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Fearless predictions of the top gaming and tourism storylines for 2022

While digging through my Christmas decorations, I unearthed the crystal ball I use to predict the top news stories for the coming year.

But first: How did I do this year? I use the baseball standard for a successful season: one hit every three times at bat.

Some of 2021’s hits and misses:

“Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc., the Rhode Island-based company that acquired the Bally’s brand from Caesars Entertainment last year, will buy the Strip property with the Bally’s name on it.” That was a swing and a miss, as the company that eventually became known as Bally’s Corp. moved to take over operations at the Tropicana. Caesars continues to be tight-lipped about its plans for Bally’s, with some suggesting it will be renamed with the Horseshoe brand.

“Nevada regulators will be successful in their Nevada Supreme Court appeal of Steve Wynn’s lawsuit suggesting that the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission no longer have jurisdiction over him because he is no longer affiliated with or invested in Wynn Resorts Ltd.” Courts have yet to issue a ruling on the case so I’m treating it like a walk: no at-bat, no hit.

“The pent-up demand for visits to Las Vegas will manifest itself in the summer months, but resort visitation and gaming revenue still won’t reach 2019 levels.” Visitation has been strong compared with last year, but not 2019 strong. That’s largely because of the lack of convention traffic. Nailed it.

“Resorts World Las Vegas and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas will open by the third quarter, and both will be big hits with tourists.” Half-right. They opened by the third quarter (actually second and first quarters, respectively). But they haven’t been as successful as they’d hoped.

“A resort company will try to replicate Circa’s Stadium Swim concept of providing a big screen to watch sports and movies but will fail.” A total whiff here.

The Boring Co. will begin work on its Vegas Loop underground transit project but will hit snags that will slow the project’s momentum.” This seems true. The two Boring tunnels to the Las Vegas Convention Center from Encore and Resorts World aren’t done yet.

“The NBA will announce that it is awarding an expansion franchise to Las Vegas to begin play in the 2023-24 season.” Another whiff.

“The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will sell the 10 acres of Strip-front property that was a part of the Riviera transaction, and a hotel developer will design a casino resort there.” Line-drive base hit. South American developer Claudio Fischer agreed to buy the land for $120 million.

At 4 for 7, it looks like I hit better than .500 for the year.

Here are 2022’s headlines today:

■ The Oakland Athletics will abandon plans for a Strip baseball stadium to stay in Oakland. The team has been very public about every move it has made in Las Vegas. That appears to be a purposeful pipeline designed to rankle government leaders in Oakland and Alameda County. Could government officials there, after having lost the Raiders to Las Vegas and the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco, allow the A’s to get away — with another loss to Las Vegas? I have a hard time seeing that happening and believe leaders there will make every effort to keep the team in Oakland. This comes from a die-hard baseball fan who would love to see the A’s in Las Vegas.

■ All the major transactions that have been announced on the Strip in 2021 eventually will be approved and the deals closed. Some of those deals may not wrap up until 2023, and some may have a few hurdles to clear, but they’ll eventually cross the finish line. We’re talking about MGM Resorts International buying The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Hard Rock International getting The Mirage, Apollo Global Management acquiring The Venetian, Palazzo and Venetian Expo Center, and Bally’s managing the Tropicana. Look for Caesars Entertainment to offer and sell a Strip asset: Planet Hollywood.

■ Nevada regulators will have a showdown with Penn National Gaming Inc. over business partner David Portnoy of Barstool Sports. Companies got a preview of that in the December Nevada Gaming Control Board meeting, when the company’s new chief financial officer was licensed. Board members put the company on notice about Portnoy, who has denied all allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior made against him.

■ COVID-19 and the omicron variant will continue to play havoc on the city’s convention industry. Numbers from 2022 will beat 2021, but not 2020 and 2019 figures. That should prevent any visitation records from being set for the year.

■ The National Football League will stage its most successful NFL Draft in history in Las Vegas in April and vow to return.

■ The NBA will announce that it is awarding an expansion franchise to Las Vegas to begin play in the 2024-25 season. Where have we heard this before? Right here. It seems inevitable that the NBA finds its way to Las Vegas, especially after seeing the successes of the Raiders and the Golden Knights. While this prediction didn’t come true 2021, maybe I’m just a year off.

My crystal ball and I are ready to bring on 2022.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian and Palazzo.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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