They invested more than $10,000 to fly a group from Latin America to Las Vegas. Nothing less than a thousand-dollar bottle of wine would do when the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority entertained guests at lavish hotel bars.

Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority's Board member Bill Noonan

Bill Noonan at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s audit committee is having to be a little more careful now about keeping receipts. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

These were just some of the questionable expenditures found by an exhaustive review conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March, and the reason an independent auditor was brought in to look more closely at the LVCVA’s spending.

Next month, the external auditor will give guidance on how the LVCVA can reduce gift costs and travel expenses, a budget-cutting step that the authority hopes won’t hurt the city’s ability to compete for large conventions and trade shows.

The auditor “made some good recommendations on how we could be more efficient and how we can firm up our policies and we will expect the staff of the LVCVA to act on those recommendations,” LVCVA board member and audit committee chairman Bill Noonan said Tuesday.

The audit is just about complete, but Noonan won’t be releasing any details until November. He made a point of saying the recommendations made today are not final.

Loose Purse Strings

The local paper’s analysis had found the LVCVA board members spent at least $85,000 to hire showgirls, $697,000 on alcohol, and hundreds of thousands more for concert tickets, skyboxes, banquets, exotic car rides, and jewelry during a three-year period.

The report led to a call for an independent audit of spending practices at the LVCVA, a private-public partnership supported by the state of Nevada.

The LVCVA has a $251 million operating budget, mostly coming from hotel taxes.

According to the Review-Journal, visitors to Southern Nevada contribute nearly $60 billion to the local economy, with nearly half the labor force working in the tourism industry, which pays out $16.9 billion in wages.

Return on Investment?

Tourism may be booming in Southern Nevada, but is the authority’s wild spending the reason Las Vegas is able to benefit?

Las Vegas consistently ranks among the top travel destinations in the country. The LVCVA says that for every $2 it spends on marketing, it brings in $12 in return.

“We’re No. 1, and we continue to be No. 1 because we continue to do it bigger and better than anyone else, and we have a great destination,” Noonan said.

A record 42.3 million people travelled to Las Vegas last year. Visitors spent an average of $827 per trip on hotels, restaurants, souvenirs, and tours in 2016. According to Business Insider, Las Vegas is the fifth most popular travel destination in the US for 2017.

Following a breakout year for tourism like they saw last year, the authority wants to keep the ball rolling and beat last year’s numbers. But after the final results of the LVCVA’s audit are in, they may have to do it all with a little less cash flying around.