Las Vegas has been through many permutations of casino entertainment through the years. Starting with the sawdust joints of Downtown, expanding to the elegant Strip hotels with pools and star entertainment, to huge dormitories focused on housing convention delegates, until today’s oases for all things comfortable and fun. And we’re about to reach a new level of resort when Resorts World Las Vegas (RWLV) opens in late June.
But let’s back up to the site of Las Vegas’ newest attraction to understand what its legacy needs to be.
The Stardust was one of those legendary Las Vegas casinos people always talk about. The showgirls, the sportsbook, the mob management… It was the actual casino upon which the movie Casino was based. After the mob was cleaned out, the Stardust was owned in its later years by Boyd Gaming, at a time Boyd was being elevated to one of the most important companies in gaming.
After Boyd had built and operated Atlantic City’s elegant Borgata casino resort (co-owned with MGM Resorts), Boyd executives decided to use their newfound expertise at building integrated resorts by imploding the dated Stardust and replacing it with Echelon. Soon after the demolition, however, the recession hit hard and construction was halted. A few years later Genting, the huge Asian gaming conglomerate, stepped in and bought the property, announcing a Chinese-themed resort complete with panda bears.
And then came the pandemic, and Genting went back to the drawing board, emerging with a resort unlike any other on the Las Vegas Strip, encompassing items from the most successful integrated resorts around the world, and giving it a uniquely Las Vegas spin.
Scott Sibella was one of the longtime leaders of MGM Grand, who also had experience at several other MGM and Mirage Resorts properties prior to the merger. When he stepped down as president of MGM Grand during a corporate reorganization, Genting quickly acted and hired him to run Resorts World Las Vegas. There are few executives with such wide-ranging Strip experience with both the mass market and VIPs, so Sibella fits the bill at RWLV like a glove.
Sibella says it was a great opportunity for him.
“To be able to join a company and bring something to fruition from the beginning, and have input in it, it was just something I couldn’t pass up. And after I met the chairman (KT Lim), we hit it off right away, and I wanted to be part of bringing something great to Las Vegas, and bringing what I’ve learned in all these years, and taking advantage of being the first property like this open in over a decade.”
There have been branded hotels within a hotel like the House of Blues and Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay, and Nobu at Caesars, but at RWLV, the entire hotel consists of different brands—Las Vegas Hilton, Conrad Las Vegas and Crockfords Las Vegas.
“We have three different brands, so we can be high-end luxury, luxury and more of a premium,” says Sibella. “But what you’re going to see differently is how we operate it. We’re taking advantage of the advancement in technology, so we’re doing things that nobody’s doing up and down the Strip.”
The Hilton (1,774 rooms) and the Conrad (the largest in the world with 1,496 rooms) will house the majority of the guests, but the very special guests have an even higher-end destination.
“We’re introducing Crockfords to the U.S., and that will be our ultra-luxury brand, with 236 rooms and suites,” says Sibella. “Not only for casino guests, but for non-casino guests. We’re changing the paradigm. The person who doesn’t gamble will still be treated like a high-end VIP because they’re paying for everything and deserve that treatment.”
Doni Taube is the senior vice president of international marketing for RWLV. Taube spent several years in Singapore working at the Resorts World Sentosa property. He says the Crockfords brand makes a difference to Asian customers.
“At each location where we have a Crockfords hotel component—whether that is Singapore or Genting Highlands in Malaysia—each one has its own unique twist. And we have that opportunity here to do the same, as we’re recreating and creating this brand for North America as well.”
RWLV is embracing the reality of revenue production on the Strip, where 70 percent of revenue comes from non-gaming attractions. Sibella says every element of the property will reflect that goal.
“The way we laid the property out and programmed the property, the non-gaming revenue areas will play an integral part in our success,” Sibella told the Nevada Gaming Control Board. “Our mobile loyalty program was first designed for non-gaming, and then we turned it into gaming. We’re willing to do both aspects of clientele at our property. The shift to non-gaming continues to change, and we are taking advantage of that trend. We forecast 65 percent-70 percent of our revenue will be non-gaming.”
The property will contain over 600,000 square feet of food and beverage, a nightclub, a day club, a spa and unique retail, along with 300,000 square feet of convention space.
Sibella says the food and beverage outlets will reflect the property’s goal of attracting a wide range of guests.
“The key was to be diversified,” he explains. “We didn’t want to have all five-star restaurants, but we have some. We didn’t want to have many low-end restaurants, but we have some casual restaurants at the same time. So, it was picking and choosing the right partners that would bring that experience to Las Vegas, and we selected them on that reason, and we’re excited with what we have.”
When it comes to retail, RWLV also goes against the grain.
“We didn’t want to do a big mall or have stores that you could find somewhere else in Las Vegas,” says Sibella. “We found some great partners and used the same approach as we did in the F&B outlets: trying to find different types of stores that align with our customer base. So we have higher-end stores, there’s lower-end fun stores. We don’t want people to walk around thinking they can’t afford to go to any of our stores. There are stores that you can afford and enjoy.”
With a 5,000-seat theater, RWLV is competing for the top talent in the world. Sibella says the superstars featured in a recent television commercial—Celine Dion, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan—will play this venue. One of the secrets to the success of the theater is a partnership struck by Sibella.
“We formed some great partnerships, and AEG is one of them,” he says. “They’re the best in the business when it comes to finding talent and running these big boxes with theaters. They helped us design this theater, and it is by far state-of-the-art—nothing like it in the country because of the advancement with technology, when it comes to the sound, the lighting.”
But working at Resorts World Las Vegas will mean the performers must go the extra mile.
“It was important that we just didn’t go out and get good talent; they had to be partners with Resorts World, when they’re performing or not performing. They’re our partners. So we’ll have pop-up stores for their merchandise. We’ll help them with their endorsements, and they’re like an ambassador to the property when they’re not here. But they are really excited that we have the entertainment side tied in to everything that we’re doing here at Resorts World.”
As for the nightclub, Sibella says the partner will create a different experience for Las Vegas.
“We wanted to do something differently,” he says, “so we’ve partnered with Zouk, which is the No. 1 nightclub in Asia for many years, and we’re bringing that to Las Vegas. We’re not just bringing the name. We’re bringing their expertise when it comes to programming and what they do in the nightclub.”
A nightclub is only as good as its DJs, and Zouk seems to have that under control.
“We did engage with two big ones, Zedd and Tiësto,” says Sibella. “But again, they’re partners. So, Zedd’s helped us with a lot of different music things throughout the property; so will Tiësto. We’ll be doing events with them, besides playing inside the nightclub. But they’re more of our spokespersons, our partners, our ambassadors.”
As the first new Las Vegas resort to open in 10 years, RWLV has the opportunity to incorporate new technology in ways that have never been attempted on the Strip. Taube says it’s this kind of innovation that will help RWLV to stand out.
“It has everything to do with how we approach this property,” he says. “Today, it’s about ease of service, ease of access, and familiarity. Customers today are already ingrained on how to use their phone, whether it’s airline reservations, hotel reservations, food ordering. Everybody knows how to order tickets. So we’re really just creating those building blocks and building up that guest experience to the way we all do, as a consumer. And that’s really been our approach.”
One of the innovations at RWLV is the ability to go totally cashless from day one. Taube outlines the deal the company has with Sightline, the groundbreaking payment processing company, but says the property is willing to work with any vendor who can provide quality service and products.
“Everything’s a moving target,” he says. “Technology, as good as it is today, what else is there out there? Collaboration is a key to everything in your success, and how you don’t go dormant. So Sightline is a primary, but obviously, with the fast pace of technology, we look at everything.”
The advanced technology also applies to the safe and secure atmosphere RWLV hopes to create in the wake of Covid-19.
“Health and safety was always a No. 1 priority,” says Taube. “Before Covid, we spent as much money as we could to have the best air quality system money could possibly buy. And we’re glad that we did that, and we even advanced it after the pandemic hit—the way we clean the rooms; the technology on the phones, where you can do everything on your phone if you don’t want to deal with an employee. We’ll be prepared.
“But we’re hoping that there are no restrictions. If we have to have the Plexiglas and the distancing, we’ll be prepared to do that. But I think going forward, just the way we clean the rooms, the story that we tell, how safe the property is, the air quality, and the advancement on technology with your phones and things like that, is something customers are going to be looking for in the future. And we thought that out because that was a core value, and it’s really important to us.”
Genting and Resorts World is a recognized brand on the East Coast, particularly because of the two casinos in New York. But on the West Coast, it’s not really very well-known. Sibella says they have plans to remedy that.
“It’s been somewhat difficult because of the Covid situation,” he says. “We were very sensitive about not making too much noise about Resorts World in the past six months because of everything that’s going on in today’s world. We slowly released different aspects of the property with some press releases, and we’ve done a good job at that. And I think we’ve gotten everybody’s attention now. People know it’s real; we are opening.
“We want to establish our brand. We’ve been doing this for 50 years, so it’s not a startup company. We’re pretty good at what we do all over the globe, and we’re pretty good back East. We’re looking forward to being more involved in the community, and to educating our locals and our tourists about our great company.”
For Taube, the international market is important, but he says that’s going to take a while to arrive in style.
“If you look in today’s environment with Covid and seeing how the vaccines are being rolled out, it’s about the education of the guests, about what we’re trying to build here, and how you keep the guests within the ecosystem of all the Resorts World properties. And as travel restrictions ease in these other jurisdictions—it’s just not about arrival into the United States, but it’s also the return trip—we’re very thoughtful and sensitive about how to approach it. But as things start opening up, not just domestically, but internationally, and you start seeing increased airlift, I think that’s when you’ll start seeing that international guest come back as well.”
In a difficult employment environment, Sibella is confident that they’ll be able to reach their goal of 5,000 employees two weeks before the late June opening date. He says they are laying the groundwork for a good corporate culture, too.
“With money and common sense, you can build anything today,” says Sibella. “So, it’s just a great building, but what’s going to bring it alive are the employees. They’re our No. 1 asset. Not all this money we spent. We’re very excited that we got over 115,000 people applying to work here. It’s about getting the right person and training them to make sure they understand what their role is, and they’re treated right. In return, we expect them to provide great service. So, it won’t be easy, but we’re excited who we’ve made offers to, and who we’ve hired so far.”
Resorts World Las Vegas Fact Sheet
Owner: Genting Group
Architect: Steelman Partners
Construction Manager: W.A. Richardson Builders
Landscape Design: Lifescapes International
Land: 88 acres
Rooms & Suites: 1,774 Las Vegas Hilton, 1,496 Conrad Las Vegas, 236 Crockfords Las Vegas
Casino: 117,000 square feet
Food & Beverage Outlets: 22
Retail Stores: 22+
Architect Paul Steelman
President and Founder, Steelman Partners
“We are very happy to be the architect, lighting designer and partial interior designer for Resorts World Las Vegas. It has been a long journey that started in 2012. We believe our gaming entertainment community will benefit greatly from the unique ideas of (Genting Chairman) KT Lim and his sons Hui and Loui. We have been greatly assisted by a fantastic management team headed by Scott Sibella and a wonderful contractor, Bill Richardson. We have been fortunate to share the design stage with many architects and interior designers to create such a large project. To have a Genting resort located in the middle of the Strip seems very fitting for one of the world’s largest and most progressive gaming and entertainment companies.
“Genting Highlands in Malaysia has been a developing project always creating new and exciting entertainment experiences for over 50 years. Resorts World owns a tremendous amount of vacant real estate around the facility. We all can dream that the development story of Resorts World Las Vegas will continue on just as Genting Highlands has.”
Executive Senior Principal/Director of Design, Lifescapes International
“Guests expect Las Vegas resorts to offer a seemingly endless array of curated entertainment, dining, and relaxation venues that cross the spectrum of age, taste, and activity level. Our design helped craft a rather special hidden oasis in Resorts World Las Vegas, a property whose garden and musical beat will call to all who want to experience the newest excitement the city has to offer.
“The Zouk Nightclub and its companion, Ayu Dayclub, will present the most state-of-the-art and immersive indoor and outdoor experience of any venue in Las Vegas. Collaboratively working with Resorts World and the Zouk Group, along with club designer ICRAVE, Lifescapes’ charge was to create an eclectic, yet refined, Southeast Asian-inspired garden and pool environment that referenced the brand’s Singapore roots, while creating a dynamic space to play, all while being entertained by the world’s most prolific DJs.
“Several pool environments offer guests, from the family to the vacationer looking for relaxation to the adult party scene, an array of experiences, amid shaded social areas and carefully curated trees and plant material to create a luxury oasis in the desert.”