On the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, a head-turning monster of a resort with two hotel towers is being built on an 88-acre site.
With a $4.3 billion price tag, Resorts World Las Vegas is Genting Group’s idea of a modern luxury megaresort and will alter the look and feel of the north Strip.
Expected to open in 2021, it will feature 3,500 hotel rooms, a 220,000-square-foot pool complex and 350,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.
Resorts World President Scott Sibella, a veteran casino executive and former president and CEO of the MGM Grand, is no stranger to challenges. But Resorts World is the biggest and most expensive project he has worked on.
Vegas Inc recently talked to Sibella about the project and the gaming industry.
Give us an update of where you are right now with the building of Resorts World Las Vegas?
We were excited to, a couple of weeks ago, announce when we’re going to open (summer 2021). There’s been a lot of opinions and things online, so it was important for us to get that message out. We have 88 acres and we’re building on two-thirds of that, while leaving the rest for future development.
It’s not an Asian-themed property, but it will have a lot of Asian inspiration when it comes to the design inside, art, the color pallets and floors.
The timeline did change a little as we were originally looking to open in December of 2020. We added some scope since I’ve been here, including a 5,000-seat theater and some additional convention space. We felt it was important to have everything 100% completed when we do open.
This is a massive project. We’re talking about billions of dollars. How do you keep track of everything and how do you deal with the inherent pressures?
At the beginning, it was like drinking out of a fire hose. I’ve been involved in a lot of big projects, but nothing like this. It was a process to get acclimated, and it’s never easy because there’s so many decisions that need to be made.
The hardest thing is that you can’t keep making changes. There’s a time when you have to just accept what you’re building, whether it’s a restaurant or a lounge or whatever it may be. We have a good team in place and all those operations people are very involved.
The first question we always ask is, ‘How can we do this differently than what’s being done today?’ That’s not easy. There’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of commitments, and it’s nerve-wracking at times. But you just have to be able to make good decisions at a responsive time.
You’ve been in this business for more than 30 years. What’s different today as you continue to put this megaresort project together?
What you have to adapt to is how the market is changing. There’s been a paradigm shift with the customers that are coming to Las Vegas. When I first got in this business, almost half our revenue was from the casino, but we’re forecasting that when we open this property, perhaps 75% of our revenue will be from the nongaming side. You have to think differently and design differently, because not everyone is going to want to gamble. It’s a different way of thinking than it was years ago.
What will Resorts World do for the Strip, specifically that north side of the Strip, where we’re seeing a lot of new development?
We’re excited about where we’re at. When you see a property at this level coming to the city, that creates a buzz. It’s been 10 or 11 years since we’ve had something like this in Las Vegas. What we’re doing is not only good for us, it’s good for the city, because this is going to attract people.
Also, when you look at the amount of employees we’re going to hire and the tax dollars, there’s going to be a benefit there. We’re really excited about the new convention center, because we’re right across the street. With time, we think business will start to really shift down to this north side of the Strip. That doesn’t mean it’s going to take away from the south side, we think it will just progress and allow the Strip to have a larger impact.
With so many big projects going on now, we’re going to be kind of the last out of the gate when we open in 2021 and we like that.
You said you weren’t quite sure what you wanted to do after leaving MGM. What convinced you to take on this new challenge?
When Mr. Lim (Genting Group Chairman Tan Sri Dato Lim Kok Thay) reached out to me and we had a discussion about this project, it excited me. I was going to be able to start with a clean slate and build something that is the next best thing that Las Vegas needs. I think I was pretty good at MGM, as far as renovating and trying new things, but here, we’re doing that with one big property.
Whenever there’s a project this big, people are going to talk and rumors — online and elsewhere — will fly. Is there anything you want to dispel or clear up?
I think what I’d want to get across is that this will be a property like nobody’s ever seen in Las Vegas. It’s going to be designed and operated with service in mind, like the good old days of Las Vegas. This is a family-owned company that cares about its customers and employees. The rumors about us not opening or about when we’re going to open, that’s past now. We’re very comfortable now that we’re going to open during the summer of 2021.
Let’s look ahead. What’s the scene going to be like with Resorts World opens?
We’re going to do our grand opening a little different. I see the grand opening being the entire summer of 2021. Of course, there will be one big night, and it will be a night that will change what Las Vegas is all about. You don’t get many chances to prove yourself in this town. The first time you get that chance, it has to be right. It has to be everything that we’ve promised.