A New Frugality Invades Las Vegas

Frugality is probably not the first word one would associate with a city known for sin and excess. But in the wake of the global financial crash, Matthew Garrahan examines how Las Vegas is pursuing a conservative path to recovery.

Plans for the renovation of the historic Sahara casino by Los Angeles-based SBE group stand in stark contrast to how such a project would have proceeded prior the recession. "Before the 2008 crash," says Garrahan, "any company seeking to redevelop an older casino hotel would have knocked it down and built a new one in its place." MGM's massive $9 billion City­Center project, on the other hand, which opened at the end of 2009 and is now slashing prices for its condos, is the symbol of the way things were prior to the crash, when Las Vegas "stood as a shining example of the power of the leisure economy."

"Property buyers taking advantage of the sharply reduced prices in Vegas at CityCenter and across the broader residential market will find a city that is re-examining how it attracts tourists and residents," observes Garrahan.

"For years, demand was so strong that every time a new casino resort opened with thousands of rooms there would be people to fill it. But casino operators have become more circumspect and, as the Sahara redevelopment shows, small and affordable is now the norm, rather than big at any cost, with debt, The Sahara redevelopment will cost $765m, much less than multibillion-dollar new-build projects such as CityCenter, the Bellagio or the Wynn Las Vegas that have sprung up in Las Vegas over the past 20 years. Instead of adding thousands of new rooms, SBE is focusing on quality rather than quantity."

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