Sustainability and profit are no longer considered to be mutually exclusive. In the current environmentally conscious climate, even casino operators on the glittering Las Vegas strip provide a model for energy conservation, as they continue to make changes that help the environment, but also reduce their costs.
In Las Vegas, casinos consume one-fifth of all electricity, through lighting, ventilation and air conditioning. Casinos require an uninterrupted electrical supply and all this means that casinos use more than five times the energy, per square foot, of an average large hospital.
There are more than two-hundred thousand casinos in Las Vegas, most of which are open 24 hours a day. As much as thirty percent of a casino’s electricity bill relates to lighting, all part of the ambience to encourage gamers to stay for longer, not realising that it is dusk or dark outside. Lighting retrofits, to include LED lighting can lead to cost savings of up to 30 percent, resulting on a return on investment in two years. Game machines generally use between thirty and thirty-five percent of all the electricity in a casino. Occupancy sensors can reduce usage both lighting and air-conditioning use on the casino floor as required.
Solar panels are in use by many casinos, as they tend to have a lot of roof space. This leads to savings of between 5 and 10 percent on electricity use. Another example of solar power is the Rincon Casino on the Harrah native American reservation in San Diego, which derives its power from a nearby USD8 million solar panel farm, one of the largest solar projects by a private company that received half its funding from the California Solar Initiative.
Three of Nevada’s largest casino companies, being MGM Resorts, Wynn, and Las Vegas Sands plan to produce more renewable energy for their hotels, a move driven both by increasing demand for responsible energy use from the companies that rent their conference halls, and a surplus of cheap power from solar farms in Nevada and California.
MGM Resorts has also installed the largest rooftop solar arrangement in the United States, covering twenty acres, at its Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, which produces twenty percent of the electricity used.
Some casinos have migrated online, using up energy on servers, but saving electricity per unit player.
The challenge in Las Vegas is that regulators will not let casinos simply walk away from the state’s monopoly utility provider, NV Energy. While corporations have been encouraged to go green, their efforts pass the burden of subsidising old utility regimes on to retail consumers, which regulators cannot allow. NV Energy have implemented an ‘exit fee’ for those casinos who wish to separate from the company to compensate the utility provider for losses incurred on power plants and other assets purchased with casino demand in mind. They have also had their request to drastically lower the rate at which solar users are compensated for excess energy they provide to the grid approved.
Despite all this, MGM Resorts has already hurt utility profits though an ambitious energy conservation effort. In addition to building a solar array strong enough to power 1,000 homes for one year, the corporation has replaced 1.3million light bulbs in its properties with LEDs.
Solar panels cannot provide adequate power to multi-thousand-room resorts which house nightclubs, pools, theatres and slot machine-packed casinos, so most are looking for electricity from local energy solar plants through NV Energy.
Casinos is Las Vegas and elsewhere have the ability to educate a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce environmental impacts.