Casinos still affected by tourist industry collapse
By dave
Two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Southern Nevada casinos are still struggling to match the returns they had achieved before the attacks and a lagging economy severely damaged the tourist industry. Gambling revenue, occupancy rates and other key financial indicators of casino health are still down from the period before the attacks.

A series of recent earnings reports from Las Vegas Strip operators, as well as stronger consumer confidence and retail spending data, suggest a recovery is under way, however. 'Most volumes from major Strip operators have been very solid in recent weeks,' said John Mulkey, a bond analyst with Bear, Stearns & Co., and during the second quarter, companies such as Mandalay Resort Group and the Venetian resort indicated improvements in the their 'independent traveller' tourism business -- a positive sign for the Strip as a whole, he said.

“Though domestic and international travel still hasn't fully recovered from the period before the attacks, the decline can be blamed somewhat on the sluggish economy,” MGM MIRAGE spokesman Alan Feldman said.

For the 12 months ended July 2003, gambling revenue at Strip resorts totalled about $4.8 billion, a 2.2 percent drop from the same period in 2001, according to data released this week by the Gaming Control Board.

Many major Strip resorts will return to similar activities Thursday to memorialize the attacks.

Some properties will flash patriotic symbols and phrases on their message boards, while others will hold more individualized ceremonies, including a memorial service at the Tropicana and a 12-gun salute and fountain show at the Bellagio. At Park Place Entertainment Corp. resorts, messages such as 'United We Stand' and 'One Nation Under God' will alternate with the properties' typical commercial messages.

'We also believe that part of the way we should be dealing with this is to ... get on with our lives,' Park Place spokesman Robert Stewart said.

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