By Brad Thomas, Editor, Intelligent Income Daily

Viva, Las Vegas!

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been here, I’m always excited to go again. Which means I was amped going into this week.

I’m writing to you from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), dubbed “the Super Bowl of retail real estate.” Except for the 2020 shutdowns, I’ve gone every single year for over three decades.


Brad at Caesar’s Palace Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
Source: Wide Moat Research

It’s a huge deal for both information gathering and networking. I’ll be sure to share some insights from the conference later in the week.

How anyone can go to Vegas and not enjoy it is beyond me. I guess it takes a certain personality… one I’ve never had.

But to me, the most striking thing about this town is the transformation it’s undergone over the past 40-odd years.

From Seedy to Sensational

When I first came to Vegas in 1988, there wasn’t much to do other than gambling and golf. The mafia was still a factor, though its influence was waning.

I remember the streets were littered with discarded flyers for “adult entertainment.” All-you-can-eat buffet billboards were common. You’d step into a smoke-filled lobby and be greeted by the ringing bells of the slot machines.

It was always a fun town. But it was – by and large – gaudy, and on the seedier side. Those days are long gone.

In the 1980s, Vegas looked something like this:


Source: bygonely

Today, the Vegas “ethos” is this:


Source: Wynn Las Vegas

That’s The Wynn and The Encore, both owned and operated by Wynn Resorts (WYNN). The two complexes were completed – renovations and all – in 2010 at a final price tag of $5.2 billion. In many ways, this one resort is emblematic of the transformation of this town.

There is no gaudy “theme,” no hokey attractions, and no neon billboards for jackpots. Gone are the knick-knacks in the hotel gift shop. Instead, high-end brands like Brioni, Hermès, and Saint Laurent are in the shopping district.

Want an all-you-can-eat buffet? You’ll have to go somewhere else. The Wynn is home to Wing Lei, the first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in North America.

The implication is clear.

This is not the seedy joint of Vegas’ past. This is a place of refinement and serious luxury. And the rest of the town has gotten the message.

In 2016, MGM Resorts (MGM) spent $550 million to renovate the fading Monte Carlo and rebrand it as Park MGM. The purpose was to transform an outdated mega-hotel into a quietly luxurious boutique.

It’s a similar story with other attractions. First, an NHL team was introduced in 2017, complete with a brand-new arena. Then, came the new Las Vegas Raiders and Allegiant Stadium. Finished in 2020, it seats 65,000 and was the home to this past year’s Super Bowl (the actual one, not the retail one).

And we have to mention “The Sphere.”

Opened in 2023, this 366-foot tall, 516-foot-wide ball-shaped building features the world’s most advanced audio and video capabilities, making it perfect for live entertainment. Words don’t really do it justice, but this video is a great inside look.

It’s more than a facelift.

The city has transformed from “Sin City” to a world-class destination for luxury, amenities, and entertainment. And it’s all thanks to the two enduring industries.

Two Booming Industries

Whatever you think of legal gambling, there’s no denying that it’s an incredible business.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board recently announced that 2023 was another record year for gaming revenue. Las Vegas brought in $8.83 billion just from gambling last year. That was a 7.2% increase from 2022 and the third straight year of gaming growth.

The city’s other main industry – hospitality – is also booming. The Las Vegas Review Journal tells us that revenue per available room – a common metric for hotels and resorts – was $159.73 in 2023, up from $135 the year before.

What’s interesting is that this happened even as hotel room inventory is the largest ever at 155,662. It seems consumers are eager to take all the city has to offer, and Vegas is more than happy to provide it.

Here are some other interesting stats for the city:

  • 41 million people visited last year

  • 6 million convention visitors

  • 58 million airline passengers (an all-time record)

  • A 7.2% year-over-year increase in annual gaming revenue

  • $8.9 billion in gross gaming revenue (another record)

As a former real estate developer, I applaud all the businesses and entrepreneurs of this town. What they’ve done over the past several years is nothing short of remarkable. And I’ve been getting a taste of the new, high-end Vegas on this trip.

When I checked into the Trump International Hotel, I mentioned that I knew its owner. Which I do. I literally wrote the book on him and his real estate holdings: The Trump Factor.

Hearing that, the very nice concierge people bumped me right up to the 55th floor, where I had a magnificent view of the Strip. The room itself was spacious, classy, and unbelievably comfortable.

It’s a testament to what this town has become. And it’s one of the reasons we’ll continue to look for interesting investment opportunities in the legal gambling and high-end hospitality space.

I’ll have more information on Vegas and the larger retail world tomorrow after I’ve flown back home, including some of the very interesting intelligence I gathered at the conference.


Brad Thomas
Editor, Intelligent Income Daily

P.S. I’m not a huge gambler, but I do enjoy the roulette and blackjack tables on my annual trips to Vegas.

I can genuinely say “enjoy” because I go in with realistic expectations and limitations. I learned to do that the hard way after my first visit there as a young man.

I lost $500 that first visit – a lot of money to me back then. So, ever since, I’ve given myself a hard limit. And once that’s spent, I’m done.

Speaking from that experience, if you’re ever tempted to try your luck at the casino, I’d recommend – like with investing – to diversify.

For roulette, here’s how I play it:

  1. I recognize that playing all red or all black does not make for a 50-50 chance. Not when there are those pesky 0 and 00 slots too. That’s part of why the house always wins.

  2. I select a number straight down the middle of the board – say 23 – which I put a lot of chips on.

  3. I then put a smattering of chips on other numbers in that row. That way, if I hit 23, I’ve won big. And if I don’t, I’ve got a good chance of keeping at least some of my cash.

This allows me to play more rounds, which gives me more chances to hit 23 along the way.

The strategy won’t work every time (obviously). But I have walked away with $10,000 before, so I’m not going to complain.