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Gulp! Here’s what I think will be 2024’s top tourism headlines

Updated January 7, 2024 - 9:35 am

OK, I’ll admit it. My crystal ball and I didn’t have a very good year in 2023.

Maybe it was cracked, the same way some yokels thought the Sphere was cracked.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that instead of reviewing the top stories of the previous year, I prefer to go out on a ledge to share what the gaming and tourism headlines of next year are going to say.

Over the years, my predictions have been pretty solid, although I really whiffed when I suggested in January 2022 that the Oakland A’s were using Las Vegas as leverage to get a better deal for a harbor-front stadium in Oakland.

Ouch; that may have been my worst fail since I started this crazy project five years ago.

A year ago, I predicted the headlines of 2023. Here’s how I did:

Nevada’s casinos will record 12 more months of gaming win revenue in excess of $1 billion.

Maybe this one was too easy, but you never know what lurks around the corner. Not only did the state’s casinos surpass $1 billion for the next 12 months, but revenue exploded to record levels. With the November numbers reported last week, the $1 billion-plus consecutive months record stands at 33 straight.

Convention attendance in Las Vegas finally will surpass 2019 levels.

Close, but no cigar.

While we won’t know for sure whether this was a miss until the end of January when the final 2023 tallies come out, it’s pretty evident that convention attendance won’t hit the 2019 record level of 6.6 million conventioneers. As of the end of November, the total was 5.8 million. That means there would have to be more than 800,000 attendees in December to break the record — not likely in one of the city’s lightest convention months.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board’s bid to discipline Steve Wynn will fail.

Technically right, as I noted that I doubted Wynn would ever show up for a disciplinary hearing. Wynn instead agreed to a settlement and paid a $10 million fine and said he would never involve himself in Nevada gaming again.

The settlement reached in July essentially keeps him out of the gaming industry, but his name still sits atop a Strip resort and continues to pop up in some unresolved court cases.

An international air carrier will announce nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Tokyo.

Right idea; wrong continent.

While local flight recruiters and air service planners have lamented not having nonstop air service to Tokyo, 2023 seemed to be the year that something would be established. But Tokyo service never materialized.

Las Vegas did get new air service to Central America. In April, Avianca Airlines, South America’s second-largest commercial air carrier, announced new service between Harry Reid International Airport and San Salvador, El Salvador.

Attendance and revenue projections for November’s Formula One race will fall short of expectations.

That certainly turned out to be wrong. Not only did attendance and revenue projections meet expectations, they surpassed them. What few people saw coming was the local outrage about race preparations and the pushback from the public about bringing the race back in the future.

Gross gaming revenue in Macao will more than double in 2023 from 2022 levels.

Score. Not only did gross gaming revenue more than double in Macao in 2023, it more than quadrupled.

Three gaming companies with ties to Las Vegas will win licensing in New York.

The jury is still out on this prediction because a final decision hasn’t been made yet by New York authorities. So all of the local companies seeking a downstate New York license are still very much in the hunt.

So the way I look at it, I went 3-3 with one tie in ’23.

So what will you be reading about in 2024? Here’s what the apparently damaged crystal ball is telling me:

Super Bowl 58 in Las Vegas will be so successful that the NFL will put the city in its regular Super Bowl host rotation.

There’s no doubt that the game in February has been well-planned. The host committee has done an extraordinary job of preparing for it. Now, it’s a matter of the NFL stepping up and committing to having the game here on a rotating basis. Las Vegas needs to join the ranks of New Orleans; Miami; Glendale, Arizona; and Los Angeles to regularly host the league’s biggest game. And while they’re at it, they can bring back the Pro Bowl in years when the Super Bowl isn’t here.

The United Arab Emirates will come up with a nationwide gaming regulatory structure in ’24.

Right now, only Ras Al Khaimah, where Wynn Resorts Ltd. is building Wynn Al Marjan Island, is the only emirate where legalized gambling is planned. But I suspect the other emirates where Las Vegas companies are building resorts will persuade authorities to broaden the landscape.

That could be big news for MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Inc. as they continue their projects in and around Dubai.

Ground will be broken on the high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Southern California.

This may seem like a gimmie because planning for the project is so far along.

But there are hundreds of people who still think the Brightline West project isn’t going to happen. It will, and it’s coming.

Sphere will start construction of a new venue.

The crystal ball is a little foggy on where, but it seems Dubai or South Korea are likely locations.

Sphere officials also have to reduce prices on some of their performances when ticket sales begin to wane in ’24.

Formula One will return in November, but it won’t be as well attended or as profitable as the first race.

Locals won’t be as disrupted as they were in 2023, but the same anti-F1 vibe will continue to prevail, and many fans who enjoyed the novelty of the Las Vegas night race won’t return in ’24.

The NBA — finally — will announce plans to locate a franchise in Las Vegas.

After successful runs with the NBA Summer League and last year’s first-ever in-season tournament, the NBA finds it’s ready to put a Vegas-born team in the city, and play will begin as soon as the Oak View Group’s resort and arena at Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road is ready to open.

Nevada gaming numbers will finally recede.

While monthly gaming win totals of $1 billion-plus aren’t going away, Nevada will hit a peak in 2024 and gradually begin to slide. It’s the law of gravity — what goes up must come down.

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

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