Winner Takes All, a new book by Christina Binkley will be released on March 4. Binkley was formerly the casino/gaming reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Winner Takes All: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman, and the Race to Own Las Vegas
Categories: Business of Gaming
I tend not to be a book reader, but I'll be checking this one out!
I read a review copy of Christina's book, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. I read it in one evening and couldn't put it down. The book focuses on Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman and especially Steve Wynn. Christina had great access to those executives (until she irritated Wynn by disagreeing with him -- he views his Mirage sale as a friendly deal, while her on � and off-the-record � sources view it as hostile). Pinnacle Entertainment Chairman Dan Lee, MGM Mirage President and COO Jim Murren and MGM Mirage PR king Alan Feldman are some of her best sources in the book, and there's sufficiently good inside information to give even the most knowledgable Vegas expert a lot to digest. I give it two thumbs up, five stars, five diamonds and a 100 on American Bandstand.
I pre-ordered from Amazon the other day. Looking forward to it!
I also ordered Geoff Schumaker's Hughes book. I liked his 'Sin, Sun and Suburbia' book, though I must say when I met him at a conference and told him I liked his book he totally blew me off and was INCREDIBLY rude so I will never pimp his stuff ever again.
Jeff's comment about Wynn's sale of Mirage Resorts brought back a memory of something I read. Here it is from October 20, 2007 in the New York Post's Page Six column.
Binkley has been on the WSJ's fashion industry beat since she wrote the book; can't be as interesting as gaming.
Another headache for MGM Mirage?
"Luxor nightspot CatHouse Loungerie remained closed indefinitely Wednesday after structural concerns occurred during a Monday party in the second-floor ultralounge.
The floor in the ultralounge has slipped about eight inches since the club opened two months ago, several sources said."
My girlfriend was at a Monday night media event @ CatHouse and saw nothing untoward ... except that the media event itself was dull and sparsely attended.
Do you guys think Sheldon Aldelson feels left out? He just don't get much attention, for having so much money. I guess people just don't find him very interesting...
I'm still waiting for my review copy, but once I get it I'll be sharing a review. I can't decide if the cover is the worst or best one I've seen in a while, though. It's a little more Sega Genesis-looking than I would have thought the publisher would want for a book about Vegas.
On another topic...
Any thoughts on the big LV health scares of the past two days (dirty needles/ricin)? Does this make any of you non-locals think twice about coming here?
Yeah, Las Vegas has not got the best press over the last few days.
Dave, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada problems don't scare me off from visiting. Why would people go to a clinic like that instead of to one affiliated with a first class hospital? The ricin might. How do they know it isn't terrorism? It probably isn't, but terrorism was ruled out before the investigation started.
Since I don't get a review copy of Binkley's book, I ordered it from Borders/Amazon. The cover caught my attention immediately. Imo, it's the worst typeface/font I've seen on a book. I don't get it.
Detroit: "Why would people go to a clinic like that instead of to one affiliated with a first class hospital?"
Actually, Detroit, one of my family members wound up at that clinic because of a doctor recommendation. For all I know there was some sort of kickback involved.
Nothing to worry about though, said family member felt he was being treated like cattle by the staff, that they didn't care about his concerns, and so he just never came back for the procedure.
Also, now that I think about it, I'd like to say the situation of Southern Nevada's medical facilities is on the whole pretty poor. I say this not entirely from first-hand experiences, though there were some I was witness to and some I've heard from others.
I have heard a horror story about St Rose (Siena) that will keep me out of there as long as I can help it. I've witnessed some carelessness at one of the Valley system hospitals, though not so much so that I wouldn't go there in an emergency as we live close to one. And of course, there's UMC and the fact that it can't manage to keep track of where it's money goes. Good luck getting seen there.
There's a good reason why all the wealthy types in town run off to California for their hospital needs. Good grief.
The March 5 Zoning meeting has two items of interest.
Riviera plans new signage along the Strip:
"The plans depict a new wall sign scheme along Las Vegas Boulevard South for the Riviera Resort Hotel. The new signage consists of 12 illuminated cabinet signs with static panaflex faces and 1 set of neon-illuminated metal letters. The total area of the new signs is approximately 1,000 square feet. These signs will replace an existing set of wall signs that total approximately 1,800 square feet, for a net decrease in total signage of 800 square feet. The new sign panels and letters will be mounted on an existing framework that projects 6 feet from the building, supported by columns, with a ground clearance of 8 feet 5 inches (previously approved by action of UC-0018-00)."
MGM Grand is expanding its pool/recreational area.
"The plans depict a recreational area that includes pools, spas, cabanas, and accessory buildings in conjunction with the MGM Grand Resort Hotel. The new recreational area is located on the north side of the existing pool complex and in between the Signature resort condominiums and the Convention Center building. Along with the pools and spas, 4 independent manmade decorative water features are proposed that range in size from 40 square feet to 496 square feet for a total of 1,227 square feet of water features. The water features according to the applicant cannot be used for human contact due to the small size. The applicant has attempted to integrate the pools and spas with the water features, but due to design and engineering constraints it was determined to keep them as separate features. Per Title 30, the MGM Grand Resort Hotel is allowed a maximum of 25,699 square feet of water features; however, the resort is under the allowed limit for water features."
I've lived in Oklahoma City my whole life (almost 50 years). I've never seen a tornado, although this is the most likely place on earth to be hit. I also lived 1 mile from the Murrah building in 1995, which was one of the closest houses to the bombing site. I've learned 2 things in life-it hits someone else, and we come to Las Vegas because we are gamblers. I'm more concerned about traffic than I am about Ricin or needles.
There are some great quotes in this Times of London story:
�Steve Wynn thinks that his pearly white teeth � veneers I think they are � shine very good. He thinks he�s some kind of superior being,� Adelson said last week, irked by claims that the Palazzo is a cheap copy of Wynn Las Vegas. �But he�s not superior. He is just like anybody else. He puts his pants on one leg at a time, like I do.�
Wynn lambasts Adelson as a �Mr Magoo figure� who runs �a Wal-Mart-style operation� and says that Sheldon is a man �who harbours a lot of animosity towards a lot of people�."
They're both ridiculous in their own way.
Indulge me a lengthy post to report on my stay this past weekend at Palazzo. (The only other property I visited was the Wynn, where I've stayed in the past, which is beautiful and has the best sushi in America at Okada.) I actually really like the architecture of the Palazzo, if not all the interior design decisions. The lobby with the statue looks much better in real life than in web photos. Morels patio on the strip is a great setting, great food. The atrium (between Palazzo and Venetian) and the casino both benefit from high ceilings and open space lending a very luxurious sense of space. The glass dome alowing you to look up the hotel tower may be an idea borrowed from Wynn, but it still works. The unique lavender lighting in the casino is trippy, sometimes hitting just right, and not as tacky as depicted in web photos. I love the sense of space in the casino, if not the cards. One thing Wynn doesn't do is let a live band play in the lounge, and Palazzo's Zebra lounge is very cool, with a groovy blues/jam band. From afar (especially the airport), Palazzo dominates the skyline and looks great at night. However, the EIFS isn't installed perfectly and has color irregularity if you look closely. It's true that they're still finishing some stuff: No Jersey Boys, many shops still under construction, a few details undone in the room. But it will be successful; the marketing of Venetian/Palazzo targets business people, i.e. corporate employees/workers in for conventions and weekend retreats, it needs to be and is very nice, but not super expensive or ultra deluxe. Wynn is for the owners/entrepreneurs/independently wealthy, maybe nicer for family gatherings, it's more elegant and more expensive. (Although based on my experience LVS did just fine on the revenue side). I'm happy to stay at Adelson's place and when the mood strikes walk across the bridge. BTW, that bridge over Spring Mountain proves they could cooperate on the land behind Sands Expo. I would think Wynn would rather have the strip of land across the northern side of that parcel, so he could build a few towers across from golf course, and let the new Sands expo build to the south out of sight from Wynn, with an easier connection to the Venetian. Lastly, both joints were crowded with lots of money in play, and no NASCAR fans in sight, so rumors of recession appear to be exagerated.
A recent set of inventing research had some very interesting notes about how badly they expect Palazzo to cannibalize business from The Venetian, how Encore should help satiate pent up demand for WLV product and that Planet Hollywood is actually doing better than expected.
A friend of mine is in town this week to speak at the Mix08 conference at the Venetian. I am eager to see the Venetian's remodeled rooms.
The thing about Megacenter that I don't really like is it's ridiculous size. The Wynn is much more my pace. Collectively, all of the parts of the Wynn add up to a huge resort, but you don't get that feeling at all walking around it. It is very comfy I think, and overall just a pleasant place to be.
Hunter, If you can share this info you are speaking of, I'd love to read it. If its sharable, please post a link here, or email it to me.
Based on what I saw this weekend, Palazzo isn't cannibalizing Venetian, the Venetian was packed, If anything they need to get more Venetian customers to try Palazzo. A few features are only available on the Venetian side of the property, namely sports book and poker room, and the Palazzo rooms are nearly identical to the renovated Venetian rooms. They really are running the complex as a single integrated resort, thus I doubt they're worried about cannibalizing their own customers.
The AP's opinion of "Winner Takes All". Since my copy is enroute, I'll decide for myself tomorrow.
Hunter, I'm really skeptical of those figures, if they're the ones I think you're using, because they show Harrah's/Caesars being way up. I saw those figures in McKee's column and while he basically gave out lots of statistics I didn't quite exactly understand what they are gauging.
I'm suspicious because the same week he published that story there were reports that Harrah's business was down in the R-J.
What Majestic is reporting is "game usage" (among other metrics) and they're a bit hush-hush about their methods, which seem to involve a certain amount of "secret shopping." Basically, it boils down to how many people are playing at your casino, compared to how many gaming positions you have, what that figure was in the year prior and how it compares -- allowing for disparities of scale -- to your competitors.
Majestic also measures how big a slice of overall "game usage" you're getting from the entire market (the Strip, locals, Tunica, etc.) and whether you're getting more or less of your "fair share" of play: i.e., disproportionately large or small, compared to other casinos of the same size.
Obviously this methodology doesn't take certain variables into account; a couple of whales playing baccarat are going to impact the bottom line far more than umpteen nickel-slot players next door. So I can see why people would have qualms about Majestic's data, but its revenue projections are usually very close to the mark.
P.S.: The softness reported by Harrah's was in non-gaming spending while "gaming business has held up well."
Also, "Harrah's eight Las Vegas properties continue to account for approximately a third of the company's revenues and approximately 45 percent of the company's cash flow."
So there's no disconnect between what Harrah's is reporting and what Majestic is observing.
This is based soley on my own observations, but judging from the offers pouring into my email box from MGM, Wynn, and the LV Hilton, all of these companies are getting much more agressive in their promotional offers. I haven't even been inside the Hilton in three years, and I'm getting free room offers for multiple nights. Offers from MGM and Wynn have also been agressive (and tempting), with deeply-discounted or free rooms, match play offers, etc. I probably spent less time gambling last year than any time in the past five years, but it seems the offers have gotten richer, arrive more frequently, and frankly are out of proportion to my actual level of play. Has anyone else noticed this? Do non-gaming activities play any role in how they determine these offers (I do spend a lot on dining, bars, etc.)?
Except for an occasional show or meal, I spend all of my money in Vegas at Wynn. And i'll admit I don't gamble a lot, I do some. And, I have received many Wynn offers in the past, I have not seen any in the last few months. I don't know if its due to my location, or my spending level?
Socalduck, I've posted here before that I haven't been back to Las Vegas since November, 2006. I'm still getting lots of mailings even with my 16 month absence. That may be a reflection on the economy and spending habits. Since I'm a slot player, casinos know exactly what their theoretical win off me will be, so I suspect they'll try to get me back at least for another year or so.
Wynn continues to be the most generous with all offers still including a 1-bedroom suite, full RFB and very generous FreePlay. Wynn is tempting me.
Bellagio sends as many mailings as ever, but I have been downgraded from a suite/full RFB to a Deluxe Room and Limited RFB in "select restaurants."
MGM Grand has taken me off its list altogether.
The Mirage sends me Quarterly offers for a Penthouse Suite and invitations to every event in Vegas. I assume those offers would be in regular rooms. TI sends similar offers.
I've never stayed at NYNY, but I now get suite offers from them.
Venetian/Palazzo has increased its offers, 3-nights any time.
Caesars/Harrah's sends me blanket offers for all their properties.
Mandalay Bay sends as many offers as Mirage does, and I've never stayed there.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but why should I fly across the country if I want to go to a casino and have a good dinner? I can do that here in Florida. My last comment must concern Strip operators as regional and locals casinos flourish across the country, especially in California. However, Vegas visitation keeps increasing.
I can relate to Brian's comment. Most of the time I come to Vegas, I seldom venture away from the property that invited me. Wynn is still my favorite.
I don't know how to ask this, without getting to personal, I've a very open person, who will answer about anything, but I know most people are not. So I know, this question may go unanswered, but I'll ask anyhow...
I'm just curious in a general number, roughly, what how much money would a person need to drop at Wynn into slots on a daily basis, to earn RFB? It wouldn't even have to be a suite, even in a standard room, and even limited RFB.
I wouldn't want to eat dinner at Alex for example every night, even if it were free, its just not my style. I could eat at SW or the CC though every night.
Brian, Wynn doesn't begin offering RFB until you qualify for Tower Suites first. Last I checked, the requirement is about $500 per hand, four hours per day for a modest RFB as you described on a typical weekend. $96,000 run through per day on video poker, $32,000 on slots. The requirements might be a little less on weekdays but not by much. It really depends on the dates and demand. Last I was at Wynn during a baccarat tournament, I must have seen at least 30 or so players betting $5k-10k per hand. Imagine that they could easily score a villa at Bellagio with that kind of action and are only getting a Parlor Suite comped at Wynn that night (I'm afraid to think what kind of action was happening in the private rooms). On a weekend like that, even a $500 per hand player will have trouble getting the red carpet rolled out.
Well, I've mentioned it before, but I gambled the occasional $40-$80 at Wynn from time to time and on two occasions I've gotten two free weeknights. When it happens, it makes my jaw drop because we really aren't worth it (though when it does happen, we make some effort to be worth it in the future.)
Because of this, and because living half an hour away from the Strip doesn't make a free Vegas vacation as lucrative as it might be to many others, I've suspected the hotels occasionally will RFB practically anyone as a scheme to keep occupancy percentage up.
As an addendum, in a little over seven years of staying here I've never seen free food offered alongside a room offer. Maybe a line pass or some funbook, but never free meal.
I think those are exceedingly rare now since every arm of the octopus is expected to be a profit center, whereas even as early as five years ago other cash registers were allowed to be forgiving and the casino would compensate.
I know this is Vegas, but you may have heard that he NY Plaza soft re-opened this past week (Grand Opening is May 10th). A Couple of interesting articles, this one from Bloomberg
Didn't like what Eliad has done architecturally
Also another interesting article from the NY Times about how the Condos are practically a Graveyard, since most buyers did not get them as a primary residence�
I feel that�s somewhat foretelling for the various condo projects in LV.
Finally some Photos of the New Plaza Rooms.
I wonder if this is a taste for their plans in LV
The Plaza rooms look as uninspired as the original Venetian rooms. In fact, when I first saw the photo of the bed and headboard, I thought it was Venetian. Very disappointing.
This quote in the Bloomberg story is perfect: "...yet the New York icon feels embalmed rather than enlivened."
Elad needs to rethink its plans for Las Vegas.
How much do we know about their plans? I thought we had basically seen a model.
As for the NYC pictures, the rooms are very plain, but it is (was?) a lovely old building. I don't know if you can recreate the magic of an old building in a brand new building, but as a fan of the grand old cities I'd like to see somebody try.
Steve F talks about art projects for CityCenter in his blog.
I'm in the "Vegas is a tacky town" crowd but I welcome somebody trying to change the status quo. I'm not sure whether this will set off the "arms race" Steve talks about, but I can hope so.
CityCenter and Las Vegas are getting exciting! I read Steve's piece in today's NY Times, and it gives Las Vegas some well-deserved recognition. MGM Mirage may not be as showy as Steve Wynn, but the corporation is changing the city forever. Jim Murren is not a one man operation, but he, I'm sure with Lanni's backing, is helping make Las Vegas a true international city. I can't wait for Steve Friess' conversation with Maya Lin next week on the Strip Podcast.
According to WLV's site, booking a Salon Suite now comes with use of an Audi for the duration of your stay along with a $100 donation to the Best Buddies program. I don't know if it's a separate, more expensive package, but it could be a good deal if you're one to rent a car anyway.
I finished "Winner Takes All" tonight. It's an interesting read, but it certainly isn't the definitive source on modern casino moguls.
The author treats the 1980's as ancient history which bothered me a little since I either saw or experienced most of the things she described...Seems like yesterday to me. :)
It's understadable that Binkley devoted so many words to Steve Wynn, but I was more intrigued by her insights into Gary Loveman, Glenn Schaeffer and Jim Murren.
The description of Wynn confirms how egotistical and petty he is, probably the necessary ingredients to be such a powerful force.
There's an ad in the new LV Weekly for "Wet Republic" at MGM Grand, which looks like it's aiming to be like last year's modifications to the Mandalay pool. I sure as heck hope that this is the construction that Detroit mentioned above, and that MGM isn't messing around with their current pool setup which is still one of the best in town.
Anyway, to continue that "World's Largest Ultralounge" motif a poster here once coined, this idea is being promoted as an "ultrapool." Yeah, seriously. The ad is basically a hiring announcement for "Model Servers, Model Cashiers, Model F&B Workers" and cooks, so I presume there will be food service involved. I can't imagine what the quality of service will be like from a staff that's being hired on account of their looks, since more often than not staff quality is going downhill among people who are presumably hired on experience.
I don't know if anyone has seen this yet, but MGM has posted a bit of a meeting brochure for the City Center Resort and Casino on City Center's website.
The brochure doesn't have a lot in the way of room renderings, etc. However, it does give a few glimpses into the meeting area and amenities the resort will offer.
I still don't know quite what to think of the resort itself. It sounds like it will truly be luxurious and will borrow quite a few elements from its flagship sister. I mean, they're calling the high limit room "Salon Prive," which as most know is the same name the room has at Bellagio. Saying that, part of me wonder if this resort will be a very modern version of Bellagio itself. In other words, I wonder if the resort will be Bellagio with contemporary architecture, rather than the old world architecture of Bellagio or the whimsical, new world designs we have seen at Wynn. I guess we'll just have to wait to find out.
John, that was a great find. The "book" on CityCenter is very well done and does have a lot of new information. I think you've got it nailed: CityCenter Resort/Casino will be a contemporary version of Bellagio without any of the old fashioned ideas of luxury one sees at Wynn and Bellagio. This will clearly be the flagship property of MGM Mirage.
A couple things caught my atterntion:
* Conventions/meetings can be booked for "early 2010." That's no more than two years from now.
* Meeting rooms overlook pools.
* 3-level glass curtain wall in reception areas outside conference rooms looks terrific.
* Conference rooms have sort of "Rocky Mountain" type names.
* Brochure used the term "handsome floor plan" for the casino/resort which is another indication John is right that this will be a contemorary Bellagio, not more of the same.
* Hotel corridors lead to glass enclosed areas with views of the skyline. This should make them bright and welcoming. A great idea!
* The only new chef mentioned is Shawn McClain who operates three high-end restaurants in Chicago.
* The rendering of the outside walkway into CityCenter, next to the main entrance road shows how dense the development is. The walkway is separated from the road by an obviously car crash-proof barrier which is disguised as a pool of water.
* Even the Elvis Cirque show sounds interesting.
Now, I'm getting excited about CityCenter!
Resort needs name badly. "CityCenter's hotel" ain't gonna cut it.
On the other hand, it's great to see some 'real' architecture in this town. It's going to make the phony baloney stuff that dots the Strip right now look very weird.
MGM surely has a name selected for CityCenter Resort. Is there a marketing strategy for not announcing it until closer to the opening for maximum impact? Since it opens in two years, they'll probably start promoting it when there's a year or less to go.
We should have a naming contest here to see how close we are to the name MGM selects. No, I haven't thought of one yet.
If MGM really wanted to do something interesting, I would love to see L'Eau Las Vegas. In my eyes, the resort has the fluidity, grace, and simplicity on the exterior that is befitting of a name like that. Other names I've thought of, include Le Papillion as well as Serenity. However, when I really think about them I just get stuck on the fact that they sound almost too tranquil and without any noticeable element of excitement. In addition to that, I've always wanted to see something like Sense Las Vegas. In fact, the marketing campaign for something like that would almost be too easy. "See and be seen at Sense," "Taste all of your options," and "Feel the excitement" would look great in ads in Vanity Fair or Vogue...
John, Binkley's book said Bellagio considered the name "Eau" for the Cirque show, but they were afraid people would pronounce it "eewww", so they named it "O".
The hotel/casino's name has to have some punch to it, and in my opinion, it needs to be a good American name without pretense.
Ideally the name won't contain the words Las Vegas anywhere in it. I know there's plans for similar projects, but this (hotel name) (location name) thing just makes each hotel seem less unique. If Beau Rivage was named Bellagio Biloxi then I would probably find it a lot less interesting.
Aside from the fact that the CityCenter complex itself usually has a Las Vegas tagged onto the end, and that name can be exported to other markets, I'd like to see the hotel have a name that they don't apply on any future projects, even if they carry the CityCenter name elsewhere.
And then finally there's the fact that the town name is synonymous with parties and debauchery, and I think they're aiming at something that's a little bit more sophisticated than that imagery. Unlike Bellagio and Wynn, which both put on the images of a sophistication but at brass tacks levels are just as much a party pit as Mirage and the Palms.
I think CityCenter seems to be shooting for something that's got less of the Vegas nonsense. Yes, it'll have a casino, since the business doesn't rely on liquored-up gamblers like it used to, they can do something more like what's going on in Dubai where they build magnificent hotels even though gambling (and booze, even) are illegal.
I was one of the harshest critics of this thing, but now that the vision is becoming more and more clear, I hope they pull it off and it signals a turning point for the town. And hopefully put the brakes on this trend towards building essentially huge nightclubs with hotel rooms attached.
Who is the VP Player Development at Beau Rivage Resort
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