The Las Vegas Strip somehow came through the covid pandemic stronger than it was in 2019. Caesars Entertainment (CZR) - Get Free Report and MGM Resorts International (MGM) - Get Free Report both made major moves with MGM selling Mirage and buying Cosmopolitan while Caesars rebranded Bally's under its Horseshoe Brand.
In addition, Caesars spent the year teasing the sale of Flamingo but ultimately did not make that deal. It was a comeback year for the twin titans of Las Vegas with crowds returning, a triumphant NFL Draft, and conventions lining up for a normal 2023.
The Las Vegas story in 2023 -- at least as we enter the year -- won't be what Caesars and MGM have planned. That could change, of course, but the biggest changes coming to Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Strip in 2023 won't be from the Strip's two dominant players.
In 2022, Las Vegas added 1,335 rooms and 225,000 square feet of convention space, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LCVS). That growth is about to explode in 2023.
"The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s tourism construction bulletin — listing what’s on the development horizon -- shows $3.2 billion in projects coming online by the end of 2023 with 4,758 new hotel rooms and 581,000 square feet of new convention space," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
That's exciting, but new casinos and a huge new performance venue may be the second biggest Las Vegas story of the new year.
Legal Consumption Coming to Las Vegas
Las Vegas has legal cannabis, but while the law seems straightforward, there's a major catch.
"A person who is 21 years of age or older is allowed to possess and consume retail marijuana. A marijuana consumer may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 1/8 of an ounce of concentrated marijuana. Marijuana can only be purchased legally from state-licensed retail marijuana stores," the law states.
The problem -- and it's a big one -- is that it's not legal to smoke marijuana anywhere in Las Vegas except for a private residence. No hotel allows guests to smoke marijuana and there are no legal consumption lounges.
That has pushed consumption onto the Strip, into parking lots, and really pretty much everywhere outside around the city. Police aren't going to arrest you for lighting up, but having legal pot without a legal place to smoke it is not ideal.
That's going to change in the coming year.
Las Vegas, and more broadly the state of Nevada, has a plan to create legal cannabis-consumption lounges. These would work a lot like bars, except they won't be allowed to sell alcohol. The lounges will be a place where tourists (and residents) can legally smoke cannabis products.
There will be two types of consumption lounges. First, there are the ones that will be associated with existing dispensaries. Planet 13 (PLNHF) , the largest cannabis retailer in Las Vegas, has actually opted to give up its liquor license in order to open a marijuana-consumption lounge.
In addition to lounges associated with dispensaries, Nevada also plans to issue 20 licenses for stand-alone cannabis-consumption lounges, according to the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board.
These lounges will begin opening in the new year. Planet 13 sits about a mile off the Strip. Federal law makes it impossible for casino operators to add lounges, but Las Vegas Strip consumption lounges could happen in locations that are far enough away from casinos.
MSG Sphere, Huge New Casino Coming
In addition to adding consumption lounges, Las Vegas will also welcome an improbable opening in late 2023. Fontainebleau Las Vegas will complete a nearly 20-year odyssey when it opens late this year continuing the revitalization of the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.
The project, which had been left for dead many times over the past two decades, recently got a $2.2 billion loan to ensure its completion.
Once complete Fontainebleau Las Vegas will cover 25 acres and nine million square feet directly adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center. It will feature approximately 3,700 luxury hotel rooms, 550,000 square feet of customizable convention and meeting space, and a "world-class" collection of gaming, dining, retail, lifestyle, and health and wellness experiences, according to its owners.
In addition to Fontainebleau, the Las Vegas Strip will also welcome the MSG (MSGE) - Get Free Report Sphere, a $2,2 billion music/performance venue that's being built near the Venetian. The Sphere, which will open in the second half of 2023 with U2 expected to play a residency there.
When it's complete the venue will be a 17,500-seat performance hall that will offer the world’s highest-resolution LED screen inside a 366-foot-high steel sphere that will also feature more than 160,000 speakers. It will be used for immersive, custom-made attractions, live performances, sports, gaming, and corporate events.