When the 777-room Circa Resort & Casino opens this year, it will not only be the first newbuild to go up in downtown Las Vegas in four decades, it will also be the first hotel-casino in the city catering only to those over 21 years of age.
Las Vegas has been adult-oriented since its inception, except for a stretch in the 1990s when it built kid-friendly attractions and marketed toward families. Nevada law, which permits only those 21 and older to gamble and to be served alcohol, is strictly enforced on casino floors.
Circa, however, promises to enforce the age restriction throughout its property, including its rooms, restaurants and pool area.
"Circa Resort & Casino was built around adult-focused destination amenities, and a 21-and-older spot amplifies the guest experience," a resort official said. "Since our pool amphitheater and sports book were already 21-and-older, we started to consider the benefits of expanding throughout the property."
The resort is scheduled to open its massive sports book, pool area, restaurants and casino on Oct. 28. Rooms can be booked now for stays beginning on Dec. 28.
Circa unveiled renderings for its multilevel pool amphitheater, dubbed Stadium Swim, last week. Open year-round, it will feature a 135-by-41-foot, 14 million-megapixel LED screen, a DJ booth, two swim-up bars, six pools, two spas, and technologically advanced ultraviolet-light sanitation and water-recirculation programs.
"We want our guests to be carefree and have a great time, and a 21-and-older resort contributes to the lively atmosphere Circa will provide," the official said. "We've heard from a lot of parents who look forward to visiting solely because the resort is a 21-and-older experience."
The rule will be strictly enforced through messaging, agents and entry points of the resort, the official said. "If a guest books online and enters our property with their children, we'll do our best to relocate them to one of our sister properties at the D Las Vegas and Golden Gate Hotel & Casino or somewhere downtown."
Circa CEO Derek Stevens said he wants to pay homage to Vegas' vibrant past while introducing modern elements and instilling a party atmosphere throughout the resort. That Circa has a relatively modest room count compared with Strip resorts and that Stevens has additional nearby properties that can handle families may have contributed to the decision to restrict it to adults.
The need to stop people and ask for ID has been one of the main difficulties of enforcing the concept of adults-only in the industry, said Michael Green, professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Asking for ID "can be very complimentary if someone wants to feel they look a lot younger than they are!" Green said. "But under the law, you're an adult at 21. You also are in many cases and circumstances an adult at 18, but you can't gamble or drink, and that is supposed to be enforced."
Circa's Stadium Swim, to open this year in downtown Las Vegas, will feature 30 cabanas and super cabanas hosting up to 25 guests each.
It's an experiment that has been tried in the past.
"Originally, Jay Sarno wanted Circus Circus to be for adults only, and tried it," Green said. "It obviously didn't work, and it didn't become wildly successful until after new operators -- William Bennett and William Pennington -- were in charge and catered to families."
Others, notably Bellagio when it opened in 1998 and Wynn/Encore more recently, have made efforts with varying degrees of formality and success to limit strollers and children.
"The adults-only concept often has depended on the marketing flavor of the moment," Green said. "Of course, casinos are and should be only for adults. But Las Vegas has a long history of catering to families."
Green said the Last Frontier Hotel in the 1940s and early 1950s included the Last Frontier Village, which had Old West memorabilia that appealed to families. The Hacienda, which opened in 1956, had a miniature golf course next to its pool. When it opened, the International (later the Las Vegas Hilton and now the Westgate) included a youth hostel and featured activities to keep kids busy while their parents gambled, Green said.
Las Vegas marketed itself as a family destination during the 1990s with the kid-friendly Excalibur and Adventuredome at Circus Circus leading the way. Treasure Island staged nightly pirate battles, and MGM Grand had a theme park.
But by 2003, when the ubiquitous "What Happens Here, Stays Here" marketing campaign was introduced, the city once again emphasized adults. Gambling, high-end dining, exclusive shopping and nightlife have since defined Vegas as a wonderland for grown-ups.
Marketing campaigns come and go. Las Vegas continually reinvents itself, a useful trait that will be needed during the pandemic and beyond.
Circa's effort to limit itself to adults may well give it a niche it might not otherwise have had, Green said.
"If adults want to feel they are free to be as frolicsome or frisky as they like, Circa may well be ahead of a new curve," Green said. "At the same time, when [the pandemic] does end, I suspect a lot of families will hit the road, and that might prove problematic for Circa. But we don't know. We are truly dealing with terra incognita."