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Game-Free Growth: The New Vegas Focuses on Entertainment and Experiences

Non-Gaming Vegas Offerings Bringing in Jackpot-Sized Revenue

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Casinos may have built Las Vegas, and folks are still saddling up to slot machines, but gaming revenue is on a steady decline there according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Rising in its place is a new wave of game-free growth that includes entertainment and culinary experiences driven by celebrities, beyond-the-boarding hotel offerings, and family-friendly options for travelers of all ages. Among them, Vegas Uncork'd, a weekend of food and wine events sponsored by Chase Sapphire Preferred®.

Is Vegas the New Hollywood?

Vegas' growth is bringing more stars in than ever before. "Vegas is now the place where entertainers go in their prime," says Rodric Hurdle-Bradford, who operates a travel information service. "From a performer standpoint, this may be its biggest year ever with Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Ritchie, and Pitbull, who represent the four highest-demand acts at one hotel that I can remember."

Marquee performers and celebrity chefs are changing the face of Vegas, agrees Mathew Lasky, CFO of Multi Media Management, as visitors rally for the best seats and reservations nightly. "Food and Vegas have always gone hand in hand, but now every casino has at least two 5-star places vs. a handful in the past," says Lasky. "It's the biggest change I've seen."

Indeed, "celebrity" is beating out "casino" one star at a time, says Hurdle-Bradford. "People watch these chefs on TV, then go to restaurants in Vegas to try the food for themselves."

It's all about travelers' appetites for experience. "Celebrity restaurants have become Vegas attractions," says Hurdle-Bradford. As such, Vegas businesses are able to attract different clientele—foodies and families, in this case—instead of just high-stakes gamblers and club-goers.

Jo Cato, CEO and principal of Periwinkle Media Group, a Nevada advertising, marketing and public relations firm, affirms the shift, citing 2015 findings from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research that show gaming revenues accounted for $13.9 billion in revenue while gaming accounted for $10.6 billion.

Hotels (Deliciously) Sell Out

Vegas hotels that once made their profits in gambling are now finding other recipes for revenue success by leasing onsite space not only to restaurants, but to retail outlets and nightclubs as well. "This is a big shift in the last 10 years, and will continue as casinos have shareholders to answer to," says Hurdle-Bradford.

"Hotels are benefiting tremendously from revenue generated from entertainment," says Cato. "They've seen an increase in reservations, and visitors are spending more on non-gaming experiences." Many hotels are creating in-house non-gaming activities to entice guests to open their wallets to more amenities, he says.

Treasure Island's forthcoming attraction based on Marvel Comics' "The Avengers," and SPEEDVEGAS, a 100-acre motorsports complex featuring the city's longest exotic car track, are just a few of the new non-gaming offerings putting Vegas on the top of people's travel itineraries. "Magic, circuses, comedy and more are also raking in money," says Erica Sandberg, a consumer finance expert.

Conventions have also been a game changer. "I was in Vegas for a convention, and the hotel was sold out, plus the tickets were outrageously expensive," says Sandberg. "Thousands of people were there—most not gambling, but for the convention, entertainment and restaurants, and they were opening their wallets at record speed."

Less Sin in the City – Who's Visiting?

With this shift in entertainment and experiential offerings, a new generation of travelers is vacationing in Vegas—and staying longer. "Since shows get sold out fast, people plan vacations around their availability. This keeps a steady stream of people spending on dining too," says Lasky. "People also rent cabanas, get bottle service and pay extra pool fees to enhance their experience."

The added options have held the door open for Vegas to promote itself as a family vacation spot, which is helping the local economy, says Sandberg. "The prices for food are higher thanks to high-profile chefs and these kid-friendly places, drawing families in to eat, which can cost a fortune."

Such offerings open Vegas up to everybody, no matter their age or interests, attracting a broader and more diverse demographic than gambling did, says Hurdle-Bradford.

Las Vegas is also home to Vegas Uncork'd, a celebration of wine, food and spirits sponsored by Chase Sapphire. Visit for more information. Not yet a cardmember?  Explore the premium travel rewards of Chase Sapphire Preferred.

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