Confidence Surges
Casino operators in the United States say business is unexpectedly strong, and their operations are beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Appearing on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” this week, billionaire Tilman Fertitta revealed that he’s been caught off-guard by how his restaurants and casino hotels are performing in early 2021. Fertitta’s Landry’s empire includes five Golden Nugget casinos and numerous well-known restaurant brands, including Morton’s Steakhouse, Bubba Gump Shrimp, and Joe’s Crab Shack.
Our numbers in March are surprising to us in all 40 states that we do business in,” Fertitta explained. “I’m telling you, the high-end restaurants, my hotels, the casinos, are having record numbers right now.”
Fertitta’s Golden Nuggets aren’t the only casinos seeing robust activity. Penn National Gaming, the nation’s largest regional gaming operator focused on markets not in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, says its properties are faring well, too.
“The month of March has been incredible,” Penn CEO Jay Snowden said on the CNBC show on March 23. “What we’re seeing right now in the business … is revenues and volumes that I haven’t seen in years.”
Stimulus Fueling Spending
The IRS says roughly 127 million Americans received payment under the federal government’s third stimulus round. Paired with vaccines being distributed and state governors easing restrictions, many are venturing with their money to finally enjoy a meal out or finding some entertainment on a casino floor.
“Even in California and New York, where you don’t have the business traveler, people are still going out in huge numbers,” Fertitta continued. “In Texas and Florida, they’re just blowing numbers away. People are tired of being locked up.”
The stimulus and vaccines have led to a better Consumer Confidence Index. The Conference Board said this week that the index, which is an economic indicator gauging consumers’ optimism on the state of the US economy, is at its highest level in more than a year.
The Consumer Confidence Index climbed 19.3 points to a reading of 109.7 for March 2021. That is still far short of the 132.6 reading experienced in February of 2020 prior to the onset of the health crisis. But it’s a major step in the right direction.
“What remains to be seen is how quickly services industries such as travel and leisure will open up, allowing venues for consumers to release their pent-up demand,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist with the Navy Federal Credit Union in Virginia.
Health Officials Urge Caution
The sense of pending optimism has been partially subdued by Dr. Rochelle Walensky. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that she’s “scared.”
We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now, I’m scared,” she said of the uptick of new COVID-19 cases.
In 29 states, plus DC, the weekly average of new coronavirus cases is rising. The country has experienced a 23 percent jump in new cases over the past week.
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