[Disclosure: The author has stock in Las Vegas Sands, Inc., the company that owns The Venetian.]
The Venetian is not a great hotel.
It is profitable. It is expensive. It is bigger than hell. It is still not a great place to stay. When I tell people this, they usually look at me like I’m insane. I guess the Las Vegas Sands marketing machine is good at what they do.
There are a bunch of reasons why I don’t like The Venetian. We’ll go through ‘em and I’ll make you a believer.
The Construction Quality Is Poor
Take a walk through the Venetian and you’ll see plaster cracking and coming off the walls. For a resort that cost over $1B, the fact that they had to rush to meet their construction deadlines is clear.
When you walk into the resort past the Madame Tussaud wax museum, take a good look at the build quality of the outside fountains and bridges. It’s already falling apart and it’s not even been open six years.
The Venetian Is Not Designed in 360 Degrees
Bellagio is design in 360 degrees.
What does this mean? If you take a good look at Bellagio, you’ll notice that even the storerooms, back of house areas and warehouses have the same architecture, paint, moldings, etc… that the front of house stuff does. It looks as good from the back as it does from the front.
The Venetian is not designed this way. Just looking at the building when walking up from Harrah’s/Casino Royale – the whole wall facing you is just straight brick. Nothing special. They just didn’t care enough to style the parts of the building they thought were non-critical to the aesthetic of the joint. I think this goes all the way to the root of the builders – Adelson vs. Wynn. Adelson only cares about making money while Steve Wynn loves building these places. Wynn gets pleasure out of covering the small details. Adelson gets pleasure out of selling rooms to conventioneers and keeping his mid-week numbers high…
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making money and Adelson’s convention driven strategy is a strong one… But to bill your hotel as a ‘wonder of the world’ and then get stingy on the little things is plain insanity.
We Don’t Like You Very Much
For a supposed high-end hotel, they sure have sent most of their employees to Surly Customer Response 101.
This seems to be most apparent in the casino.
Most casinos will ‘grandfather’ existing players when they raise limits. What this means is if you are at the table when they raise the limit, say from $5 to $25 a hand, you can continue betting at $5 until you leave the table while new players have to respect the $25 limit.
We were playing at The Venetian in early 2004 and were at a craps table when the limit was raised from $10 to $25. As we went to make our next $10 bet, the dealer rudely called out that the limit was $25. He went on to say that The Venetian doesn’t grandfather players unless they have a ‘good reason’ and that we could leave if we didn’t like. Yikes.
One of the things I admire about Bellagio is that they seem to treat you well even if you are playing $5 a hand. The Venetian pit was flat out rude.
Why would they go out of their way to be bastards? We’re not sure but it made us vow to never play at The Venetian again.
So Then, What Does The Venetian Have Going For It?
At this point you’re saying: ‘You guys seem to hate The Venetian but they are making a ton of money and you invested in their parent company. What gives?’
Yes, we do have shares in Las Vegas Sands, the company that owns The Venetian… Why? For precisely the first reason – they are making tons of money. McDonald’s makes tons of money and I don’t eat there either.
The Venetian has a couple of key elements going for it:
Being connected to one of the largest privately owned convention areas in the United States, they can easily fill their rooms with conventioneers. This is a huge plus because it means they can keep their mid-week rates high when other hotels have to offer cut-rate deals.
My favorite restaurant in town is inside Venice’s ugly twin. Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse is a meal you won’t forget. Awesome steaks and a huge winelist make this a must visit. It’s tucked around the corner from the casino. You won’t find it unless you’re looking for it.
If there is one thing The Venetian does right, it would be their mid-range and high end rooms. While their standard ‘suites’ are nothing more than oversized rooms, they do have some really great room product that they sell on their concierge level plus amazing suites.
Add up this stuff with the hotel’s great Strip location and proximity to Steve Wynn’s upcoming Wynn Las Vegas, The Venetian is a money making machine.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it.