Vegas welcomes its newest casino as recovery from pandemic takes hold

Key Points
  • The Resorts World Las Vegas is a $4.3 billion property developed by Malaysia-based gaming operator Genting Berhad.
  • Gamblers will be able to use cashless wagering at casino slots and gaming tables via a Resorts World app on their cellphones.
  • More than 2.9 million passengers traveled through McCarran Airport in April, the last month where figures are available, representing a drop of 32% from 2019.   
A look at Las Vegas' newest casino
A look at Las Vegas' newest casino

In a city where luck has a lot to do with the outcome, the executives overseeing the Las Vegas Strip's newest property feel like they hit the jackpot.

"We were waiting, optimistic that things would get better when we opened," said Scott Sibella, president of Resorts World Las Vegas. "But here we are at 100% [capacity] and everything's going well in Las Vegas, and we're excited to be part of that."

Following years of construction and the still-present threat of a global pandemic, the massive $4.3 billion Resorts World Casino opens for business this week at a crucial time for Las Vegas, which is rebounding from an economically crippling shutdown.

"With all of this pent-up demand and restrictions newly set aside, it just seems like they got lucky," said Steve Hill, head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Resorts World is the first new resort on the Las Vegas Strip in over a decade.
Source: Resorts World Las Vegas

The first newly built casino along the Strip in a decade features all the bells and whistles visitors have come to expect from a luxury property, including a 117,000-square-foot casino floor, on-site sportsbook and 1,800-square-foot infinity pool. The company has announced an A-list lineup of entertainment featuring Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan.

However, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, the parent company of Resorts World, hopes its technology will set it apart from competitors.

The company is touting its newest property as the city's "most technologically advanced casino." It has announced a slew of partnerships, which will allow guests the option of mobile payments for everything at the resort — even at the betting tables. It also invested heavily in security and will be the first to use radio-frequency identification, or RFID, embedded chips to help account for gaming activity.

"We've integrated and created what we believe to be industry-leading cashless wagering technology where guests can play in a slot machine using cashless wagering from their phone within their app, and they can go and do the same in a table," said Rick Hutchins, Resorts World senior vice president of casino operations. 

Gamblers will be able to load money onto their digital wallets using on-site kiosks to deposit cash or digitally by linking to a bank account, credit card or PayPal.  

Another eventual source of funding is cryptocurrency. Sibella said the company is working with crypto exchange Gemini, owned by the Winklevoss twins, to explore how guests may someday gamble and pay for property amenities and dining with digital currencies.

Resorts World includes a 117-thousand square foot casino.
Source: Resorts World Las Vegas

"I think you'll be able to use crypto to check out and pay your folio or go to a restaurant, that's what we're looking at, but there's still a lot to look at and get approved," said Sibella.

The timing of the resort's opening certainly seems auspicious. Covid restrictions largely ended June 1. Future reservations soared. Wait times to land a table at popular restaurants have lengthened to the point of frustration for Las Vegas visitors.

Genting Chairman and CEO Kok Thay Lim told CNBC, "Timing is everything due to luck more than anything else."

There remains some question about how well Resorts World can perform without high-end international travelers, especially those from Asia. Travel restrictions and border closures due to the coronavirus are still restricting global travel.

Before the pandemic, Chinese visitors were a small but important part of overall tourism revenue because they typically spend more on shopping, dining, amenities and gambling.

Genting's chairman said he looks forward to a resumption of Chinese tourism. "They will play a very important part in terms of global travel" Lim said. The company's cruise and resort business in Malaysia, Singapore and around the world has suffered with the absence of Chinese visitors.

More than 2.9 million passengers traveled through Las Vegas McCarran International Airport in April, the last month where figures are available, representing a drop of 32% from 2019. However, industry insiders anticipate the numbers will rise significantly in May and June.

"Las Vegas doesn't operate well without a crowd, and we're going to be completely back to full stadiums, full arenas, full theaters, and all of the entertainment that everybody expects when they come to Las Vegas," said Hill.

And rather than undermining neighboring casinos with new competition, analysts anticipate Resorts World will boost business for everyone.

"A brand-new Las Vegas opening like Resorts World can drive increased visitation," said Barry Jonas, managing director of Truist Securities. "As many customers looking to trial the new property also like to visit multiple properties during their stay."

Lim surveyed his newest property with a huge grin and pronounced, "It's great to look around Las Vegas and definitely say 'Las Vegas is back in business!'"

What to watch in casino stocks amid the reopening
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