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Big business stories to watch in 2017


Take a gander at all those look-back stories on 2016 today. Some of us have never been so happy to see a year in the rearview mirror.

But to many, the more important activity is to look forward, not backward.

There are plenty of fascinating stories on the horizon for 2017. Here are some of the things you’ll be reading about in the next 12 months, with a touch of prognostication:

Stadium efforts move forward.

It could begin as early as this month, but most aren’t expecting that. Look more toward spring before National Football League owners act on team owner Mark Davis’ request to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.

And as soon as that happens, the wheels will begin turning rapidly.

The full Las Vegas Stadium Authority board will be empaneled (that should occur Jan. 12) and begin addressing the issue of the stadium site. Everybody’s money seems to be on the selection of the acreage between Russell Road and Hacienda Avenue, just west of Interstate 15, but don’t be surprised if a flurry of alternative locations land in the authority’s lap.

Because of the height of the planned stadium, any plans will have to be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, but that shouldn’t be a roadblock because the site isn’t in the direct flight path of planes landing and taking off at McCarran International Airport.

There still will be a lot of noise coming out of the Bay Area, maybe even a few lawsuits, but in the end, the stadium and the Raiders are coming.

Gaming in Japan.

The Japanese government opted in December to begin the process of introducing the casino industry to the world’s third-largest economy.

Legislation approved in December provides the outline of Japan’s strategy and it has a lot of similarities to the startups of gaming in Macau and Singapore, which Southern Nevada companies were right in the middle of. Japan is interested in the integrated resort concept of having a casino attached to a much larger facility with convention centers, entertainment venues, art and cultural displays and retail.

Japan in 2017 will begin applying the details to the framework. How many facilities will be allowed? Where will they be? What will the tax rate be? Answers to those questions are of great interest to MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp., the local companies most likely to dive into gaming in Japan.

Those companies have boots on the ground in Japan, which some analysts are projecting to become a $25 billion market. They also were part of the lobbying process to get the initial legislation.

All three of those companies have proven track records in navigating foreign processes to bring a resort to fruition. They haven’t flinched at the 22 percent gaming tax rate in Singapore or the 39 percent rate in Macau. But they will face some intense competition from companies that operate in Asia and Australia.

All the answers on Japanese gaming won’t be resolved in 2017 — a property isn’t expected to open until the mid-2020s — but there should be some telling stories that will show development’s direction.

Genting begins building Resorts World Las Vegas. Finally.

The Malaysian company had a festive groundbreaking event in 2015, and 2016 was expected to be the year to see construction cranes on the ground where the Stardust once stood.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, a flurry of small teams have begun prep work in advance of large-scale construction.

Genting management is methodically slow, perhaps as a result of the company’s history or culture. But 2017 should be the year that we begin seeing evidence of the arrival of the company’s first 3,000 rooms of the Chinese-themed resort. Don’t count on an opening until 2019 at the earliest.

And don’t be too surprised if another new resort is announced somewhere on Las Vegas Boulevard in 2017.

Another record visitation year.

The growth isn’t substantial, but it’s growth. Near-record convention numbers and upticks in attendance at some of Southern Nevada’s favorite festivals and special events feed the expansion.

Don’t expect many out-of-town hockey fans to rush to see games with the new National Hockey League Vegas Golden Knights. The novelty of the new team will fill T-Mobile Arena mostly with locals.

International tourism continues to climb and millennial visitors find and embrace attractions particularly designed for them.

Gaming — the arcade style, not gambling — is further embraced by Las Vegas and fans find their way to the city to participate or follow their favorite players.

But wagering on skill-based games doesn’t gain the traction most supporters expected and casino win is flat for the year.

More Strip parking fallout.

As tourists and locals figure out ways to dodge the parking fees imposed by MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Cosmopolitan and Wynn Las Vegas, mostly by parking in the few available free locations, more properties will cave in and add their own paid parking plans.

More international flights, but domestic is flat.

Encouraged by the early success of Hainan Airlines’ nonstop routes between Beijing and Las Vegas, at least one new Asian carrier will sign on for flights to McCarran.

Routes to Europe maintain status quo, and despite considerable interest, no carrier embraces nonstop routes between Las Vegas and South America.

Domestic stalwarts Southwest, Delta, American and United stand pat or shrink their presence in Las Vegas and the merger of Jet Blue with Alaska Airlines doesn’t result in any expansion for Las Vegas.

Deep discounters Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit continue to add some routes.

The new year will be another year without significant movement toward rail service to and from Southern California.

Okay, 2017. Bring it on.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.