The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t through with Southern Nevada when 2020 ended. ■ Pardon the pun, but local businesses endured new strains with worker shortages and supply-chain problems replacing panic buying and hoarding. ■ That was 2021’s top business story as chosen by the Las Vegas Review-Journal business staff. ■ Here’s how we ranked the rest of the top stories.
1Businesses suffer worker shortages, upheaval from pandemic.
Businesses lucky enough to survive the pandemic with its forced shutdowns and constantly changing COVID-19 safety mandates were excited to welcome back locals and tourists.
But many of Nevada’s business owners quickly faced new headwinds — a worker shortage and supply-chain issues.
While the panic buying and hoarding of some products, such as toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and shelf-stable foods like ramen and cereal were prevalent in early 2020, supply-chain issues stemming from imported goods were the major problems in 2021.
Lumber was in short supply for homebuilders. Anything with a microchip was delayed. Buyers of new cars had to wait months for delivery.
The challenges meant higher payroll and operating costs as businesses, particularly restaurants, competed for workers and supplies. Many are still feeling the strain.
And, as cases of the omicron variant increase, economists are saying those problems could persist well into next year.
2Casino properties change hands in a burst of deals.
You needed a scorecard to keep track of the number of times resort companies and real estate investment trusts shuffled the ownership deck in Las Vegas.
Most of the deals were complicated and required the approval of regulators to close. For that reason, while several deals were announced in 2021, most won’t be completed until 2022 or beyond. Here’s a summary of the biggest deals:
■ In March, New York-based Apollo Global Management Inc., which is partnering with Vici Properties Inc., New York, announced it is buying The Venetian, Palazzo and the Venetian Expo Center for $6.25 billion. The deal is expected to close early next year.
■ In April, Bally’s Corp. announced it was buying the operation of the Tropicana from Penn National Gaming Corp. for $308 million. Penn REIT affiliate Gaming &Leisure Properties Inc. would continue to own the real estate. The deal is expected to close in early 2022. The Tropicana has been reported as a potential site for a baseball stadium for the Oakland Athletics, which has been given permission from Major League Baseball to explore a possible relocation to Las Vegas.
■ In May, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians acquired the Palms for $650 million from Red Rock Resorts, parent company of Station Casinos. The tribe was licensed, and the deal was closed this month, but the Palms won’t reopen until spring.
■ In July, MGM Resorts International announced it was selling the Aria and Vdara in CityCenter for nearly $3.9 billion and would rent them back in a real estate investment trust deal with the Blackstone Group.
■ In August, Caesars Entertainment Inc. partner Vici Properties unveiled a $17 billion-plus acquisition of a fellow casino landlord, MGM Resorts spinoff MGM Growth Properties, giving Vici real estate ownership of many of the biggest hotel-casinos on the Strip.
■ In September, New York financial conglomerate Blackstone announced it is selling The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for $5.65 billion, nearly $4 billion more than its purchase price in 2014. As part of the sale, MGM Resorts is acquiring the Cosmo’s operations side for more than $1.6 billion.
■ In November, the original developer of the Fontainebleau project, Jeffrey Soffer, announced he was buying out Marriott International for the 67-story property on the north Strip. Soffer is partnering with the real estate wing of Kansas conglomerate Koch Industries on the deal and expects to open the doors of the three-quarters finished property in 2023.
■ This month, the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock International announced it is buying The Mirage for $1.075 billion. The deal should close in the latter half of 2022.
Next in line for new development, but without a transaction, is Station Casinos, which first announced in May that it would spend $750 million to develop a new locals property in southwest Las Vegas off Durango Drive.
3Southern Nevada’s housing market breaks records.
Las Vegas’ housing market heated up in 2021 as sales set records nearly every month.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes — the bulk of the market — was $420,000 in November. That was up 2.4 percent, or $10,000, from the previous record set in October and 21.7 percent from November of last year, according to reports from trade association Las Vegas Realtors.
Buyers picked up 3,273 houses in November, up 6.4 percent from October and 7.8 percent from November 2020.
At the same time, Southern Nevada’s inventory of available listings shrank.
A total of 2,805 single-family houses were on the market without offers at the end of November, down 14.7 percent from October and 25.3 percent year over year, the association reported.
Southern Nevada’s housing market heated up this year with rapid sales and record prices, thanks largely to rock-bottom mortgage rates that have let buyers stretch their budgets.
Las Vegas has also seen a higher-than-usual tally of out-of-state buyers, including from more expensive markets, as people sought more space amid widespread work-from-home arrangements.
Overall, buyers have showered properties with offers and routinely paid over the asking price, and median sales prices have been setting all-time highs practically every month.
4State gaming win on pace for a record streak.
In March, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported the state’s casinos won $1.06 billion from players.
Then in April, they won $1.04 billion. And so on, and so on, through October.
The eight-month streak of gaming wins tied a record for the number of consecutive months win has exceeded $1 billion, set from October 2006 to May 2007. Win totals are important because that’s the amount taxed and directed into the state’s general fund.
The public will learn Wednesday whether the 2021 run will break the 15-year-old record. That’s when the Control Board will announce win statistics from November.
The gaming win streak has been caused by pent-up demand from tourists wanting to treat themselves after being cooped up by the COVID-19 pandemic and an abundance of special events in Las Vegas that have drawn people to town – Raiders’ games and big concerts at Allegiant Stadium, major boxing and mixed-martial arts matches, the National Finals Rodeo, large festivals including Life Is Beautiful and Electric Daisy Carnival and three casino properties that opened this year and one that opened just two months before 2021 arrived.
5Virgin Hotels, Resorts World Las Vegas open their doors.
Those casino properties that opened this year that weren’t here last year included Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which opened its 1,504 rooms on March 25, and Resorts World Las Vegas, which added its 3,506 rooms on June 24. A third, Circa, opened its casino Oct. 28, 2020.
Virgin Hotels, the former site of the off-Strip Hard Rock Hotel, is owned by JC Hospitality and Virgin Hotels with its casino managed by Mohegan Sun Entertainment — the first Indian tribe to be licensed for a commercial casino in the state. Hilton Worldwide manages the lodging for Virgin Hotels Las Vegas as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection.
Hilton also is a big player at Resorts World with three brands housed in its towers. The $4.3 billion Resorts World, owned and managed by the Malaysia-based Genting Group, was the first Strip resort to open since 2010.
Resorts World also has a 5,000-seat theater that is home to four entertainment residences, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood and Celine Dion, and a 100,000-square-foot video screen, one of the largest in the world, on the south-facing side of the resort.
6Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson dies.
Adelson, who rose from selling newspapers on Boston street corners at age 12 to one of the most successful luxury resort developers, philanthropists and political influencers of his generation, died Jan. 11 at his home in Malibu, California. He was 87.
Adelson founded and served as chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world’s largest gaming corporation, from its inception in 1988. He had been on medical leave from the company earlier in January to resume his fight against non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which he had battled since 2019.
In a statement, Sands said Adelson died from complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Under Adelson’s leadership, Las Vegas Sands pioneered the integrated resort model that now dominates the Strip, combining luxury hotel-casinos with convention centers.
Former Chief Operating Officer Rob Goldstein took over as CEO and is carrying out Adelson’s plan to sell the company’s Las Vegas assets for $6.25 billion to Apollo Global Management Inc. and partner Vici Properties Inc., both of New York. The company will focus on its current operations in Macao and Singapore and move toward developing new potential domestic markets in Texas, Florida and New York.
7Conventions make their return to Southern Nevada.
The return started with World of Concrete in June and was highlighted by a massive turnout with the Specialty Equipment Market Association in November.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority prepared for months for the return of conventions, trade shows and meetings and made a splash June 8 with a ceremony attended by Gov. Steve Sisolak in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s new West Hall.
Five months later, SEMA — a trade show for aftermarket auto products — claimed the crown as the best attended convention of 2021 when it drew 114,000 people to the city, by far the largest of the year.
8Two Indian tribes licensed for casinos by state.
History was made in March when Mohegan Gaming &Entertainment, operated by Connecticut’s Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, opened the casino floor at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and became the first tribal entity to receive a commercial gaming license in the state. Regulators approved the licensing in October 2020, but it wasn’t until March that Virgin opened the property and the tribe became the resort’s casino operators.
In December this year, a second tribe was licensed in the state, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians of Southern California. The tribe plans to reopen the Palms next spring after purchasing it from Station Casinos.
A third tribe is expected to arrive in Southern Nevada in 2022 after Florida’s Seminole Tribe announced that its Hard Rock International operation is buying The Mirage. If successfully licensed, it would become the first tribal entity to operate on the Strip.
9Convention Center West Hall, Boring tunnels open.
The $1 billion West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center officially opened its doors June 8 to kick off the World of Concrete trade show.
Inside the three-story building is a 600,000-square-foot exhibit hall and 80 meeting rooms that range in size from 18,000 square feet to 700 square feet. There’s also a food court and an outdoor terrace with views of the Strip.
The new hall may not even be the most talked-about feature of the building. The Convention Center Loop, a $52.5 million underground transit system using Tesla vehicles in 2-mile-long parallel tunnels, opened at the same time as the West Hall. The system is designed to shuttle conventioneers from one end of the Convention Center to the other.
Developed by Elon Musk’s The Boring Co., the concept is being expanded through the rest of the city. Boring is in the early stages of building the Vegas Loop, a system of 15 miles of tunnels that would serve the resort corridor, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport.
10Millions of dollars at stake in resolution of Tony Hsieh estate.
The future of former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s fortune isn’t close to being determined, but family members handling his estate say his Scotch 80s luxury estate will soon be sold.
Attorneys for Hsieh’s family filed papers in December in his Clark County District Court probate case showing the sprawling home at 1250 Shadow Lane is being sold for $2.1 million to Pui Chu Yee.
Hsieh, who died from injuries suffered in a Connecticut house fire in November 2020, didn’t have a will, and many have filed claims alleging they’re owed money from the estate.
Hsieh was the face of downtown Las Vegas’ revival. In 2012, he launched a side venture originally called Downtown Project to invest $350 million into the Fremont Street area, and in 2013, he moved Zappos from a Henderson office park to the former Las Vegas City Hall. He also had become one of downtown’s biggest property owners through his downtown venture’s real estate buying binge, assembling a portfolio of apartment complexes, retail and office buildings, shuttered motels and vacant lots.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, widow of Sheldon Adelson and the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian and Palazzo.
Contact Richard N. Velotta at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Review-Journal assistant business editor Subrina Hudson and staff writer Eli Segall contributed to this story.