Nevada casinos’ take of $1.23 billion in May shatters nearly 14-year-old high

It seems there is something to the “pent-up demand” theory.

Nevada casinos collected a single-month record of $1.23 billion in gaming revenues during May, a stunning figure given that most casinos statewide were still operating under COVID-19 capacity restrictions that weren’t fully lifted until June 1.

The record figure, reported Wednesday by the Gaming Control Board, easily eclipsed the state’s previous single-month high of $1.165 billion recorded in October 2007.

Control Board Senior Research Analyst Michael Lawton said an all-time record on the Strip for slot machine revenues and a healthy month for the Strip’s high-end baccarat business fueled the results.

Lawton said all the sub-markets were up in May, “which can be attributed to strong demand, healthy consumers and leisure travel beginning to rebound.”

The $1.23 billion figure was up 25.3 percent over May 2019. The state is comparing monthly totals to 2019 because casinos statewide were closed in May 2020 during a 78-day shutdown of businesses during the pandemic.

On the Strip, gaming revenues of $655.5 million marked a 26.7 percent increase over May 2019. Strip resorts reported baccarat revenue of $105.9 million in May, an increase of 97 percent from 2019. Casinos played luckier during the month, holding more than 22 percent of all baccarat wagers, compared to a 7.7 percent hold in May 2019.

Record-busting slot machine revenues on the Strip came in at  $358.3, 24.5 percent over May 2019.

“Sequentially, gross gaming revenues (on the Strip) showed a nice acceleration,” J.P. Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said in a research note. Even without including the baccarat, Greff said the Strip’s monthly revenue totals would have been up 19 percent with wagering volumes increasing 17 percent.

May marked the third straight month that Nevada gaming revenues eclipsed the $1 billion mark. For the first five months of 2021, statewide gaming revenues are down 1.3 percent compared to 2019, when the Nevada casinos collected more than $12 billion from gamblers, which was the first year the state hit such a lofty total since 2007.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said he wouldn’t be surprised if the results from the last three months in Las Vegas carry over into the summer.

“Looking ahead, although a traditionally weaker month of the year, June hosted two noticeable events, the World of Concrete, the (city’s) first major convention on June 8-10, and the Resorts World Las Vegas opening on June 24, the first major opening on the Strip in more than 10 years,” Beynon said in a research note.

On the Strip, despite May’s total number, gaming revenues are down more than 13.6 percent compared to the first five months of 2019.

International travel still down

Baccarat totals for the month aside, the Strip is still missing a key business segment – high-end international customers.

During May, McCarran International Airport reported its highest single-month passenger total since February 2020, the last full month of operations before the pandemic. Still, the more than 3.5 million passengers flying during the month of May still marked a 23.3 percent decline over May 2019.

International travel continues to be a challenge for Las Vegas, with just 50,258 passengers recorded in May, a decline of 85.1 percent —  all of the passenger traffic coming from Mexico. Las Vegas once had direct flights between 11 different countries.

In May, a Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion co-chaired by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) discussed ways to bring back the international travel market.

At last week’s grand opening event for Resorts World Las Vegas, Gov. Steve Sisolak acknowledged the need for international travel to help fill Las Vegas Strip hotel rooms.

Resorts World is owned by Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, which operates several large gaming properties throughout Asia.

“We’ll get international travel back in time,” Sisolak told The Nevada Independent. “It’s a key market. International customers spend more and stay longer.”

Sisolak said he discussed international travel issues with Genting Chairman K.T. Lam, who said the company has international customers who live in California and New York who will come to Resorts World Las Vegas.

For the first five months of 2021, McCarran’s passenger volume is down 41.7 percent over the same time frame as 2019.

Las Vegas visitation nears 3 million

Las Vegas saw a nearly 12 percent jump in visitor volume during May compared to April, but the market was still roughly 22 percent below its pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) said Southern Nevada drew just under 2.9 million visitors in May, compared with almost 3.7 million visitors in May 2019. Still, Las Vegas saw its highest visitor count since the pandemic turned off the nationwide travel industry.

Las Vegas, for the 13th straight month, recorded a zero in convention attendance. But that streak is expected to end when June’s numbers are counted because of the World of Concrete trade show and other planned events.

Hotel occupancy reached nearly 71 percent in May, up 5.3 percent over April. Weekend room occupancy was at 88 percent. The LVCVA said midweek hotel occupancy was 62.8 percent, up 4.9 percent from April, but down by more than 25 percent compared with May 2019.

Truist Securities gaming analyst Barry Jonas was skeptical of Las Vegas sustaining the growth from the past three months because midweek occupancy “remains a concern.”

Jonas said he was “looking for green shoots [signs of economic recovery] to get more constructive as the convention calendar picks up.”

Good news outside the Strip

Casinos in downtown Las Vegas recorded their combined second-highest all-time monthly revenue total during May – $75.2 million – an increase of 37.2 percent over May 2019. The figure fell just below April’s single-month record of $76.3 million in gaming revenue.

Analysts have credited the opening last year of Circa Casino Resort as helping to bring additional business downtown. For the year, downtown gaming revenues are up 21 percent over 2019.

In Washoe County, casinos recorded the region’s highest monthly gaming revenue total since August 2008, $91.9 million, an increase of 23.1 percent.

Statewide, Nevada sports betting business set a monthly record during May for both revenues and total wagers. Sportsbook operators took in $477.4 million in bets during the month, an increase of 50.4 percent over 2019, while holding revenues of $27.1 million — a jump of 140 percent.

Mobile sports wagering accounted for 62 percent of all sports wagers in May.

Update at 6:06 p.m. on 6/30/2021: Las Vegas visitation numbers for May added.

Update at 10:53 a.m. on 6/30/2021: This story has been corrected to reflect that statewide gaming revenues for the first five months of 2021 were down (not up) 1.3 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

Nevada casinos’ take of $1.23 billion in May shatters nearly 14-year-old high

It seems there is something to the “pent-up demand” theory.

Nevada casinos collected a single-month record of $1.23 billion in gaming revenues during May, a stunning figure given that most casinos statewide were still operating under COVID-19 capacity restrictions that weren’t fully lifted until June 1.

The record figure, reported Wednesday by the Gaming Control Board, easily eclipsed the state’s previous single-month high of $1.165 billion recorded in October 2007.

Control Board Senior Research Analyst Michael Lawton said an all-time record on the Strip for slot machine revenues and a healthy month for the Strip’s high-end baccarat business fueled the results.

Lawton said all the sub-markets were up in May, “which can be attributed to strong demand, healthy consumers and leisure travel beginning to rebound.”

The $1.23 billion figure was up 25.3 percent over May 2019. The state is comparing monthly totals to 2019 because casinos statewide were closed in May 2020 during a 78-day shutdown of businesses during the pandemic.

On the Strip, gaming revenues of $655.5 million marked a 26.7 percent increase over May 2019. Strip resorts reported baccarat revenue of $105.9 million in May, an increase of 97 percent from 2019. Casinos played luckier during the month, holding more than 22 percent of all baccarat wagers, compared to a 7.7 percent hold in May 2019.

Record-busting slot machine revenues on the Strip came in at  $358.3,24.5 percent over May 2019.

“Sequentially, gross gaming revenues (on the Strip) showed a nice acceleration,” J.P. Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff said in a research note. Even without including the baccarat, Greff said the Strip’s monthly revenue totals would have been up 19 percent with wagering volumes increasing 17 percent.

May marked the third straight month that Nevada gaming revenues eclipsed the $1 billion mark. For the first five months of 2021, statewide gaming revenues are up 1.3 percent compared to 2019, when the Nevada casinos collected more than $12 billion from gamblers, which was the first year the state hit such a lofty total since 2007.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said he wouldn’t be surprised if the results from the last three months in Las Vegas carry over into the summer.

“Looking ahead, although a traditionally weaker month of the year, June hosted two noticeable events, the World of Concrete, the (city’s) first major convention on June 8-10, and the Resorts World Las Vegas opening on June 24, the first major opening on the Strip in more than 10 years,” Beynon said in a research note.

On the Strip, despite May’s total number, gaming revenues are down more than 13.6 percent compared to the first five months of 2019.

International travel still down

Baccarat totals for the month aside, the Strip is still missing a key business segment – high-end international customers.

During May, McCarran International Airport reported its highest single-month passenger total since February 2020, the last full month of operations before the pandemic. Still, the more than 3.5 million passengers flying during the month of May still marked a 23.3 percent decline over May 2019.

International travel continues to be a challenge for Las Vegas, with just 50,258 passengers recorded in May, a decline of 85.1 percent —  all of the passenger traffic coming from Mexico. Las Vegas once had direct flights between 11 different countries.

In May, a Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion co-chaired by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) discussed ways to bring back the international travel market.

At last week’s grand opening event for Resorts World Las Vegas, Gov. Steve Sisolak acknowledged the need for international travel to help fill Las Vegas Strip hotel rooms.

Resorts World is owned by Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, which operates several large gaming properties throughout Asia.

“We’ll get international travel back in time,” Sisolak told The Nevada Independent. “It’s a key market. International customers spend more and stay longer.”

Sisolak said he discussed international travel issues with Genting Chairman K.T. Lam, who said the company has international customers who live in California and New York who will come to Resorts World Las Vegas.

For the first five months of 2021, McCarran’s passenger volume is down 41.7 percent over the same time frame as 2019.

Good news outside the Strip

Casinos in downtown Las Vegas recorded their combined second-highest all-time monthly revenue total during May – $75.2 million – an increase of 37.2 percent over May 2019. The figure fell just below April’s single-month record of $76.3 million in gaming revenue.

Analysts have credited the opening last year of Circa Casino Resort as helping to bring additional business downtown. For the year, downtown gaming revenues are up 21 percent over 2019.

In Washoe County, casinos recorded the region’s highest monthly gaming revenue total since August 2008, $91.9 million, an increase of 23.1 percent.

Statewide, Nevada sports betting business set a monthly record during May for both revenues and total wagers. Sportsbook operators took in $477.4 million in bets during the month, an increase of 50.4 percent over 2019, while holding revenues of $27.1 million — a jump of 140 percent.

Mobile sports wagering accounted for 62 percent of all sports wagers in May.

This story will be updated later today with Las Vegas visitation numbers for May.

Resorts World unveiling ‘seems like an old-school Las Vegas resort opening’

The comparisons between the opening of Resorts World Las Vegas and the launch of The Mirage almost 32 years ago can’t be ignored.

Like its predecessor, the $4.3 billion Resorts World ends a decade-long lull of new Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino development. When it opened in 1989, The Mirage was the Strip’s first all-new casino resort in 15 years.

That’s where the similarities end, though.

Resorts World’ predecessor, Boyd Gaming’s Echelon project, was conceived at the apex of the Strip’s massive development phase in the mid-2000s, only to be halted 14 months after construction began as the Great Recession gripped the casino industry.

The site sat untouched for five years until Genting Berhad – the holding company for Malaysia-based Genting Group – acquired the property and added the Resorts World name. Construction started slowly in 2015 but didn’t kick-off in earnest until a few years later.

Thursday’s opening comes at an auspicious time in Las Vegas. The gaming industry has fully rebooted following 15 months of casino closures, operating restrictions and capacity limitations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism and gaming numbers have been picking up since March, and the Resorts World opening is creating a buzz.  

A private party will kick off the evening until the public is allowed in around 11 p.m. Resorts World’s communications team have teased the potential for celebrity appearances and social media influencers on opening night.

Truist Securities gaming analyst Barry Jonas found the 3,500-room hotel, casino and entertainment complex has the highest room rates on the Strip heading into next week’s July 4th holiday weekend.

The connections are not lost on Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella, a long-time MGM Resorts International executive who moved into his role in 2019, shortly after departing a similar position he held for eight years with MGM Grand Las Vegas.

“I wish I could say I was a smart guy and that I planned it this way. But we planned a summer 2021 opening last year, either way, hoping things were going to be better,” Sibella said.

When Resorts World activated its 100,000-square-foot LED screen on its west tower on Independence Day a year ago, providing a digital fireworks display for a Strip audience scaled down because of the pandemic, the interest took hold.

“In many ways, it seems like an old-school Las Vegas resort opening,” said Bo Bernhard, who grew up in Las Vegas and is now executive director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute and the university’s vice president of economic development.

The difference, Bernhard said, is the company behind the project. Genting’s Resorts World brand and concept are new to the Strip. The company has seven integrated Resorts World properties, primarily in Asia, including Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore and Resorts World Genting in Malaysia.

“This is an entirely new company with new ideas, and in this case, global ideas. It’s tremendous expertise that will help grow this market,” Bernhard said.

A view of Resorts World Las Vegas from the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center on the Strip. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Denstone Group CEO Oliver Lovat said Resorts World is “the most international property that has ever opened in Las Vegas.” The real estate advisor and casino industry consultant said American visitors won’t be disappointed.

“It is designed and structured for international visitors as well as the U.S. market in a way no other resort in Las Vegas has ever been built,” Lovatt said. “It’s a fusion of casino development from North America and Asia.”

Sibella cautioned that tapping the overseas Asian customer market, the bulk of Genting’s database, is challenging because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. It’s an issue for all Strip properties that have a large Asian customer connection.

“We have an edge from our properties over there (in Asia), but we know it won’t change overnight,” Sibella said. “My hope is it gets better by the end of the year, and we see the next Chinese New Year as a big celebration. But we’re not counting on that right away.”

More than just casinos

Genting was founded in 1965, and its first Resorts World property opened in Malaysia in 1971 as a 200-room hotel.

The company is more than just casinos. During a presentation to Nevada gaming regulators in May, Genting highlighted its place as a multinational conglomerate with energy, agriculture and real estate holdings in addition to its leisure and hospitality business. The company’s assets have an equity worth of $25 billion.

Global Market Advisors Partner Brendan Bussmann said New Yorkers recognize Resorts World’s gaming approach through its casinos in the Catskills and at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

“While the local leadership team has strong experience on the Strip, Resorts World is looking to make its own splash and be a competitive product in the resort corridor,” Bussmann said.

Resorts World Las Vegas and Hilton partnered to bring three of Hilton’s premium brands in Las Vegas Strip’s newest resort. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Quintessential megaresort

Resorts World Las Vegas is the first classic megaresort associated with the Strip’s growth in the three decades since The Mirage opened.

The 117,000 square foot casino will have 1,400 slot machines, 117 table games and a sportsbook. A high-end gaming area associated with Crockfords, a European gaming brand owned by Genting, is a part of the casino floor along with three 66th floor private gaming salons. Two other private gaming salons are on the fifth floor.

“Crockfords is an iconic brand for gamblers in the U.K.,” Lovatt said. “It will have an immediate resonance with the gaming customer.”

Last week, Resorts World announced it would be the first casino in Nevada to offer cashless gaming capabilities for slot machines, table games and sports betting, as well as non-gaming activities throughout the property, such as retail, restaurants and entertainment.

The casino partnered with five gaming technology providers in the effort.

Through a franchise agreement, Resorts World is utilizing Hilton Hotel’s brands, expertise, technology and the lodging company’s 115 million-member Hilton Honors program to fill the 3,500 rooms and suites.

All of Resorts World’s rooms are in the Hilton system under the Hilton name, the high-end Conrad brand or ultra-luxury LXR Hotels, which has been paired with Crockfords.

The property also will unveil the bulk of its 40 restaurants and beverage options, including an Asian street-themed food court. Resorts World’s five-and-half-acre pool deck and 300,000 square feet of convention and meeting space also are opening this week.

Three areas – the 5,000-seat theater built in partnership with AEG, Zouk Nightclub and the spa – are being held back until the fall and winter months because “additional scope has been added.” Singer Celine Dion will open the theater in November followed by singer Katy Perry and country music stars Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan.

“Everything we do here is nontraditional,” Sibella said. “We try to say, ‘let’s not do it the way people have done it before.’ Let’s be forward thinkers.”

Sibella said the bulk of the planned 5,000-person workforce had been hired as of early June. He said staff training has been taking place inside the property’s convention facility. Resorts World has “strongly encouraged” its workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We have a clinic where we are offering vaccines,” he said.

Remembering Echelon

Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith could see the progress of Resorts World Las Vegas from his office in the Hughes Center. He had an obvious interest in the development: The company actually started construction on what is now Resorts World.

“It looks like they took all the infrastructure we had in place, and built it from there,” Smith said.

Beginning in the 1980s, Boyd owned the iconic Rat Park-era Stardust, eventually adding a 32-story hotel tower to the resort. The company then purchased several adjacent lots next to the Stardust, creating an 87-acre site.

In November 2006, Boyd closed the Stardust and imploded the property four months later to make way for Echelon, a planned $4.8 billion resort envisioned with five hotels of varying sizes totaling 5,000 rooms and suites, all connected to a 140,000-square-foot casino.

A formal groundbreaking took place in June 2007. However, as the economy began to struggle and credit markets dried up, Boyd halted Echelon’s construction in August 2008. The project, a mix of steel structures and an unfinished parking garage, sat silent until Genting Berhad acquired the site for $350 million.

“First and foremost, there was a great confidence in the people that took over the property with the money they have invested and what they have built,” Smith said. “Las Vegas has a history of making these big incremental steps every so many years and giving customers more reasons to continue to come and visit. I think (Resorts World) will help grow the overall market in the long term. It’s very much a positive step for the city and our community.”

Boyd has 28 casinos in 10 states. It retained the Stardust name and trademarks, which are being used at the company’s growing online casino business in Pennsylvania.

A portion of the former Echelon project remains unfinished near the Sammy Davis Junior Drive entrance to Resorts World Las Vegas. Seen on June 16, 2021, it's expected to be included in an expansion phase. (Howard Stutz/The Nevada Independent)

Mirage comparison

When The Mirage opened, the $565 million cost left many aghast. At the time, it was the most expensive hotel-casino project ever built in Las Vegas.

That record for a single resort now belongs to Resorts World, at $4.3 billion, although the 2009 opening of CityCenter, which included multiple hotels, high-rise residential and retail, carried a $9 billion price tag. The last all-new hotel-casino on the Strip was the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which opened in 2010 at a cost of $3.9 billion.

The Mirage’s opening was followed in 1990 by Excalibur. Over the next nine years, the Strip’s landscape dramatically changed as 11 new properties were added to the resort corridor, including MGM Grand in 1993, Bellagio in 1998 and the Venetian, Mandalay Bay and Paris in 1999.

Analysts said Resorts World won’t have the same influence when it comes to stimulating new casino development, but it’s success could lead to sales and renovations of existing Strip hotel-casinos. Derek Stevens opened Circa Casino Resort last fall – downtown Las Vegas’ first all-new resort in 40 years – and Virgin Resorts remodeled the former Hard Rock Las Vegas.

UNLV’s Bernhard noted the emergence of Genting may pave the way for other operators to join the Strip. For example, Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp. is buying the Tropicana and Southern California’s San Manuel Indian Tribe is purchasing the Palms Casino Resort.

“Historically, gaming innovation has been outbound from Las Vegas. Now, the innovation is inbound with new operators,” Bernhard said. “The Strip is going to be better off because of that change.”

He likened the addition of Genting to the Strip’s roster to the change the late Sheldon Adelson brought to Las Vegas when he built the Sands Expo and Convention Center, along with the Venetian.

Bussmann noted that Genting’s move to develop a site started by Boyd was a good sign for Strip. The company completed a project at the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard that will add to the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and the remodeled Sahara.

“While the future is still hazy for Fontainebleau and another parcel in the area, it definitely extends the experience for the leisure and business customer,” Bussmann said.

Resorts World extends cashless wagering to table games: ‘We’re doing things that the city has never seen’

Resorts World Las Vegas plans to be the first casino in Nevada that allows gamblers to purchase chips from a table game dealer without having to flash cash.

Instead, the customer will flash their digital wallet attached to the property’s mobile app.

Cashless gaming capabilities for slot machines, table games and sports betting was part of a multi-tiered technology announcement by Resorts World on Wednesday.

Operators of the $4.3 billion, 3,500-room Strip property, which opens Thursday, said they partnered with five gaming technology providers to create a cashless payment program for both gaming and non-gaming activities throughout the resort, such as retail, restaurants and entertainment.

“When it comes to gaming technology, we’re doing many things that the city has never seen,” Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella said in an interview last week. “We will be more sophisticated than any casino in the world when it comes to technology.”

Nevada gaming regulators approved the use of cashless wagering technology last year. Wagering on slot machines through a mobile wallet has been increasing in the state, and most major gaming equipment providers have developed or are in the process of creating mobile wallets.

Resorts World is taking the technology a step further, by becoming the first casino in the state to allow a mobile wallet to fund table game play. The property’s mobile wallet, which was developed by gaming equipment manufacturer Konami Gaming, is part of the Resorts World mobile app.

“This is a seamless consumer experience to digitally transform the gaming industry,” said Sightline Payments CEO Joe Pappano. Las Vegas-based Sightline serves as the financial conduit, moving funds from a customer’s debit card, bank account, PayPal account or another source into the mobile wallet. The funds are FDIC-insured.

“The idea is not just connecting the entire casino floor, but also the non-gaming amenities at Resorts World,” Pappano said. “Resorts World will help accelerate this change in the gaming industry.”

Konami Gaming Chief Operating Officer Tom Jingoli said the launch of the system was “a significant historical moment” for both Las Vegas and the gaming industry.

“We set out to reinvent the hospitality experience in Las Vegas by bringing seamless interaction, leading-edge convenience, personalized engagement and catered service to every guest touchpoint,” Jingoli said.

The Resorts World cashless gaming system will technically be on a field trial when the property opens, said Gaming Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson. The system cleared the board’s testing lab, and Gibson can administratively approve the system after 30 days if there aren’t any issues. The maximum time the field trial could last is 180 days.

Resorts World’s 1,400 slot machines can be accessed by a customer’s mobile wallet via a wireless connection, often referred to as near-field communications. The player is then able to choose how much in wagering credits they want to load on the game. Players can cash out winnings back to their mobile wallet when the gaming session ends.

As for the property’s 117 table games, players create a QR code on their mobile wallet to establish their bankroll. A QR reader at the table then records the wagering total and the dealer provides the player with gaming chips once funds have been accepted. Cashing out is still accomplished at the casino cage.

“There was tremendous collaboration among the companies for this system,” Pappano said. Other technology for the property’s cashless gaming effort was provided by International Game Technology, NRT Technology and Genisis Gaming.

In April, Resorts World Las Vegas owner, Malaysia-based Genting Group, participated in a $100 million investment into Sightline that was led by Cannae Holdings, a firm headed by Vegas Golden Knights majority owner Bill Foley.

Sightline utilized part of the investment to acquire JOINGO, a Las Vegas-based mobile platform provider that developed the Resorts World Las Vegas mobile app.

Sightline cited statistics provided by the American Gaming Association that showed casino customers were interested in utilizing digital payments and mobile wallets following concerns raised during the pandemic. More than 60 percent of casino gamblers said they wanted a “contactless” payment option when they gambled.

The AGA has said casinos are one of the last cash-based industries in the U.S.

Soon-to-open Resorts World, NV Energy propose unique renewable electric service deal to state regulators

As Resorts World Las Vegas continues its march to the planned June 24 opening date, much of the spotlight will be shined on the vast amenities and ample star power heralding the opening of the 3,500 room, $4.3 billion casino resort.

But as guests arrive and fill up the Strip’s first new resort property since The Cosmopolitan opened in 2010, the electricity supporting everything from bedside lamps to the light show for a 4th of July Miley Cyrus concert will be powered by electricity procured or provided by NV Energy. 

A business taking electric service from the state’s primary electricity provider may not seem like news, but Resorts World isn’t being treated like most other electric customers. Instead, NV Energy and the casino are asking utility regulators to approve a unique market-based electricity supply deal aimed at ultimately powering the property with renewable energy.

A proposed energy supply agreement for Resorts World is the latest in a recent line of moves by NV Energy to keep its current and potential new large customers in the fold — from a special electric pricing deals powering the Raiders stadium to paying local governments substantial annual payments to stick with them as customers to establishing a renewable-based pricing plan for large customers.

The proposed energy supply agreement application with Resorts World is in the same vein — a bifurcated supply agreement would first see the utility purchase electricity for the casino resort on the wholesale market, and later dedicate a portion of production from under-construction renewable generating power plants to service the casino resort property. 

“The proposed clean energy supply agreement between Resorts World Las Vegas and NV Energy would provide the property with a dedicated, long-term resource for renewable energy for a minimum of 15 years, which we believe to be the next best step in achieving our goal of obtaining energy through 100% renewable resources,” Resorts World General Counsel Gerald Gardner wrote in an email.

The electricity pricing plan for Resorts World is called the Large Customer Market Price Energy Tariff, or LCMPE for short, and acts sort of like an incentive offered by cell phone companies — offered only to new utility customers who have not been approved by the PUC to purchase electricity on the open market and that average an annual hourly load of ten megawatts or more. It’s a pricing plan that NV Energy used on a similar project with Google’s Henderson-based data center.

The energy supply plan filing didn’t exactly come as a surprise — Resorts World and NV Energy announced back in 2019 that the companies had reached a 20-year-agreement for fully renewable bundled electric service, though most of the actual filings before the PUC have been made this year.

Because the proposed energy supply agreement was just filed this month, it will not take effect before the casino resort actually opens its doors and welcomes in visitors on next Thursday, meaning that Resorts World will pay the normal electric rates for a customer its size (residential, industrial and commercial customers all pay slightly different electric rates based on customer class).

The application submitted to the PUC splits the contract into short-term and long-term periods. The short-term period kicks in once Resorts World hits a certain threshold for average hourly electric load, and would see NV Energy serve electric needs by procuring and selling wholesale market energy to be “priced at an appropriate index pricing” or by using energy from excess capacity from the utility’s existing generating stations.

The long-term period would start no later than 2024, once under-construction clean power generating stations operated by or contracting with the utility achieve commercial operation — essentially cleaving out a portion of future produced renewable electricity for use by Resorts World.

In the application, NV Energy stressed that other customers would not see increased costs or forego benefits from the arrangement with Resorts World, but many of the specifics were kept under seal. The utility wrote in the application that keeping those portions confidential was a necessary step to ensure commercially sensitive information remained under wraps (an unredacted version was delivered to the PUC).

The redactions include information about the generating plants that Resorts World will receive dedicated electric service from and how long the contract extends, as well as anticipated electric load and the specifics on how electric pricing will be calculated.

In partially redacted testimony prepared by NV Energy executive Cynthia Alejandre, the utility said that approval of the energy supply agreement would be in the public interest not only by adding another major customer, but by also helping with job growth coming “upon the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic” and to serve as a “template” for other new large businesses coming to the state. (One additional rationale is also redacted).

More recently, NV Energy and Resorts World filed a joint petition with the PUC in April 2021 seeking a waiver to allow the casino resort to enroll in a special energy supply plan despite also temporarily taking normal service from the utility.

But PUC staff responded with concerns about granting a broad waiver before any details of an energy supply plan had been filed with the commission. In a separate joint filing made on Monday, NV Energy and Resorts World requested another temporary waiver against the requirement for a customer to not be a fully bundled customer of the utility, but “only for as long as necessary for the Commission to review” the energy supply agreement.

Through Resorts World agreement, Hilton Hotels re-establishes Las Vegas presence

Ahead of the busy July 4th holiday, Hilton Hotels Corp. will have nearly 5,400 rooms and suites available to customers on or near the Las Vegas Strip. And the company didn’t pay millions of dollars to build the accommodations.

Through partnership agreements at Resorts World Las Vegas and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, and a management agreement at CityCenter’s Waldorf Astoria, Hilton brought several of its best-known worldwide brands – and the Hilton name – back to Las Vegas.

The Hilton product was synonymous with the gaming destination for more than 40 years through the Las Vegas Hilton. The company sold the 3,000-room hotel-casino in 2012 and the property is now known as Westgate Las Vegas.

“That resort, through Hilton’s ownership, helped legitimize Las Vegas as a place for corporate investment,” said UNLV history professor Michael Green. He considered the acquisition in 1971 “a crucial moment in Las Vegas history” because law enforcement and Nevada gaming regulators at the time were ending organized crime’s control of the Strip.

Green suggested that Hilton’s attachment to the 3,500-room, $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas is coming at another opportune moment. The opening could send a green light to worldwide travelers that the destination is in recovery following 15 months of shutdowns and operating restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a certain irony to the timing,” Green said.

Through a franchise agreement, Resorts World is utilizing the Hilton brand, expertise, technology and the Hilton Honors program, a worldwide database of 115 million active users, to attract visitors to the first large scale integrated resort to open on the Strip since 2010. All of Resorts World’s rooms are in the Hilton system.

In a symbolic gesture to the partnership, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad – Resorts World’s developer – added the Hilton name and the company’s high-end Conrad brand to the Strip property’s 57-story towers. Crockfords, a European casino brand owned by Genting, is also named atop the building. Crockfords is paired with Hilton’s LXR Hotels, an ultra- luxury product.

Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella said the brands’ placement alongside the property’s rooftop insignia added credibility to the destination. 

“It’s a resort complex,” Sibella said. “When you’re here, you’re at Resorts World and they are part of our complex. We love the brands.”

The agreement with Hilton is an expedited way to fill the hotel rooms with guests. Genting’s seven integrated Resorts World properties have a combined 10,500 rooms but are primarily located in Asia. Resorts World Catskills in upstate New York has 332 rooms while a 400-room Hyatt Hotel attached to Resorts World New York City at the Aqueduct Raceway opens this summer.

Access to Resort World’s Asian customer base won’t happen until international airline travel to the U.S. fully reopens.

The Resort World customer database, while significant, doesn’t have the reach provided by the Hilton system. 

Sibella is pleased with the Hilton relationship, saying the Las Vegas property is nearly sold out for 4th of July with “the highest room rates on the Strip,” between $400 and $500 a night.

A view of Resorts World Las Vegas from the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center on the Strip. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

‘A sought-after destination’

The Hilton presence remained in Southern Nevada following the Las Vegas Hilton sale through smaller brands, such as Homewood Suites, Hampton Inns and Garden Inns that dot the resort corridor and the Las Vegas Valley. Two Hilton-operated timeshare/vacation ownership properties are also on the Strip.

However, that wasn’t enough for the company, even with nearly 6,500 hotel properties across 119 countries and territories.

Hilton Hotels Executive Vice President Danny Hughes said, “Las Vegas is one of the most iconic destinations in the world.” Hughes, who has been with Hilton for 34 years, added that the company has been presented with many proposals over the years to come back to Las Vegas, but Resorts World “was an opportunity worthy of this effort.”

Hilton views Las Vegas as a multiple-use destination for its customer loyalty program.

“Someone might seek a luxury experience like Waldorf, or he’s staying at a Hampton Inn because he’s taking his kids to a travel baseball game,” Hughes said. “Our strategy for Vegas views it as one of the most sought-after destinations.”

The 88-acre Resorts World site and hotel component presented Hilton with a resort campus larger than the former Las Vegas Hilton.

The two towers will be separately branded. Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World will cater to the tour and travel and convention consumers, offering 1,774 rooms and suites. Conrad Las Vegas at Resorts World has 1,496 rooms and suites. Conrad is Hilton’s upscale international brand that has eight locations in the U.S. The Resorts World tower is considered Hilton’s largest Conrad property in the chain.

Atop the Conrad tower is Crockfords Las Vegas, LXR Hotel, which has 236 rooms and suites and will be associated with the Crockfords casino inside Resorts World’s 117,000-square-foot gaming space. LXR Hotels & Resorts is considered Hilton’s newest luxury brand.

“Crockfords is not just a casino. It’s a high-end brand, and we’re excited to introduce it in Las Vegas,” Sibella said.

Hilton quietly re-established itself in Las Vegas in 2018 when a Southern California real estate investor bought the 389-room Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter. The group partnered with Hilton to convert the non-gaming property into Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas. Because of the “importance of the brand,” Hughes said Hilton decided to manage the resort.

In March, Hilton added the 1,500 rooms at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas to its Curio Collection, a global portfolio of nearly 100 properties, such as the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, Martinique New York on Broadway and Sable at Navy Pier in Chicago.

“What was unique about this deal is we’re competing alongside a well-known operator (Virgin Resorts) in the same building,” Hughes said. Hilton is also managing its own reservation process at the off-Strip property.

At Resorts World, Hilton will provide a team to assist the property staff through the opening. Ultimately, all hotel rooms and suites will be overseen by Resorts World employees. The property will utilize Hilton’s technology, including a virtual room key system.

“Hilton has some cool features for the guest,” Sibella said. “They have been great partners to work with.”

Resorts World Las Vegas and Hilton partnered to bring three of Hilton’s premium brands in Las Vegas Strip’s newest resort. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Deal with Resorts World serves a purpose

Patrick Scholes, who follows the lodging and hotel industry for Truist Securities, said the operating model between Resorts World and Hilton is not unique, especially in larger convention cities.

“It works well in a sense for both customers and hotel operators,” Scholes said. “It’s still kind of a niche concept. It allows the customer to choose different price points that fit their personal budget. That's important for convention goers.”

Resorts World is located across the Strip from the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center and operates 250,000 square feet of its own meeting space. The property is scheduled by late August to be the first Strip resort added to the Convention Center’s underground Loop transportation system that utilizes Tesla vehicles to transport convention and tradeshow attendees.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon, who also follows the lodging sector, said the 3,500 rooms at Resorts World “isn’t going to move the needle” for a company the size of Hilton, which had more than 1.02 million rooms worldwide at the end of 2020.

But the Hilton’s partnerships in Las Vegas serve an important purpose for Hilton’s rewards program members.

“It’s all about earning and burning your points,” Beynon said. “Business travelers might earn all these Hilton points all over the country, but then they want to use them in places like Vegas, and Florida and Hawaii.”

For Resorts World, Beynon said acquiring customers through Hilton reduces the fees paid to online hotel booking sites, often referred to as OTA fees.

For Hilton, Beynon said the partnerships in Las Vegas allows the company to grow its luxury product.

“Hilton has been more of a mid-to-upper scale company,” Beynon said. “Utilizing luxury brands such as Waldorf, Conrad and some of the soft brands like LXR is a great way for them to grow that (segment).”

Hughes said Hilton would continue to look at opportunities in Las Vegas, even with 5,400 Strip corridor rooms and suites within the portfolio.

“We would want to make sure we weren’t diluting an existing partner,” Hughes said. “It would only make sense if it were a new customer base we could go after.”

An aerial day photo of the Las Vegas Hilton from April 1975. (Las Vegas News Bureau, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority)

Las Vegas Hilton’s history

UNLV’s Green said the Las Vegas Hilton was one of the most profitable hotels in the entire Hilton chain during the property’s heyday. It was the first casino to add a large sports betting facility, which still carries the “Super Book” name. 

The property served as the location for many historic non-gaming events.

Singer Elvis Presley headlined in the showroom up until his death in 1977. The Las Vegas Hilton Pavilion hosted numerous championship fights, including the 1978 world heavyweight title victory by Leon Spinks over Muhammad Ali, which is considered one of boxing’s biggest upsets.

Green noted Resorts World Las Vegas sits on the location of the former Stardust, which was considered a mob-run casino until Boyd Gaming took over the property.

“The site has a great history,” Green said. “Maybe it’s a way Hilton has come full circle.”

Gaming and labor leaders reach a compromise on ‘Right to Return’ legislation

Gaming and Culinary Union negotiators have tentatively agreed to revisions in legislation that would guarantee the rights of laid-off gaming and tourism industry workers to return to their jobs.

A deal on SB386 – referred to as “Right to Return” legislation – was reached with less than a week left before the end of the state's 120-day legislative session. Lawmakers wasted little time processing the bill — several hours after the initial publication of this story on Tuesday afternoon, members of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee moved quickly to pass the amended bill out of committee on a split vote.

In an interview prior to the committee vote, bill sponsor and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) credited the Culinary Union, Nevada Resort Association and the governor’s office for working together to arrive at a consensus on the high-profile legislation.

“I think you're really seeing what is a recognition of the greater good and how do we get started to work together to get everything back to where we need it to be,” she said.

As part of the agreement, revisions will be made to SB4, a bill from the 2020 special session last summer that includes government-imposed health and safety standards meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as expanded liability protections for major casino resorts. The amendment relaxes requirements on cleaning, such as cleaning minibars, headboards and decorative items on beds, and changes directives to clean throughout the day to instead call for cleaning daily.

Critics of the legislation had raised concerns that the bill in its original form would make it too easy for former employees to sue. The bill now offers recourse through the Labor Commissioner or through the courts, but only after the employee notifies their employer of the alleged violation and gives them at least 15 days to fix the issue.

“I think we've heard a lot of those concerns. We've tried to make sure that the bill still allows for enforcement while not opening up the doors of litigation,” Cannizzaro said.

In its original form, the bill required employers who declined to call back a former employee because that former worker lacked qualifications — and instead hired someone else for the job — to provide the person they passed over with a written notice and reasoning for the decision within 30 days of making it. The amendment limits the callback requirement, covering employees only if they accept or decline the job offer within 24 hours (revised down from 10 days in the initial bill) and are available within five days of receiving an offer.

Employers are also cleared of their obligations to re-hire someone if their job offers are turned down three times over a period of at least six weeks, or if mail or email is returned as undeliverable or a phone line is out of service.

The amendment specifies that managers and stage performers are also excluded from the provisions, and its provisions would not supersede or preempt any collective bargaining agreement already in place.

The amendment also covers areas of a resort casino that are leased to another operator, such as retail shops, restaurants, bars, and parking facilities.

Also, the amendment exempted restricted gaming operators which have 15 or fewer slot machines, such as bars, taverns, convenience stores, and grocery chains.

Bob Ostrovsky, a lobbyist representing the Nevada Resort Association, said the amended version of the bill would leave the association as officially “neutral” — promising not to support or oppose the bill as an association.  

He estimated that the industry was currently down about 66,000 casino resort employees from its pre-pandemic high, but estimated that only about 70 percent of the casino’s pre-pandemic workforce would end up returning to their previous positions, based on turnover history.

“We certainly have to think in terms of the masses of employees and the masses of paperwork that are required here, but I got to tell you, our members care,” he said. “Experienced and dedicated employees are what make these operations work. It's one thing to build a billion-dollar building. To operate it, you really need a well-honed team.”

Cannizzaro added in an interview prior to the committee vote that she hopes the bill will get bipartisan support because it “has a lot of buy-in,” although it does not need a two-thirds majority to move forward. 

Still, several Republican senators on the committee questioned portions of the bill. Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) asked why the measure did not have a small business exemption, and Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Henderson) said he was concerned about the proposed remedies for civil action.

“I think in many respects, this is better than some of the [collective bargaining agreements] I’ve reviewed in the past, and this is applying to nonunion shops that don’t ordinarily have to deal with these,” Pickard said. “I think it’s going to be a significant burden.”

Union leader softens testimony

Union and gaming negotiators had spent months trying to hammer out a compromise on SB386. The bill has a waiver that exempts it from legislative deadlines. Gaming sources have said there are stark disagreements between union and business interests over the bill’s language.

Earlier Tuesday, UNITE HERE President D. Taylor was prepared to tell a U.S. Senate subcommittee about the labor group’s support for SB386, but he departed from his prepared remarks that were posted to the subcommittee’s website that accused certain employers – including the Nevada casino resort industry – of using the pandemic to “reduce” jobs and leaving workers out of an economic comeback.

In April, Taylor testified in the only public hearing for SB386. The Culinary Union has hosted rallies and engaged in door hanging campaigns aimed at pressuring lawmakers to pass the legislation. 

Taylor, who spent 26 years in leadership for Culinary Workers Local 226 before being appointed UNITE HERE president in 2012, told the panel that is chaired by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) that the state’s hospitality workers play a frontline role in providing resort industry guests a safe and secure environment.

“The idea is not to view workers as a cost item but viewed as a service product that brings back (consumer) loyalty,” Taylor told the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion in response to a question from Rosen.

SB386 would allow workers in the gaming and travel sectors a right to return to their jobs. The bill covers those workers laid off after March 12, 2020 and who were employed for at least six months in the year prior to the governor’s first COVID-19 emergency declaration.

The legislation is similar to at least a half-dozen other bills backed by the labor organization in other states. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed legislation last month that requires hospitality and service industry employers to offer new positions to laid off workers. 

Taylor, in testifying Tuesday, softened his message in some areas, but stuck to the script in others.

He said employment is “lagging” in destination markets, such as Las Vegas, where 50 percent of union members in gaming have returned to work. In New Orleans, just 32 percent of the labor organization’s membership is back on the job.

Regional gaming markets, Taylor said, have had better success at bringing back employees, including Atlantic City, Ohio, Detroit and Mississippi. Those communities have returned 65 percent to 75 percent of UNITE HERE workers to their jobs.

In the prepared remarks, Taylor said opposition to SB368 by Station Casinos, the operating subsidiary of Red Rock Resorts, denies casino, hospitality, stadium and travel-related workers in Nevada their recall rights.

“In most cases, unless you have a union contract, there’s nothing that requires your employer to bring you back when the business returns,” Taylor wrote. “Workers who are terminated and replaced rather than 'recalled' make on average 11.8 percent less in wages when they get a new job,” Taylor said. “Of older workers who are laid off involuntarily, only one in 10 will ever earn as much again.”

At the outset of the pandemic, Station Casinos was one of just three casino operators, along with Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, that committed to pay employees through shutdown.  

During his appearance, Taylor named Wynn Resorts, along with Disney in Florida, as companies that have stepped up to support their workforces.

In an interview following Taylor’s testimony, Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said SB386 is needed to ensure the labor organization’s members are able to return to their previous jobs.

Las Vegas casino operators have held nearly a dozen different job fairs in efforts to restaff hotel-casinos that were closed for 78 days a year ago and were hampered throughout the year by capacity restrictions and other COVID-19 operating procedures. Most casinos in Nevada are expected to return to 100 percent occupancy levels on June 1.

The $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas is facing challenges filling out its planned 5,000-person workforce.

Scott Sibella, president of the 3,506-room Strip property that opens June 24, told the Nevada Gaming Commission last week some 120,000 potential workers applied for jobs during the pandemic.

"We feel comfortable and made offers, but we're concerned about people changing their minds," Sibella said. He added that Resorts World has contingency plans in place for bringing on workers.

Sibella, a former president of MGM Grand Las Vegas, told the commissioners the resort is competing with other Las Vegas resorts in filling jobs.

"The Venetian is holding a job fair. They haven't done a job fair in 20 years,” Sibella said.

Updated at 8:44 p.m. to add additional details on the amendment and reflect that the committee passed the bill.

Commissioner's resignation gives Sisolak chance to appoint nearly all of state's gaming regulators

Nevada Gaming Commission member Deborah Fuetsch resigned Tuesday, giving Gov. Steve Sisolak the opportunity to name seven of the eight regulators who oversee the state’s largest industry during his first term.

Sisolak has appointed three members of the Gaming Commission, Steven Cohen, Ogonna Brown, and Rosa Solis-Rainey – all attorneys from Las Vegas. He has also appointed all three members of the Nevada Gaming Control Board - Chairman Brin Gibson and members Brittnie Watkins and Philip Katsaros.

Fuetsch’s term expired at the end of April. 

In a letter to Sisolak, the Reno-based former commercial banking executive, said it was “a true privilege to serve the State” and “I hope I have been an asset to the industry.” Fuetsch said she would remain on the five-person commission until June 1.

The panel has its next monthly hearing on Thursday, where one of the items up for consideration is the licensing for the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas.

In addition, the term for Gaming Commission Chairman John Moran Jr., a Las Vegas attorney and the panel’s longest serving member, also expired at the end of April. Sisolak named Moran chairman last July, three months after the resignation of then-Chairman Tony Alamo Jr. 

Moran, who was first appointed to the Gaming Commission in 2004, served as acting chairman following Alamo’s departure.

In an email, Sisolak spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said the governor had received the resignation letter.

“The Governor thanks the commissioner for her dedicated service to the state,” Delaney said, but did not provide a timeline for an appointment.

Fuetsch, who spent 17 years with Wells Fargo, was appointed to the commission in 2016 by then-Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“These past 18 months have been the most unexpected and difficult time in our state’s history,” Fuetsch wrote. Her letter did not include any mention of possible reappointment. She said she decided to “seek other opportunities.”

In her letter, she credited Sisolak, former Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan and Gibson with guiding “our state with urgency and determination to keep Nevadans safe and healthy.”

The three-member Control Board makes recommendations on licensing and other gaming policy matters to the part-time Nevada Gaming Commission.

Watkins, a Las Vegas attorney, was appointed to the Control Board last month, replacing Terry Johnson, whose second four-year term expired in February.

Last year, Sisolak appointed Gibson as chairman after Morgan resigned to accept a board position with Fidelity National. Sisolak also appointed Katsaros to the board in 2019.

Economists say construction forecast remains steady despite pandemic, stadium completion

By now, the Great Recession’s effect on Nevada seems like a tale as old as time. The financial crisis and burst housing bubble brought construction to a halt, littering the Las Vegas region with half-finished projects.

Before then, Clark County hummed with building activity as homes multiplied in the desert, casinos sprouted on and off the Las Vegas Strip and shopping centers sprang up in suburban locales. In 2006, the construction industry accounted for 1 in 9 jobs in Nevada.

Six years later, in March 2012, construction jobs statewide bottomed out at 49,900, a nearly two-thirds decrease.

“Construction always has higher amplitude — higher highs and lower lows — than the state’s overall economy, which has higher highs and lower lows than the nation’s economy,” said Bob Potts, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).

In the years that followed, construction jobs increased once again, but there was a noticeable difference: They never matched that 2006 peak despite big-ticket items such as Allegiant Stadium, Resorts World and Circa Las Vegas.

Now, economists say that characteristic of the industry’s post-recession rebound may prove crucial as the state weathers the effects of the pandemic. As of October, construction made up 7.3 percent of the state’s jobs, or roughly 1 in 14.

“This is not an overinflated sector,” said David Schmidt, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. “It’s actually at a pretty normal place right now.”

Construction was one of the few industries exempt from coronavirus-related shutdowns this year. Gov. Steve Sisolak declared construction essential alongside other sectors such as health care, public transportation and mail delivery. That move alone helped spare the building trades from some of the mass layoffs experienced by service-providing industries. 

But the construction industry wasn’t completely unscathed. Construction jobs — which include commercial, residential and public works projects — numbered 103,300 statewide in March. That tally fell to 93,400 by September, largely pulled down by a dip in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Construction jobs climbed back to 95,700 by October, which is down 2 percent compared with a year earlier, according to seasonally adjusted employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The construction decrease, however, was noticeably slimmer than what several industries experienced during that same one-year period: Jobs were down 14.2 percent in leisure and hospitality, 14 percent in the information sector and 9.8 percent in professional and business services.

The mining industry proved to be the only real winner in Nevada, with a 10.8 percent increase in jobs. But from a jobs standpoint, the state’s mining industry is about one-eighth the size of the construction sector.

William Stanley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, said construction employment numbers have been an encouraging sign amid the pandemic.

“It’s important for folks to understand that the construction industry through all of this has been one of the bright spots in a really downer economy and has really sustained the state in a lot of ways,” he said.

That occurred even with construction activity wrapping up at Allegiant Stadium, which has employed thousands of workers throughout the building process. In late September, the newly christened Las Vegas Raiders played their first game — albeit one without fans — at the nearly $2 billion stadium.

With other construction projections ongoing or in the pipeline, Stanley said he remains “cautiously optimistic” the industry won’t endure any major setbacks. As an example, he pointed to the MSG Sphere project at the Venetian, a planned 18,000-seat entertainment venue. While construction slowed during the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped and Stanley said there’s no indication from developers that it will.

A construction bulletin from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority also shows a number of projects underway or planned in the coming few years. Among them: Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (set to open in January), a concourse renovation at McCarran International Airport, a pedestrian overpass and several new hotels in or around the resort corridor.

“Capital doesn’t seem to be withdrawing, which would be a major concern,” Stanley said. “That’s what happened after the 2008 debacle.”

Single-family homes under construction in Summerlin on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Potts, whose mission is economic development, sees another path forward for the construction industry. From an employment standpoint, he said, the Reno metropolitan area is faring better than Las Vegas because it has a more diversified economy. Potts said GOED wants to “strategically bring everybody together” in Southern Nevada — commissioners, business leaders, commercial real estate brokers, water districts, utility companies and the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, among others — to discuss infrastructure development that could enable more diversification in the region.

“The first winner of those efforts is going to be the construction sector,” he said. “You’re going to need roads. You’re going to need industrial parks. You’re going to need rail. You’re going to need modal facilities. You’re going to need all the things when you think about infrastructure.”

Potts named the buildout of the Apex Industrial Park, the Harry Reid Research and Technology Park and land near Jean as development opportunities that would rely on infrastructure improvements.

Plus, a site selection survey used by GOED lists “transportation infrastructure” as the second most important consideration for companies choosing a location, behind only “workforce skills.”

Ultimately, that ties back to construction because if a region doesn’t offer that infrastructure, “companies will pass you by,” Potts said. “So we have an opportunity to build and we know what companies are looking for. This list is right in front of us.”

And, unlike the leadup to the Great Recession, housing construction in Nevada appears based on demand rather than speculative building, Schmidt, the DETR economist, said. That’s a safeguard for the construction industry as well moving forward.

“We also don't have that huge overhang of jobs that's completely reliant on building and flipping homes,” he said. “Instead, it’s the growth that we need to help have the infrastructure that we need to support our more broadly growing economy.”