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LAS VEGAS-Amid an overall drab picture painted this week by the latest visitor and gaming revenue data—Strip gaming revenue down 24%; average daily room rate down 23%; convention attendance down 35%–there were a few bright spots. February performance data were released Tuesday by the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

While gaming revenue in Clark County as a whole declined approximately 18%–due largely to the big decline on the Strip—Downtown gaming revenue declined by just 11%. The North Las Vegas and Boulder Strip markets actually posted increases in gaming revenue but in each case the increase is due to a new casino property, the Eastside Cannery on the Boulder Strip and Aliante Station in North Las Vegas. The relatively tiny Mesquite market posted a 0.7% increase in gaming revenue.

“There is a lot of distortion in the February numbers with the shift in the Chinese New Year [to January from its typical February], the Super Bowl [not occurring as far into February as usual] and Leap Year that it’s very difficult to [draw any conclusions about overall market direction],” Gaming Control Board senior research analyst Frank Streshley tells GlobeSt.com. “But with one less day in the month the decline in hotel occupancy was not as big [as it could have been], which may mean we are nearing the bottom of a U-shaped, or even a V-shaped, recovery.”

Indeed, the declines in occupancy in February were smaller than the declines in January. Hotel occupancy in February 2009 was 83.9%, a decline of 550 basis points from 92.7% in February 2008. Year-to-date, average hotel occupancy in 2009 is 81.5%, down 910 basis points compared to the first two months of 2008.

Weekend occupancy in February came in at 91.1%, down just 110 basis points from 92.9% in February 2008. Year-to-date, weekend occupancy stands at 85.4%, down 250 basis points from 87.9% through the first two months of 2008. Midweek occupancy in February came in at 80.5%, down 710 basis points from February 2008. Year-to-date, midweek occupancy stands at 74.1%, down 1,260 basis points from 86.7% through the first two months of 2008.

Streshley expects the declines in gaming revenue to shrink from the mid teens percentage-wise into the single digits as the year progresses, regardless of whether a recovery has begun or not. That is because year-over-year comparison gets easier after March, when gaming revenue in 2008 began falling farther behind 2007.

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