The casino gaming capital of at least the Western Hemisphere took a battering from monsoon rains in the final week of July, causing a pause in at least some of the games while flooding and electrical complications were addressed. The immediate upshot of these storm rains was that the gaming floors at Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood required repairs, while viral videos captured a cascade of water from the Circa’s sportsbook video wall.
For many people, though, the first thought was that this may be good news given the extreme drought conditions that are not so much impacting the region as a fact of life in the area. Once the rains had stopped, the measuring began, and the news was less than stellar. Lake Mead, the natural reservoir from which Vegas takes its water supply, had risen by a total of three inches, taking its level to 1,040.99 feet.
While on the face of it, that may sound good, there are a number of caveats which are bad news for Vegas casinos, and residents in general. When it was measured a year ago, Lake Mead sat at 1067 feet. A year before that, it was at 1084. Even taking into account the recent torrential downpours, the lake has fallen 44 feet in the space of two years, and it’s expected to fall a further 20 feet between now and 2023. That would be a 60-foot fall in just over two years; put another way, it would take 240 identical storms to get back to 2020 levels.
Why does this matter to Las Vegas, and to the casino gaming industry? Well, to understand the reasons behind the problems in Lake Mead, you need to know that a 150-foot tall ring around the outside of the Lake demonstrates a loss of that much water over the last two years. In Las Vegas, residential water use comes almost exclusively from a recycled supply. So, the problem of water wastage in the region falls largely at the doors of business – and in LV, that means the mega-casinos of the city’s strip.
Much of the energy supply that cools the casinos – essential, in a city which saw temperatures rise close to 120 degrees last June – comes from hydroelectric. As water becomes scarcer, electricity will become harder to generate and more expensive. It is hard to see how Las Vegas will survive in its current shape without an effect on costs and liveability – which can only mean that in a country which is currently embracing online casino gaming in a big way, the attractiveness of trips to the Strip will be negatively affected.
There is a choice coming down the pipeline for Las Vegas and its gaming industry. The ostentatious displays that make the Strip what it is are directly affecting people’s experience on the ground. That huge sportsbook video wall that became a waterfall at the Circa may become a monument to one of two things: either Vegas learns to embrace sustainability, or some of its totemic casinos may become martyrs to the city’s gospel of conspicuous consumption.