Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

March 2, 2009

UPDATED: M Resort Opening - Day Two

Posted by Hunter

As most readers know, I was at the M Resort opening party last night... not as an invited guest but as a media person - I basically forced myself on the PR folks and they were gracious enough to give me the green light.

After spending three or so hours there on Sunday night and then another hour again today, I wish I could say it was awesome and that I was blown away. Generally speaking, I wasn't. There are some cool touches like the wine cellar, the pool deck and the pharmacy but other than that, I could have been inside Aliante Station (which also cost $400 million less to build) or GVR and not known the difference.

I don't mean to say there's anything 'wrong' with the place but by that same token, I did not see anything that would make it a recommended must-stop. In the boom times of years past, this would be another strong locals contender, easily in the same bracket as Green Valley Ranch or maybe even Red Rock but those times are long gone. It's certainly a lot nicer than South Point so the folks that live in the area should be pleased, though I think the only people living in the immediate neighborhood are lizards and coyotes - there is nothing but empty desert across the street.

I timed the trip from MGM Grand to the M - 22 minutes by car in moderate traffic on Las Vegas Blvd. It would no doubt be faster on the 15 but the point is that it is quite a ways from the resort corridor of The Strip. If they are trying to poach anyone from that zone, I wish them luck.

In the run-up to the opening, owner Anthony Marnell III has been making a big deal about recognizing the new economic reality. His implication is that the days of expensive hotel rooms and high end meals are waning. My inspection of his restaurant menus didn't give me much faith this philosophy has been implemented - $42 steaks with $7 baked potatoes sounds more like Bellagio prices than Value Central.

When I came back today, Marnell himself was walking the floor, fixing problems and attending to customers - that's great. With Strip casinos being run by large corporations and even the bigger locals operators filled with bureaucracy, it's refreshing to see an owner/operator involved at that level. The Las Vegas Strip is such big business that nothing happens that isn't PR approved and focus group tested - that means little to no innovation and lots of 'me too' copying (see nightclubs, ultra lounges, gourmet burger places, etc...) A directly involved manager like Marnell has an opportunity to innovate and I hope he does. Putting the pharmacy in the casino is a promising first step and his background in technology, a sector known for innovation, gives me hope we'll see them trying new and interesting things out there. The family did that at The Rio and I hope that trend continues at 'M'.

I ended up doing the rounds with Steve Friess and I'm glad I did because it made the entire thing far more fun. His write-up is here and I recommend checking it out if you're curious about the resort. Steve's a much better writer than I am (duh).

So - should you check out the 'M'? If you're in the neighborhood, sure. I think of Red Rock Resort as enough of a spectacle to be worth visiting from other parts of the Valley. Not sure if I would put 'M' in that category, at least not yet. The VP pay tables didn't look all that hot (lots of 8/5). Some of the restaurants looked interesting and the wine cellar joint is pretty cool.

Some new photos:

Update: David McKee has chipped in with more thoughts including from others that were there last night. Seems like opinions are all over the place for 'M'.


Read archived comments (15 so far)
March 3, 2009 6:25 AM Posted by BB

It certainly is an interesting business model they seem to have. A billion dollar locals place?

Spending that much money, I think they must have been hoping to pick off some tourist business. But then they do the whole $25 resort fee and have 6:5 BJ.

Maybe they'll get some slot playing tourists, but I don't see table game players heading way out there after some initial curiosity.

March 3, 2009 6:33 AM Posted by BB

After reading several blogs/stories about the M opening, I agree that opinions are all over the place.

But I find it interesting that the bloggers without any commercial ties at all to the place, were more lukewarm about it than the ones whose employer might someday see some advertising dollars.

For example, yourself, Steve Freiss, and VegasRex have no ties to the M; and your reviews were all, basically, "Hey, it's nice and all, but eh..."

The bloggers on the Las Vegas Advisor, which may see some advertising dollars, were more positive.

The newspapers, who will probably see a lot more advertising dollars, were fawning all over the place.


I think I trust the 3 of you with no ties the most. Nice, but not super special.

March 3, 2009 7:13 AM Posted by detroit1051

Hunter, I can only judge M by your photos. I think it looks terrific and makes GVR seem very 20th Century. It looks better than Red Rock, imo. The hard angles and corners appeal to me. I second the opinion that the carpet is first class. I don't think Marnell is looking for many tourists to drive south from the main Strip, but there is a huge, untapped market all the way from Anthem to Southern Highlands. My only blah reaction is to the room floorplans which as I've already commented, look like Aria's.

March 3, 2009 10:07 AM Posted by TC from Boston

Hunter, when you say Marnell was walking around fixing you mean customer service issues or saw stuff out of place and was pointing fingers to get it fixed?

March 3, 2009 10:08 AM Posted by Hunter

Both really.

He had a crew of people with him that he was delegating to.

March 3, 2009 10:55 AM Posted by Mark D

I walked through the morning after the opening. There was a nice window area at the far east end on the second level with comfortable chairs and a coffee table. All of a sudden a crew came in and took all the furniture away.

March 3, 2009 1:10 PM Posted by Tom M.

Actually, I can only tell by what I see in your photos and I like the look of it. I am not a big fan of the carpet, but I don't care that much about casino carpets. I am curious about the view from that location. I have read that it is placed to have a great view of the strip. Is that true?

March 3, 2009 1:14 PM Posted by Hunter

The Strip is visible from the guest rooms and from a couple of the public areas but not many.

It's *quite* a ways away, much further than the renderings that M posted on their site.

Basically, if you've driven from California, it's the same view when you come over the hill on the 15 into the valley.

March 3, 2009 11:02 PM Posted by Ted Newkirk (Access Vegas)

M will learn to get their VP tables in line and get rid of 6:5 blackjack but it will take a while. Remember... a significant portion of casino owners nor management read blogs nor pay any attention to LVA. Eventually they stagger across some ad (like the Cannery East's latest ads about their VP) and go "Is this something we should be doing?"

Rex was just pissed that he wasn't on the VIP list. I mean, M's PR company busted ass. Calling anyone who hadn't RSVP'd, you name it. 4000+ invites. Granted... M screwed up by not opening the garage to the public by 9 PM. But take Rex with a grain of salt.

After all, this is a guy who evidently took a bunch of candid cocktail waitress photos, then was "shocked" that one of them tossed a drink at him. This is a guy who went to attend an event at Strat and when asked "Who are you with" could have done what the rest of us do: "I'm Such and Such and I'm with Name of Publication/Blog" but instead answered like someone up to no good, trying to almost taunt the security.

Rex works really hard to create problems so he has something to write about. But hey... I read every post. Always entertaining. I wish him well.

Hunter: Per the "only people living in the immediate neighborhood are lizards and coyotes" I would quote the great Lee Corso and say, "Not so fast, my friend." Seven Hills, Anthem, and Southern Highlands (all upscale areas) are within 5-7 minutes. The M IS their neighborhood joint (and they have never had one before).

That St. Rose (formerly Lake Mead) and I-15 interchange is so busy they had to rebuild the entire interchange over the past couple of years. Hundreds of thousands of locals drive right by the M every week, and the majority of these people live in the area. Not to mention that every Californian heading into town has to look at it. Twice. Curiosity will take over.

One more thing: The billion dollar price tag probably included the 93 acres. (Not sure, but guessing). So... it isn't actually a billion dollar resort.

Sure, Aliante was built much more cheaply, but The Greenspuns developed Aliante if my research is correct. That is in 1/2 Aliante Station owner Greenspuns. The land basically was free when you look at it that way.

BTW, the Aliante vs M comparison that some are making is apples and oranges. M is a stright shot down I-15 from The Strip, the airport, and a straight shot down St. Rose (a divided highway) from Green Valley and the 89123. Aliante is in a "you can't get there from here" area that needs to be renamed Forclosureville. Only the Greenspuns could con people into thinking that North Las Vegas was upscale in any way, shape, or form.

BTW... I doubt I'll ever see a dime of M advertising. In fact, current exclusive contracts preclude that I could take it. So, this isn't a "say nice things in hopes of getting advertising" post.

I did live in the South Valley for 4 years (up until recently). The area still has cash. I've also lived in Las Vegas long enough to remember what the Marnell's did with the opening of Rio.

They have some issues to work out, but I wouldn't begin to bet against them. They don't need LVA readers and they don't need people who would otherwise stay on The Strip. If they smooth out the initial problems, they'll do very fine being the kings of their own little slice of the Las Vegas valley.

Ted Newkirk
Managing Editor

March 4, 2009 10:52 AM Posted by Hunter

Excellent comment, Ted.

My comment about the neighborhood being desert was sorta a joke - it's true that directly across the street is nothingness but yeah, you're right - especially Southern Highlands will probably use the place.

I'm not betting against Marnell, I just hope they become something other than a Station clone.

March 4, 2009 5:20 PM Posted by Mark D

Interesting that it cost a billion dollars to build, but MGM is now a 50% equity owner because they pitched in $160 million of the cost.

March 4, 2009 6:57 PM Posted by Brian Fey

OK I missed something...Where was it stated that MGM had 50% equity?

March 4, 2009 7:52 PM Posted by GregoryZephyr

From the pics it looks pretty nice. From the news articles it appears they want to position the place as being an affordable alternative to the strip. This seems right for two reasons: 1) they cant really compete head to head against Bellagio, Wynn, etc. but at least they can say they are kinda sorta fancy and new and by the way, you can stay here for half of what it would cost at the other new places on the strip and 2) a "good value" in comparison with that other place purportedly trying to image itself that way (Tropicana) is much more in line with what customers expect. Good value is something like getting a 4 star hotel at 2 star prices. M might be able to live up to that ideal. Most people dont consider good value to be a 1 star hotel at a 1 star price (Trop). That just means cheap. Even if pricing isnt the cheapest in town, if the perception becomes that it's a relatively good value in comparison to other places, then they could do okay.

March 6, 2009 3:38 PM Posted by GREGRIO

Thanks Hunter/Steve...
I'll check it out later this month. It's funny how a local, non gamer, non guest, views the joint...I'll see/feel it out with different eyes I'm sure when I stay/play there.
From what you've shown us, it does look a bit 'cold'.
I'm just hopeing for that ol' Marnell feel from my early RIO days. The overall experience has got to be different than from the one you and Steve felt.
I'd like to think a guest/player experience might be a bit different....guess we'll see huh, lol

March 9, 2009 8:29 AM Posted by baccarat_guy


I found Veloce to be rather "value" oriented for an upscale restaurant. The specialty drinks were $8.50 each and the wine list prices (including full bottles of sake) were under prices, in comparison to the strip.

I do agree, food prices were about the same, but it's really the beverage that pushes up the restaurant tab, not the food, IMO.

The wine "auto-mat" machines are also very unique, and the ability to load comps for "future" wine purchases onto the cards is pretty neat.

And, of course, I'm totally in love with the Loft Suites.

I got a really good vibe from the place. Is it the RIO of old days vibe? I couldn't tell you.. but, I was certainly feeling it.