A record year for visitor volume continued to take shape in November.

More than 3.1 million people visited Las Vegas in the month, up 2.5 percent from 3 million a year earlier, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported Thursday.

A boom in convention attendance pushed up the figures. More than 438,000 conventioneers flocked to the city, a 16.6 percent gain over 375,500 attendees in November 2011.

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Scott Russell, the authority’s senior manager of research, said much of the improvement came from two shows: The 25,900-attendee Society of Manufacturing Engineers show, last here in 2008, and the 16,000-attendee Diving Equipment and Marketing Association meeting, visiting for the first time since 2010.

What’s more, annual conventions, including the SEMA Show, exceeded attendance forecasts, Russell said.

November’s results kept the Las Vegas tourism market on track for record results in 2012, though visitor volume might not break the 40-million mark, as authority officials projected.

Visitor volume from January through November clocked in at 36.7 million, 2 percent ahead of 36 million in the same period of 2011.

If the market sees typical December visitation of about 2.75 million, it would mean a 2012 tally of about 39.6 million visitors, said Steve Brown, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research. That would surpass 2007’s record of 39.2 million.

November revenue down

There is no way to sugarcoat November’s gambling revenue totals in Nevada. But, an 11.1 percent statewide gambling revenue drop during month, coupled with a 12.8 percent drop on the Strip, were not a total surprise.

One reason for the decline? Analysts said the Strip hold figures – the amount of money from wagers that casinos earned versus the percentage collected by customers – were lower than a year ago at both gambling tables and slot machines.

Also, because November ended on a weekend, accounting rules for slot machine collections pushed some revenue totals into December.

Lower baccarat volumes and a 145 percent downward swing in casino revenues from sports wagering also figured in the decline.

“While we do believe there was some softness in the month, we think headline numbers overstate the declines,” Macquarie Securities gambling analyst Chad Beynon told investors Wednesday.

Statewide, casinos collected $782.6 million from gamblers during the month, compared with $880.1 million collected in November 2011. The monthly total was the lowest recorded in Nevada since June 2010.

On the Strip, casinos collected $431.8 million in gaming revenues, compared with $495.2 million a year ago. It was the lowest single month amount since April 2011.

Capitalizing football

University of Nevada-Las Vegas will ask the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Las Vegas’ biggest casinos for about $125 million to help pay for a new domed football stadium on campus, Don Snyder, UNLV’s pointman for the project, said Thursday.

In an interview at his campus office, Snyder said the request is appropriate because the casinos and tourism businesses will be the “biggest economic beneficiaries” of the 60,000-seat venue that UNLV is calling the “megaevent center.” It’s part of an overall campus redevelopment project that includes a student village with housing and retail that has been dubbed, “UNLV Now.”

Snyder, dean of UNLV’s hotel administration college, spearheaded The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and Fremont Street Experience public-private partnership projects. He said UNLV is justified in asking for the financial contribution from the gambling and tourism communities. He cited a $74,500 study by a University of Michigan consultant sports economist that showed a new stadium would generate $393 million in economic spending from 15 events.

Lure of free Wi-Fi

MGM Resorts International has unveiled a free Wi-Fi network at its Strip casinos, allowing guests free wireless Internet in public areas throughout the company’s resorts.

MGM Resorts said the system is live at Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage. It is expected to be installed this year in the Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor and Excalibur. The system, developed with Cisco Systems, doesn’t require a password.

New website ad launched

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has launched an ad campaign to drive traffic to a one-stop shopping website — LasVegas.com — that will allow visitors to book air flights, hotel reservations and shows at a single point of purchase.

The website is designed to increase the number of casual travelers to Las Vegas who want more transparency, authenticity and cost-certainty when booking trips, said Billy Vassiliadis, chief executive of R&R Partners, Las Vegas, the ad firm hired by the group to create and promote the website.

“People want more certainty. They want to know what they’re spending their money on,” Vassiliadis said.

The ad campaign, which started this week, includes humorous TV spots built around a 45-year-old white accountant named “Mr. Las Vegasdotcom.” Vassiliadis showed the TV spots to visitors authority board members Tuesday morning at the board’s monthly meeting at the Cashman Center. The commercials also can be seen at LasVegas.com.

Poker without borders

Nevada’s budding Internet poker market could eventually accept wagers from players in other states, under a proposed legislative change in the Silver State’s interactive gambling regulations.

In a bill draft submitted to the Nevada Legislature, the Gaming Control Board wants to amend interactive gaming regulatory language that would allow Nevada’s governor to enter agreements with other states that legalize Internet poker.

Conceivably, the interstate gaming compacts would allow Nevada-based Internet poker websites to accept bets from gamblers from states with similar interactive gaming laws, considerably growing the size of the potential player pool.


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