Domestic gaming meccas are being flooded with visitors once again. In Las Vegas in particular, the promise of a surge of international travelers awaits, as well, thanks to loosened Covid-testing requirements and a growing number of overseas flights. Developers and resort operators there and in Atlantic City are readying for more meetings business, with new venues under development and improvements throughout. Here are the latest updates of interest to event professionals.
Convention attendance is on the upswing in Las Vegas, and while its upward trajectory isn't as steep as the city's overall visitation numbers, the trend certainly bodes well for the local meetings industry. Of the nearly 15.3 million people who had visited in 2022 through the end of May, just shy of 2 million were convention-goers. Although that's still 34 percent lower than the convention attendance for the first five months of 2019, it is a whopping 878 percent increase over the same period in 2021.
Most impressively, the city's hotel revenue per available room has recovered to prepandemic levels — on the strength of a year-to-date average daily rate of $163.84, which exceeds the 2019 rate by a hefty 18.5 percent. Meeting professionals looking for negotiation leverage should note that hotel occupancy is much higher on weekends (87.6 percent) than midweek (69.8 percent).
And there's no question that resort operators are eager to attract more meetings business. Developers responsible for projects such as Fontainebleau Las Vegas, which is set to debut on the North Strip in the fourth quarter of 2023, are specifically targeting groups. The 3,700-room property across from the Las Vegas Convention Center's new West Hall is promising more than 550,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including an expansive, 105,000-square-foot pillarless ballroom. A three-level, 92,000-square-foot theater is also part of the plan, as is a 26,000-square-foot "hospitality garden."
Also conveniently located across from West Hall, the wellness-minded Majestic Las Vegas is being constructed on the lot adjacent to the Fontainebleau. The $850 million, 720-suite nongaming resort's signature feature will be a four-level, 70,000-square-foot wellness center, Spa Majestic. The ultraluxury facility also will feature a world-class gym, yoga and meditation facilities, and on-site fitness and nutrition experts. Ample gathering space will be available on the nine levels of "corporate sky suites" on the building's upper floors — some covering an entire floor, or as much as 25,000 square feet of space. The resort is scheduled to open in 2024.
At the south end of the Strip, work has begun on the 531-room Dream Las Vegas, which also is set to debut in 2024. The $550 million project will feature a 20,000-square-foot casino and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom and a 90-seat theater. The 20-story tower also will offer seven dining and nightlife options, and a rooftop pool and club.
Meanwhile, a true Vegas megaproject has been designated for 25 acres south of the Strip. Construction could begin next year on a retail and entertainment district, which would include a 20,000-seat arena, a hotel, a casino and an amphitheater. The $3 billion OVG Hotel & Casino will be designed to host concerts, sporting events, conventions and more at the arena. The site is adjacent to the planned Brightline high-speed rail station, for the proposed bullet train to southern California.
Along the Strip, the 3,033-room Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is now part of the MGM Resorts portfolio. MGM closed the $1.63 billion acquisition in mid-May, and no major changes are expected at the resort, which will remain in Marriott's Autograph Collection.
MGM Resorts will have a total of nine Las Vegas properties as soon as the sale of the 3,044-room Mirage Hotel and Casino to Hard Rock International closes. The new owners of that iconic Strip property intend to rebrand it as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and build a guitar-shaped hotel tower on-site. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.
Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment is gradually rebranding Bally's Las Vegas Hotel & Casino to the Horseshoe Las Vegas. The multimillion-dollar project will involve renovating the exterior and the casino floor, and redesigning much of the interior with the gold Horseshoe branding. The former sportsbook area at Bally's will be transformed into an all-ages gaming area called, simply, Arcade. The 7,000-square-foot venue will be outfitted with more than 80 arcade games and a redesigned bar. No opening date has been set for Arcade, although Caesars expects to complete the resort rebranding by the end of the year.
The biggest Las Vegas megaresort to debut over the past several years — the three-hotel, 3,506-room Resorts World Las Vegas — recently unveiled the first Las Vegas Loop passenger station on the Strip. The underground transit system, built and operated by Elon Musk's Boring Co., transports passengers via Tesla vehicles to the Las Vegas Convention Center campus. The Loop connecting the expansive convention center campus has been operational for more than a year. Resorts World station is the first of more than 55 proposed additional stops, which could include connections to Harry Reid International Airport and downtown Las Vegas.
The New Jersey Shore destination's beachfront setting might have helped it weather the pandemic, but business and leisure travelers alike are returning for the city's top-tier casinos once again. The latest numbers from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show that Atlantic City's casino properties reported a total gross operating profit of $155.6 million for Q1 2022 — an impressive 63 percent increase over Q1 2021. Better yet, four of the city's nine casinos recorded higher profits for the first quarter of this year than in the same quarter of 2019.
Convention business is also returning. According to Meet AC, the city's convention and visitors bureau, more than 23,000 room nights and over $35 million of meetings-driven revenue was recorded for Q1 2022. New data released in early July shows these numbers grew to more than 42,000 room nights and close to $44 million of revenue in Q2. But rather than rest on their laurels, the city's casinos are investing in multimillion-dollar upgrades. Enhanced guest rooms, modernized gaming floors, new food-and-beverage outlets and forward-looking sustainability initiatives are among the many changes afoot in Atlantic City.
Caesars Entertainment is spending $400 million to renovate its three city properties by the end of 2023. The first phase wrapped up last year, bringing $170 million in guest room and suite updates to Harrah's Resort Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City. Gaming enhancements now are underway at the Tropicana, which is expected to debut eight new dining outlets by the fall. The remaining half of the $400 million investment will go toward Caesars Atlantic City, where work is currently underway to revamp the hotel lobby, valet, casino floor and outdoor pool experience.
In addition, the gaming giant has partnered with Nobu Hospitality to create a Nobu-branded hotel and restaurant within the Caesars Atlantic City property. A tentative opening date at the end of September has been set for the restaurant. The Nobu Atlantic City hotel, which will operate out of the top three floor of Caesars' Centurion tower, is expected to debut in December.
With an eye to sustainability, Caesars has also announced plans to build an 8.4-megawatt solar project, which will include solar canopies at each of its Atlantic City properties. Opening later this year, the project is expected to generate more than 10 million KWh of clean, renewable energy — the equivalent of removing nearly 1,600 cars from the road or planting 122,000 trees.
A propertywide refresh also has been completed at Bally's Atlantic City, which was acquired in late 2020 by Bally's Corp. The new owners poured $100 million into a top-to-bottom renovation, which was unveiled in May and included updates to the hotel lobby and 750 guest rooms. Also new to the property are the rotating Carousel Bar, and a beer garden-style venue with indoor and outdoor stages for live entertainment.
In July, Ocean Casino Resort unveiled $85 million worth of upgrades. The bulk of the investment was spent on 460 new guest rooms. A 12,000-square-foot sports-betting lounge has also been added to the property.
Further down the boardwalk, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is in the midst of a $20 million refresh. More than 90 suites will be refurbished, the casino floor will be expanded with additional table games and slot machines, and the beachfront amenities and bar will be refreshed. Also on the docket are improvements to the meeting space and the indoor pool.
Next door, Resort Casino Hotel has set aside $5 million for construction of a new rooftop pool and updates to its casino floor, to be completed this year. Plans call for a retractable roof to be added to the pool for year-round use. Meanwhile, new slot machines, table games and a VIP Asian gaming room will amplify the casino experience.