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Sin City Revival

Allegiant Stadium is seen under construction in this view from the Apex Social Club in the Palms Resort Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Very few US cities were hit as hard by the Great Recession as Las Vegas. The severe economic downturn forced the city’s casino operators to adjust their business model. The entertainment capital of the world was built on gambling. The sudden evaporation of high rollers and their liquid assets pouring into the casinos crushed the local economy. The thriving nightclub operators’ business model built on high-end bottle service and triple-digit cover fees for men was upended. How would Las Vegas recover?

Revenue streams, which were once ancillary, would soon become extremely valuable. Aging pop and rock stars, or those in need of a career resurrection, took up extensive residencies performing two shows a night, up to five nights a week. Pop culture icons such as Britney Spears and Celine Dion would force fans to the Las Vegas strip to see them perform. Rock stars like Motley Crue and Elton John would bring in the Baby Boomers who long ago hung up their party shoes. It was as if Las Vegas rediscovered the Rat Pack Las Vegas business model; a time when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. would bring in the crowds with their Vegas strip shows.

And while the money flow on the gaming tables was reduced to a trickle from the high-flying days of the 90s and 2000s, the sportsbook revenues grew steadily. This was in large part thanks to the explosion in fantasy football and the accompanying growth in the population of the NFL. Twenty-five dollar and hundred-dollar blackjack players were now redistributing their discretionary funds into the sportsbooks. The revenue growth from the residencies and the sportsbook kept Las Vegas afloat until it rose again.

And, in the latter part of the recent decade, it began to rise. The economy slowly grew stronger. Professional sports finally came to Sin City with the NHL expansion club the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

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