Downtown casinos collected an unprecedented $684.9 million in pre-tax gaming wins from customers in 2019, the market’s best gaming revenue performance in nearly 30 years. Prior to 2019’s revenue performance, 1992 saw downtown’s largest gaming revenue year.
In 1992, downtown casinos collected $703 million. The reason for the following 25-year gaming revenue low had to do mainly with casino expansion on the Strip, local casinos, the Great Recession, and the expansion of legal gambling in other states.
But what has made downtown a unique place for customers to flock to recently is the perfect harmony they’ve been able to foster with the existence of gaming and non-gaming entertainment alike.
And while some have expressed concern over downtown’s newest mega-resort Circa disrupting the gaming market, others aren’t losing sleep. In fact, Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith shares his insight into why he thinks downtown’s economy is booming:
“Downtown is a value-oriented market that has a certain authenticity factor,” said Smith.
Smith’s first company downtown, the iconic California Hotel Casino, has operated in the area since 1975. Boyd Gaming added two more well-known downtown properties over the years, Fremont and Main Street Station.
Downtown Offers a High-Energy Experience
What enabled downtown to finally come back in their numbers this past year?
Well, for one, it wasn’t an overnight process. You can trace it back to the downtown revival that began with Zappos founder Tony Hsieh moving his company’s headquarters downtown into the former City Hall building.
Hsieh launched and funded the Downtown Project (DTP) back in 2012. According to the description on their official website, Downtown Project’s is:
“A privately-funded, for-profit enterprise dedicated to helping revitalize part of downtown Las Vegas by investing in people and projects that share our vision of downtown as a hub of inspiration, entrepreneurial energy, creativity, innovation, prosperity, and discovery fueled by the Three C’s: collisions, co-learning, and connectedness.”
DTP helped position downtown as a uniquely diverse Vegas experience, and the “spot to be” among locals and tourists alike.
What Sets Downtown Apart
Downtown has many experiences that make it a hot-spot in the valley. It’s a refuge for tourists who are looking for a more authentic experience, and one that’s more manageable than the Las Vegas Strip, which can be an overwhelming place for visitors at times.
But that’s not to say that downtown is without its own set of bells and whistles. For one, it hosts the annual Life is Beautiful music festival that draws in more than 180,000 people each year.
Fremont East District also features a ton of local artwork, bars, and dining that allow visitors to slow down in a sense and feel a more down-home local community,
The Fremont Street Experience, which features an LED screen canopy that enlightens spectators with vibrant Vegas-themed display and popular music, is a huge drawing point for visitors. In fact, in data found a recent visitor profile, 54% of tourists said they went downtown to see the Fremont Street Experience.
What’s Coming to Downtown in 2020
One of the most highly anticipated projects scheduled to open its door this December is the new Circa Casino Resort. It will be the first resort of its kind in the area, and will proudly stand at the tallest building downtown.
Circa will feature 777 rooms, a multi-level sportsbook, and the “world’s greatest pool.”
While many have been divided in their overall opinions of the downtown area, the introduction of a new state-of-art property like Circa is sure to positively change the mind of downtown naysayers.
Circa’s owner, David Stevens, has, much like Tony Hseih, done a lot to revitalize the downtown area through the properties he currently runs and owns. Besides Circa, he created the Downtown Events Center, a three-acre open entertainment space, and owns and operates The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate casinos.
“People want to come to a downtown area to visit and to also live in an area that’s vibrant and offers so much to do and see,” Stevens said.
Seth Schorr, chairman of Downtown Grand for the Evil Pie restaurant venture on East Fremont, says these new projects and developments are continuing to steadily build the downtown brand in a positive light.
“What’s been important is the new types of businesses helped change the brand positioning of downtown,” Schorr said.“At Downtown Grand, we created an experience that complements and blends in with other parts of downtown.”
Schorr commended Stevens on bringing “significant investment and unique offerings” to downtown.
Casinos Operators Will Continue to Make Downtown Thrive
Downtown is experiencing major growth and visitation in recent years, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The unique culture that’s only found that is a huge selling point, but downtown casino operators get major credit for growing their customer base.
According to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, casino operators are to thank for the many new businesses that are opening up shop in the area. She believes it’s the casinos that are the main driving force behind the versatility and attractive amenities that bring tourists and locals alike to the area.
Goodman also gives casino operators credit for successfully breeding an environment that puts value on non-gaming projects, since it enhances the entire downtown image overall.
“Downtown reflects how gaming and our businesses are working shoulder to shoulder to create an area of excitement,” Goodman said.