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Top 10 Casino City storylines from 2016

5 December 2016

From the U.S. election results to potentially killer clowns, 2016 has been rife with upsetting, exciting and sometimes baffling news stories. The gambling industry was no different — there are enough stories in enough spheres of the industry to make your head spin.

But don't worry: Casino City has you covered. Here are 10 of this year's top storylines.

10. The state of political betting
Since we're sick of hearing about Trump, we're assuming you are, too. But we'd be remiss if we neglected to mention the impact he had on political bets this year.

So sure was Paddy Power Sportsbook of Hillary Clinton's victory, they began to pay out customers before the election was over. Many bookies were convinced of Trump's defeat, and set the odds heavily against him.

In the end, this marked a race that destroyed all previous election betting records.

Brexit also had a hand in some betting chaos — the unexpected vote in June to withdraw from the European Union followed the wagering of a record-breaking amount of money ($168 million, more than was bet on a record-breaking Super Bowl). When 52% of voters chose "Leave" over "Remain," bookmakers had to pay out some tidy sums.

9. Casinos charge for parking
One of the most alarming trends of 2016? Paid parking at Las Vegas casinos.

MGM Resorts announced back in February that parking and valet services, previously free, would now be subject to a fee — $10 a day for self-parking, for starters.

Needless to say, locals and tourists weren't happy.

Caesars followed suit in November, introducing a parking fee in eight of its nine properties. Of course, members of the Total Rewards program — Platinum rated members only, please — will continue to have the privilege of free self-parking. Caesars claims the move will enhance the parking experience.

Valet fees total $18 at Bally's - Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, The Cromwell, Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, while Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah's Las Vegas Casino & Hotel and the The LINQ Hotel & Casino's fees come in at $13. Both prices are sure to cause some woe, especially to those who frequent the Strip. Wynn will also be charging for its valet services — $13 for the first four hours, $18 for four to 24 hour — at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort. It has been noted that self-parking will remain free of charge, but for how long is anyone's guess.

Hooters Casino Hotel, however, is acting as a beacon of light amid this dark, dark time: The restaurant will continue to offer free parking and valet. To sweeten the deal, anyone who uses their lot receives a free beer. Parking spots at Hooters are now emblazoned with giant orange "FREE PARKING" signs — you can't miss 'em.

8. Sports betting achieves record numbers
Sports betting in particular has traveled a long road this year.

Since the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992, sports betting has amassed an estimated $150 billion in annual wagers. Of course, it isn't actually legal to bet on sports in most states. Moves have been made toward legalizing this profitable pastime, however.

In Nevada, where this type of betting is legal, Super Bowl 50 garnered a "historic" number of bets, and according to the state's gaming control board, over $132 million was bet on the Broncos-Panthers game. Bets placed at 194 smashed the previous record of $119 million, set two years ago.

Mobile sportsbook apps have been making players' lives easier this year, changing the game at renowned books such as Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, where the world's largest sportsbook calls home.

7. Las Vegas NHL Team
The NHL will finally touch down in Las Vegas in 2017. This move could set a good example and spur on the evolution of sports betting in the U.S. The Vegas Golden Knights are scheduled to play in the 2017-18 NHL season, with home games taking place at the T-Mobile Arena.

The NFL may also be bringing its own team — and stadium — to the Strip. Nevada's governor, Brian Sandoval, signed a bill in October making way for the construction of a stadium that could potentially house the Raiders. $750 million in public money would go toward construction; the total proposed cost is $1.9 billion.

6. Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino's Grand Opening
Not only is the first casino to open up on the Strip in six years, it's the first "authentic Asian lifestyle experience." The casino hopes to reel in Asian-American players with multilingual staff; signage written in Chinese first, English second; and an impressive selection of authentic-as-it-gets street food and cuisine.

Among the many unique touches are the only tea sommelier in Las Vegas and a 24/7 tea room known as the Cha Garden.

A soft opening on 19 November was met with much fanfare, signaling that this sort of specialization within casinos might become more common in the future.

5. Casinos add nongaming amenities
Though the Lucky Dragon was the first opening on the Strip in quite a while, that doesn't mean other properties haven't been keeping themselves busy. The flashy Topgolf Las Vegas, behind the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Las Vegas, opened in May, and though golf does make up much of its appeal, there's a little something for everyone. (Read: concert venues, bars, swimming pools, luxury suites, etc. One can completely avoid golf here and still never feel bored.)

The Park, nestled between the Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort & Casino and the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, a walkway from the Strip to the T-Mobile Arena, opened its doors on 4 April. Lush landscaping, dining and the eye-catching 40-foot sculpture — Bliss Dance — have made this a must-visit patch of greenery.

Casinos outside Vegas have been keeping themselves busy, too: The Saratoga Casino Hotel in New York finished off its $40 million expansion; Biloxi, Mississippi's Beau Rivage Resort & Casino upgraded its gaming floor and the First Light Resort & Casino broke ground in Massachusetts.

4. iGaming success and failures
In the states, iGaming has hit roadblock after roadblock after roadblock.

Pennsylvania's online gambling bill in particular was a problem child, undergoing a cycle of amendments, receiving support and hitting brick walls. The bill is dead for now, but some are hopeful that the new year will bring new momentum. It passed a House vote in October, but will have to wait until next year to see further action.

California suffered similar setbacks after a bill passed by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee in June failed in the Assembly.

Additionally, New York's online poker bill passed the Senate in June. The bill would legalize online poker and enable the state's 11 racetrack casinos to apply for 11 online poker licenses, each with a 10-year lifespan. The bill now awaits a vote in Assembly.

3. Make way for skill-based casino games
Though ostensibly a scheme to lure millennials into casinos, skill-based games have been received with excitement by people of all ages and have proven themselves to be a much-needed boost to the gaming industry.

GameCo, which gave birth to the first of this new breed of casino game, debuted its product at Caesars properties in New Jersey this past November.

And they're not just fun — they're taking us one step closer to that cyberpunk future we've been dreaming of.

2. FanDuel, DraftKings and daily fantasy sports
FanDuel and DraftKings, two giants of the fantasy sports industry, agreed to merge after a mutually tough year.

Back in January, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit asking FanDuel and DraftKings to return all the money it had generated from the state, along with a fine of $5,000 per case. This was three weeks after a New York Supreme Court judge granted an injunction against DFS operators, calling the industry illegal. (This wasn't the first time the two companies were asked to cease and desist.)

The companies announced the merger in November, with DraftKings CEO Jason Robins acting as the CEO of the new company. FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles will become Chairman of the Board. The transaction is expected to close in 2017.

Billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban became an investor with Fantasy Labs, a provider of proprietary DFS data, tools and analytics. Cuban throwing his weight behind fantasy sports is expected to help reverse the industry's negative momentum.

1. Rise of eSports
It's likely that, at some point this year, eSports may have popped up on your HUD — or radar, depending on your status as a gamer.

In November, Downtown Grand Las Vegas became the first casino in the U.S. to accept eSports wagers. They even opened a dedicated eSports lounge, featuring weekly competitions for Madden, Street Fighter and Mortal Combat. With the eSports industry expected to exceed $1 billion in the coming years, it's a smart move.

If innovation is the name of the game, Las Vegas winning it.

Top 10 Casino City storylines from 2016 is republished from
Abby Messick

Abby served as an associate editor for the Casino City editorial team for three years, between 2015 and 2018.
Abby Messick
Abby served as an associate editor for the Casino City editorial team for three years, between 2015 and 2018.