by Michael J. Shapiro | April 01, 2015

Luck hasn't been entirely on the side of the gaming industry this spring, as the fallout from casino closings persists in Atlantic City, and international stakeholders are seeing soft performance from their casinos in Macau. But the industry is still experiencing strong investment, particularly on U.S. shores, and planners will note a bevy of developments in a growing number of destinations.

Las Vegas experienced a record year of visitation in 2014, and the city expects another healthy increase in the number of meeting attendees this year. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania continue to award state gaming licenses to eager parties, and Reno, Nev., is seeing significant investment from the corporate sector, from companies like Apple, Tesla and Amazon. All of this translates to new venues and opportunities for planners. Check out our annual roundup of developments by destination on the pages that follow.


The U.S. capital of gaming is again thriving. Las Vegas broke the 40 million mark for number of visitors in 2014, drawing 41.1 million to the desert oasis. That's nearly one and a half million more than its previous high mark, 39.7 million, set in 2012. Group business is similarly strong: A dozen new or rotating large shows will either debut in or make their way back to Vegas this year, bringing with them an estimated 242,000 attendees and generating nearly $315 million in nongaming local revenue.

Accordingly, there is more development going on in the city than there has been in a number of years. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has kicked off its $2.3 billion Global Business District development with a splash, purchasing the iconic Riviera Hotel & Casino in February to use the site for the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The previous owners of the facility are now leasing the property from the LVCVA and plan to close the business as of August. At that point, the authority will demolish the Riviera to make way for Phase 1 of the convention center expansion on the 26-acre, Strip-facing lot.

As part of the overall 1.8 million-square-foot facility expansion, the Riviera lot will accommodate 750,000 square feet of convention center exhibit space plus 187,500 square feet of supporting meeting space. Once construction begins, the entire project should take five to eight years to complete.

Many other projects intended for the same area on the North Strip sat idle for years, but the past 12 months have seen dramatic change. The $415 million SLS Las Vegas opened over Labor Day weekend last year on the site of the former Sahara Hotel. The 1,620-room "boutique" property consists of three towers of guest rooms, each promising a different ambience. The result of a collaboration among SBE founder Sam Nazarian, star chef José Andrés and design icon Philippe Starck, SLS became the first property to join Hilton's new Curio collection of high-end, independent hotels. It offers 80,000 square feet of event space, including a 9,000-square-foot ballroom.

The hotel's newest venue, the Foxtail Pool Club, debuted last month, providing 43,000 square feet of space for private cabanas, daybeds, deejays and 3-D projections for pool-party needs.

Meanwhile, on the site of Boyd Gaming's long-unfinished Echelon development, the Genting Group is expected to break ground this year on its $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas. Construction of the massive resort should take two to three years. Phase one will include a 3,000-room hotel, a 100,000-square-foot casino, retail establishments and a showroom. Subsequent phases call for three more hotel towers, a 1 million-square-foot convention center, a theater, a water park, a movie theater and a bowling alley.

Construction began this winter, next to SLS Las Vegas, on the $1.4 billion All Net Resort and Arena, a privately funded complex set to open in 2017. The project includes a 860,000-square-foot, 22,000-seat arena with a retractable roof; a 300,000-square-foot pedestrian square called Victory Plaza; and a 500-room, 44-story boutique hotel and spa. There is speculation that the project, which is the vision of former University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and National Basketball Association star Jackie Robinson, is being constructed in part to lure an NBA franchise to Las Vegas.

Also on the North Strip, the site of the former New Frontier was purchased by a new company led by Australia's Crown Resorts and former Wynn president Andrew Pascal. They hope to build a megaresort on the 34.6-acre site that would open in 2018.

Elsewhere on Las Vegas Boulevard, MGM Resorts continues to work on The Park, a dining and entertainment district between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts that will feature pedestrian pathways, restaurants and a plaza around the new 20,000-seat arena MGM is constructing in partnership with AEG. Both the arena and The Park are expected to open in 2016.


The new 1,117-suite Delano
Las Vegas has 20,000 square
feet of meeting space.

Notable openings from the past year include the Delano Las Vegas, a 1,117-suite property on the site of the former THEHotel adjoining Mandalay Bay. The new hotel's dramatic entryway features a 10-foot, 126,000-pound split boulder, setting the tone for the design transformation. Among the property's enhancements are a new java bar, 3940 Coffee + Tea; breakfast and lunch restaurant Della's Kitchen; and an elegant lobby bar called Franklin. The hotel features a spa with 13 treatment rooms and 20,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as easy access to the convention space inside the neighboring Mandalay Bay.

On the center Strip, the 2,253-room Linq Hotel + Casino debuted last November alongside The Linq outdoor plaza and promenade. The hotel is a rebranding of the Quad Resort & Casino, which itself was a rebranding of the Imperial Palace. The latest incarnation of the establishment features five new suites, a new lobby bar called 3535 and a new meetings venue, the Vortex Roof Deck. The hotel is now being positioned for the "socially active" traveler, offering easy access to the High Roller observation wheel and the retail and F&B establishments in the promenade.

Last month saw the debut of a new flagship nightclub in Caesars Palace called Omnia. The venue offers both indoor and outdoor facilities, including a nature-inspired landscaped deck overlooking the Strip. The 75,000-square-foot club is operated by the Hakkasan Group, which last year acquired The Light Group, operators of the spot's former club, Pure. The new venue is Hakkasan's first non-MGM club in Las Vegas. -- Michael J. Shapiro