by M&C Staff | April 01, 2012
After a rough period, key gaming industry metrics are trending upward. Visitor numbers in Las Vegas are surging, and casino companies see reasons for optimism. MGM Resorts International, for one, enjoyed a 10 percent jump in domestic revenue per available room in the fourth quarter of 2011 over the same period in 2010, and a 13 percent RevPAR rise at its Las Vegas Strip properties.

What's more, group business is coming back: According to an MGM earnings call early this year, such bookings are "exceptionally strong" for the next two years, both in terms of rate and room nights. Meanwhile, the company is developing a casino in Massachusetts and has 10 properties either in development or operating in Asia.

Similar optimism extends throughout the gaming industry, with competition heating up in the mid-Atlantic region and many developments occurring elsewhere. In the following pages, M&C editors provide regional updates on gaming destinations and venues throughout the United States.

"Las Vegas tourism is in a steady recovery, and we believe the trend will continue in 2012," noted Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority president and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter in February. His optimism was fueled by the 38.9 million visitors received by the city in 2011, the second-highest total ever experienced by the gaming oasis. Ralenkotter went on to project 40 million visitors for 2012, a figure that would shatter 2007's record of 39.2 million.

Meeting planners were partially to thank for the surge. Las Vegas played host to more than 19,000 meetings and conventions last year -- 5.7 percent more events than in 2010. The increased volume helped to boost the average daily room rate by 10.7 percent in 2011 to about $105, just slightly more than the national average.

Las Vegas Octavius TowerVegas players are keeping busy. Caesars Entertainment recently began construction on The Linq, a $550 million urban entertainment district that will span 200,000 square feet between Harrah's and the Imperial Palace. The retail, F&B and entertainment development will include the Las Vegas High Roller, a 550-foot-high observation wheel that offers Strip views through 28 transparent-sphere cabins. Each cabin will hold 40 people and will be available for groups. But that isn't the only wheel rolling out: Down the street, across from Mandalay Bay, SkyVue is building a 500-foot-high wheel of its own, with 32 gondolas, each holding 24. Both attractions are set to debut in summer 2013.

At Caesars Palace, the 668-room Octavius Tower opened in January. The new luxury digs bring the resort's total room count to 3,960 and marks the completion of Caesars' $860 million expansion project.

Meanwhile, the Strip is replete with renovations of existing properties. The 3,933-room Bellagio wrapped up a six-month, $70 million redesign in January. All 2,568 rooms in the hotel's main tower have been refreshed. The 5,044-room MGM Grand kicked off a $160 million renovation last fall, to be completed by this September. All 4,212 rooms in its main tower are being made over with new design features.

– Michael J. Shapiro