A Recap of US Casinos in 2023
This year was a big one for physical U.S. casinos, as they once again lead the booming gambling sector in revenues.
Although they face fast-growing competition from online casinos and sports betting, land-based casinos remained the destination of choice for most U.S. gamblers.
Throughout the year, casinos in Nevada, specifically those in Las Vegas, were breaking records across the board.
The year saw two new major casino resorts debut in Sin City, the first in two years, and the list of casinos in Virginia and Illinois also expanded.
However, the cards weren’t all aligned for operators in every market. Efforts to legalize casinos in Texas and to add to the list of casinos in North Carolina failed to pass lawmakers, and hackers, thieves, and scammers were also an ever-present threat.
Viva Las Vegas
It’s basically impossible to talk about U.S. casinos and not mention Las Vegas. Sin City gambling generated more than a billion dollars a month in revenues for ten of the eleven months reported so far in 2023.
The city’s Harry Reid International airport also saw record visitor numbers throughout the year, with some five million people passing through a month.
That fervent year of growth was topped off in exuberant style with November’s Las Vegas Grand Prix. Despite pre-race concerns and criticism from World Champion driver Max Verstappen, after the smoke settled on the track, almost everyone agreed the race itself was a roaring success.
Not much said more than Verstappen’s change of tune after the race. At the festivities, the Dutchman celebrated his epic comeback victory by boisterously singing along to Viva Las Vegas before chugging back the ceremonial champagne.
The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix marked the return of Formula 1 to Sin City after 41 years, having previously hosted the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in 1982.
A Tale of Two Casinos
Meanwhile, another long-awaited project debuted in the city this year – The Fontainebleau Las Vegas. The 23-year wait for the tallest casino hotel tower on the Las Vegas Strip to finally open ended on December 13, complete with star-studded celebrity bash.
Interestingly though, headline performer Justin Timberlake snubbed a free suite at the Fontainebleau (where he’d presumably been paid a hefty sum to perform) in favor of rooms at Wynn Las Vegas. A turn of events that Wynn Resorts was quick to point out on social media before deleting the post.
The Fontainebleau wasn’t the only new Las Vegas casino resort to open in 2023. With no new casinos in two years since the opening of Resorts World Las Vegas in 2021, December saw the Fontainebleau and Durango Casino Resort open doors.
The Durango, operated by Station Casinos, a subsidiary of Red Rock Resorts, is situated south of the main Las Vegas Strip corridor, catering mainly to locals in the surrounding city suburbs.
Cheating the House
Despite those successes and record revenues to go with it, 2023 also saw a rise in sophisticated, and not so sophisticated, criminal attacks against U.S. gambling operators.
The most egregious example was September’s ransomware attacks against Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International. Caesars reportedly paid $30 million ransom to avoid the fallout. However, MGM refused to accept the hacker’s financial demands and faced a $100-million, 10-day disruption to its operations across the U.S. as a result.
Fear not, however, those Las Vegas visitors who were inconvenienced by the cyberattacks were offered free lap dances at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club Las Vegas. And all was well in Sin City.
Except, when it wasn’t.
This year also saw identity scammers target Circa Hotel & Casino, making away with $1.1 million after manipulating staff into handing over cash by impersonating venue management.
Erik Gutierrez Martinez, 24, was later caught, and sentenced to a year in jail over his role as the “bag man” of the criminal operation.
The year also saw Colorado’s biggest casino heist in state history, with March’s $500k theft from the Monarch Casino Resort in Black Hawk, using similar impersonation methods.
Later in the year, a former Las Vegas city cop was sentenced to 12 years in prison for a string of violent Nevada casino robberies he committed in 2021.
Slice of the Pie
Sin City also avoided a huge workers’ strike which would have probably overshadowed most events in this recap.
Some 60,000 workers voted to go on strike after a November 10 deadline. But new and much improved contract agreements with Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International, and Caesars Entertainment were reached in the final hour to avoid union walkouts.
Given the U.S. gambling sector’s record-breaking run of the post-pandemic period, casino workers wanted more of the fruits of their labor – and they resoundingly got it in this case.
Despite the challenges, record-breaking revenues also mean investment in expansion.
The highest number of new venues for the year award goes to casinos in Virginia. The Old Dominion state saw three new casinos open up, with three more in development and several others in consideration.
Rivers Portsmouth opened earliest in the year, followed by a wildly successful temporary venue for Caesars in Danville and another for Hard Rock in Bristol. Both are building permanent Virginia casino resorts.
HeadWaters Norfolk has been long delayed, but is in construction, and a new casino project is being considered for Petersburg. However, Richmond, Virginia, emphatically does not want a casino.
Despite developers pulling out the promotional stops, including a free local concert from legends the Isley Brothers, Richmond residents this year voted down a proposed casino for the second time. And it can be safely presumed, for the last time in the near future.
Elsewhere in the U.S, casinos in Illinois are also growing in number. First Bally’s launched its temporary venue in Chicago, then Penn Entertainment announced it broke ground on the ambitious moves of its two riverboat casinos to new permanent, inland venues.
Going into 2024
Heading into next year, the list of New York casinos will be expanding, with dozens of big-name competitors looking to grab one of the three upcoming downstate casino licenses.