Even with increased convention attendance, January’s Las Vegas visitation was slightly down.

During the first month of 2013, 3.13 million people came to Las Vegas, down 0.7 percent from January 2012’s total of 3.15 million visitors, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s monthly count.

Citywide hotel occupancy was down 0.2 points to 78.1 percent from 2012’s 78.3 percent occupancy. Motel occupancy slipped 0.1 point to 45.1 percent from 45.2 percent in 2012. Weekend stays in January decreased a full 2 points to 80.6 percent occupancy from 82.6 percent occupancy in 2012.

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Midweek occupancy, though, was up 0.7 points to 77 percent from 76.3 percent in 2012, probably because of the 6.2 percent increase in convention attendance.

In all, 571,964 people attended conventions in January, up from 2012’s 538,552 .

The convention authority is citing the National Association of Home Builders’ return after a three-year absence as the reason for increased convention attendance.

The number of conventions and meetings held also increased, 19.7 percent to 1,787 from 2012’s 1,493 total.

The average daily room rate increased 0.4 percent to $114.22 in January, ahead of 2012’s average daily room rate of $113.82.

Las Vegas had 3.64 million room nights occupied in January, down 0.6 percent from 2012’s 3.66 million total.

Claims administrator to help players reclaim Full Tilt Poker funds

The Department of Justice has brought in a third-party claims administrator to help eligible American online poker players reclaim funds that were lost to Full Tilt Poker after the company’s access to the United States was cut off in April 2011.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said that bringing aboard Garden City Group was “a significant step forward in the process of compensating victims of the Full Tilt Poker scheme.”

In July, PokerStars settled its legal dispute with federal prosecutors, agreeing to forfeit $547 million to the Justice Department and to assume Full Tilt’s liability for the approximately $184 million owed to players. PokerStars acquired Full Tilt as part of the settlement.

Some skeptical about Echelon plans

Last week’s news that Genting Group had bought the moribund Echelon property and would build out a $2 billion to $7 billion Strip hotel-casino complex was hailed as good news for recession-weary Las Vegas.

But not all analysts are sanguine about adding another 3,500 hotel rooms to an already saturated resort destination. At least one was downright negative.

Construction of Genting Group’s Resorts World Las Vegas won’t be as quick as flipping on a light switch. Development of the 87-acre site on the Strip’s north end will take at least three years to complete, allowing the Strip’s recovery to gain additional traction.

Fitch Ratings Service gaming analyst Michael Paladino told investors that the timing and scale of the Genting Group’s plan exceeds previous expectations for the Strip’s near-to-medium-term gaming expansion and hotel room addition.

Many analysts have said Las Vegas is an oversaturated hotel market with more than 150,000 rooms. The $400 million redevelopment of the Sahara into SLS Las Vegas adds 1,620 more by the end of 2014.

“Tepid capacity growth has been one of the key considerations for our favorable outlook for the Strip,” Paladino told investors. “The two projects’ proposed room capacity equates to 3.4 percent of citywide room inventory as of December 2012.”

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon echoed some of Paladino’s concerns. Adding SLS and Resorts World will give Las Vegas almost 155,000 rooms.

“That’s more than any other city in the world,” Beynon said.

Kerkorian may increase MGM Resorts ownership

Less than two years after saying it was exploring the sale of its stake in MGM Resorts International, the private investment firm of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian said in a regulatory filing it might reverse course.

Los Angeles-based Tracinda Corp., which is the largest shareholder of the Strip casino giant with an 18.6 percent ownership stake, said in a 13-D filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it might increase its ownership to 25 percent.

The announcement comes a little more than a year after Tracinda sold 20 million shares of MGM Resorts for $268 million.

A year earlier, Kerkorian said Tracinda might divest itself of its entire MGM Resorts stake.

Tracinda owns almost 91.2 million shares in the company that operates 10 Strip resorts — including the MGM Grand, Bellagio and The Mirage — and has a half-interest ownership in the CityCenter development.

The company also is the majority owner of the MGM Grand Macau and is building a second hotel-casino in the Cotai Strip region.

Wynn Resorts expresses interest in Toronto project

A Las Vegas-based gaming company has sent a letter to Toronto’s city manager expressing its interest in building a luxury casino-resort.

“Much of the public debate on this issue has centered around a false choice between an outdated big-box slots model and no casino,” Gamal Aziz, president and COO of Wynn Resorts Development, wrote in a two-page letter.

“I am writing you to make it clear that we would offer another option,” Aziz wrote. “That is to create a luxury resort and spa experience that will confirm Toronto as a major global tourist and convention destination, one that will integrate seamlessly into the urban fabric of the city while standing out as an architectural asset.”

Any project would include fine dining and casual restaurants, a five-star spa, hotel rooms with view of the Toronto skyline, and a convention center, according to the company.

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