Fast forward 25 years or so to today, and you can really sense a sea change in what younger consumers expect from a gaming experience and how casino operators are responding to them. Building increasingly larger and more monolithic gaming venues appears to be on the wane, victims not only of changing consumer tastes but also of a risk-adverse lending environment and lack of greenfield sites that warrant massive gaming constructs, especially in established casino markets such as Las Vegas. For better or worse, I think the younger generation sees the all-encompassing megaresort model the same way my generation viewed the all-in-one vacation resorts in the Catskills—as tired places where old people went for staid entertainment.
Some gaming operators in Las Vegas appear to be responding to this trend by going small and bold instead of large and utilitarian, at least when it comes to new entertainment and lodging construction. As I write this, both MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment are in the process of developing outdoor entertainment experiences in Las Vegas. The MGM project entails building a public park/plaza on the Strip that will connect the company’s New York-New York and Monte Carlo properties to a new state-of-the-art arena it’s co-developing with AEG. The outdoor plaza will contain eateries, casual bars and retail destinationsZ. Meanwhile Caesars continues work on The LINQ, an open-air retail, dining and entertainment district, anchored by the world’s tallest observation wheel, known as the High Roller. Located at the heart of the Strip, The LINQ will span more than 200,000 square feet of gross leasable space and feature more than 30 unique retail, dining and entertainment experiences, according to Caesars.
It will be interesting to see how many people venture out in the midsummer Vegas sun, but these developments do offer a couple of advantages: they are designed to appeal to a younger clientele and are often less costly to develop than comparably-sized casino resorts.
When it comes to hotel development in Las Vegas, the hot new word appears to be “boutique”—tony facilities designed to appeal to hip and upper-scale customers with better-appointed amenities, fewer rooms and smaller, more exclusive casinos. Caesars Entertainment once again appears to be leading the charge in this area, having recently inked a deal with the New York-based luxury hotel brand Gansevoort Hotel Group and nightclub impresario Victor Drai, to build a boutique resort facility at the site of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon on Las Vegas Boulevard. The new $185 million property will include 188 “Parisian” apartments, 19 suites, a 40,000-sqaure-foot casino and ultra-lounge.
The poster project for the boutique development craze sweeping Las Vegas may be the recently opened Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace, a 181-room hotel and entertainment complex themed on the iconic Nobu restaurant and housed in Caesars Palace Las Vegas. The first Nobu Hotel to open, it includes the Las Vegas Strip’s first and world’s largest Nobu Restaurant and Lounge; Garden of the Gods pool oasis; Hakone, Sake and Nobu Penthouse suites; and Nobu’s first-ever in-room dining menu.
Staying at such a boutique hotel may be a shock to my man-of-the-people mentality, but if it includes Nobu-style lobster rolls I think I can live with the change.