Chief Executive Officer at Caesars Entertainment
Thanks, Anthony. Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I echo Anthony's comments on the work that our employees have done to drive results for the organization personally, this, it now feels like what we thought we were buying when we originally bought, we bought Caesars Entertainment, we're almost two years in now. But with all the virus disruptions that went on over those two years, it's really the last eight weeks or so that we're starting to hit on all cylinders, and really feel the potential of the organization.
So we talked to you in well into the first quarter. And what we described then was Omicron was kind of a wet blanket around the entire business. For the bulk of January into February, it was really right before the Super Bowl that events changed with the virus and we saw a surge in visitation. This is --and you'll hear a common theme. As I go through, I know that investors are extremely concerned with the health of the consumer and what's going on inflation wise, what impact is that having on the business. I can say unequivocally that the biggest correlation that we see in the business over the last two years is the state of the virus. And then when the virus receives and case counts are benign, there is a pent up demand for travel and entertainment activity. And we see a burst of demand in our business that was Omicron was no exception.
So as you got through Omicron, if you look at the regional market, as Anthony discussed, we ended up considerably year-over-year, margins in the 33 plus percent range. If you think about that in the quarter, and this is true throughout when volumes are down, we experienced negative operating leverage, so regional margins in January were 29%. In March, they were above 37%. So we ramped up through the quarter as demand increased. And that has continued into April into the second quarter with margins in excess of 37% on a preliminary basis, in April and volumes remaining strong.
So obviously we have a tough comp second quarter in regional, but we have been holding up particularly well as we've gone through April. In Las Vegas, if you look at from an occupancy standpoint, we had told you before January was around 75% occupancy. February was about 80% came in about 81%. We thought that March would come in in the mid-80s. It actually came in at 91% for the month. And so we were able to have a record first quarter, even with a slow start where we lost the bulk of CES which is one of the biggest group groups on the calendar market wide. And if you think about margins in Las Vegas, we were a little over 40.5% in January, in March we were a little over 47%. The strength has continued into April. April was the single largest month in the history of the Caesars organization for cash room revenue. Occupancy was just under 97%. Rates were up a little less than 40% over last year last April at a little less than 20% over '19. So Vegas is extraordinarily strong for us.
As we as we sit here today, I expect us to break the record again in May for cash hotel revenue, second quarter is going to be particularly strong in the group business. This is where a lot of the cancellations post pandemic started to rebook into. So we expect a significant bump in group business. Recall that when we talk about group business, we did not have Caesars in '19 did not have the Forum Convention Center operating. So when we say group will be considerably stronger than '19, that includes the Forum '19 did not. But we'd expect Vegas to continue a very strong trajectory, as I said, April all time, room cash room revenue record, despite only 30 days and Easter holiday in April, which is not a particularly good casino holiday, May have 31 days should be even better.
So feel very good about where the brick-and-mortar business is heading. As you look at digital, let me I'm sorry, before I go to digital I spoke in artfully on the last conference call about timing of the Vegas asset sale, I want to be very clear. We started the process to sell a Las Vegas Strip asset early in '22. There are public documents that show you how long the ROFR process and the process to reach a definitive agreement. Last, which would put us somewhere in the middle of summer for a consummation of a transaction, you shouldn't expect us to be giving you play by play in the interim will be back to you, when that's resolved know that it is in motion and governed by the documents that we that govern our VICI agreement.
As you go to digital, as I said on the fourth quarter call first quarter is our peak EBITDA loss. Of the 553 of EBITDA loss in the quarter, a little over $400 million is attributable to the launches in New York and Louisiana with New York, the lion's share of that. As discussed, we got to our handle share goals far earlier than we anticipated. And we did to cut back all of our mass media spend. So we cut about a little over a quarter of a billion dollars of expected spend from when we started cutting in February, through the end of this year, we've seen no degradation in handle share, other than our planned retrenchment in New York back through as we talked about, we were more aggressive than we needed to be out of the box in New York and got 37%, 40% 40 plus percent share as you see us kind of in that 15% to 20% share. Since we've retrenched that's the only material movement in share even though we've cut over a quarter of a billion dollars from marketing.
If you look at the quarter, we lost about $44 million in March. So as you got out of those, that heavy launch period, our losses moderated considerably. If you think about the investment that we talked about making in terms of cumulative EBITDA losses, we said north of a billion in my mind when that, when I made that statement in when we launched in August, I was thinking a billion and a quarter to a billion and a half based on where we've gotten, share wise, I think a billion and a half is the right neighborhood. And if you look at what we've done to date, in about two thirds of our cumulative EBITDA loss, our investment into digital, measured in that way is now in the rear view mirror.
So our losses come down considerably as we move forward. And we fully expect to inflect to EBITDA positive in digital as we move into football season of '23. And if you think about numbers that we've talked to in the past, the cross market play out of sourced in digital into brick-and-mortar we said was run rating, about 150 million of gaming revenue at the time of our last call that has since increased to over $200 million -- what are we focused on in the offseason we're focused on the shoulder season, I should say there's never an offseason. But football is clearly the driver of sports.
So, before next football season, we're bolstering our customer service capability. We're bolstering our technology. We're most of bolstering our payments capability, so that we're ready for next football season. As I look back, we closed William Hill. In April, we had almost exactly 100 days to expect, or to the start of football season when we closed, William Hill, and our re-launch. So we were kind of sprinting, to keep up throughout football season last year, this year is going to feel much more comfortable thought for us in terms of being well prepared for anything that can come our way. We are absolutely thrilled with the bill business that we've built to date. But we're excited about what we can do as we move forward.
To give you some context, we've had 1.4 million in Caesars reward signups, since we re-launched digital that came in through the digital channel. If you think about a typical Caesars property, we get, we get about 50,000, on average per property per year of new signups a little more in destination properties a little less in regional properties. If you think about a million for customers coming into the pipeline, in really a span of five months, it's extraordinary. And now the work in front of us is to identify which are the most valuable customers there. As you look back at the way football season was last year, you are getting the same offer whether you were a $50 player or you were $1,000 and above player, we didn't discriminate. That's kind of what we inherited, as we bought all of these brick-and-mortar assets for various operators in the past, marketing to the masses, with no with little discrimination.
And what you've seen us do repeatedly in the brick-and-mortar business is targets that spend to our most valuable players, and not waste money on the unprofitable players. That's the task in front of us in digital. So you're going to see us segmenting in terms of our marketing as we move forward. And that's going to be a dramatic improvement in profitability as we move forward. So we are excited for that. As you think about where we are now that we've got two thirds of the losses behind us we should be a significant free cash flow producer as an enterprise going forward. We're expecting to close on the non-U.S. William Hill sale within this quarter I talked about Vegas Strip asset sale in motion. We would expect to be making significant reductions in our leverage within this calendar year and into '23 and beyond.
And I'll pass to Bret for some specifics on liquidity and capital.