Finally some good news! By March 22, 2013 at 12:22 am The last five years have been brutal economically; housing tanked, unemployment soared and business in general stopped or at least stalled. Little by little we are creeping out of that dark time and entering once again into an era of hope and optimism. Unemployment is falling, housing is recovering and many industries have started to show significant growth. However, for the most part, the casino industry is still stuck somewhere in between stalled and slow improvement. Still, there a few reasons to be optimistic. Of course, some people, like politicians in office, are more optimistic than others, like politicians out of office. In the “in-office” category is the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie; ever an optimist, Christie sees a recovery in his state. He has boldly declared that “tourism is coming back.” After six straight years of gaming revenue declines, everyone is looking for some good news and, like the Press of Atlantic City, they are willing to embrace the governor’s words. Whether or not tourism is back, it is good to have a reason to be hopeful for the battered Atlantic City. Miss America is also coming back and that too gives the governor reason to be hopeful; wouldn’t we all like to believe that something so simple as a return of Miss America could solve some of our serious problems? “New Jersey really is coming back,” Gov. Chris Christie said. Tourism demand in New Jersey reached record levels last year despite Hurricane Sandy disrupting the region and declines in the casino industry, according to a new tourism study published by the state on Wednesday. Visitor spending in New Jersey rose nearly 3 percent in 2012 and, along with capital investment and general government funding of tourism, accounted for $40 billion, surpassing by half a billion dollars the previous record set in 2007. Hoa Nguyen, Press of Atlantic City, 3-21-3 A national live television audience will watch the crowning of the next Miss America in Atlantic City later this fall, Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday. Eight years after relocating to Las Vegas, the pageant will return to the resort where it originated and culminate in the crowning of the new winner on Sunday Sept. 15, Christie said, adding the day also is his wife’s birthday. The pageant will be broadcast live on ABC, he said. Press of Atlantic City, 3-21-13 Las Vegas is seeing some encouraging signs, too. The signs are not necessarily dramatic individually, but taken all together they are impressive. Stations and M appear to be on solid ground again and ready to move forward after bankruptcy. The downtown renaissance continues to gain traction, MGM has a new marketing partner, March Madness is in town and just to keep people on their toes, two labor strikes are doing their best to disrupt the flow of tourists on the Strip. Of all the changes made at the M Resort since the property opened in March 2009…The hardest was seeing the stylish hotel-casino taken over by regional casino giant Penn National Gaming…Penn National was officially licensed as owner by Nevada gaming regulators in June 2011. Today, M Resort is in a much stronger financial position with Penn’s backing and Marnell directing the property. Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3-21-13 Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project bought the shuttered Western Hotel for $14 million, giving his group another chunk of downtown real estate for a possible future project. Eli Segall, Las Vegas Sun, 3-21-13 …HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The image is part of a recently formed advertising partnership between MGM Resorts International, the Luxor and HBO… “The show’s got 10.4 million viewers per episode,” said Jim Holborow, MGM Resorts’ director of event marketing and promotions. “It’s globally a hit.” Ed Komenda, Las Vegas Sun, 3-21-13 When the NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday morning, sports books and casino ballrooms across the Las Vegas Valley will be packed with patrons taking part in the madness. Las Vegas, after all, is the best place in the world during this week of the year. Christopher DeVargas, Las Vegas Sun, 3-21-13 Throngs of workers blocked traffic on the Las Vegas Strip in a demonstration against the Cosmopolitan casino that ended with the arrest of nearly 100 protesters…Police arrested 98 protesters, according to Metro Police Capt. Todd Fasulo. The workers chanted, “If we don’t get no contract, you don’t get no peace,” as they waited to be taken away. Hannah Dreier, Associated Press, 3-21-13 There are also some major new projects on the drawing board for the first time in years. On top of that list is the Genting’s purchase of the old Stardust property and its proposed multiple billion-dollar Resorts World Las Vegas. The old Sahara is going to give way to a new property, SLS, a half-billion dollar dose of style and luxury. And, Caesars, nee-Harrah’s, has a couple of projects in the works. Linq is going to be a half-billion dollar open-air entertainment center with a monster observation wheel – formerly called Ferris wheels. The wheel is being called the High Roller and Caesars is touting it as the world’s tallest observation wheel. However, in typical Las Vegas style, just down the Strip another wheel one is being built that is nearly as tall. Wow! Two huge Ferris wheels whirling around and giving tourists a great view of the Strip. But wait! There is more. Another developer wants to put up London Thrill – another grand wheel. That is why I think Vegas is recovering and it is not because the governor or mayor says it is recovering; they don’t need to say anything, the headlines are saying it. As she prepared to vote on a zoning commission item Wednesday morning, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani asked the presenter an innocuous final question. “What is the London Thrill? It’s not another Ferris wheel is it?” she said with a hint of disdain in her voice. Standing in front of the podium, Eric Smithers, who represents the site’s owners, responded with a sheepish laugh: “It’s an observation wheel.” “But it’s more than just that,” he quickly followed. “That’s one component of an entire park.” Indeed, a third observation wheel could be coming to the Las Vegas Strip, joining the under-construction 500-foot tall wheel near Mandalay Bay and the 550-foot tall wheel at Caesars Entertainment’s Linq project, which continues to grow skyward behind the Quad casino. Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun, 3-21-13 Finally after years of near silence, the news feels like it used to feel. Once again we are being treated to developers fighting for a place at the podium to make grand announcements; each one trumping all previous announcements. Flamboyant, optimistic and eager developers and would-be casino operators have been an important part of the excitement and energy in Las Vegas. For much of its history, Las Vegas has been as exciting for what it promises in the future as for what it offers today. The promise has been missing since the Great Recession started, but it is starting to come back and it feels good.