Last year around this time, we boldly predicted that toward the end of 2015, we’d compile a list of predictions for 2016. Our prediction came true!
It’s time to whip out our engorged predictive abilities and aim them at the year to come. The highs. The lows. The WTFs. Here’s what to expect in 2016, based upon intuition, rumors and speculation, insider knowledge and more than a little fabricating things out of whole cloth. So, you know, just like the rest of the year.
1. Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Will Have Its First Profitable Year
No, really. This will be the year of Cosmo, and the hotel, which hasn’t had a profitable year since it opened in 2010, will have its first in 2016. A renewed focus on gamblers helped the hotel-casino turn a profit in two consecutive quarters in 2015, and the trend will continue.
2. Las Vegas Will Have an NHL Franchise
The time for a professional sports franchise in Las Vegas has finally come. It’s expected a long-awaited announcement about an NHL expansion team could come in January 2016 at the NHL All-Star Game in Nashville. The new NHL team (possibly called the Black Knights) will take part in the 2017-2018 season, which means next year our 2017 predictions will include something along the lines of, “Tickets for the Las Vegas hockey team will fail to meet expectations.” Predicting is fun, isn’t it?
3. Alon Will Sputter
There are some indications an announced resort, Alon (pronounced AY-lawn), may not actually get off the ground as hoped. Alon has recruited some serious talent, and there are signs of activity at the Alon site, but the hotel-casino is relying on Chinese financing, and that source of funding has been in serious decline recently. Thanks a lot, Chinese corruption crackdown! In 2016, it’s possible reality will set in, and Alon could very well end up being scrapped before it even gets going. Also in trouble in 2016: Lucky Dragon. Lucky Dragon is another project dependent upon Chinese investment (EB-5 visa program financing, to be specific) for its completion, but we’re thinking this boutique hotel will be able to scrape together the needed funds and we predict it will open as planned in 2016, although delays are a distinct possibility.
4. Downtown Grand Will Be Sold
Despite denials by the hotel’s management, the floundering Downtown Grand was discreetly put on the market in August 2015. To stop the bleeding, the hotel will be sold in 2016, for much less than its optimistic asking price—a price slightly more than half of what was sunk into transforming Lady Luck into the solid, but somewhat lost, resort it is today.
5. Taxi Ridership Will Plummet
The effects of Lyft and Uber operating in Las Vegas are already being felt, and the trend will continue in a big way in 2016. In November 2015, there were 115,774 fewer tax rides than in November 2014. That’s a small number given there were 2.1 million rides, but expect the carnage to continue. Lyft and Uber are getting rave reviews, and taxi companies are getting a wake-up call. That’s a win for Las Vegas visitors, and about time.
6. Mirage Will Get New Management
So, the rumors about Mirage being sold in 2015 were dead wrong. But something’s happening at Mirage, and our prediction is the hotel will be taken over by a new management company in 2016. MGM Resorts has been moving its marketing and high rollers out of the hotel for some time, leading us to believe it may relinquish management, although to whom we have no clue. MGM Resorts is putting the Mirage into what’s called a REIT (real estate investment trust), which leaves open the possibility someone else could manage the resort while MGM Resorts still owns the land and building. In a recent interview, Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin spoke about attempting to purchase Mirage, saying “They turned it down and decided to go with this REIT. We don’t have any interest in The Mirage now because we don’t pay rent.” Somebody else will, though, in 2016. The change in management at Mirage will mean everything Cirque du Soleil will be out (the Revolution Lounge has already closed), and the hotel’s dolphin habitat will finally, mercifully, be closed.
7. Las Vegas Review-Journal Scandal Will Break the Internet
Bajillionaire Sheldon Adelson recently purchased the Las Vegas Review-Journal and all hell broke loose. Further hell is guaranteed to break in 2016 as the Presidential campaign heats up and Mr. Adelson exerts more control over the paper’s editorial direction. Reporters will quit or be forced out, and the Review-Journal will be in the national spotlight for questions surrounding ethics and the influence of money on journalism. There’s no avoiding this crisis, because even if Adelson comes to realize the Review-Journal isn’t worth all the headaches, nobody else is going to pony up anywhere near the $140 million he paid to buy it, so this tangled web is only going to get more tangled.
8. Rock in Rio USA Music Festival Will Be Canceled for 2017
In 2016, we’re going to hear a final decision about whether the financially disastrous Rock in Rio USA music festival will return. It won’t. The initial outing of the festival lost $28 million (as we reported first), but that’s not the reason it won’t be back. It’s the cultural barrier. Rock in Rio USA’s principals burned a lot of bridges, and the stories of behind-the-scenes drama are almost too fantastic to believe. (Rock in Rio reps brought voodoo dolls to meetings. They weren’t being ironic.) Realistically, it’s a coin toss at this point, but we’re going for “not happening,” just to diverge from everyone else in town who’s saying it’ll be back.
9. We’ll Lose Some Vegas Personalities
This is going to be awkward, but we’re going to lose some folks in 2016, sad as that prospect may be. We’re predicting the loss of Marty Allen, The Amazing Johnathan and Jerry Lewis, although, of course, we’d rather that not happen. We’ll also lose Roy Horn (of Siegfried & Roy), Celine’s husband, Rene Angelil, and magic consultant to the stars, Johnny Thompson. We also don’t have a great feeling about Rich Little, Sheldon Adelson or Wayne Newton, but here’s hoping everyone makes it and proves these predictions wrong. Oh, but on the bright side, 2016 will also mark the death of Lance Burton’s filmmaking career, so at least there’s that to look forward to. Told you it would be awkward.
Update: Rene Angelil passed away January 14, 2016.
10. Las Vegas Club Plans Will Surpass All Expectations
Casino magnate Derek Stevens has big plans for the now-closed Las Vegas Club, and 2016 is the year his vision will be articulated and communicated. This blog’s day job is as a marketer for Fremont Street Experience, so we’re a tad biased (Derek Stevens owns The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate, members of the Fremont Street Experience consortium), but whether or not you’re a fan of Stevens and the energy he’s brought to downtown, you’ll have to concede he is The Pharmacy Slayer, and that alone makes him a Las Vegas hero in our book. Here’s a bold prediction: The casino at the former Las Vegas Club will open in 2016. Just ignore the fact it’s likely to be for a day or two to satisfy gaming licensing requirements, open is open. We can’t wait to hear what’s next for the Las Vegas club, especially if it involves the timeless art of go-go.
Update (12/31/15): Derek Stevens says he’ll have an announcement mid-January.
11. Las Vegas Arena Parking Issues Will Blow Up Hard
As great an addition to The Strip as the new Las Vegas Arena will be, the issues of traffic and parking have yet to be satisfactorily addressed. The problem will hit critical mass once people see the world-class flustercuck resulting from tens of thousands of people pouring into the streets and existing parking garages around the arena. Arena officials will be forced to concede defeat, and a parking structure devoted to the arena will be built, probably opening in 2017. Oh, and while we’re in the neighborhood, 2016 is the year when we’ll know the new name of the arena’s neighbor, Monte Carlo.
Update (1/16/16): On Jan. 16, 2016, MGM Resorts announced it will build a new parking structure due to public outcry. The company also announced it will begin charging for parking at its Las Vegas resorts.
12. Life is Beautiful Will Be Back and Louder Than Ever
There’s been a lot of speculation the Life is Beautiful music festival won’t be back because it’s taking longer than expected for the festival to become profitable. Also, the neighbors don’t love the noise. Screw them. Life is Beautiful will be back. Oh, and Duran Duran will be back to play at the 2016 Life is Beautiful, because sometimes if you repeat something often enough, it’ll happen. Like how in 2016 we’re going to win Megabucks. We’re going to win Megabucks. We’re going to win Megabucks.
Update (2/2/16): Life is Beautiful announced it will, in fact, be back. Dates: Sep. 23-25, 2016.
13. Chick-fil-A Will Open Earlier Than Expected
The long-awaited first Chick-fil-A in Las Vegas is expected to open at the end of 2016 or early 2017. Oh, hell no. We’re not waiting that long. We predict Chick-fil-A will open months earlier than anticipated, in mid-2016, and people are going to freak. The pent-up demand for the deliciousness of Chick-fil-A is going to be so great, we’re predicting the Las Vegas location will be the first in the restaurant’s history to remain open on Sundays.
14. Riviera Will Be Imploded With the Hoopla It Deserves
When the closed Riviera goes out in 2016, it’ll go out in true Las Vegas fashion. It’s been awhile since Las Vegas had a proper demolition of a Strip hotel (no, the Harmon’s floor-by-floor dismantling doesn’t qualify). The beloved but neglected Riviera will be blown up and real good, accompanied by a spectacle worthy of its history.
15. Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s Will Tap Out
The Grand Bazaar Shops outside Bally’s has been limping along since it opened, and 2016 is the year the flea market’s operators will admit defeat and call the whole thing off. Thankfully, the Grand Bazaar Shops should take no more than 20 minutes to dismantle. Bally’s will keep the Starbucks. Because, after all, it’s the only Starbucks we know of that serves hooch.
16. Mayweather and Pacquiao Will Have a Rematch
Ego and money have an interesting way of making the impossible happen. The 2015 fight between Floyd “I’m Sort of a Douche” Mayweather and Manny “Boo, Hoo, My Shoulder Hurts” Pacquiao was a monster payday not only for the fighters, but also Las Vegas. While many believe Mayweather is retired (his perfect 49-0 record tied him with Rocky Marciano), others think the potential of another massive windfall (Mayweather alone made $250 million from the last fight) could bring the pair back to the ring. We’re predicting a rematch will happen in 2016, in Las Vegas, and following Mayweather’s win, he will purchase Scotland.
17. Casinos Will Take a Hit for Swapping Out Liquor Brands
Mark our words, 2016 is the year the casino liquor swap scam will finally come to an end. We’ve been railing against this practice for some time, but here’s how it works: If you’re playing in a Las Vegas casino, you’re typically comped cocktails during your play. If you order a Captain Morgan and diet (this is known as a “call” drink, as opposed to a “well” drink), you won’t be given a Captain Morgan, but rather a generic spiced rum. Swap. Scam. This happens with any number of premium liquors, and customers are often not informed the liquor is being swapped. This practice saves casinos a lot of money, but it also compromises the health and trust of customers. It may also be against the law. In 2016, the government agencies responsible for protecting us will intercede and fine casinos guilty of this practice. Casinos will then stop pretending to serve premium liquor, and we’ll pay for it, which is fine. Casinos are legally and morally obligated to tell us what we’re drinking, even if the drinks are free.
18. Resort Fees Will Be Legislated Away
Everybody hates resort fees, and the big secret in Las Vegas is even the resorts themselves hate resort fees. The fact is, they only charge resort fees because they have to. Hotels charge resort fees to make their rates look cheaper than the competition, mainly because so many rooms are booked through online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak and Hotels.com. Any hotel that doesn’t charge resort fees gets clobbered in OTA search results. In 2016, the federal government, OTAs and the resorts are going to get their act together and include resort fees in the room rate.
Update (1/10/16): On Jan. 10, 2016, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez called for new legislation to address resort fees as “a deceptive and unfair trade practice.” Read more.
19. Multiple Strip Shows Will Close
Change is a constant in Las Vegas, and several shows will close in 2016. The first ones that come to mind are the new “X Country” at Harrah’s, “50 Shades, The Parody” at Bally’s, “Sexxy” at Westgate, animal abuse-based comedy show “Piff the Magic Dragon” at Flamingo, yawn-based “Murray Celebrity Magician” at Planet Hollywood and magician Mat Franco’s show at Linq Hotel. We’ll even go out on a limb and predict Steve Wynn’s “Showstoppers” will shutter in 2016, more because of production costs than anything else. Oh, and if anything opens at Tropicana, that will close, too. Just saying.
Update (12/29/15): Our bud John Katsilometes reports the “Murray Celebrity Magician” show closes Jan. 4, 2016. Ignore our predictions at your peril!
20. All Las Vegas Casinos Will Have 6-to-5 Blackjack
Many Las Vegas casinos now offer 6-to-5 blackjack, but 2016 is the year we can say goodbye to 3-to-2 once and for all. Talk to any blackjack player, and they’ll whine about this trend ad nauseam. But here’s why they should keep their nauseam to themselves. Casinos can’t make money with 3-to-2 blackjack, plain and simple. We’ll probably write a more in-depth story about this at some point, but our forearms are going numb from all the predicting, so we’ll cut to the chase. In a 3-to-2 game, playing perfect basic strategy, the house edge is about .5 percent. That means if you play perfectly, 60 hands an hour at a $5 table ($300 in play), the casino can expect to rake in a whopping $1.50. An hour. In America. At a 6-to-5 blackjack table, the house edge goes up to 2% and the house is expected to make $6 from that $300 in wagers. Per hour. If you
take into account the cost of comped drinks alone (even with crappy generic liquor), it’s sort of a break-even proposition for the casinos. This is why it’s so hard to find $5 blackjack in Las Vegas, and it’s why we really need to stop with the whining in 2016. Somebody had to say it.
Bonus Prediction: SLS Las Vegas Will be De-Nazarianed
Previous SLS Las Vegas stakeholders SBE and CEO Sam Nazarian are officially out, and that means 2016 will be the year SLS gets “De-Nazarianed.” Many aspects of SLS were influenced by Sam Nazarian’s relationships and his SBE brand, including the hotel’s monkeys, it’s Fred Segal shops and restaurant brands. Well, 2015 saw all the Fred Segal shops close, replaced with internally-managed retail stores. In 2016, we’ll see a concerted effort to lose more of the brands and images associated with Nazarian and SBE. Most significantly, Umami Burger and Ku Noodle will close (to be replaced with more value-oriented fare, think Palms food court). Nazarian’s buy-out deal included an agreement to keep SBE brands going at SLS, but why pay licensing for unremarkable brands when you can keep all the profits by staying in-house? Thankfully, Cleo and Bazaar Meat are safe for the moment, but that could change, too. In 2016, SLS Las Vegas will begin to find its own identity (or at least partner with others who have their own identity). How far with the “De-Nazarianing” go? We predict the hotel may even go so far as to remove the quirky Sam Nazarian-inspired sculpture out front. Just you wait.
Those are our top 20 Las Vegas predictions for 2016, and we’d love to hear your thoughts, either confirming our extraordinary soothsaying skills or perhaps floating your own 2016 predictions.
Whether these predictions come true in 2016 or not, it’s sure to be another breathtaking, immersive, game-changing year in Las Vegas. It’s the law.