by The M&C Staff | April 01, 2014
The Choctaw Casino in Durant, Okla., is undergoing a $275 million expansion that will feature a 22-story hotel with a spa and several dining options. Plans call for a movie theater, a bowling alley and laser tag. The entire project is expected to be completed in May 2015.

The River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, Okla., is in the midst of a $335 million expansion that will bring the Margaritaville brand to the Midwest. The project, expected to wrap up sometime next year, features a 26-story hotel with 483 guest rooms, a spa, a theater and several new restaurants. The development also will offer a 30,000-square-foot events venue. - M.C.L.
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Things are looking up for a number of casino properties. MGM Resorts International posted its best post-recession revenue numbers in 2013. Las Vegas expects a dramatic rise in the number of meeting attendees this year, and the Reno-Tahoe area, long battling the effects of the lagging economy, posted its first increase in gaming revenue in seven years. These and other developments from major gaming destinations around the country are outlined on the following pages.

Always a magnet for groups, this year Las Vegas is expecting 70 conventions not previously held in the city, with each slated to bring in more than 500 attendees. That should bring a projected 100,000 additional delegates to town. Three new shows in particular -- the American Library Association's annual conference, the American Wind Energy Association's Windpower and Solar Power International -- should account for some 50,000 attendees and $63 million in local nongaming revenues. 

And that's just new business. Nine rotating shows are coming back to Vegas this year, which should equate to more than 320,000 delegates and a nongaming impact of $404 million.

Following are some of the many venue developments and openings of note in the desert oasis.

The Cromwell Hotel and Casino will be the Strip's newest hotel when it opens next month, on the site of the former Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon. The 188-room property will include a 40,000-square-foot casino, a hotel lobby bar, a lounge, the first restaurant from chef Giada De Laurentiis, plus day-club and nightlife venues from developer Victor Drai. The property's res­taurant, Giada, will seat 260 and offer a private dining room for groups. Drai's Beach Club will include event space around the hotel's rooftop pool.

On the North Strip, the highly anticipated SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino is planning a Labor Day opening this year. The 1,622-room lifestyle property will debut at the site of the former Sahara Hotel and Casino. A collaboration by hotel and nightclub magnate Sam Nazarian, chef José Andrés and designer Philippe Starck, this luxury resort will comprise a casino and a number of high-profile restaurants, including The Bazaar by José Andrés and Katsuya by Starck. Among the hotel's more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space will be a 9,000-square-foot ballroom.

Also on the North Strip, the site of Boyd Gaming's abandoned Echelon development should soon come to life. Last year Southeast Asia-based Genting purchased the site for $350 million and now expects to invest as much as $4 billion to build a 6,583-room complex dubbed Resorts World Las Vegas. Construction should begin this summer on the property, which is expected to offer about 500,000 square feet of meeting space, a 175,000-square-foot casino, and about a quarter of a million square feet of retail and F&B space. Projected opening is slated for 2016.

The northern end of the Strip is fairly close to Downtown Las Vegas, which has seen a revitalization of its own in recent years. The area is home to the 634-room Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, which opened last November across the street from another recent downtown debut, the Mob Museum, and close to the popular Fremont Street Experience. The Downtown Grand has three restaurants, 2,400 square feet of meeting space and a 35,000-square-foot rooftop pool area known as Picnic.

Downtown also offers a burgeoning arts district, for which the Modern Contemporary Art Museum is in the planning stages. A $29 million capital campaign is underway for that project, which also will include the Center for Creativity art space and an outdoor event spot called Luminous Park.

Back on the Strip, MGM Resorts and AEG expect to begin construction this month on a 20,000-seat arena and entertainment complex stretching from the Strip to Frank Sinatra Drive, between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts. Designed to meet LEED Gold standards, the arena should be ready to host sporting events, concerts and more in early 2016.

Another big Strip attraction, Caesars Entertainment's $550 million The Linq, opened its first phase last December. The outdoor entertainment "neighborhood," between The Quad and Flamingo resorts, now features venues such as O'Shea's Casino, Brooklyn Bowl, the lifestyle-trend store Koto and the Purple Zebra self-serve daiquiri bar.

The Linq's main attraction, the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel, will open this spring. The wheel has 28 cabins, each with a 40-passenger capacity. Cabins for the 30-minute ride can be booked in any quantity, up to a full buyout for groups. On-site event space will be available in a 2,500-square-foot venue alongside the wheel.

Investments also are being made in Vegas to support drivers of electric vehicles: Late last year, the Las Vegas Convention Center installed four charging stations in the Gold parking lot. The covered stations, funded with a grant from the Consumer Electronics Association, are free to use and will serve as prototypes for future stations, to be added as demand dictates. And in February, MGM Resorts began installing a total of 27 charging stations at its nine resorts in town, as well as at its corporate headquarters. Those stations will be available to employees and guests at no costs.

In other news, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has issued $50 million worth of bonds toward funding the Global Business District, a plan announced last year. The multiphase project will expand the convention center and make it the hub of a surrounding business district. Over the next 10 years, additional space will be created for exhibitions, meeting rooms and general sessions.

About 20 minutes from the Strip is the master-planned community of Lake Las Vegas, where the former Ravella Lake Las Vegas is now the Hilton Lake Las Vegas. The upscale 349-room property offers a 30,000-square-foot spa and 92,500 square feet of meeting space, including an 11,813-square-foot ballroom. - MICHAEL J. SHAPIRO