Last month was a great time for Las Vegas. In the space of one week in December, two brand new casinos opened and a third broke ground on a second hotel tower. It’s another indication that Vegas is once again reinventing itself.
Our cover story this month focuses on the Fontainebleau, and its CEO Jeffrey Soffer. Talk about tenacity. Almost 20 years after he imagined the concept of the iconic Miami hotel smack in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, it’s finally here. Soffer overcame massive hurdles, economic downturns, losing the property not once but twice, and finally repurchasing it to complete the vision he had initially. A true rags-to-riches story, although in no universe would Soffer be viewed at as the rags side of it.
In the Vegas suburbs, Station Casinos opened its newest property, Durango Casino Resort. People are calling it a “mini-Red Rock,” taking all the best features of that resort just a few miles away, and recreating it for a new audience.
Penn Entertainment’s M Resort broke ground for a new tower that will double the size of the hotel.
So yes, Vegas is once again making great choices and expanding all the “must-see” attractions already in place, including the mind-blowing Sphere. Even if you didn’t get a chance to see the U2 residency there, you certainly have seen the spectacular visual presentation that is visible from miles away.
Just in the last 10 years, Vegas has become unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t visited during that period. Now, along with the title “Entertainment Capital,” a case can be made for Vegas being the “Sports Capital.” Within that 10-year span, the Vegas Golden Knights were born and in 2023 won the NHL’s Stanley Cup. While the Las Vegas Raiders haven’t seen much success on the field, every game is sold out, even if half of the fans in the fabulous Allegiant Stadium are rooting for the opponent. And soon the Oakland A’s will be relocating to Las Vegas to give the city a trifecta of major league teams.
And let’s not forget November’s inaugural Formula One race that transformed the Las Vegas Strip. While locals were annoyed with the road work and preparations for the highbrow event, just watching the telecast of the F1 machines roaring down the Strip made it look like the coolest video game ever.
Yes, Las Vegas is hitting on all cylinders, but can the same be said for other gaming destinations?
I was in Atlantic City last month, and granted, it’s the middle of the winter—the off-season for the Boardwalk—but there wasn’t much excitement. Yes, Hard Rock and Ocean casinos are hitting new marks with every monthly revenue report, but the other casinos, including the market leader, Borgata, are either flat or down a bit with their revenues. There aren’t many new developments in the casinos or outside of them. If it wasn’t for online gaming, New Jersey gaming revenues would be at record lows.
Detroit casinos just settled a rather bitter strike, dragging their revenues down substantially. They do have online gaming in Michigan, so that’s been a lifeline, but nothing new planned.
Revenues for Mississippi, Illinois, Missouri and the other Midwest casino industries are also flattening out after an initial post-pandemic burst, with little or no help from sports betting and iGaming.
The Seminoles in Florida can celebrate the adoption of a new compact that gives them a monopoly on sports betting in the state, as well as the addition of roulette and craps to their casino floors.
While some tribal casinos are doing well, particularly in Connecticut where the two Indian casinos are now participating in online casinos and sportsbooks. California casinos are also doing well, but will not be helped by any online sports betting or iGaming revenues since there seems to be irreparable disagreements about what shape they will take if even considered at all.
Around the world, the only substantial expansion is happening in the Philippines, where Manila’s Entertainment City finally has come to fruition, with casinos planned for other areas of the country as well.
Macau has almost recovered to 2019 levels, but already casinos are questioning whether they made the right choice in the license renewals to invest in more non-gaming amenities. No one knows if these new additions will do the job of attracting more non-gambling related visitors and revenues.
So reinvention is great in Vegas, but how does it work in other gaming jurisdictions around the world? Perhaps officials from those regions should note how Las Vegas did it and try to emulate it.