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Gaming Guru

Kevin Rademacher

Report: Las Vegas Economy Should Stay Robust in '05

15 December 2004

Southern Nevada received high marks for its 2004 economic performance this morning from the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Development.

"What happened in 2004 was that the economy was really hitting on all cylinders," said Keith Schwer, director of the CBER and author of the Economic Outlook: 2005. "I think that what really comes when you look at the data is how strong both the construction and gaming industry has been this last year."

In recent years, Schwer said construction had carried the growth while gaming stayed flat. In 2004, however, the construction employment gains of 11 percent were coupled by a surge in gaming revenue from about $7.8 billion in 2003 to an estimated $8.5 billion this year.

Looking ahead, Schwer predicted continued growth in 2005 with employment expected to expand by 4.6 percent, bringing the number of local jobs to 835,029.

The opening of the Wynn Las Vegas resort is expected to bolster gaming expansion again in 2005. Schwer predicted gaming revenue to jump by 4 percent in 2005, reaching $8.9 billion.

"When we have had big openings, we have had upward ticks in gaming revenue," he said. "The interesting thing to point out is that the expansion next year comes on top of upward tick we've already seen in 2004."

Schwer also expected a slight slowdown in housing construction for 2005 with single-family residential permits falling 11.1 percent over the coming year. He said the decline should not be interpreted as a symptom of a weakening market.

"It's getting back to normal," he said. "There are lots of reasons for that, but I wouldn't draw an inference that it's out of control as some people have ... For us getting back to normal is strong growth."

Even with the decline, Schwer predicted that 32,507 housing permits will be pulled in 2005, off from a expected 36,856 in 2004. In long-term projections, Schwer said he expects housing permit numbers to jump again in 2006 to 34,002.

Other projections for 2006 include a 3.7 percent increase in visitor volume to 38.4 million, a 3.4 percent increase in the number of hotel rooms to 136,744, a 4.1 percent increase in population to 1.8 million and a 7.2 percent increase in total personal income to $54 billion.

"It's continued growth," Schwer said.