The World Series of Poker creates a potential yearly revenue stream for the city of Las Vegas. Leveraging the city’s reputation alongside the adoration of the poker community can help boost tourism and drive activity to local businesses, which is especially beneficial in the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the event’s toning down of in-person operations over the past two years, fans and players are hoping 2022 will mark the next step in continued growth for the event and competitive poker as a whole. Early signs point to a resurgence of WSOP’s role in boosting the Las Vegas economy.
Las Vegas tourism’s much-needed rebound
It should come as no surprise that Las Vegas faced significant economic struggles resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact from tourism was about $30 billion less in 2020 than in 2019 due to the lack of travel to the city. Even today, the number of visitors to the city hasn’t yet reached 2019 levels, according to Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority data. Though the number of guests seen from January through March 2022 is 66% higher than it was in 2021, and 0.2% higher than in 2020, 2019’s totals for the first three months of the year still outweigh 2022’s by more than 18%.
On the bright side, the LVCVA also reports that the average rate per available room in Las Vegas was $131.49 in March 2022, up from $122.46 in March 2019. This implies that a spike in visitors would result in an even greater economic impact than in previous years.
However you look at the numbers, the city missed out on significant tourism-related revenues over the past two years, creating a greater need for some form of stimulant.
If monthly trends match those in 2019, Las Vegas can expect to see nearly 9 million visitors from May through July 2022, when the WSOP takes place. Even as COVID-19 restrictions are loosened and the general public becomes more comfortable with travel, this will be less than the more than 10 million visitors noticed during this three-month span in 2019.
This expectation can be surpassed, however, if businesses ramp up promotions with the specific goal of bringing in more visitors to offset the losses from previous years.
One of the reasons for the fluctuating attendance levels is the drop in the number of conventions held in the city. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several annual conventions canceled plans for 2020 and 2021, with many opting for virtual alternatives. As a result, convention attendance in the first three months of 2021 was down nearly 38% compared to 2019. However, this is on the rise, as 2022’s convention attendance from January through March was more than 20 times that of the same three-month span in 2021. This suggests the industry is getting even closer to normality as more conventions have returned to in-person formats.
Likely increase in WSOP viewers, attendees
The fabled gathering of poker’s greats was yet another victim of reduced capacity as a result of the pandemic. The 2019 WSOP was a perfect example of the event’s consistent growth, featuring 8,569 players in the Main Event alone, which was the second-largest in history. The entire series featured 187,239 entries with nearly $300 million in prize money awarded to players.
These figures declined in 2021, with 6,650 Main Event entries and a $60 million Main Event prize pool. The most recent WSOP also noticed decreased attendance, as certain restrictions limited the number of people who could participate while also making travel less convenient. The fall timeframe also played a role, as the usual May-July schedule typically comes when travel is more commonplace.
While in-person attendance is the fuel for local businesses, viewership also contributes to the event’s overall success. CardsChat recently surveyed our forum users to see what the poker community is anticipating for the upcoming WSOP.
In terms of viewership, more players expect to tune in regularly this year, on PokerGO and CBS Sports, with almost 43% of respondents saying they will do so this year compared to the nearly 31% who said they watched the 2021 WSOP Main Event on a daily basis. More than 31% of those surveyed said they didn’t watch last year’s Main Event while only 12% plan on not watching this year.
The hype isn’t limited to viewers. Along with a heightened number of people tuning in, roughly 35% of respondents plan on attending this year’s event, while 36% reported attending previous WSOPs, suggesting the attitude toward attending in person is more consistent with those in the pre-COVID era.
The 2022 WSOP will seek to capitalize on the return of in-person events, like the recent NFL Draft did, by gathering more than 300K attendees over the three-day event.
New venue brings opportunities, challenges
Among the many changes from the previous WSOP is a shift in venue to Bally’s and the Paris casinos on the Strip.
For the past 17 years, the WSOP was held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino about a mile off the Strip, so this update marks a dramatic change for regular attendees. Among the many benefits of this move is the potential for the WSOP to become more lucrative for the city of Las Vegas.
“This year we have our largest footprint ever with the historic move to The Las Vegas Strip and we expect player attendance to return to pre-pandemic levels,” World Series of Poker Vice President Jack Effel says. “The new location will create the largest tournament capacity in the event’s history with over 150,000 square feet and more than 580 poker tables to accommodate players of all levels.”
The LVCVA reports that the Strip is an especially strong source of revenue compared to other locations. In the first three months of 2022, the Strip brought an average of $117.04 in monthly revenue per available room, compared to $92.69 for Downtown. Furthermore, the revenue per available room on the Strip has seen significant gains from 2021, with January’s increasing by 59.4%, February’s by 53%, and March’s by 66.3%.
If this trend continues, the Vegas economy should see a much-needed influx of activity in the summer months, especially during the WSOP.
CardsChat Ambassador Ashley Sleeth suggests the move could be a big win for the WSOP and for the city of Las Vegas, but understands that it brings new challenges.
“The new venue will probably be great for players coming in from out of town. It’s centrally located on the Strip, which is convenient,” said Sleeth. “Parking and traffic on dinner breaks will definitely be an issue. Fingers crossed that they find a fix for getting in and out of the garages seamlessly during break times.”
This cautious optimism was echoed by CardsChat Ambassador Matt Vaughan, who also suggests the move can pay off if set up properly. “I’m hopeful that the new venue will have a lot of pluses like lack of aggressive vendors, better access to food on tourney breaks, and more comfortable air-conditioned breaks in the hot summer months,” he stated.
In anticipation of the 2022 WSOP, speculation is building as fans and industry enthusiasts prepare for the event’s full return. With a new venue and many fresh faces, poker players worldwide are looking to share their speculation with others interested in the professional poker scene. If you’re looking to join these conversations, head to CardsChat.com.