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Emergence of tribes 1 of the big 2022 Nevada gaming stories

More than $1 billion in gaming win, millions of visitors and a hefty roster of sporting events have capped an eventful 2022.

This year has seen plenty of big stories in Southern Nevada, and some of the most notable are listed below.

Native American tribes make history

While gaming and tourism had a record year in Southern Nevada, it was Native American tribes that produced some of the most significant contributions in 2022 from beginning to end.

The emergence of tribes to the state’s commercial gaming business paced the industry with a rebranding, a reopening and a commitment for major change occurring, respectively, in March, April and December. Each tribe holds a special place in Nevada gaming’s history.

Mohegan, formerly Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, became the first Native American tribe in March to be licensed for a commercial gaming operation in the state. While tribal officials operate the casino at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, the hotel is run by Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels and operations are overseen by Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s JC Hospitality.

A month later, the San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority, an affiliate of the Highland, California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, completed its $650 million acquisition of the Palms from Red Rock Resorts’ Station Casinos Inc. The tribe became the first in Nevada to own and operate a Las Vegas resort.

This month, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner of the Hard Rock International brand, became licensed to be the first tribal owner of a Strip property, buying The Mirage from MGM Resorts International for nearly $1.1 billion.

Gaming win soars

The emergence of the three tribe-managed resort properties was a highlight to a record year for Nevada gaming. The first 10 months of 2022 featured gaming win in excess of $1 billion.

The state’s 437 nonrestricted gaming licensees won $1.3 billion from gamblers in October, a 4.8 percent increase from October 2021. It was the 20th consecutive month of gaming win in excess of $1 billion for the state.

Clark County’s 215 locations won $1.1 billion in October, a 4.5 percent increase over last year, while downtown Las Vegas recorded a win of $90.5 million, another record.

Nevada wasn’t the only state to post record revenue amounts, which analysts chalked up to consumers aggressively visiting casinos after being cooped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gaming revenue from commercial casinos nationwide surpassed prior year totals, with some of the popularity of gambling attributable to the expansion of sports wagering, which is now available in 30 states and Washington D.C. with at least five more states planning to offer sports wagering next year.

Breaking records

While gaming experienced a frenetic revenue pace in 2022, passenger levels at Harry Reid International Airport broke records almost monthly.

With 43.7 million passengers through October, Reid traffic is on pace to threaten 2017’s record of 51.5 million passengers with two months of passenger numbers left to report for the year.

Domestic capacity soared and resulted in a record 5.2 million passengers in October, although international flights are not back to pre-pandemic levels.

Another significant record in 2022 was the average daily room rate. Customers in October paid an average $209.89 a night, the first time the average eclipsed $200 a night.

One of the reasons visitation and gaming win numbers have been so strong this year is that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority embarked on advertising campaigns that branded Las Vegas as “The Greatest Arena on Earth.”

Uniting sports fans

Allegiant Stadium, which opened at the end of July 2020, has become the most successful arena in the United States with more than 1 million fans viewing home games for the Las Vegas Raiders and UNLV Rebel football team, a calendar of big-name concert performers and international soccer friendlies.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights continue to fill seats at T-Mobile Arena and thousands of fans turned out to watch the WNBA champions Aces. Joining the Aces at the Michelob Ultra Arena this month are the Desert Dogs of the National Lacrosse League.

Even Henderson has gotten into the sporting action with The Dollar Loan Center hosting the Silver Knights hockey team, the Indoor Football League’s Vegas Knight Hawks and the NBA’s G League Ignite team.

More sports could be on the horizon for Las Vegas with one of the continually evolving stories of 2022 being the Oakland Athletics’ potential relocation to Las Vegas. Two sites — the Strip’s Tropicana Las Vegas, operated by Bally’s, and the Las Vegas Festival Grounds at Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, owned and operated by Phil Ruffin — have been floated as potential baseball stadium sites throughout the year.

The NBA appears to be around the corner with Oak View Group partners Tim Leiweke and Irving Azoff designating longtime gaming industry executive Randy Morton and former Raiders President Marc Badain as the ramrods for a new resort and 20,000-seat NBA-ready arena near Las Vegas Boulevard and Blue Diamond Road.

Those are stories that will have legs into 2023.

Sphere on the horizon

More gaming industry transactions and additions emerged in 2022 with Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta promising a Strip resort at Harmon Avenue and the other Fertittas — Station Casino owner Frank Fertitta III and his family — building a new locals property along Durango Drive near the 215 Beltway.

But perhaps the most anticipated new addition to the Strip skyline will be the MSG Sphere at The Venetian, which has been reported on throughout 2022. It’s on tap to become an entertainment game changer with its massive interior and exterior LED screens and state-of-the-art sound system.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment has seen the cost of the MSG Sphere balloon to $2.2 billion and the company has reported plans to spin off the Sphere and Tao operations to a separate operation.

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

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