Even with the gaming industry having a bit of an off year in 2008, the holiday crowds still managed to surprise many, and have generated some new hope among casinos that the new year may go better for them. The New Year’s holiday weekend in Las Vegas was particularly huge, attracting crowds of nearly 300,000 visitors who used the hotels and gaming floors. This turnout exceeded the 284,000 visitors in 2007, but still fell a little bit short of 2006’s crowd of 305,000. Casino operators were still very pleased though, with the full slot machines and gaming tables, especially on New Years Day, where casinos across the country reported excellent turnouts, with seats in the pit often filled to capacity. Casino operators are hopeful that this is a sign that the economic downturn in Las Vegas has started to reverse itself, but not everyone is so confident.

The holiday season is traditionally one of the busiest times of year for the casino industry, but many hotels had to cut room rates, and each individual customer spent less on average than they have in previous years. Philip Shalala, marketing head of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino reports that his hotel had its best December ever, with a 6 percent improvement over last years numbers. This could be partly due to the creative marketing, which is something that many Las Vegas casinos have begun to tap into, in the hopes of staying ahead of the competition. A good example would be Hard Rock’s holiday party, which offered two hours of free beer and wine.Many of the people, who were brought in by this promotion, also bought food and gambled.This lead to the hotel beating its estimates by roughly 10 percent. The money spent per person is less however, with somebody who once spent over $10,000 only spending about $5,000 now. Hard Rock hasn’t greatly lowered their room rates, but they have thrown in extras such as free concert tickets, and shop discounts.