Las Vegas Strip Changed Forever: Landmark Hotel’s Closure Ends an Iconic Era
The Las Vegas Strip is no stranger to loss, as several major hallmarks of the location have closed between 2023 and 2024.
Despite the patch of road only being 4.2 miles, it is one of the hallmarks of the United States — and many have mourned the loss of their favorite haunts and hangs. Here’s what you need to know about the Las Vegas closures.
The Most Recent Loss: Siegfried & Roy’s
The first closure (and most recent) that this list will mention is the Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.
This unique experience served as a last “remembrance of famed magicians and their longstanding run as headliners at Mirage,” per MSN. It will allegedly be rebranded as Hard Rock Las Vegas after the closure and renovations.
How People Remember Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat was a rare example of an entertaining educational attraction in Las Vegas. It opened in 1990 and became known for housing Siegfried & Roy’s famous white tigers.
The center was a beacon for providing sustainability, wildlife preservation, and attracting thousands of regular victors yearly. It even made it to the hall of fame in Las Vegas Magazine in 2021.
HRI Keeps Expanding
HRI, or Hard Rock International, is continuing to expand and snap up buildings on the historic Las Vegas strip. They recently purchased Mirage from MGM, per MSN, and plans to close the Volcano.
The Volcano was once a well-known free show and one of the only of its kind. It will be replaced by HRI’s Guitar Hotel.
It’s Not Just Hotels
Per MSN, there are numerous show closures that are coming or that have already come to the Las Vegas strip.
The most notable among many include Lin Manuel Miranda’s recent musical, Legends in Concert, and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell piece, per the outlet.
Why Are There So Many Closures Happening in Las Vegas?
Some businesses and retailers in Las Vegas are citing financial hardship and safety concerns as reasons for leaving the downtown Las Vegas Strip. Fox 5 in Vegas reported in January that one business owner, Cathy Brooks said the city doesn’t feel the same as it once did.
“The kinds of threats that really lead me to the decision that this neighborhood was no longer a safe place for a standalone small business were things like gun violence, things like large groups of unruly individuals,” she said.
Bed Bath and Beyond is Closed Stores
KSNV reported in 2023 that a popular Bed Bath & Beyond location closed down in southwest Las Vegas. The company announced a list of hundreds of stores closing, citing financial struggles. Later that year, Bed Bath & Beyond officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. (via Axios)
Their liquidation strategy was successful, allowing them to get court approval for a company reorganization plan. The assets of the company were purchased by Overstock.com.
The Las Vegas Economy Has Struggled to Recover
In 2023 the New York Times reported that the pandemic recovery had left Las Vegas behind. While many tourist areas in the United States were able to return to pre-pandemic traffic levels, the same was not true for Las Vegas.
Nevada was one of the hardest hit states by the pandemic, with many businesses choosing to permanently close their doors during that time, unable to deal with the financial stress.
Rising Inflation Caused Las Vegas Worker Strife
The Guardian reported in 2022 that the rising costs associated with inflation were kicking Las Vegas workers while they were down. Protests by hospitality service workers in car parks became an increasingly common sight.
Their wages were not keeping up with the cost of inflation, leaving them unable to afford basic expenses like food and rent. Previously unemployment hit 30% at the height of COVID, but in 2022 it was still 5%, which was higher than the national average.
The Las Vegas Worker Wage Struggle
While unemployment numbers improved in Las Vegas, wages did not enjoy the same level of improvement.
A Las Vegas housekeeper at the Bellagio, Gladis Blanco said in 2022 “Everything is going up. Gas, food, rent, everything. But not our wages. It’s getting better for businesses but not for us: we are still struggling.” Workers are feeling the strain, which is contributing to many of the recent closures of historic landmarks in downtown Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Was Ground Zero for the Pandemic's Economic Impact
Brian Gordon, principal of an economic analyst company in Las Vegas commented in 2022 how delicate the economics at play in the strip are.
“It’s becoming a more delicate situation every day,” he said “Las Vegas was ground zero for what the pandemic meant: casinos had never shut down before. Right at the time when the recovery is taking hold, global economic factors are taking hold. Global inflation, supply chain challenges, rising interest rates, all of that is putting downwards pressure on spending.”
Rising Housing Costs in Las Vegas
Another factor that is driving the negative economic outcomes for workers and businesses in Las Vegas is the soaring housing and property costs.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the median price of a single-family home in the area increased from $430,990 to $450,000 between November 2023 and November 2022. This is a 4.4 percent increase. the price hikes are driven by a combination of inflation and a lack of housing supply.
Why Is Housing Inventory So Low?
The housing shortage in Las Vegas and many other parts of the country is driven by a combination of inflation and rising interest rates on homes.
The construction of new homes has not kept up with demand, in part because of the rising costs of materials and labor shortage. Another factor involves investors who buy up properties, hoping to speculate on them and make money by selling them as the price goes up.
Real Estate Speculation in Las Vegas
In January, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a wall street-backed company bought up 264 in a single sale during 2023.
The firm known as Starwood Capital Group purchased homes in Clark County or in the Las Vegas area for a total of $98 million. This purchase was led by Barry Sternlicht, a billionaire who happens to be the United States largest owner of single-family rental homes.
Is There Hope for a Las Vegas Recovery?
Until the confluence of factors driving down wages and keeping prices high for the average Las Vegas resident end, the recovery of the city is bound to continue to be slow. Casinos, one thing the area is known for are also having to deal with competition from online gambling and digital casinos.
In 2023 Forbes reported that casino patrons are getting increasingly aged, typically being 50 years or older. As casino patrons age out, businesses in the strip will need to find a way to appeal to the younger generations.
The New Era of Casino Gaming
The casino industry is undergoing a significant transformation with the entrance of Generation Z as the next wave of potential players, Forbes notes.
This shift is largely due to the changing perceptions of gambling, influenced by the legalization and launch of online sports betting following the overturn of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018. This legal change has opened the door to a younger demographic, introducing a new perspective on gambling that merges traditional and digital experiences.
The Rise of Young Bettors
A recent Pew Research Center survey highlights a growing trend among U.S. adults, with approximately 19% reporting that they have bet on sports in some form in the past 12 months.
This survey also found that Americans aged 50 and older were more likely than adults under 50 to say that legalized sports betting is a bad thing for both society (41% vs. 27%) and sports (38% vs. 29%). This underlines the increasing acceptance and participation in gambling activities, particularly among younger generations.
Insights from Industry Leaders
In an effort to understand the evolving landscape of the casino industry, conversations with gaming executives like Alex Monahan, CEO at OddsJam, Cooper Lycan, Founder and CEO of SoBet, and Christopher Justice, President at Global Payments Gaming Solutions, provide valuable insights.
These discussions reveal a consensus on the importance of integrating digital innovations to create a seamless gambling experience that caters to the preferences of younger players.
The Future of In-Person and Online Gambling
Monahan of OddsJam describes the ideal casino of the future as an integrated hybrid of in-person and online experiences.
He emphasizes the concept of “Omnichannel” as crucial for blending digital innovations like cashless payments and online rewards programs with traditional casino offerings.
Embracing a Diverse Audience
The shift towards a more inclusive and diverse gambling environment is a key focus for the future of casinos.
Lycan of SoBet highlights the need for the industry to adjust to the changing consumer behaviors of a less male-dominated and more diverse audience. Creating welcoming spaces that reflect the values of Gen Z and younger Millennials is essential for attracting and retaining this demographic.
The Data-Driven Approach to Gambling
Forbes explains that the trend towards a more analytical approach to gambling is evident in the preferences of Millennials and Gen Z.
According to Monahan, the future of iGaming will place less emphasis on handicapping and more on data. This shift reflects the digital nativity of younger generations, who are accustomed to making decisions based on data and analytics, a trend that is shaping the evolution of the gambling industry.
Key Trends in the Gaming Industry for 2023
Speaking to Forbes, Justice from Global Payments Gaming Solutions points to modern payment solutions as a significant trend for the coming year.
The adoption of innovative technology in payment methods is not only cost-effective for companies but also provides immediate access to funds, enhancing the customer experience.
Adapting Content for Gen Z
The adaptation of gambling content to meet the preferences of Gen Z is a strategic focus for platforms like SoBet.
Lycan discusses the importance of providing content in formats familiar to younger audiences, such as creator-led videos and social media-style write-ups.
A New Generation of Talent in the Gambling Industry
The gambling industry is seeing a generational shift not only in its customer base but also among its workforce.
Monahan notes the trend of hiring young, passionate individuals who are already engaged in sports betting and gambling. This strategy leverages the enthusiasm and expertise of younger generations to create a more dynamic and engaging gambling experience.
Digital Payment Preferences of Gen Z
The preference for digital over traditional payment methods among Gen Z is influencing the payments landscape in casinos.
Justice discusses the shift towards mobile and contactless payments, driven by the convenience and efficiency these methods offer. This evolution in payment preferences is expected to continue as the industry moves towards more digital solutions.
Strategic Focus on Payment Solutions
Improving operations and enhancing the payment experience are key strategic priorities for the casino industry.
Justice shares that focusing on creating robust e-check networks and other payment solutions can significantly improve the patron’s experience by facilitating easier deposits and withdrawals.
Transforming the Casino Experience for Gen Z
The transformation of the casino floor to appeal to Gen Z involves integrating digital technology with traditional gambling elements.
This approach is aimed at creating a diverse and inclusive environment that resonates with the values and preferences of younger players. As the industry evolves, casinos are challenged to adapt to these changes to remain competitive and relevant in the digital age.
More Strip Closures Predicted for 2024
Several major closures are still anticipated in 2024, per MSN. Notable names on the 2024 closure list include Casino Royale and the Tropicana.
Both of these casinos are two of the oldest known on the Strip, and hold key pieces of Las Vegas history. While the Tropicana has been confirmed to be set for implosion, no news has come forth regarding Casino Royale.
The History of the Casino Royale
The Casino Royale Hotel & Casino opened its doors as a hotel in 1964, then named the Caravan Motor Hotel. However, a casino portion opened up in 1978 under the name Nob Hill.
After a closure 12 years after the casino opening, the building reopened under the name Casino Royale in 1992, the name people today recognize it by. In 2012 it was purchased by Best Western, making its official name today “The Best Western Plus Casino Royale.”
Why Is The Tropicana Getting Imploded?
MSN has confirmed that the Tropicana will be imploded in 2024, presumably to make room for a new stadium for the Oakland Athletics.
The outlet has confirmed that Bally’s Corp has reached a deal with the team that runs the Tropicana, and has gotten approval for the build from Vici Properties — the entity that owns the land.
What Will the New Stadium for Oakland Athletics Look Like?
After the Tropicana is imploded, the next build will be the Oakland Athletics stadium. The Strip is no stranger to athletic builds, as the Raiders stadium just went up a few years prior.
The stadium will allegedly have industry-leading features and enough seating for 30,000-33,000 fans — making it competitive for large-scale sporting events, per MSN.
More Than Sports: Gathering Together
An interview given by design director Brad Schrock was quoted by MSN, as he stated that the big goal (among others) of this build was to feature a “unique seating capacity.” They fell on 30-33,000 seats.
“We want to make sure the way the seating bowl is designed has the flexibility to accommodate multiple events, and that it’s a really fun place,” he said.
Leaving Behind a Piece of History
The Tropicana has already survived a partial implosion before, back in the 1970s. The original casino element had been imploded, leaving behind the bungalow-style rooms.
This implosion will remove the rooms permanently, omitting the oldest hotel rooms on the strip. They have been closed since mid-November in preparation for this, per MSN.
Wait a Minute — What About The Flamingo?
Las Vegas aficionados will likely call out the fact that the Flamingo is technically the oldest casino/hotel on the Strip — but per MSN, their rooms no longer exist.
This means that the claim of the oldest hotel rooms on the Strip does fairly belong to the Tropicana at this time — and sadly, they will never be used again prior to the implosion.
When Will the Stadium Host Some Teams?
Per MSN, the Oakland Athletics won’t actually physically play on the Strip until 2028, in theory. The 2024 season is already confirmed to be hosted in Oakland.
Plans for subsequent games haven’t been released yet, as they are still over a year away. They will likely make local headlines once released, however, as this transition has been emotional for many regional residents.
A Final Note From John Fisher
The owner of the Athletics, John Fisher, did leave a profound final note to MSN regarding the closures and impending implosions.
“We made sincere efforts to keep our team in Oakland…[I’m] grateful to the fans who have supported our team throughout the years and the home Oakland provided.”