Based in Las Vegas, Douglas french writes about the  economy and book reviews. 

Vegas's Greatest Week?

Vegas's Greatest Week?

Imagine my surprise reading in the Las Vegas Review Journal that last week was the best week in Las Vegas history.  Not the Elvis run at the International, or the days when the Rat Pack roamed the town, no, last week. Why?  Hockey and “Hamilton” of all things.

It used to be that the only stick men that mattered were at the city’s craps tables pushing dice and barking “new shooter coming out.”  A hockey puck was what Don Rickles called the dim witted. Now the town is cuckoo for hockey as the Golden Knights skate against Washington D.C.’s Capitals for the Stanley Cup.  


LVRJ entertainment reporter John Katsilometes reported of a VIP reception from the opening night of “Hamilton,”

Just as Myron Martin [director of the Smith Center] approached, I turned to Al Bernstein [famous boxing announcer] — no stranger to monumental events — and asked if this is one of the greatest weeks in the city’s history. The night before, of course, our Vegas Golden Knights hosted Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.

“No question,” Bernstein said. “I have not seen this kind of community support before, with two major events happening at the same time.”

I then asked Martin, “Greatest week ever?”

“You might be looking at it,” he said, nodding while scoping out the room. “Las Vegas is the place to be, right now.”

For game 1 introductions, Vegas brought in Michael Buffer with his trademarked “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!”  D.C countered for game 3 introductions with Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak. As I write, with the Capitals leading the series 3-1, Sajak is the one smiling.

As for “Hamilton,” the production everyone is gaga over, the first half was unintelligible to my untrained ear, with some improvement after intermission. To turn Thomas Jefferson into a clownish dandy, dressed in a purple velvet suit with a crystal handled walking stick is beyond the pale.  

The audience didn’t seem to care the nation’s $20 trillion (and counting) national debt and a bloated centralized government are Hamilton’s legacy. Historian and author Brion McClanahan explains. “Hamilton was a brilliant, narcissistic, psychopath, a man with a real ‘American story’ of ‘rags to riches,’ but a man who did more to undermine the original understanding of the Constitution—an understanding he helped craft—than anyone in American history.”

He quips the musical should be called, “Hamilton: The Liar.”     

In the same week, the mundane matters of housing demand were great as well.  

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index was released with Las Vegas sporting a double-digit increase from a year ago, second behind Seattle.  

David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices said in the report, “Las Vegas and San Francisco saw the second and third largest annual gains of 12.4% and 11.3%. A year ago, they ranked 10th and 16th.”

The Vegas market price increase acceleration continued in April with the new home median reaching $374,440, according to The Las Vegas Housing Market Letter. Despite the shortage of labor, builders have pulled over 4,000 permits for new home construction through this year’s first four months a 33 percent increase from a year ago. Andrew and Dennis Smith ominously write, “This also marks the first time since 2007 that we have reported more than 1,000 permit pulled in two consecutive months.”

The father and son research team also warn that builders are buying more land. “Through April, builders have closed on approximately 675 acres of raw land. To this point in 2017, the total was just about 315. That is a whopping 114 percent increase year-to-year.”

Those purchases were prior to Lennar Corp., Shea Homes and Woodside Homes teaming up to buy 630 acres in the upper northwest valley for around $89 million. They plan to build approximately 3,000 homes and launch sales in summer 2021, the year after the next reported economic stimulus, the Raiders, are expected to begin NFL play in Vegas.

There is little inventory for sale nationwide. Blitzer writes, “Months-supply, which combines inventory levels and sales, is currently at 3.8 months, lower than the levels of the 1990s, before the housing boom and bust.”  In Las Vegas that number is more than twice as tight at 1.6 months.

The apartment market is also red hot. “It’s an absolute bidding war out there,” Jim Gillen, director of property management for Long Beach, California-based RK Properties, told the LVRJ’s Eli Segall, who writes, “In a recent 11-day span, investors bought five Las Vegas Valley apartment complexes for $260 million combined. The sales were all made to different landlords, but their rapid-fire sequence underscores the valley’s heated rental market.”

Large investors, raced the clock, while interest rates were low, and gorged themselves on Vegas apartments in 2017. “Buyers picked up 105 local apartment complexes last year for about $2.7 billion combined, compared to 31 for $346 million in 2011, when the economy was a mess, according to figures from brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle,” Segall writes.

The life blood of Las Vegas is visitor volume, which, through March, had declined on a year-over-year basis, 10 months in a row.  The LA Times reports that casinos have become too greedy by charging for parking and increasing resort fees.   

Jay Jones writes, “The annual visitor count hit a record high in 2016: 42,936,100. Last year's total – 42,214,200 – was down 1%. While that may appear insignificant, that signifies a drop of 722,000 visitors.”

"I really do think that these fees are starting to cause people to second-think a trip here," Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor told the Times.

"Everyone hates resort fees, but the parking [fee] is even worse," says Curtis. "Everyone wants some kind of comp, [and] the most basic comp is free parking. That was the one comp that everyone got."

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) says these fees have nothing to do with the recent declines in visitors.

Curtis disagrees. "I'm telling you, the customers hate it. They get madder and madder."

MGM Resorts is the most aggressive at charging for parking, having raised fees multiple times over two years. USA Today reported, "Overnight valet parking at MGM's luxury hotels — Bellagio, Aria and Vdara —  is now $30 a night, up from $25. Valet parking at those hotels formerly started at $18 a night, so the fee has gone up 67% in two years."

Richard Velotta, writes for the Las Vegas Review Journal, "But there’s also a new wave of sentiment from longtime loyal casino customers warning that soaring resort fees and paid parking policies at Strip casinos threaten to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs."

Don’t worry about golden eggs, Vegas now has the Golden Knights.

Debt Conceit

Debt Conceit

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