Las Vegas hits the jackpot with construction boom

Sin City has seen a $6.8-billion construction boom recently in hotel revamps

LOS ANGELES • Even as nearby Macau is betting big on new entertainment draws on the Cotai Strip, another familiar gambling spot to Singaporeans - Las Vegas - is also going for the jackpot.

It is putting new cards on the table and has fresh aces in the deck.

More than US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) worth of construction investment has poured into Sin City recently, resulting in such flashy ribbon-cuttings as the US$375 million T-Mobile sports arena.

The convention centre, which gets flooded with international visitors for events, from the Consumer Electronic Show to the Roller Skating Industry Convention, is being overhauled. Hotel mainstays, from the Palms to Caesars, are making room for revamps.

It is a boom unlike any the city - which was estimated to be the fourth most visited in the United States during the recent Memorial Day weekend after Orlando, Seattle and Honolulu - has seen in almost 30 years.

Big money - US$550 million - has gone into the revamp of the Monte Carlo, whose renaissance comes with a new name: Park MGM.

The new hotel - the result of a four-year collaboration between MGM chief executive Jim Murren and businessman Andrew Zobler, whose hotels include Manhattan's NoMad and Los Angeles' Line - is poised to be Las Vegas' new entertainment and dining hub.

Among its draws are 2,604 glamorous rooms, three intimate pools inspired by the French Riviera, the sixth American outpost of Italian food hall Eataly and more than a dozen restaurants by a who's who of influential chefs.

Park MGM will steal attention from MGM's highest-end hotel, Bellagio, as well as the most recent hotel to bring such buzz to Vegas: the eight-year-old Cosmopolitan.

"People who had done lifestyle in Vegas were using a model that was 15 years old," said Mr Zobler. "It was all about what happened after midnight."

With Park MGM, he aims to break that mould and several others.

The design of the common areas is inspired by 18th-century English gardens. Restaurants are broken into small rooms, rather than overwhelmingly large spaces.

And instead of having one giant pool with a DJ, there are three more intimate places to swim, all surrounded by date palms, olive trees and mint-green cabanas.

There will still be two casinos, a high-roller suite and conference centre on the property, plus a 5,200-seat theatre that has already booked shows presenting singers Cher and Lady Gaga.

The Park MGM's food and beverage line-up largely comprises Sin City first-timers.

"I have always said, 'We are never going to Vegas,'" joked Mr Will Guidara, co-owner of Make It Nice hospitality group. "Usually, when you leave a Vegas restaurant, no matter how good it is, you're on an overly lit casino floor. Whatever magic you created in the dining room instantly disappears."

Not so at his upcoming NoMad restaurant - coming this fall - whose patrons will be able to enter directly from the street.

Eataly USA's chief executive Nicola Farinetti noted: "Vegas has 50 million visitors per year... We felt that it was a great opportunity for us to talk to a vast audience about quality food."

Another item that will go down well with both visitors and residents concerns transport. An advisory panel has recently agreed to recommend the construction of what would be the city's first light rail system.

Industry observers note that with major projects under way or being planned - from Resorts World Las Vegas, owned by Malaysia-based Genting Group, to the revamps of hotels such as the Fontainebleau and The Drew - the city is going to get only more crowded.

And that is not the sort of calling card Las Vegas wants to hold.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 24, 2018, with the headline 'Vegas hits the jackpot'. Print Edition | Subscribe