Miami Herald: The recession hit South Florida hard, but Las Vegas got clobbered.
By many measures, Sin City’s economy sunk deeper than Miami’s did. Among all of the major metropolitan areas in the country, Vegas has the highest unemployment rate: 13.6 percent. Property values sunk 58 percent from their peak in the housing crash, compared to the 49 percent drop in South Florida. Vegas also leads the nation in foreclosures.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Miami’s tourism industry bounced back much faster from the recession than did the tourism industry in Vegas.
Vegas relies much more heavily on conventions than South Florida does, and the meetings industry got hammered in the recession as corporations scaled back on anything that looked lavish. Spending on gambling also took a dive during the recession.
These Vegas-Miami comparisons, of course, are taking on new importance as Florida considers allowing a law that would bring mega casinos to South Florida.
While Vegas is essentially a one-industry town, South Florida thrives on economic activity from tourism and construction — two Vegas staples — it also can count on international finance, trade, and a sizeable professional services industry to provide jobs and spending power.
Gambling opponents point the region’s tourism statistics as proof South Florida doesn’t need gambling, since the hospitality industry appears to be strong without it. But gambling supporters also point to the region’s economic diversity as an argument for bringing in casinos, since they would serve as an extra outlet for hiring and development — not the only one.