Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

January 13, 2005

What's Wrong With The Venetian?

Posted by Hunter


[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.

The Venetian at


Read archived comments (21 so far)
January 16, 2005 6:46 AM Posted by Mike Foster (mesa)

Nice report Hunter. I have been in V a few times and never have seemed to care for it much. Keep up the good work.


January 16, 2005 10:09 PM Posted by Edward

Dang Hunter, love your harsh comments on the Venetian. We should get together and pick at other imperfections like the missing faux bricks on the bell tower where the crane was fastened to during construction among several other things! Maybe the Palazzo will be different??

Hoping to head out to Vegas in April to see Wynn Las Vegas. I know I won't be tapping on hollow sound faux granite walls there.

January 18, 2005 7:24 PM Posted by Hunter

The Venetian gets no breaks from me!


January 18, 2005 9:33 PM Posted by Michael Casey

I have to agree... we, as well, hold stock. However, we LOVE the rooms within the Venezia tower... gorgeous, and with much more thought and time invested.

February 10, 2005 10:06 PM Posted by Hurricane Mikey

The pit bastards at the Luxor do the same thing--won't grandfather you in. So I don't play there anymore, either.

February 11, 2005 9:00 AM Posted by Deana

I have never seen a $5 table game at Bellagio.

February 12, 2005 11:08 AM Posted by Pisces

.....And their slots! They've got the best slots of all the high end places on the Strip. Their slots have never been rude to me.

With the Gondola's there is a very romantic vibe. I like the smell in their casino.....almost a lavendar-like smell. The smell, the energy of their slots and casino, the romance, that all comes through to me.

Bellagio has really deteriorated, and you can see some of the flooring, and rugs that are scuffed and a lack of consistency and continuity with Bellagio.

Venetian's slots have been consistently good, and once I sit down at Venetian's slots....I never want to leave.

With table games, maybe you are right, but right now, their slot environment and energy is unmatched.

March 16, 2005 6:15 AM Posted by Andrea

Totally agree with the above.Venetian is just a big hotel,with a lot of mistakes and poor detailing.Just look at the allways going towards Sands convention center,it look like the old Mandalay/Luxor walkway before it was turned into the very boring shopping place.Only Steve Wynn had the balls to build perfect places.As a matter of fact,if you look at the Montecarlo,you can tell there's a lot of Circus Circus BS around,even if it was built with Steve Wynn.They had to build a valid competitor but they needed to save money.Circus Circus it's always been a pro for that,then you seen their places falling apart after one or two years(look at Mandalay Bay)
I live in Italy but every year I visit Vegas for 2/3 months,so i have plenty of time to observe all this little things.

March 22, 2005 4:08 PM Posted by Nate

I recently heard that the Venetian is remodeling their pool deck. Does anyone have any more detailed information concerning the renovation? I hope they add more foliage. Last time I went, I thought there was too much open space and not enough imagination in the design. Does anyone agree with me? I haven't been to the Bellagio Pool but from looking at pictures, it seems very beautiful. I'd appreciate any info you could send me!

March 25, 2005 3:04 PM Posted by socalduck

Great analysis! The Mirage and Bellagio are really greater than the sum of their parts. Steve Wynn seems to understand that it's all of the little details that make a hotel great and memorable. For all of the gilt and granduer, the Venetian just doesn't have the same magic. It's like they built it from the Mega Casino How to Guide: Marble floors? Check! Celebrity Chef? Check! Gold leaf moldings? Check! It contains all of the trappings of luxury, but misses the intangibles that make a hotel truly special.

As for customer service, I can't say I've ever had a bad experience at the Venetian. Having played craps there a couple of times, I've always found the dealers to be professional and efficient. Yet, there is nothing really special about the Venetian. The dealers at Bellagio are just as efficient, the table minimums just as absurdly high, but given a choice between the two, playing at Bellagio is simply a much better experience.

Since Wynn exited the business five years ago, I think all of the high-end properties have let service slip to a certain degree. With Wynn Las Vegas opening next month, I hope that Wynn reverses this trend.

March 27, 2005 7:20 AM Posted by golddigger007

The casino at the Venetian is too stuffy. Air quality is so poor that I cannot game there any more.

February 27, 2006 8:50 PM Posted by Nahtan

Hey Hunter, I was looking at the property map of the Palazzo at The property looks so small compared to the Venetain and Wynn Las Vegas. How are they going to fit all of it in? Do you think it will be better than the Venetian? I wish they were more clear when they said they're going for the ambiance of Beverly Hills.

February 27, 2006 9:04 PM Posted by Hunter

Having just been in Las Vegas looking at the site, I can only confirm. The site is pretty small and you can already see major parts taking shape. It's going to be kinda like TI in that they are using every available inch. One thing - they went deep underground for parking and some support stuff - that's not usually done. As far as quality? We'll see. I'm withholding judgement but I am skeptical. When I think of Beverly Hills, I think of the Four Seasons and the Peninsula. I doubt they can pull that off.

March 8, 2006 9:24 PM Posted by nj fedder

Just stayed at The Venetain and it is just ok. It simply must be mentioned that the smelly stuff that is pumped thoughout the casino is disgusting. PS: DISGUSTING. It is bathroom spray-like and it can make you want to hurl.

April 11, 2008 9:14 PM Posted by finickycritic

Just got back from the venetian. I came across your blog because I was looking for 'what was the smell in the venetian". It made my whole family sick. It stung our eyes and noses and seriously made us sick to our stomachs. Why do they do that? I can't think if why anyone would want to smell that.

December 10, 2008 9:44 AM Posted by Jeff Fafoglia

Thought you might like to hear of my recent Venetian experience and an unanswered letter to the Venetian management:

To the Management of the Venetian Hotel:

Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

I recently attended the DEMA convention in Las Vegas and had the pleasure to see Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian on Saturday, Oct 25th. (3rd row seats!) I must say the show was incredible, beyond my expectations and worth every cent! It was my wife's 35th birthday present and she thinks it was the best ever, so of course that makes me happy!

Now on to the unpleasant part. Normally I'm not one to follow up on a problem, I just move on, but this particular episode was so annoying that I decided I wasn't going to let it go. After we attended the Phantom last Saturday we strolled through the Venetian looking for a place to have dinner. We eventually decided on Trattoria Reggiano, a small Italian restaurant in the mall. For the antipasto my wife ordered the caprese salad...I'm not sure what they called it, but it was bufala mozzarella with tomatoes, the standard. Normally I would be surprised to find the "bufala" grade of mozzarella in the US, it's very rare, but not unheard of. And at $14 this dish might just be actual "bufala", we thought. When it arrived we thought it looked a bit odd, then after tasting we realized what it REALLY was...not bufala, not even was sliced tomatoes...each with a large slab of RICOTTA cheese formed into a pseudo-slice on it!!!! Not only did it taste awful, but it was downright dishonest to pass off a slab of ricotta for mozzarella, much less call it bufala mozzarella! (If for some reason you don't know what ricotta is, imagine a finely ground type of cottage cheese with almost no flavor...used only for cooking, not eating straight. And it's REALLY CHEAP!) This is tantamount to advertising Kobe beef and serving Spam...and charging for Kobe!

And don't think we're mistaken. We own an Italian tour company that specializes in cooking tours, we spend as much as 2-3 months a year in Italy. In fact, on a couple of our tours we visit farms in southern Italy where they keep buffalo and produce bufala. My wife even has (as a joke) on her business card "Caprese Salad Expert"! Real mozzarella has a firm texture with actual body and structure, (sort of like string cheese), ricotta is just mush, which is what this was. I'm amazed because all of the guys working in there were Italian, I even spoke to a couple of them in Italian. THEN, I actually heard the waiter tell a group of diners that they REALLY needed to try the bufala, "It's the best mozzarella in the world!"...I guarantee you that he, (an Italian citizen like me) knew exactly what he was doing, cheating the ignorant tourists! And if you don't think that passing off ricotta as bufala (and charging for it) is a big deal, then why don't you stroll a few feet to a couple of your other famous Venetian Hotel restaurants, and ask Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali how they would react if one of their restaurants pulled doubt you'll get horrified looks and swinging cleavers.

Now I know that in the scheme of complaints, my complaint doesn't really rank up there with...say, losing my hotel reservation, or getting run over by a bus...but all the same it really ticked me off to be brazenly swindled by guys who knew exactly what they were doing, and in a high-class place like the Ventetian, for God's sake! The point is, IT WASN'T JUST A MISTAKE, IT WAS DISHONESTY! Makes me wonder what kind of wine I was actually drinking, and was my veal REALLY veal??

You're probably asking yourself why I didn't raise a stink right then? Mainly it was because I still had my entree ordered and I figured that when I called their bluff on the cheese swindle then I would certainly get my next dish with some extra unwanted ingredients. I guess I could have just got up, refused to pay for the antipasto, paid for the wine we had, and left. But I chose not to make a scene and spoil all of the other diners evenings. I just quietly ate my meal, paid the $110 bill and left...steaming mad. By the way, 18% was automatically added to my bill as a gratuity. I'm pretty sure that the menu said that the automatic gratuity was only added to groups of 5 or more, but on that I could be wrong. Personally I think the waiter knew I was on to the cheese scam and wanted to make sure to get a gratuity...because I certainly wouldn't have given him one.

So there you have it, not just a simple case of poor customer service but an actual pre-meditated swindle, perpetrated on folks who wouldn't know the difference....except for the fact that we happen to be cheese experts...sort of. I'm not sure what I expect out of you in the way of recompense, but I would hope you would offer me a refund for my meal...and of course put a stop to the dishonest practices of Trattoria Reggiano. I think it reflects extremely poorly on your otherwise fine establishment and the excellent reputation of the Venetian.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Jeff Fafoglia

Lost in Italy
Unique Walking Tours of the Backroads of Italy

December 10, 2008 11:34 AM Posted by mike_ch

Jeff, if you're reading (this is a five year old post on the blog that has a lot of drop-in posters), that was an interesting story and thank you for sharing.

Have you found any restaurants in Vegas that are worthwhile in your experience? I'll make sure to avoid that one in the Venetian in the future.

December 10, 2008 2:34 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Jeff- You may or may not realize, that Venetian does not own nor run very many or any of the places in their hotel. Unlike other great fine establishments like Wynn, Venetian, would rather just rent out the space and take the rent. Keep in mind, that way you can't contol the service or quality for your guest, but look at all that rent you bring it. And lets's that working for them??? Well, since we almost lost LVS last month, it's not working out too well for them. The company came just hours from filing chapter 11. I guess guest do care about the little details. Hum...Wynn was right. Amazing.

December 10, 2008 4:41 PM Posted by mike_ch

In kindness, Brian, I'm not sure the Wynn-Adelson rivalry is too relevant here. This is a restaurant in Grand Canal Shoppes, and I'm pretty sure Harrah's doesn't run the restaurants in Forum Shoppes and I know that neither P-Ho nor their partners that own the Miracle Mile are running the Hawaiian Tropic Zone or Trader Vic's either.

FWIW, Venetian's page doesn't list anything that suggests the establishment in question is owned by anyone else. Though it is in the mall. It boasts of being the Venetian's casual Italian joint. Curious.

December 10, 2008 6:28 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Mike - You're right, its not really relevant, but I sure do love to take a jab, at LVS anytime I can! :) I don't think they do run any of those up in the mall though, they don't even run most in their casino.

December 11, 2008 8:45 AM Posted by Mike P.

Actually that comment above is ridiculous in more ways than one.

First, "Trattoria Reggiano" is nothing but a hole in the wall cafe at the edge of the upstairs food court in the Grand Canal shops. Anyone who expects the food there to be more than a step up from food court grub is being, um, a tad optimistic.

Second, the mall and both food courts at the Venetian are owned (for the moment) by GGP, so of course complaining to Venetian management is pointless. The correct way to complain about restaurant service or food is on the spot, not weeks after the fact.

Third, what kind of self proclaimed foodie picks a restaurant by wandering around and picking something at random? There are a half dozen credible Italian restaurants in the Venetian/Palazzo complex, and a few more that I'd pass on. A few minutes of online research would turn up some excellent choices at just about any price level -- Valentino is my personal favorite there, but any of the Batali & Bastianich operations are worth a look, as are Zeffirino and Canaletto.

Brian, do you ever pass up an opportunity to shill for Wynn or snark at Adelson? Never mind, I know the answer to that.