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If Las Vegas Builds It, Will More Visitors Come?


A rendering of the MSG Sphere, an 18,000-seat music venue going up east of the Strip.

Last weekend, thousands flocked to the opening of the Kaos nightclub at the Palms, which is getting a $700 million facelift thanks to its owner Station Casinos. 

“You can’t really judge too much by an opening weekend, but if you were going to, it made a splash,” Scott Roeben, who covers the resort industry at his   Vital Vegas blog, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

However, Roeben pointed out there have been plenty of shows, clubs and attractions that drew huge crowds in the first few weeks only to see the numbers dwindle.

The real question is the overall project and whether the Palms can bring people over from the Strip to become the new hot spot.

“It remains to be seen if it's going to pay off in the long run," he said, "It’s a huge investment. Some people say there is literally no way you can make that back. The amount of money they have to make back to make that investment worthwhile is substantial.”

One of the big investments in the property can be seen from the Strip. It is the video wall that covers the side of the property facing the boulevard.

“They want everyone on the Strip to be able to see it and know they’re over there and know there is something new and shiny,” Roeben said.

However, things have changed, building the newest, biggest and brightest isn't an automatic crowd pleaser, he said.

“There was a time where if you build something big and beautiful and shiny people would come. There was a built-in demand. It’s a different era. It’s a different era for casinos,” he said.

The Palms makeover comes as Las Vegas civic boosters brag about a big increase in convention space and major entertainment venues coming online.

“They’re not building these things for today and for today’s demand. They are investing a lot in the potential growth,” Roeben said.

He said a lot of hopes are being pinned on the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has said the city has missed on several large conventions and trade shows because of a lack of space.

But Roeben wonders if they know that with more space those conventions will actually choose to come to Las Vegas instead of another convention-centered city.

Besides the convention center, Roeben said a lot of hope is being pinned on the Raiders Stadium but he has questions about what will fill all of those seats when the Raiders aren't at home.

“I think there is a lot of big questions about if that demand doesn’t materialize who is going to fill those seats? What shows are going to fill those seats?” he said.

Roeben said there are not a lot of performers or non-sports related events that could fill that stadium, let alone the Madison Square Garden-branded concert venue that is being built by the Las Vegas Sands.

“I don’t want to be a naysayer but I’m the reality checker," he said, "If you’re looking at the current demand visitation is not supporting the idea that these places are going to be booming.”

Plus, Las Vegas visitor volume has been flat for two years as some patrons gripe about resort fees and the demise of free parking on the Strip.

Roeben believes casino operators need to pay attention to how the idea of Las Vegas in people's minds is changing. 

"I'm constantly saying we really have to be careful about that perception because I don't know if that revenue has jumped up," he said, "I think visitation is flat and I think gaming revenue is not great. It continues to go down. They really don't have a solution for how to attract younger players." 

He believes if five to 10 years down the road that trend continues it could spell trouble. 


Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas blog

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.