1315_Nareit_Ed Pitoniak 20210226 v1.1
02/26/2021 | by Sarah Borchersen-Keto

The U.S. leisure market is likely to come “roaring back” by the summer, as pent-up demand post-COVID combines with a growing preference among consumers for experiences over things, says Ed Pitoniak, CEO of VICI Properties Inc. (NYSE: VICI).

Pitoniak spoke to Nareit following the release of its 2020 earnings report that showed a 37% increase in total revenues. He noted that the gain reflected the closing of nearly $5 billion in transactions and financing during the year.

Another big story for VICI last year was the growing recognition across the gaming space that online gaming (iGaming) and sports betting “represents a whole new way for American gaming operators, our tenants, to reach a new audience. What sports betting is enabling operators to do is weave themselves into the overall American conversation about sports,” Pitoniak said.

For example, VICI’s biggest tenant, Caesars Entertainment, Inc., has an exclusive deal with ESPN. Whenever ESPN cites sports betting odds, they cite the Caesars sportsbook. “We think it’s a very positive and constructive way for our tenants to develop their next generation of customers, which in any consumer discretionary sector is a key question,” Pitoniak said.

Pitoniak also discussed the REIT’s first investment outside of gaming in the Chelsea Piers New York facility, and predicted that by the Summer, “American leisure is going to come roaring back.”

“You’re looking at a period of years going forward where you’re going to combine this secular trend of experiences over things together with pent-up demand from the pandemic to create our new version of the roaring ‘20s,” he said.