Yes, we're back (and better than ever?).
Anyway, the episode is posted here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com
Categories: Business of Gaming, Caesars/Harrah's, Casino Design, Las Vegas Strip, Macau Casinos and Hotels, Podcasts, Vegas Gang Podcast, Venetian/LV Sands, Wynn Resorts
Tags: lasvegas, lasvegassands, podcast, vegas, vegasgang, wynn
Comments over on vegasgangpodcast.com don't seem to be working, so I'll comment here:
Guys, great show as usual, but I was really dismayed by the grousing during the last topic, the server-based gaming discussion. Some random comments:
* rows of cabinets all looking the same? think outside the box (cabinet)! server-based gaming would allow the cabinets to be much more flexible, covered in LEDs or LCD panels that could make a bank of machines look like a curved wall or any shape of object which comes alive with LEDs all over its surface... imagine the Matrix... where you walk up to the full-motion animated wall, motion sensors detect your presence and the LEDs coalesce into an interface allowing you to choose what game you wish to play... endless possibilities
* bemoaning the loss of SlotFinder? That's like crying for the gas lamp lighter's union after the electric street lamp was invented. Why need to go looking for wherever your slot machine is hidden... it can be anywhere (everwhere!).
For a bunch of guys making a cool new podcast, you're not thinking very 21st century. :)
Anyway, keep up the great shows... they're getting better every week!
Personally, I won't miss slot finder but I'm sure some will... Or at least the idea of always knowing where to find a machine.
In my view, the casinos need to find a way to 'sell' this idea to the customer - this is great for the house for all of the reasons everyone is familiar with but if I was a slot customer, I don't think a compelling story as to why this is good for me has been put out there.
I *do* think that some customers will look at this with suspicion, which I may personally think is ridiculous but I know people who are too freaked out about the Internet to use their credit card on Amazon. Some folks are convinced computers are shiny veneer over a giant scam.
Look, this stuff is happening and I'm sure there *are* all sorts of interesting things that innovating people will be able to do but....
* I don't think the casinos are articulating this change well.
* The gaming industry is usually pretty slow on the innovation front but if they can pull off the ambitious, sweet sounding tech you're talking about, I'm sure it would interest customers.
Some gamblers are superstitious and I think to some degree the idea that a game can be swapped out at any time from the server dials down the 'magic' aspect of rituals like 'the lucky machine', etc... Maybe this makes things a bit too formulaic, assembly line esque?
I dunno, this could go a bunch of different ways. I'm very curious to see what happens and how customers adopt it.
One thing I am curious about - this has been 'coming next year' for like the past 5 - what's the hold up? Why not until now?
I believe I mentioned in the call that I played the server based slots at Crown Macau. The LED screens on the top and bottom animate quite wonderfully, but the aesthetic architecture of all the slots were completely identical. It was like walking into an appliance store where all they sold was one model in 300 different color variations.
My gut reaction - after taking FiveHundy fave Gems Wild Tiles for a test drive - was that the overall experience seemed a bit clinical. For those that like video slots, the animations up and around the things are surely entrancing and when they're ready, they'll probably be a big hit. My opinion is most likely a little biased as video slots in general don't satisfy my gambling peccadillos.
Crown removed a chunk of these machines for the post-AMA casino reconfig in Dec 07.
I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but slots are something I sorta know a thing or two about, so let me weigh in:
You won't always see rows of identical machines because manufacturers know the appeal of a big fancy attraction, and a big jackpot, and so on. Wheels of Fortune and MegaBucks and all these types of games where either the manufacturer pays the jackpot and/or owns the machines and lease them to the casinos, will still be around.
If you're a frequent video slot player, you'll notice that certain themes look a lot like each other. When you get down to it, there's not really that much difference between Cleopatra and Texas Tea, so why have the terminal run only one program?
On the other hand, specially made themes that can't be emulated by a typical terminal with screens will still be around.
Thanks to the Vegas Gang. Very interesting.
As you're thinking of the next episode, the participants would be ideal to discuss in detail the possibility that MGM will split the company into two entities, hotels and casinos. Also, the rumors that Kerkorian and Dubai World may take the whole thing private. Another topic: Public message boards are filled with gloom and doom about how empty the Strip is, and how LVS is aggressively trying to take locals business away from Station and Boyd casinos.
Vegas isn't quite a ghost town yet. There were lots of European and Japanese group tours marching the strip when we were there a week ago. And there were plenty of people with name tags dangling from their necks, so the convention business hasn't totally dried up either.
Room rates have definitely softened though, which is great for frequent visitors.
Well, not only have room rates softened, but, in some cases, they've disappeared. To clarify, we got an offer from the Venetian for three comped nights in the mail the other night. Considering the fact that we rarely gamble when in Vegas, it quite surprising to see that offer. In addition to that, it's quite surprising to truly note how desperate operators are getting when it comes to filling rooms.
John, I get similar offers, and Venetian/Palazzo have become very aggressive. A friend who is a Vegas local gets invited to regular slot and VP tournaments at Venetian/Palazzo and other properties with a comped room. The one requirement is that he actually register in the hotel even though he goes home at night. This helps the occupancy rates look better than they really are.
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Great discussion guys. I'm curious to know what the purpose of replacing the Wynn Golf Course with a lake is. Are they losing money on the golf course because they're not getting enough business? I remember that they used to only allow guests of the hotel to play there, but I called a couple of months ago to double check and they said you don't have to be a guest anymore. Good thing because I was able to play and it was a very beautiful course. As a golfer it would be a shame to see it replaced, because I would love to play it again the next time I'm there.
Again, great discussion. I look forward to the next podcast.
The golf course basically breaks even. I gets played by 50-60 people per day, which pretty much covers the staff that it takes to run the course. Wynn never designed the golf course to make money, it was just something pretty to do with the space. The lake itself will not make money, but it will help him fill rooms, and those rooms will bring more money, than they would if there were no lake. This lake will be twice the size of Bellagio, and feature a more advanced fountain system. I would look for it to include lights and possibly fire. The fountains at Wynn Macau, combine these features. Imagine combining the Wynn Lake of Dreams, and the fountains of Bellagio, all into one. Then surround them buy hotels, and you'll be set. Now what was one, boring non-strip facing rooms, will face an amazing lake, and these rooms will bring even more money than they would facing the Strip. Last time I spoke with Wynn, his goal is to build the lake, 5000 rooms, and a new convention center all on the lake, at the same time. I don't look for this to break ground before 2010.
"LVS is aggressively trying to take locals business away from Station and Boyd casinos."
Could you elaborate, Detroit? We were at Venetian and Palazzo last Sunday, and the restaurant prices gave us quite a case of "sticker shock." I wouldn't call those properties 'locals-friendly' as far as amenities are concerned, but I sure am curious as to what kind of a bargain proposition LVS would try to pitch to, say, a Boarding Pass member.
RE: the golf course--it makes some money for Wynn, and it's a unique amenity, but it's unfortunately not the "best and highest use" for the land in 2008. There was a time when golf courses abounded on the Strip--hard to believe now that the Tropicana used to have its own golf course, but it did. The best and highest use of that land was, apparently, to house MGM Grand, just like the former Dunes golf course has sprouted Bellagio, Monte Carlo, and City Center.
In the podcast, someone mentioned water issues, and I couldn't sneak this in, but as far as I know the Wynn golf course draws on its own artesian well, so it isn't factored into the water load on the rest of the city. I did an interview a while back with the guy who built the original Desert Inn course, and he was very proud of all the work that went into getting to the well-water, and believed that without it, they wouldn't have been able to build the course. I don't know for a fact that Wynn uses the same source, but it stands to reason that he does.
The Bellagio's lake loses less water to evaporation than the old Dunes course used to, so if the pattern holds this could actually save water.
Then again, the guests in those 5000 new rooms will have to drink (and bathe in) more than Grey Goose from the minibar.
Ah, maybe they'll just chug Brawndo, the thirst mutilator.
Bottom line, while the golf course is great, Wynn thinks that the lake/convention center/hotel complex will be better, and he's probably right.
Las Vegas might be the only city where a successful, revenue-producing asset is readily considered a blank slate for redevelopment.
As the late, great Johnny Carson would say, "I did not *know* that." That should be your next Bidness Press column. W
hen I was working that convention at the Wynn, right after it opened, we had a beautiful overview of the golf course, but I don't recall seeing more than one party of golfers the two days I was there. I'm sure business picked up, but by how much?
David, I don't know many details, but a friend is a Presidents level player at Station casinos. By showing that card at Venetian/Palazzo, he is automatically a Gold level cardholder. I think that's the mid-level. He gets invited to the monthly slot/vp tournaments that out of towners get, and I know he gets food comps at Grand Lux with the room plus other invites. He is a skilled video poker player, so I'm sure he churns a lot of coin through the vp.
Comps to Grand Lux Caf�? Woo-hoo, they're really rolling out the red carpet. (Not!) The room deal ain't chopped liver, but they sure could loosen up on the food comps, IMO.
David, my friend doesn't like high-end restaurants, so maybe he turns down comps for others for Grand Lux. I don't know. Also, since he only plays full pay video poker, they may limit comps to players like him.
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