Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

May 21, 2009

Vegas Gang #32 - May 21st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Happy to be back after a little bit of a break. Lots to talk about, as always.

We discuss:

* MGM Mirage Pulls a Rabbit Out of its Hat
* Fontainebleau May Not Be Totally Screwed (we'll see)
* UNLV Center for Gaming Research Trends
* MGM Mirage Selling Properties

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to


Read archived comments (21 so far)
May 23, 2009 7:36 PM Posted by detroit1051

Thanks for Vegas Gang #32.
Regarding Fontainebleau and your discussion of Glen Schaeffer, I don't understand why he is such an invisible CEO of Fontainebleau Resorts. Does the Sofer family prohibit him from speaking about either the renovated Miami Beach property or FB on the Strip? Times are tough in both FL and NV, but no one is publicly cheering for the company. I think it's a mistake.
I posted my observations from Atlantic City a week or so ago, and I'm not nearly as optimistic about its future as I inferred the Vegas Gang is. The city seemed like a disparate collection of worn out properties with the exception of Borgata and the potential of Revel if it ever opens. Business was busy on the Boardwalk primarily because of the seniors bused in to all the properties. Borgata has to have a younger clientele, but how many are day-trippers?
The Marina district would have had potential if MGM Grand had been built there and created synergy between it, Borgata and Harrah's. Trump Marina's location is good, but the property is disappointing to say the least.

May 23, 2009 7:46 PM Posted by Hunter


My take away from our conversation was that compared to Macau and given all the competitive pressure on NJ, we were a little down on AC, not optimistic.

May 23, 2009 8:33 PM Posted by detroit1051

This proves I can't multi-task. I was listening to Vegas Gang and reading David McKee's blog at the same time. I was thinking of his speculation on whether MGM would sell Macau or its share of Borgata.

May 23, 2009 8:37 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, I think we (Gangsters) disagree with McKee on that one... I know that I do.

May 24, 2009 4:01 PM Posted by chuckmonster

One option that hasn't been discussed re: MGM + (the other) P-Ho is the possibility that MGM might consider buying Pansy out of the Macau concession. I'm not exactly sure how feasible this would be given MGM's financial situation and Macau's government being a bureaucratic mess. If memory serves me correctly, Pansy won the Macau concession THEN elected to partner with MGM after MGM lost out on their own bids... which might bunk the aforementioned kicking Ho to the curb.

May 24, 2009 4:20 PM Posted by Hunter

Yeah, she contributed the license so to get rid of her, they'd have to find someone else to run the casino for them that was licensed.

May 24, 2009 6:33 PM Posted by mike_ch

I'm usually right up there at the front of the line to yell at MGM-Mirage to keep a diversified profile, rather than throwing it's fate entirely on Las Vegas (which also has the negative side effect of Las Vegas' fates being tied to the health of MGM-Mirage.)

HOWEVER, I can sort of see the appeal of selling in Macao, as absolutely crazy as that might sound. Yes, you're selling off a limited membership to a casino kingdom near one of the biggest gambling-happy societies on the planet. But, do you think it'll always be that way? I mean, the highly exclusive entry, not the Chinese's love of gambling.

If Macao eventually turns free market, or since that seems unlikely a freer market than it presently is, that golden ticket isn't nearly as valuable as it is right now.

Seems to me this is one of those things that could be like canning Echelon: a move that initially makes people yell "what are ya, NUTS!?" and then is looked back upon as genius.

May 26, 2009 10:03 AM Posted by David McKee

Alan Feldman told me point-blank that taking Pansy Ho on as a partner in Macao was an immutable condition of getting that subconcession. Hence, I would put the chances of Ms. Ho selling her half of MGM Grand Macau somewhere in the immediate vicinity of nil, IMO.

May 26, 2009 12:08 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I think MGM has done the best job of establishing an international portion of its operations. The Dubai World and Pansy Ho partnerships, plus the licensing of MGM brands that are coming on line soon, reflect a pretty solid foundation for expansion.
New Jersey, on the other hand, is facing so many challenges from other states gaming expansions and Indian gaming that I wonder why MGM would stay.

May 26, 2009 4:58 PM Posted by Tom M.

Of any casino in AC, the Borgata is the only one I would say that will survive any downturn in that city. It is easily the class of the place and with some of the other casino's in trouble, I can only see Borgata benefiting from their troubles. With the Chinese government limiting the market in Macau, I don't see much future in staying there. On the other hand, if they lift these restrictions and allow unfettered access, having a Macau concession would be like printing money. Its a tough choice but I would bet that the bureaucrats will always choose to f*** things up rather than let the market decide. Just look at our own country.

May 26, 2009 5:16 PM Posted by socalduck

With the exception of Borgata, Atlantic City really has nothing to offer. I would much rather take my gambling dollars to Mohegan Sun, or better yet, save it for a trip to Vegas. It will be interesting to see how much slot business LVS will siphon away from AC now that Bethlehem is operational.

May 27, 2009 4:47 AM Posted by detroit1051

The NY Times has a piece on CityCenter today. The lead photo in the story confirms "Stumpy" Harmon, at half its height, diminishes the visual impact of the development.

May 27, 2009 6:57 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I think the Harmon looks much stumpier in person.

May 27, 2009 7:26 AM Posted by doc_al

I don't necessarily agree that "stumpy" Harmon takes away from the development. With a property this big and diverse, I would rather have had the whole thing build up more slowly from the street, rather than plopping a mammoth tower practically right on the sidewalk. One of the major flaws of downtown areas, IMO, is skyscrapers that have no transition from "human scale" at street level. It's a necessity in existing downtowns where you only have a tiny parcel to begin with, which CC doesn't. But then that goes back to whether trying to emulate land-strapped Manhattan in a relatively land-rich ex-urb area was even a good design idea to start with.

May 27, 2009 8:19 AM Posted by Hunter

I don't disagree with your thesis but in this actual case, I do think the Harmon looks 'weird' in the context of everything around it. Maybe it will be different when complete but to me, now, it looks out of place. Maybe that's just because I know it was supposed to be taller.

May 27, 2009 9:21 AM Posted by mike_ch

As someone who sees a whole lot of it, Harmon is fine to me. I'd be fine with a full-size one, were it not for Cosmopolitan. It too has a very large tower up against the sidewalk as well, and a second one on the other side of Harmon Rd would have half of that tower's residents, as well as half of Harmon's, looking across the street at each other. Height that offers nothing, since so much is crammed up next to each other.

As it's finished up, I quite like the statement of Cosmo's design with the slope on the roof. I still don't know why they wanted two towers, but it's nice.

On the other hand, I do appreciate towers right at the sidewalk for ease of entrance and shortening the time to your room. Having to navigate a maze to get in or out of your room every time isn't that enjoyable. Towers at the sidewalk do detract from the best views at hotels like Treasure Island or Mandalay Bay that used to give you that "postcard view" up the Strip, but they encourage much easier pedestrian access than the typical design here that is set back into the property with a small multi-lane system of valets and cabs making it a bit of a journey away from the hotel for those trying to leave. Here's lookin' at you, Caesars. Also applying here is Bellagio but I find the outside atmosphere there so darn enjoyable.

May 28, 2009 12:01 PM Posted by David McKee

What about the deep setback of Aria, at the terminus of an urban "canyon"? I wonder how that will impact casino visitation. Bellagio, with its two "arms" reaching out to the Strip, really had its cake and ate it too, as far as being both "of" the Strip and somewhat removed from it at the same time. Eleven years later, its design is still an amazingly difficult act to follow, IMO.

May 28, 2009 12:14 PM Posted by detroit1051

First, it's great to have David McKee back in good health, here and at S&G.
Bellagio remains unmatched for its welcoming presence on the Strip. I've wondered whether Aria, set back so far behind the Strip and Crystals, will deter tourists from venturing in, like Caesars always deterred me. When Steve Wynn answered questions at the Milken conference, he didn't seem pleased when an audience member tried to compliment him on Bellagio. He quickly replied that it was a warm-up act for Wynn. I disagree. Bellagio remains the gold standard in Las Vegas.

May 28, 2009 12:50 PM Posted by Dan

Even with MGM's changes and renovations made to the Bellagio?

May 28, 2009 1:06 PM Posted by detroit1051

"Even with MGM's changes and renovations made to the Bellagio?"
No. The gold standard has become tarnished in my opinion. But, Bellagio's exterior, set behind the lake, is visually appealing. It is elegant and soothing in this layman's eyes.

May 28, 2009 9:42 PM Posted by mike_ch

Detroit: It still is the top if you ask me. Encore is very close, but it falls hsort in the casino.

Each Wynn Resorts hotel has been taking a colour and then just running through the whole place with it. Wynn is brown, very brown. Encore is red, 'ach! Mein eyes!' red. What's weird is that from the outside it's very deceptive, Wynn is fairly nice looking and Encore's garden/trellis look is better. You aren't hit with that one big colour until you reach the casino. You can walk through the shopping districts or the lobbies and see some very pleasant places. Encore's convention area, and Wynn's Tower Suites area in particular, are both great spaces that I would put up there with anything in Bellagio. I don't know why the casino can't follow through, why it has to be so uniform.

At least one time when writing about Wynn and Bellagio (and over the years I've written one or two long posts on the subject), I've resisted to make allusions to brothels when talking about WynnLV. It seems distasteful and "too easy" and wouldn't earn me points here or with the company. But I can't help but feel some elements fall into that stereotype. There's the unusual amount of fabrics within hand's grasp, and the four hour tisk-bum-tisk-bum loop of porno music on the sound system (though it's better than it was four years ago), and the trend of "things dipped in gold and lined up on a wall" (vases at a restaurant near Tower Suites, pears at Wazuzu.) It wasn't until Encore opened up and screamed, RRRREEEEEDDD~!!!!1eleven that people started openly comparing the joint to a house of ill-repute.