Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

All Articles Published: May 2005

May 31, 2005

Google Ads In Our RSS Feeds

Posted by Hunter

We are now including Google ads in our RSS feeds. Right now it is just a test. This site is supported by advertising and we're hoping that this will help to defray some of the significant costs of developing and hosting this site.

May 25, 2005

Las Vegas Strip: In Pictures

Posted by Hunter

Over the years we've snapped quite a few shots of the fabulous Las Vegas Strip. Let's take a walk down the street, visuals courtesy of Flickr! To see a larger version of any shot, click on the image to see it on where you will find more of our pictures.
Mandalay Bay Mandalay Bay
Mandalay Bay - 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South | Mandalay Bay on
4,825 rooms | 15 restaurants | Owner: MGM MIRAGE

Want to see more? Click the hyperlinked title of this story to see the full set.

May 25, 2005

Coverage of 2005 Casino Design Conference

Posted by Hunter

I will covering the 2005 Casino Design Conference at Wynn Las Vegas, June 22nd-24th.

Beyond getting a chance to rub elbows with those folks that made the resort possible, I'll be touring back of house areas to get a good feel for how the property works behind the scenes.

Also, I'm booked back into the hotel so I can check up on my concerns from my last trip.

May 24, 2005

Book: Sun, Sin & Suburbia

Posted by Hunter

I just finished reading an excellent book that I'd like to recommend. It's called Sun, Sin & Suburbia by Geoff Schumacher.

The book is what he calls 'An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas'. The book covers development of various Las Vegas Valley areas such as Summerlin and Green Valley, the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas and even the recent hi-rise condo market.

What is great is that the book is very easy to read and it is clearly written by someone with a deep understanding of Las Vegas.

If you are interested in Las Vegas history, you shouldn't miss this book.

Buy The Book (Supports This Site)

May 24, 2005

Golden Nugget Laughlin Sale to Barrick Derails

Posted by Hunter

Poster Financial, owners of the two Golden Nugget properties, announced in November it was selling the Golden Nugget Laughlin to Barrick Gaming for approximately $31M.

An article in today's Las Vegas Sun indicates the deal has derailed, with both sides pointing fingers.

Las Vegas Sun Article

Readers will recall that Poster Financial subsequently sold the downtown Las Vegas casino to Landry's.

May 22, 2005

WSJ Slams Wynn Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

The May 17th edition of the Wall Street Journal featured an article in the D section by David Littlejohn. The topic - Wynn Las Vegas.

It is clear from the first paragraph that Mr. Littlejohn has an axe to grind with Las Vegas, which he refers to as an 'ecstatically tasteless city'. From there he continues on to whine about his Wynn experience, piece by piece.

He describes Wynn's acquisition of the 200+ acre property as motivated mainly by the presence of a golf course, failing to realize the long term implications of taking on the strategically located parcel at millions below today's sky-high property values.

Other complaints are equally baseless - how does the Strip side mountain discourage pedestrian traffic, especially when compared to Bellagio's 8-acre lake, TI's Siren's Cove or the volcano at The Mirage. His critique of the pool simply doesn't stand up to popular opinion - the pool area has been regarded as one of the best at any Las Vegas resort.

Fortunately the article is not completely negative. Mr. Littlejohn describes positive experiences at several Wynn restaurants including Daniel Bouloud Brasserie and Bartolotta's Ristaurante. Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Littlejohn praises the production show, 'Le Reve', which has been lambasted by critics elsewhere.

Overall, it is hard to see this article as anything more than just well circulated smear job.

For those with online WSJ access, the article is located here:

May 17, 2005

More Info on the Palazzo Emerges

Posted by Hunter

The Palazzo is Sheldon Adelson's new Las Vegas Strip megaresort being built between Wynn Las Vegas and the Venetian. While some of this information has been posted previously, some of it is new and I'll just combine it all here for your convenience.

The projected opening of the Palazzo is scheduled for the second quarter of 2007. It will contain 3,025 rooms and suites in a 50-floor hotel tower. The complex will feature a 105,000 square foot casino, similar in size to Bellagio, The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas.

The plan includes 400,000 square feet of additional retail that will connect to the existing Grand Canal Shops.

Adelson has been saying he is going for 'Beverly Hills' and 'Rodeo Drive' ambiance. I'm not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean but he has spoken about some of the architectural features of the resort. Of particular note is the lobby, which will feature a 60-foot glass dome that contains multiple two-story fountains and marble everything.

When the Venetian was expanded with the Venezia Tower in 2004, one of the features was a 'Concierge Floor' that includes a higher level of service and a 24-hour concierge. These rooms have been so popular that the concept is being expanded at the Palazzo with over 375 planned.

The resort will also feature six villas ranging in size up to 11,000 square feet. This high end product is similar to villas at Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and The Mirage - long a hallmark of Steve Wynn's high roller offering. They come fully loaded with private pools, jacuzzis, massage rooms, media rooms and more.

While Adelson claims this is an all suite resort, it is the same trick they pull with the Venetian. Most of the rooms are just oversized standard rooms with a sunken living area. I don't think this qualifies as a real suite, which to me means multiple rooms.

That wraps up the info we have at this point. Here's a rendering of the resort as it stands.

May 17, 2005

Two Way/ Chat?

Posted by Hunter

I'm toying with the idea of hosting an online chat but I don't know if anyone would be interested. If it is something you think you might attend, just a friendly get together, let me know in the comments.

Last time we visited Bellagio, Bally's, Paris and the Aladdin. Check the archives to read our complete series.

This time around we visit Caesars Palace, The Flamingo, Imperial Palace and Harrah's. We've got maybe the most famous property in Las Vegas history as well as one of the absolutely most important properties ever built on the Strip, plus some good value choices wedged in between. Let's start.

Caesars Palace

Caesars is the single most important property on the Strip. What do I mean by that? I'll try to explain. When Jay Sarno built Caesars Palace (and later Circus Circus), he pioneered the concept of the highly themed and integrated resort complex that shaped billions of dollars of investment up and down the Strip. Only recently, with the opening of Wynn Las Vegas, have we seen developers actively moving away from the idea of a identifiable theme.

Opening in 1966, the resort originally had less than 700 rooms (it now has 2,400 and will soon have 900+ more). It featured the 800-seat Circus Maximum theater, which before it was torn down 3 years ago to make way for new development, feature headlines like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The hotel now features the 4,000 seat Colosseum with regular performances by Celine Dion, Elton John and others.

The changes at Caesars over the past several decades could fill an entire article. As one of the most successful brands in gaming, it is one of the only 'original' properties that still exists in a viable form today - and it is expanding. The 900+ room Augustus Tower will open later in 2005 and is the latest in a round of improvements designed to re-establish the reputation of Caesars as one of the Strip's must-see resorts.

The next round of challenges will be undertaken by Harrah's, which is in the process of buying Caesars Entertainment and all of its resorts. The sale is expected to close later in 2005.

What's Good

Palace Tower Rooms - The most recent rooms on property (at least until the Augustus Tower opens), these are really the only rooms built to modern luxury standards. Spacious living space, large bathrooms and marble everything are the hallmarks of the offering - the most expensive standard room that Caesars offers. The mini-suites are especially great with even more space and some great views of the lake at Bellagio (or the parking lot if you aren't so lucky).

Original Casino Nostalgia - Not many of the original spaces remain. Funnily enough, the first thing most guests see is the original 1960s casino, even though walking 10 feet in any direction will take you to revamped areas. These original spaces are lot of fun to visit - you really feel like you are going back in time. The only other spot on property that dates back close to that far is Cleopatra's Barge - let's hope they don't bulldoze that anytime soon.

Restaurants - While most of the restaurants at Caesars are just good and not great, there are a few standouts that rise above. These include the Mesa Grill from TV chef Bobby Flay. Even only a few days after opening, this place was firing on all cylinders and I can recommend it to all looking for steaks with a twist (filet crusted in espresso beans?). Beyond that, Bradley Ogden gets very high marks for some excellent food in a cool looking room. Of course Caesars has its own versions of all the casino standards (steakhouse, coffee shop, Chinese, Japanese and Italian). Nero's, with steaks and seafood, is a very safe choice for consistently good food and service. One of the better 24 hour coffee shops in town is Cafe Lago, which as the name implies is located by the pool.

Shopping - The original Las Vegas Strip mega-mall is still the most important. The Forum Shops offers the best range of choices despite new competition from the Venetian's Grand Canal Shops and Mandalay Place. All of the standard options are here, as well as quite a few high end boutiques and some great food choices. A recent expansion brought dozens of new shops along with Joe's Stone Crab, Steaks and Seafood which is a fantastic place to grab lunch.

What's Bad

Older Rooms - While the Palace and Augustus Tower rooms are up to level of the Mirage's, Bellagio's and THEHotel's of the Strip, most of the rooms in the complex range from the late 60s to mid-70s. What this means is that the rooms are small with some 'funky' decor, despite some attempts to upgrade. The resort usually offers these rooms at much lower prices than Palace Tower rooms so if you're looking for a deal, this can be a good place to start.

Casino Service Problems - The first time I thought it was just an isolated incident... By the fourth time, there was no denying that this is a pattern and it is getting worse. The dealers seem disenchanted. Perhaps they're worried about upcoming changes when Harrah's buys the joint. Maybe they didn't like the A&E TV crews running through the place while filming their reality show 'Caesars 24x7'. It could be they are just as sick as everyone about the endless construction on property. Whatever the problem, it needs to be fixed. No one likes to lose money in a place where the dealers are rude and sometimes downright mean. When I bet a 2-way for you guys, I don't like being told that you are 'too busy' to make change for my quarter, especially when I am one of three people on the table. The phrase 'I don't get paid to do that' should never be uttered by any service employee in any industry.

Lack of Cohesive Design - While it may sound like a secondary concern, this is a huge problem. When the resort was originally built, foot traffic on Las Vegas Blvd. was virtually non-existent. People drove between casinos, they didn't walk. To respond to that, the resorts dedicated a huge amount of space to parking and in the case of Caesars, that space was in front of the resort. Over time, that space has been reclaimed for new additions and other uses. This means that Caesars is set extremely far back from the Strip, forcing long walks in. Beyond that, hotel elevators are located all over the various parts of the property, which can be confusing for some guests and means long distances between restaurants, the pool and the lobby. Caesars never had a master plan and it shows. With each new owner came architectural and design changes with limited regard for previous efforts. It's sort of the Picasso of casino layout and design - which isn't a good thing in this case. Short of razing the place and starting over - which ain't happening anytime soon - not much can be done.

We're Not Sure

Augustus Tower - The new 949 room tower features a mix of standard guest rooms and various types of suites. While rooms will be larger than most in Las Vegas, I'm not expecting to be blown away by the designs or luxury amenities. The bottom line is that Caesars is always sold out. Thus they are building more rooms so they can offer some rooms at sane prices and keep more gamblers on property. That's the motivation, not a grand scheme to improve the feel of the property in any grand way.

New Management - Harrah's is great a marketing to low and mid level gamblers and using technology to do it as efficiently as possible. They don't have a good track record in courting or maintaining high level play. When they bought the Rio in 1999, high end play (and all revenues) plummeted. We'll see if things are different with Caesars but my gut is that they just don't 'get' high end play... And with hot rumors of Caesars head Mark Juliano thinking of heading to Wynn Las Vegas, it sounds like the problem may be even more acute.

Photos, More Information and Hotel Booking (support this site!):

The Flamingo

The Flamingo might be the most historically misrepresented Las Vegas casino. It's also probably the most famous. The legend claims the resort was the brainchild of Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel, who dreamt of building a palace in the desert. The real details of the hotel have been explained over and over, so I won't go into it but rest assured that Siegel only took the project over after Hollywood Reporter owner Billy Wilkerson ran out of money and was forced out. Since then the hotel has gone through a half dozen owners and almost as many expansions and remodels. At one point it was even a Hilton property... These days none of the original structures remain so if you're looking for Siegel's ghost you'll have to head to Beverly Hills.

What's Good

Signage - One of the best neon signs out there, it's always fun to check out and to photograph.

Pools - Fortunately for the Flamingo, its pool was a bit ahead of the times - which is good since no significant capital has been infused since it was built. Based on a tropical theme, some still consider this the best in Vegas. I think that's a serious stretch but it is still a force to be reckoned with. If tropical lagoons are your gig, Mandalay Bay and The Mirage are still at the top of the heap.

Location - One of the best positioned properties on the Strip. Not only are you next door to Bellagio, Bally's, Caesars and more, the hotel has a monorail stop. It's a to-die-for location right in the middle of the action.

Prices - The hotel usually offers some very competitive prices, especially given the location and the pool. Due to that fact, it fills up quick so if you want to stay here, book early.

What's Bad

Rooms - Motel Six circa 1985. Medium to small sized rooms, many with frayed, stained carpet. Recent renovations helped but it was just a quick brush over - no walls were moved. Fortunately, they do have in-room safes, which is a step ahead of many mid-range Strip properties.

Most of the Food - The choices at the Flamingo are all about the same - middle of the road. You won't find any interesting dining here and you will find some things I recommend you stay away from. The buffet is a bit sketchy - better choices are nearby at Bellagio, Paris and The Mirage. You can get decent food here. You can get good to great food at neighboring properties.

Maintenance/Upkeep - This place is really rundown and its getting worse. The casino is desperately in need of new carpet and signage as part of a general 'sprucing up'. Based on the location, this place should be hopping with a wide range of customers. Instead it is only 60%-70% full and the customer base is mostly 50+, well above the range I would expect. It's clear that Caesars and Paris have gotten all of the money for improvements in the past few years and the Flamingo has been allowed to wither a bit. It's not irreversible, they can fix this. Maybe new owner Harrah's will fix her up... I still expect the Flamingo brand to continue at this location due to the strong historical implications. If Harrah's re-brands a property to a Horseshoe, I expect the Las Vegas property to be Bally's, not the Flamingo.

Health Issues? In 2004 the hotel suffered a major virus outbreak that resulted in over 1,200 guests and employees getting sick. When this type of thing happens on a cruise ship, my immediate reaction is that the place just isn't being cleaned like it should. While we'll probably never know exactly what happened at the Flamingo, and it hasn't happened since, this kind of stuff leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I guess it can happen anywhere... but it DID happen here.

Photos, More Information and Hotel Booking (support this site!):

Imperial Palace

Ralph Engelstad purchased the land that is now the Imperial Palace in 1971. Originally the Flamingo Capris, it wasn't until 1979 that the name was changed and the oriental theme introduced. One of the most notorious news items associated with the hotel involved Engelstad's obsession with automobiles. Apparently he owned several cars that belonged to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and had created a 'war room' in dictator's honor. The Nevada Gaming Control Board fined Engelstad $1.5 million for his bad taste in regards to his display of the Nazi propaganda, stating that it displayed the state in a bad light. Engelstad, one of the last independent owners on the Strip, died in 2002. The long term fate of the hotel is unknown. While focusing on the medium level customer, it is profitable and well financed. Still, it may prove too tempting an acquisition target for nearby Harrah's.

What's Good

Prices - The IP not only offers great mid-Strip prices but they are liberal with their comps. If you put in any reasonable amount of time at the tables or the slots, they will offer you something. Never be afraid to ask.

Legends in Concert - One of the best values for entertainment on the Strip. This is a show of celebrity impersonators and they do a great job of nailing it. If you're looking for something that is fun and inexpensive, give Legends a look. It's also a great time with a bit group of folks.

Embers - The steakhouse at the IP is a surprise hit. Some very good steaks served up at famously low Las Vegas prices. Between this and the Circus Circus Steakhouse, we have the two best value steak options on the Strip... And fortunately, you don't have to sacrifice quality. This is a good choice.

What's Bad

Buffet - Fairly lethal. It's gotten a bit better but if you value your GI tract, stay away. If a total body purge is your idea of a vacation, line up and swipe your credit card.

River - This place is built on top of the Flamingo Wash and when it rains, the parking garage literally turns into a river. If you're here during a rainstorm, be aware of this problem.

Photos, More Information and Hotel Booking (support this site!):


Harrah's corporate history is a bit convoluted. Started by Bill Harrah in Reno, then merged into Holiday Inn, it was eventually spun off and is now poised to become the largest gaming corporation in the world with its acquisition of Caesars Entertainment closing this year. Based on that, it is no surprised that Harrah's Las Vegas on the Strip used to be a Holiday Inn itself. The neighborhood has changed quite a bit since then and Harrah's is no exception. A 1,000 room expansion was unveiled in 1997, maximizing on the limited amount of acreage the resort has available. These days the featured entertainment is acclaimed Strip headliner Clint Holmes, filling the showroom each night with screaming fans.

What's Good

Location - Across the street are The Mirage, Caesars and Treasure Island while the Venetian sits next door and Wynn Las Vegas just down the street. Hard to argue that this isn't a great spot, especially as the epicenter of the Strip begins to move North.

Prices - Like the IP, Harrah's usually offers good prices and reasonable comps. While the comp picture seems to have been getting less rosy, you'll still find more action than across the street.

Dealers - Some of the friendliest and most fun dealers in town. This is consistently true, trip after trip. If you want a fun time at the tables, play at Harrah's. They'll entertain you (in a good way) while you lose your nest egg.

Entertainment - Clint Holmes is good. What's funny is that almost no one knows who he is. Kinda like Danny Gans, one of those guys that packs them in night after night but outside of Vegas, can't be recognized.

What's Bad

Upkeep/Maintenance - In general, Harrah's knows its market very well. It is not a luxury property and it doesn't try to market itself that way. Still, everyone likes some new carpet, drapes and fixtures. Those kinds of renovations, just like that certain rug, really bring the room together. Go for it dudes.

We're Not Sure

Carnival Court - Some folks love this outdoor bar. It's a bit too college frat party for me most of the time but who am I to judge (it's not like I have a blog full of judgments). No matter what I think, this place has live music most nights and it is outside, which is a nice break from the claustrophobic catacombs of most nightclubs.

Merger With Caesars - I personally don't think this makes anywhere near as much sense as the MGM Mirage/Mandalay merger that was just completed. Those properties clearly have synergies and operational efficiencies to be gained by merging and aim at similar markets... The Harrah's/Caesars properties seem to come from opposite ends of the stratosphere (no relation to the large tower that darkens the Northern end of the Strip). Not that they can't make this work - they might be able to - but if the Rio experience is an indicator, this will be tough for them.

Photos, More Information and Hotel Booking (support this site!):

Next Up: The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas

May 12, 2005

Dear Steve: Our Comments on Wynn Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

This is a copy of the letter that we sent to Wynn Las Vegas management following our recent stay.

Dear Steve:

I'm writing to share my impressions of Wynn Las Vegas after a recent stay. I know that you are striving to create a perfect experience for your guests and so along with all of the great things I noticed, the end of this letter mentions a few items I think you can improve. I hope you'll indulge my opinions and I promise not to take up too much of your time.

Walking into Wynn Las Vegas makes you feel good.

Between the natural light in the casino, the magnificent flowers and trees(!), water cascading from the mountain and the whimsical use of color, your resort redefines Las Vegas and raises the bar in the entire hospitality industry.

I have an interest in resort and casino design and have studied what you've done in the past. I can honestly say that despite my extremely high expectations, Wynn Las Vegas exceeded them. Not only is the resort beautiful, it is extremely functional. I could go on and on about what I like about the resort but for the sake of brevity, I'll list just a few of my favorite things.

  • The use of color in the whole complex is stunning. The striking mosaics and carpet compliments the painted ceilings and canopies.
  • The casino is the best designed and most beautiful I have ever seen. A 100,00 square foot floor has never been so easy to navigate or flow so well but at the same time, the darker tones remind me of my favorite parts of The Mirage, which until recently was my preferred casino floor in Las Vegas.
  • Restaurants - We had the pleasure of trying several restaurants, including Corsa Cucina, the Terrace Pointe Cafe, SW Steakhouse, Wing Lei and room service. Perhaps needless to say, all of dishes we tried were fantastic. Even your room service offerings are the best in town! Having the chefs on site certainly keeps quality high. We got a chance to talk to Stephen Kalt as he was working with his staff and it is clear that your strategy makes a huge difference in the quality of the dining options at Wynn Las Vegas.
  • The 'little things' - The difference between a good resort and a great one is the attention to the hundreds of little details that define the experience. These may be things that many customers never identify directly, though some customers certainly do notice them. Nevertheless, the aggregation of these details is what lets the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. Wynn Las Vegas offers these in spades.

Now that I've gone over some of the standout features of your new resort, I wanted to share a few things that that I think you and your staff could improve at Wynn Las Vegas.

These are listed in no particular order:

  • The Tower Suites elevators make a jarring beeping sound when they pass each floor. Also, there were substantial creaking sounds passing certain floors - perhaps they are still being 'broken in'? I didn't have a chance to try the 'Resort' elevators.
  • The Terrace Pointe Cafe doesn't have any 'to-go' boxes or bags. To their credit, they did offer us a piece of foil but that is clearly an ad-hoc solution.
  • It seems that cell phones based on GSM technology don't work in most of the low-rise buildings. While CDMA cell phones from Verizon did work, GSM phones from Cingular, AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile didn't function at all. It is my understanding that many other resorts have installed repeater hardware toe alleviate the inherent difficult using phones in such dense structures.
  • In the Spa shower area (men's), there is no place to hang your towel or robe inside the shower stall, forcing guests to jump up and throw them over the top of the door. Interestingly enough, I spoke with four people about the spa and each separately mentioned this issue.
  • There didn't appear to be 'Do Not Disturb' signs or lights, which results in many eager employees knocking on the door earlier than we wanted to be disturbed.
  • Our golf course view Tower Suite room on the 32nd floor had very dirty windows.

Finally, I wanted to mention our check-in. We arrived Sunday May 1st, the resort's first day of major guest turnover. Between when we arrived at 2 p.m. and at 6 p.m. when we got to our room, we had to visit the registration staff four times before a room was available. Based on conversations I had with others in the line, we were not the only ones who were experiencing this problem.

I was surprised that this happened on such a massive scale, especially in the VIP check-in area. Perhaps this could have been mitigated if staff gave more realistic windows of availability from the beginning instead of having us check back so many times. Also, some of the tensions could possibly have been relieved if some kind of compensation had been offered, just to let the waiting guests know that hotel management understood the difficult circumstances - even something as simple as a snack at the cafe.

As a Wynn Resorts shareholder, I am thrilled the hotel is so busy but it was a frustrating experience to say the least.

Thanks for sharing your creation with the world. I look forward to visiting again soon.


May 12, 2005

Fontainebleau to Name Schaeffer CEO

Posted by Hunter

A potentially huge development...

The Fontainebleau is a famous Miami resort that was not only Jay Sarno's inspiration for Caesars Palace but also cited by Steve Wynn has a precursor to The Mirage.

Glenn Schaeffer is the extremely able former head of Mandalay Resort Group which was recently purchased by MGM MIRAGE.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Schaeffer has been named CEO of Fontainebleau Resorts and they are planning a property in Las Vegas on the Northern end of Strip on land owned by Turnberry Associates. The site plan will also include condos.

Schaeffer is quoted as saying that architecture is the next frontier for Las Vegas...

May 11, 2005

Caesars Palace

Posted by Hunter

Caesars Palace
Originally uploaded by VegasMediaGroup.
The new tower at Caesars Palace is very close to completion.

May 9, 2005

Great Stuff Coming

Posted by Hunter

I'm expecting a whole series of great new posts coming in the coming weeks and months, including:

  • What's Wrong With Wynn Las Vegas - Our letter to Steve.
  • MGM MIRAGE + Mandalay = What's next?
  • An Introduction to Sports Betting - this is the first article by a guest author, soon to be named.
  • Project CityCenter - Will it Really Change Las Vegas?
  • High Rise Condo Buying Guide
  • Stripping: Caesars Palace, The Flamingo, O'Shea's, Imperial Palace and Harrah's
  • The Best Las Vegas Hotel Web Sites
  • What Casino Offers The Highest Return on Investment in Las Vegas?

Plus a lot more. I'm having a great time writing this stuff and this is just the beginning.

Love writing? Love Las Vegas? We're looking for contributors. Feel free to contact us at:

May 7, 2005

Bellagio Porte Cochere Changes

Posted by Hunter

Originally uploaded by VegasMediaGroup.

Bellagio has been working on its main entrance and porte cochere recently. This is how the finished product looks.

May 5, 2005

Wynn Las Vegas: Our Review

Posted by Hunter

Want to see hundreds of pictures of Wynn Las Vegas? Click here.

Wynn Las Vegas is the world's most expensive casino resort, costing $2.7B to design and build. At 2,716 rooms, that brings the per-room cost to about $1,000,000.

So, after all the money, the hype and the hoopla, how does the place stack up?

My expectations were extremely high. Did Steve Wynn deliver? Yes.

Here is my take on what I saw. It's pretty long, bear with me.

Lobby, Lounges and Public Areas

I think that most people who walk through Wynn Las Vegas will be reminded of Bellagio. Similar features include a large 'garden' area, marble used everywhere, water and even the same typeface used in the signage.

Compared to the lobby at Bellagio, Wynn's check-in area is simple. While it does feature a great view of the lake below, the Dale Chihuly piece at Bellagio is not replicated in any form at Wynn Las Vegas.

There are two garden areas between the main valet and the shopping area that are reminiscent of Bellagio.

The color and floral patterns are repeated throughout the resorts floors, as you can see here in this mosaic:

Between the two garden areas is one of two lounges, Parasol Up. Parasol Down is located at the bottom of a pair of escalators that lead to a patio over the lake. We had drinks at both locations and I was excited to learn that they use real fruit juice in their cocktails, freshly squeezed. 'Up' reminds me a bit of the Fontana Lounge at Bellagio in that they have live entertainment nightly. 'Down' features most of its seating outside in front of the Lake of Dreams.

Wynn wisely didn't attempt to duplicate the scale of the Fountains of Bellagio at Wynn Las Vegas. There is a small water feature in the Lake of Dreams - at night there is a multimedia light show and the lake changes color. I was a bit skeptical about this before I saw it but I can say that it is pretty cool. The colors are very deep and rich - they did a good job executing on this one.

The area right above Parasol Down was clogged with people every time I walked by... If you don't want to brave the crowds you have other options for a quick drink. Near the casino cage is the 'B Bar' (B is for baccarat). It's all sit-down, waitress service but it is a nice place to watch the action. There is a bar at Corsa Cucina that opens on the casino floor as well. Sugar and Ice, which I thought might have been a bar located in the shopping area is in fact a coffee/espresso outlet instead.

One of the things that really impressed me about the public areas was the details. The wallpaper is an incredible textured brown. The furnishings and plants are different all over.

How are the bathrooms? One neat feature is the trough like marble sinks instead of individual spots.

I could go on about the public areas for hours. I recommend you take a look at all of the photos to get a good feel for the place.

Casino and Sportsbook

This is Las Vegas, right? Wynn features a 100,000+ square foot casino with many of the standard games as well as a few new ones.

First off, let's talk about the look. To put it simply, imagine the casino at The Mirage and then add in some of the stylings from Bellagio and you have an idea of what it looks like. The table games are located all along the outsides of the aisles through the casino.

Wynn's slot club is called the 'Red Card' and when you check in to the resort you are automatically enrolled but non guests can also get the card. All the slots are new and state of the art, including small LCD screens that let you play a special bonus bingo game if your card is inserted.

I did see some 9/6 $1 VP but not a lot of machines had fantastic pay tables. Regarding table games, they do have some 6:5 blackjack and they do use continuous shufflers on many games.

The casino was a lot of fun to play in and the craps pit we hung out at was staffed by a great crew. I've long thought TI had some of the best dealers but I can see a lot of them have moved over to Wynn Las Vegas - in fact, there were dealers I recognized from all over town!

I don't play poker but I did give the room a look - pretty much what you would expect. 27 tables, nice digs, etc...

The sportsbook reminded me of a cross between The Mirage and Bellagio, with each seat featuring an LCD TV as well as giant screens.


For many, the pool is one of the most important parts of the Vegas experience. Wynn's pools are European looking, as at Bellagio. Wynn's pool is also much better designed than the pool at Bellagio.

First off, Suite Tower guests have two pools all to themselves. This pool includes a casino where you can play some blackjack. It's also just great looking. I'm not a pool guy but this was a spot I could see myself hanging out.

Some folks were worried that the hotel tower would shade the pool area. I checked several times during the day and good sun was to be had every time.


Wynn Las Vegas has so many interesting restaurants to try and I can't wait to head back and try some more! Here's a breakdown of what we ate this time...

  • Corsa Cucina - Lunch here was fantastic. I had a grilled lobster sandwich and it was prepared perfectly. True to the advertisements, the actual chef was there checking the food and we got a chance to chat with him for a bit. Highly recommended.
  • Terrace Pointe Cafe - This is Wynn's 24 hour cafe. We actually ate here twice, both late night and for lunch. Both times the food was great though the first experience had some spotty service. The breads they use are very good, all baked on site. I also recommend the chili - yum! Prices are in the $10-$20 range for the entrees. Highly recommended.
  • SW Steakhouse - Located next to Parasol Down, SW includes some lake front outdoor dining. Our meal here was simply fantastic. For years I have told everyone that my favorite steak in town was at Delmonico. SW might take that crown. The ribeye was fantastic and my wife fell in love with her filet. Lastly, they had a chocolate cream desert that was a deal closer for me. Prices are typical for high end steakhouses. Our bill for 2 with wine came to $300. HIGHLY recommended.
  • Wing Lei - One of the last additions to Wynn's restaurant lineup was Wing Lei, serving great Chinese food. Our meal was great but I would say it was my least favorite of the restaurants we tried on the trip. Service was top notch however. I got the feeling that this place wasn't quite ready to open. I recommend the Peking Duck Salad if you do give it a try. This restaurant is located near the Tower Suite check in area and is one of the only restaurants that doesn't feature great views of the lake or pool.
  • Room Service - I had to try the room service and it was great. The corned beef was top notch, the french onion soup the same as at The Mirage and the pot stickers were tasty. Not cheap though...

All of the food we tried at Wynn Las Vegas was either great or fantastic. I look forward to trying Alex, Okada and Daniel Boloud on my next trip out there.


By now anyone interested in Wynn Las Vegas has seen many pictures of the rooms. We were in the 'Suite Tower', which basically just means you get to use separate check-in and have access to the restaurant Tableau.

The first thing you notice about the room is that the ceilings are very high and the windows are huge. One thing that is nice is that the bed faces those windows - you get a great view.

The hotel is very high-tech - the TVs are all LCD HDTVs, the phones are IP based and feature all sorts of information about the property on a large LCD screen.

The beds are to die for - and if you really like it, they will sell it to you.

The bathrooms are well setup and include a TV visible from the bathtub. The included products are from Desert Bambu and seem very high quality.

Overall, the rooms are very comfortable. Things are where you expect them to be. Everything I needed, I found in the room.

I think it is the best standard room in Las Vegas... Yes, better than the Venetian. I'm not comparing the standard room to THEHotel since it's an all-suite hotel. Wynn's rooms just feel great.


The Spa is located on the second floor of the hotel tower and in many respects, is similar to all of the other 'nice' spas in town. There were a couple of design features I haven't seen in other setups, mainly glass ceilings and natural light in many of the rooms. Beyond that, it is exactly what you would expect in a high end hotel.


The Wynn Esplanade is located at the South corner of the hotel and is where the bulk of the shops are located. Most of the retail offerings are very high end. Think Dior, Chanel, Cartier, and more to get an idea... It's Bellagio type shopping.

Beyond that, the resort sells Wynn branded everything, from mugs to pens to shirts to chocolate. Honestly, everything is for sale.


The service was mostly excellent. The few places I saw some problems could easily be chalked up to opening jitters.

Employees were friendly and willing to help. I did have some long hold times on the phone when talking to the concierge.

How Does it "Feel"?

To me this is the real measure of the property.

Before I visited Wynn Las Vegas, my favorite property was The Mirage. Even though the Bellagio was snazzier, there is a certain magic to The Mirage that I didn't think was captured at Bellagio.

That magic has been captured at Wynn Las Vegas and it has been expanded. I can honestly say that I think Wynn delivers the best luxury experience in Las Vegas at this point. If you can afford it, Wynn Las Vegas has a lot to offer.


So, those are my thoughts based on my first visit. I'll be back on property tomorrow, though this time not as a guest.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them below.

Wynn Las Vegas at

May 3, 2005

Wynn Las Vegas Write-up Coming

Posted by Hunter

We're back from Wynn Las Vegas and I will be writing it up in detail very soon. Man, what a great trip.

In case you've forgotten, photos are here (most just added):
Wynn Las Vegas Opening Photos

May 1, 2005

Wynn: Day One

Posted by Hunter

I'll just jump right in...

The hotel is amazing. It looks fantastic and 'feels' great.

Quick Notes:

  • Terrace Pointe Cafe - Fantastic coffee shop, though pricey.
  • Cosa Cucina - Had a great lunch here today. The chef was there and we talked for a few minutes.

Check In Problems

In retrospect, I should have known the first Sunday check out/check in would be hectic. We couldn't get into our room until 5pm and lots of others were in the same boat. People were NOT happy. The staff did their best but it was frustrating. Also, it took 70 minutes for my bags to arrive from the bell desk.

Tonight is dinner at SW Steakhouse, so that should be a good time.

I can't imagine ever staying at Bellagio again. For the money, I would pick Wynn every time.

Most photos will be added shortly. I probably won't have a chance to write a super-in-depth article until I get back.