New resort is an ode to Vegas’ past

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Las Vegas celebrates a milestone this week with Wednesday’s opening of the Circa Resort & Casino that’s expected to be a game-changer for downtown and cool hangout for sports bettors.

Although the hotel won’t be open until late December, this is the first new resort to open since The Cosmopolitan in 2010. It marks the first new ground-up property in downtown since the former Sundance — now called the D Las Vegas — opened in 1980. The D is also owned by Circa CEO Derek Stevens.

“It’s an incredible milestone for the city and for downtown, especially representing the first new build from the ground up in 40 years,” said Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization. “As downtown Las Vegas continues to revitalize, whether you are talking COVID-19 or not, it’s important because the industry and the city has gone through some troubling times for the better part of 2020. It will be nice to see a new property open and new gaming experience open. The industry and the city needs some reconfiguration.”

The two-story casino measures 1.25 million square feet

and will feature 1,350 slot machines and 49 table games. It has five bars and six restaurants and 777 hotel rooms in the 44-story property.

It has what’s dubbed the world’s largest sportsbook at three stories and the most amount of seating at 1,000 and most pixels at 78 million.

The property’s showcase is its fifth-floor pool deck, which will operate year-round with six temperature-controlled pools and two spas and includes a 14-million-pixel screen to show live sports and special events.

Swissman said Stevens has proven himself to be a “pretty bold visionary” that’s willing to do things and take risks and build properties on his own terms.

“It represents a rekindling of the entrepreneurial spirit of what the gaming industry was in prior eras,” Swissman said. “In many ways, the way he is building Circa is indicative of that with a heavy emphasis on the gaming experience with a 21-and-over-requirement on anybody who comes through the door except for the steakhouse.”

The way COVID-19 has impacted the gaming industry across the country and properties just getting back to basics with their offerings.

“here is a guy where this has been his vision all along,” Swissman said. “I think his timing is pretty spot on.”

The opening of Circa is expected to prompt neighboring properties to make improvements, but they’re also going to benefit from the opening of the new downtown resort.

“Because it’s such a beautiful and brand-new build, it should ultimately bring more people to downtown in general,” Swissman said. “There will be a competitive nature, but the added draw in terms of increased visitation should be beneficial to all properties downtown. The same question was asked every time a new property was built on the Strip. Invariably, every time it proved to be the tide that raises all ships.

“I’m hopeful the same will happen downtown. I’m bullish on what the area has become, and this is another step in the right direction. It will certainly benefit Derek Stevens and his now three-property portfolio in downtown. It will affect everyone in gaming and non-gaming downtown.”

No analysts are expecting Circa to be a big impetus for more people to fly in to visit Las Vegas during a pandemic when the city as a whole isn’t offering many entertainment offerings. It is expected to be an attraction to people already coming to Las Vegas, to local residents and for people driving in from California, especially sports bettors.  The sportsbook will have a dedicated broadcast studio for the sports betting network, VSiN.

“For those who have already made the decision they’re comfortable with traveling to Las Vegas, Circa will definitely be a destination for them, especially if they are of the mindset to check out the latest and greatest and newest thing every time they come to town,” Swissman said. “I don’t know if it will bring a ton more people to town right now, but it will bring a lot more people to downtown that were already planning on coming to town.

“Once the public is more comfortable traveling and visitation volumes start to approach what they were last year and historically, that property does do a good job of bringing additional folks into Las Vegas. Particularly if you are a sportsbook-minded traveler. That’s a sports bettor’s paradise that he’s built.”

John DeCree, global head of institutional research at

Union Gaming, said the Circa is a great property, but it’s opening during a time when there’s lower demand to come to Las Vegas. Passenger travel through McCarran International Airport has been down 60% every month since the casinos reopened in June, and DeCree said it’s going to be at least a year when there’s a vaccine before demand returns.

“They will do pretty well with California drive-ins for people to come check out the new property,” DeCree said. “You always get a little bit of that, but after that trial period, it makes for more competitive downtown and not enough people to go around.

“The first two months will be easier on the competition because people can stay across the street (at those open hotels). You won’t see the full potential of the Circa until the pandemic has found its conclusion.”

Downtown has been the fastest-growing gaming segment in the state and has been revitalized and has an even brighter future, DeCree said.

“It’s becoming increasingly popular for locals and tourists, and the market will be able to support new buildings and expansion,” DeCree said. “The success of Circa will determine whether anyone is interested in expanding. In the long run, it brings more people and attracts more people to downtown that has already been a growing market.

“When there’s a ‘new shiny toy in town,’ there’s an onus on existing operators  to look around and see how they can improve their existing facilities to better compete with the new guy in town,” DeCree said. That elicits additional capture expenditures, but that will have to wait until after the pandemic since no one is in a rush to spend right now, he said.

There’s a lot of anticipation about the opening of Circa.

“I am so excited to see Derek Stevens realize his latest dream in downtown Las Vegas with the opening of Circa,” said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. “This is a game changer for downtown with all the amenities and one-of-a-kind experiences Derek has in store.”

Tom Jingoli, chief operating officer of slot maker Konami Gaming, said Stevens has “done an amazing job with that property.” Konami will have its newest products at the resort.

“I give Derek all the credit for making the investment that he did downtown,” Jingoli said. “It’s an amazing facility and I look forward to seeing how that can revitalize downtown.  “I think it’s going to do extremely well. The target that he is going after — the (adult) clientele — a lot of the things he’s done on the property from sports betting and gambling to a mix of table game and slots and the vibe, it’s going to be exciting for Las Vegas. He’s going to create a ton of excitement in getting people here.” 

About the Author

Buck Wargo

Buck Wargo is a former journalist with the Los Angeles Times and has been based in Las Vegas as a business, real estate and gaming reporter since 2005.

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