Vegas just scratching the surface in convention business |

Vegas just scratching the surface in convention business

LAS VEGAS (AP) – Las Vegas may be one of the nation’s leaders in the convention and trade show business, but it’s just scratching the surface in the industry, hotel and casino executives were told Wednesday.

The city accommodates 3,600 conventions, trade shows and corporate meetings annually, but that’s just a ”drop in the bucket” when you consider there are 1 million such gatherings annually, said Sheldon Adelson, chairman of The Venetian hotel-casino.

”We have not yet tapped one-half of 1 percent of the convention business,” Adelson told delegates to the annual American Gaming Lodging & Leisure Summit.

Some 3.1 million people attended conventions and trade shows in Las Vegas in the first 11 months of 1999, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That comprises some 10 percent of the visitor count through November. The economic impact, exclusive of gambling, was $3.4 billion, the LVCVA reported.

Adelson is chairman of Las Vegas Sands Inc., the developer of the Sands Expo Convention Center, which has some 1.2 million square feet of exhibition space.

Adelson developed the Comdex computer show in 1979, then sold the giant convention in 1995 for nearly $900 million. The show draws some 225,000 attendees here annually.

He said he battled with some Las Vegas officials about the importance of the convention business in past years, and believes that business is now more important than ever as the city seeks to continually fill more than 121,000 hotel rooms.

Adelson said he encountered skeptics when he announced plans to build the $1.5 billion Venice-themed resort, and more skepticism when the 3,036-room hotel encountered construction delays in opening last spring.

He said the hotel recorded $55 million in gross income in January, exclusive of the resort’s 15 restaurants, which are independently owned. In that same month, he said The Venetian ”recorded the first $1 million room revenue day in the history of the hotel industry.”

The hotel is generating critical mid-week bookings through its ties to the Sands convention facility, Adelson said. He noted other properties were expanding their convention facilities, an indication the business was healthy for Las Vegas.

Adelson said the company plans to begin work on a second tower in the fall which would add another 3,000 rooms and 300,000 additional square feet of meeting and convention space.

Overbuilding on the Las Vegas Strip – a concern on Wall Street and in the gambling industry a year ago – is nothing new, Adelson said.

In his keynote speech Wednesday, Adelson held up a June 20, 1955 copy of Life magazine which featured Las Vegas with the headline, ”Is the Boom Over Extended?”

Arthur Goldberg, president and chief executive officer of Park Place Entertainment Corp., was to be given the summit’s lifetime achievement award Wednesday night.

The gambling industry summit runs through Thursday.