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Resorts World president says surprises in store for guests

Updated June 24, 2021 - 1:52 pm

Scott Sibella, one of MGM Resorts International’s former top executives, leads the team at Resorts World Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas native was named president of Resorts World Las Vegas in April 2019 after taking an MGM buyout two months earlier.

Since joining Resorts World, Sibella has been involved in every aspect of the property that opens its doors to the public at 11 p.m. Thursday. The resort’s opening marks the first all-new Strip hotel-casino in more than a decade. At $4.3 billion, it is the most expensive hotel-casino ever built in Nevada.

Sibella talked with the Review-Journal about the massive resort this month.

How difficult a decision was it to move from MGM Resorts International to the Genting Group to lead the local operation of Resorts World Las Vegas?

I had a great career with MGM. I operated some really great properties. They all had different types of personalities. It was a great run for me. But this was just a dream come true to work at a property where I could help design, program and lay it out and just be involved from the beginning. I think I know as much about the city as anybody, and the city continues to evolve. There hasn’t been a project like this in 10 years. So being able to do the things that you wish you could do, but it’s difficult to do because of infrastructure and money with some of the existing properties on the Strip, it was just a dream come true. It was exciting for me that I was able to get involved from day one.

How has it been to work with Mr. Lim and his team?

It’s been so amazing. Our chairman, K.T. Lim, is such a great leader and a mastermind when it comes to hospitality and building integrated properties. From the beginning, we hit it off. We visited all our properties overseas. We got his vision. His goal was to bring something to Vegas that they hadn’t seen, and that’s what we did from day one. He was here twice a month, until COVID of course. Thank God for good technology. We were able to update them during the week. But he hasn’t been here in 15 months. But he always supported us, gave us guidance, challenged us and has just been great from the beginning to where we are today. And I’m just so excited that he’s going to be able to be here for the opening.

What feature of Resorts World Las Vegas do you think is going to dazzle visitors the most?

Gosh, there’s so many things that I think people are going to be surprised by. Because of COVID and everything that’s been going on, a lot of people don’t know what to expect. When they see the building, I think they realize now we are going to open. It took us over three years to build this. But I think they’re going to be surprised that we broke the mold and we didn’t build something that you would normally see, only because of 10 years of advancement.

This town continues to evolve. Nongaming (amenities) is a big change now, so we think 70 percent to 73 percent of our business will be nongaming. We designed the property, we laid it out and we programmed it for people to come here and get the best food experience, the best entertainment experience, the best convention experience and the best nightlife experience. I think they’re going to love how it’s a different type of lighting, a lot of natural light. So I don’t want to say one thing. I think there’s going to be a lot of ‘wows’ when you walk in the property, because we’re as big as MGM, but we think we did a good job of laying it out and it feels really good, even though it’s a big property.

Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCanno ...
Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto

We partnered with Hilton for one reason, because we wanted to have different levels of customers here. So we’re just not all luxury. Yeah, we have a lot of luxury areas around the property, we’ve got luxury hotel rooms, but we’ve also got the premium. And we even got things for the mass customer. So it’s going to be something to enjoy for everybody and nobody will feel alienated. So it’s hard to say one thing, but I think if you put all those things together, I think they’re really going to be quite amazed by how we put it all together.

I think a lot of people may have the impression that this is an Asian-themed property, and clearly it isn’t. There are Asian influences, but it’s not an Asian property per se. Do you think that that’s something people need to understand about what Resorts World is?

It used to bother me because why would somebody just build a massive property like this and only try to attract Asian customers? That’d be foolish. Yes, we’re an Asian company. But what we’re bringing over here from Asia is what we know about integrated properties, and how you build a city within a city is really what we’re doing. You got the theater, you got the convention space, you got all the restaurants and so forth.

So today, it doesn’t bother me, because I know when people get here, that they’re going to say, ‘Oh, it’s not even close.’ I took somebody on a tour today, and I said, ‘What do you think?’ and they said, ‘I thought it was going to be like a really Asian-themed property.’ So I’m used to that now. So I think we just have to prove that it’s not. I wish we had the panda bears. You know, I wish that rumor was true. But we don’t. But I think we’re OK with it now. The best advertising we can get will be by word of mouth. We’ve done some great things. You’ve seen our commercial: We have the best entertainment that the city’s ever seen. The food and beverage experience will be the best in class and the spa is coming soon. We haven’t even talked about that. But it’s a different type of spa than anything Vegas has seen. So I’m just so comfortable that when people come here, the word of mouth will travel rapidly that you need to go see Resorts World.

Put in perspective the historical significance of this opening.

I wish I could say that I was the smartest guy in the room and picked this date to open because I knew all this (pandemic) would be behind us. We’re so fortunate and lucky that we’re coming out of this pandemic. We were going to open either way. What we’re proud of is, we know we’re building a jewel and something special. But we’re really proud to introduce Resorts World to the city and to be part of this community. We want the locals to spend a lot of time here. We designed it for the locals, to have their own big entrance, the way we laid the property out. And we’re excited that it’s going to help Las Vegas bounce back faster. The city has proven in the past that it does bounce back faster than other cities. But I think that building Resorts World and all the hype and all the things you’re going to hear about it will only help rebound our city faster, and continue to make Vegas the best entertainment city in the world. And we’re proud of that. We’re proud to be part of the Strip.

Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella, right, talks to reporters during construction ...
Resorts World Las Vegas President Scott Sibella, right, talks to reporters during construction on the north Strip casino in Las Vegas Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto

How do you think Resorts World’s opening is going to influence the north end of the Strip?

We love being across the street from the new Convention Center. It’s magnificent. It played a big role in us building here. We’re so happy to be partners with the Boring Co. It’s going to be so easy for our convention guests to go downstairs and get to a convention within minutes. We know that the north side is where we’re called the luxury side, because we’re associated with some luxury properties and the (Fashion Show) mall. We know overnight it’s not going to just change. But we know over time it will. And I’m telling you within years, you’ll start to see the Las Vegas Strip shift down to the north side.

You’ve said you expect this year’s Fourth of July celebration to be the biggest in the city’s history. What do you envision?

You know, the city has been through a lot. We’ve all been through a lot, and I think this will be the biggest celebration the city’s ever seen. The message throughout America is we can finally do things that we want to do. Right now, we’re already seeing (heavy demand) with our rates, but I think it’s going to help put the city back on the map. We love it because we’re just opening, so the way I look at it, it’s a big grand opening for Resorts World, and on the Fourth there’s going to be a big fireworks show and we’ve got a lot of entertainment planned. The goal from day one was ‘Let’s get this open and let’s have a party so we can celebrate.’ You know, that’s what we’re going to tell people when they come that night. ‘Come see our property, but tonight’s about having fun.’ Celebrating what we went through this past year has been so difficult for all of us, so here’s something refreshing, something new, and it’s just going to be good for everybody.

There’s more acreage on the Resorts World site to accommodate expansion with new towers and rooms. That will be a market-driven decision, but have Genting or you projected out how long it will be before you begin thinking about expansion?

We’re on 88 acres and we’re only building on two-thirds of that. Before the pandemic, we had conversations almost every day. And then, when this (pandemic) happened, it was more or less concentrated on building Resorts World, knowing we have this other land. But yes, the plan is to continue to add rooms and some attractions. We’ll continue to build our city within a city and find some great partners to help us. That’s what our chairman’s goal has always been, and he’s really good at integrated properties where guests don’t necessarily need to leave. That’s what he’s done all over the world. We think we could continue to add attractions and things like that to just add more value to the property. So nothing right now is planned, but there will be more to come. I think we want to get it open and get our legs settled in before we expand.

For more coverage of Resorts World visit lvrj.com/resortsworld.

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

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