Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

September 26, 2009

Vegas Gang #37 - September 24th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

New episode is up:

We discuss:

* Planet Hollywood + Harrah's?
* Fontainebleau + Penn Nat'l?
* Stanley Ho's SJM
* Niche Marketing @ Monte Carlo
* Gaming Figures
* Aria

Do you have questions for MGM Mirage's Alan Feldman? He'll be our guest at Vegas Podcast-a-palooza in October. Leave your question in a comment and we'll consider them for the show.


Read archived comments (20 so far)
September 26, 2009 5:25 PM Posted by parchedearth

Maybe you can ask Mr. Feldman about MGM's design team/process for renovations. MGM has a reputation for using a sleek modern design for everything, even when it wouldn't seem that a modern design is a good approach. For example, the Bellagio penthouses were freshened with a simplified approach that doesn't seem to match what the property is all about. Do they use a single internal design team or outsource the process? Is there an example of a renovation they have done which matches the theme of a property?

I too am excited for the CC opening, but am concerned about how much will actually be open. The Light managed venues won't be open until Jan. Crystals will only be half occupied w/ no restaurants open. Veer will still be empty and obviously Harmon will be closed. If Vdara and Aria are full and only half the restaurants/bars and no clubs are open it could be trouble.

Interesting that they have so many Baccarat tables. They better have a plan to fly players in or those table could be sitting empty for awhile. No way are Wynn's players going to jump ship.

Also, Vdara could have a big problem in that it only has one restaurant and bar planned because it was originally meant for condos.

September 26, 2009 8:17 PM Posted by worldpool

i think aria going to get people in when it comes to gaming and other stuff they have i was wondering how many table game will they have and how many slot machine will they have since u say its a big place to gamble.

September 26, 2009 8:34 PM Posted by Hunter

I have the plans and could count but without the time, I'll give you some estimates: about 120 table games, about 2,000 slot machines. Similar to other casinos of the same size.

September 26, 2009 8:51 PM Posted by worldpool

ok thank u i keep on thing how many so it gave me a idea thank u

September 26, 2009 9:42 PM Posted by John H.

This may already be one of the planned lines of questioning, but an elaboration upon/dictation of the company line in regards to their plans for Aria's baccarat that was discussed during the podcast. Are they planning on cannibalizing Bellagio's market share? Do they truly believe Aria, and City Center as a whole, will generate sufficient new demand that they in turn will have exclusive access to? How aggressively will they go after Wynn knowing that the historical stack of chips is really stacked against them?

Alternatively, I'd love some information in regards to MGM's plans for Macau. It's widely known that the property has struggled out of the gate. There have been massive amounts of criticism regarding the design of the casino and other facets of the resort. From what I've seen, the property has been the poorest performer of the American concession/sub-concession- owned properties. What are MGM's plans to overcome that? Management shake-up? The Wynn plan of renovating and re-imagining what doesn't work? Or are we just going to get some PR-flack psycho-babble answer regarding ambiguously defined "fixations?"

There's probably a litany of other questions I could come up with, but I think Hunter, Chuckmonster, Mr. Simpson, and Dr. Schwartz are probably concocting similar-if-not-identical challenges as we speak.

September 26, 2009 11:00 PM Posted by John

Since no one has actually commented in the thread I posted in (yes, it was back from July, so what), I'll post it again.

Possibly Wynn Cotai starting up in 2010? Cotai could begin to look interesting.

Also... after seeing Encore and how dead it always seems to be... I don't know, I think Aria has a real shot at some of Wynn's business. Especially if some of those high rollers are looking for something new and something a little more busy. Aria does have the benefit of being set right in the middle of the Strip. With room rates still lagging, but starting to creep up a bit and the addition of a new must-see property on the block, I think we're in for a bit of an arms race here in Vegas.

September 27, 2009 5:42 AM Posted by detroit1051

"I have the plans and could count..."
Hunter, are these proprietary or available on the web somewhere? I thought MGM had originally said Aria's casino would be smaller than Bellagio's, but the CityCenter press release says there will be 150,000 sq ft of casino floor. That's at least 30% larger than Bellagio's.
I haven't listened to Vegas Gang yet, so maybe you discuss the casino.
If MGM did the interior pedestrian connections in the right way between Bellagio, Vdara and CityCenter, combined with the people mover, there may be real synergy between the properties. This connectivity could be a huge advantage for all restaurants, clubs and lounges all the way from Bellagio to MC.
It's clear Aria is using Bellagio's player/customer list. The Aria brochure I received in the mail said twice, "As a special VIP guest of MGM Mirage...". That doesn't accurately describe me, but until 2005, I did visit Bellagio fairly frequently.

September 27, 2009 7:58 AM Posted by Hunter

It appears the best analog in terms of casino size is MGM Grand, though the layout is similar to a Wynn Las Vegas or Bellagio.

I can't share the docs online, sorry.

Some of the connections between these properties do worry me. The pedestrians enter Aria from The Crystals by way of the Aria front desk. Seems like a strange place to funnel all that walking traffic.

September 27, 2009 2:28 PM Posted by mike_ch

I have also seen some stuff on the Aria casino, and it's basically unlike anything you've ever seen before in town.

I can't speak for the design/architecture, It may be stunning or it might just be more Modern Generic Moderne, but the technology is going to be really interesting.

September 27, 2009 4:38 PM Posted by Anthony

Ask Mr. Feldman how does he feel about the Harmon situation? Was it really a blessing in disguise?

September 27, 2009 9:34 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Great show. Really good material, although I think I got the "cable" version, instead of the "unrated" version. There is a barely noticable splice just before the 19 minute mark. I only noticed it because I am sophisticated about these things, I'm sure it was super sensitive, insider information that Simpson regretted spilling the minute he finished and asked it be removed:).
I agree that Planet Hollywood has become more popular. Eating at Planet Dailies is one of only two things Lisa and I HAVE to do each time we come to Las Vegas. We've seen Peepshow, and it is the only show I want to see again, hopefully during our Podcast-A-Palooza trip. I kinda think the logistical issues Mr. Simpson mentioned are not as noticable for tourists. I think the Casino floor has a good vibe, and I bet their contemporary style is what MGMM is trying to do to their properties.
All in all, a great show that is as good the second and third listen. Thank you to each person who takes the time to make this podcast happen.

September 27, 2009 9:39 PM Posted by Hunter

Jeff's phone died in the middle of him talking so we had to do a little edit and I forgot to mention it in the post. Not your imagination and unfortunately nothing top secret (I was just humming the Jeopardy theme while we waited).

I've still not seen Peepshow but that will be fixed shortly.

September 28, 2009 1:14 PM Posted by Phil

Love to see someone hold the feet to the fire on their design philosophy. Although its difficult to quantify, the voice of people that are disgusted with how MGM de-themes resorts isquite loud. Its not a minority, its a majortity of people that seem to feel this way. Are they aware of this and if so do they not want to listen to their customer's regarding this? Is he aware that people think they make all their casinos the same, look wise.

No article, no journalist, nobody has asked this of MGM brass from what I've seen. I know you have to be respectful, but puleeezzzzz get this point across for us that continued to be pissed off by this.

September 28, 2009 2:58 PM Posted by mike_ch

As someone who moves in those "Americans obsessed with Japan pop culture" circles, I think the Dragon Noodle Idea is kind of fun, though I do understand Jeff's concern if Monte Carlo is really the right location.

I think hotels that are so themed that they just don't have any choice but to keep it a themed casino are probably the ideal locations for this kind of thing. You can sort of generify the themes of MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay and the like, but a hotel like Excalibur or NYNY, where the theme is just so strong that there's really no way they can not make it look like anything but a supposedly "tacky" architecture.

As for cosplay, it's kind of connected with anime conventions. Some people are good at it, some are bad. As you'd expect, the Japanese fans are even more passionate about it, and as weird as some of the most popular characters look there's always someone with an uncanny resemblance who can make it come to life.

Vegas doesn't really have that nerd culture thing because we're very close to San Diego where San Diego ComicCon is, which is an event that started with DC/Marvel style comic books but has expanded to sci-fi in general and now basically all of Hollywood. We're also too close to Anaheim where the west coast's big anime convention is. There is an anime con over Labour Day here, but it's small and pretty much draws the same locals and special guests from the English voice acting industry who use it as an excuse to go to Vegas for work purposes.

In a way, a cosplay cafe isn't that much different from any other themed restaurant like the Hard Rock Cafe that just opened on the Strip, even if the people it targets are kind of niche. Which is why I figure themed casinos are a good location for that kind of thing. It's kind of a low-brow concept, but there's always room for low-brow casinos (especially if you've seen the kind of business Excalibur was picking up last time I was in there.)

October 1, 2009 3:32 AM Posted by Amar Chhabra

Hello Hunter. Great show. Here's a question I think about time to time, that perhaps Alan Feldman would have some insight into - Prior to Steve Wynn selling Mirage Resorts to MGM what plans did he have for the property that is now City Center?

Also, of all the former Mirage Resorts properties Treasure Island is the resort that MGM Mirage has changed the most. Both in terms of design/architecture and the target market. It use to be aimed at families now its aimed toward young adults. How do you think Steve Wynn would have handled that property with respect to renovations, target market, etc.?

Looking forward to seeing you guys on October 17th.

October 1, 2009 10:48 AM Posted by steve_c

I think Steve Wynn has admitted in the past that a lot of mistakes were made with Treasure Island from the start... and that marketing almost exclusively towards families wasn't the best long term solution. I believe changes had already been carried out before MGM bought out Mirage Resorts, such as moving the lobby area and reducing the pool size. I remember hearing Roger Thomas talk about being the sole designer of Treasure Island and that it was a mistake that only one designer had input on the property, something that changed with Bellagio and Wynncore.

I actually enjoy staying at "TI" for what it is.The recent renovations to the rooms and hallways are great, and in my opinion makes it one of the better properties for it's price and comfort.... but the best thing about TI is it's easy navigation, I like to think of it as an early Encore in terms of layout and ease of access.

I think some of the changes to Treasure Island are great, while others leave me scratching my head. It should be interesting to see what Phil Ruffin does with it, and how successful the new Gilley's location will be.

I too think it would be interesting to hear Alan Feldman explain the reasoning behind some of the changes at their properties.... honestly, like Treasure Island, some changes are for the better, while a lot of it is questionable. I can see needing to update properties to stay competitive with the competition, but the whole modern thing will come and go, just like every other design trend.

October 1, 2009 11:03 AM Posted by steve_c

Also, what about the parking structure on the strip between TI and Mirage? A few years ago, this site was listed as underutilized land by MGM/Mirage for future redevelopment. Did this land go to Phil Ruffin or did MGM/Mirage retain it? When the economy rebounds, this piece of land is ideal for another hotel tower for either Mirage or TI, or even a boutique hotel tower of a different brand. What were the plans for this land before the economy crumbled? How far along in the development and design process was the CityCenter North/Kerzner project before it was halted? Were there any plans or ideas for the land across from Luxor?

October 3, 2009 4:26 PM Posted by actionamar

Steve C,
Thanks for responding to my post and all the insight you provided with respect to TI. Regarding the parking garage it was my understanding that the parking garages were not part of the deal when MGM Mirage sold TI to Phil Ruffin. I belive MGM Mirage leases/rents the parking garage to Phil Ruffin/Treasure Island for a monthly fee. Hunter - can you confirm?

October 3, 2009 4:29 PM Posted by Hunter

There are four parking garages in the Mirage-TI complex.

Both TI and The Mirage have a self-park complex, there's a shared employee lot and then there's an additional, valet only complex that is right up against The Strip. The last one is the land that MGM calls 'underdeveloped'.

As far as the Ruffin sale, my understanding is that the deal did include the TI self-park garage (which incidentally also includes the TI exec offices on the ground floor) but did NOT include the shared valet garage (directly behind the S&R thing on The Strip), or the employee garage.

October 4, 2009 9:17 AM Posted by Andy S

Thanks for an interesting show.

I really hope that Harrahs don't buy PH, as others have stated we (the consumer) need less consolidation and more competition. I know it is unlikely to happen now, but I really hoped that MGM would be forced to sell a few properties earlier this year.

I can't believe anyone will want to buy the Fontainebleau, that place will not be viable for years.

I would also ask Alan Feldman about the de-theming /design issue. Everything they have done the past few years has been exactly the same and in my opinion the majority of the changes have been for the worse (Treasure Island, Luxor and NYNY stand out as beinf truely awful).

Do they seriously think that NYNY is better now than before? It used to be favourate casino, on my last visit earlier this year I only stayed a few hours as the place has lost what made it unique. I just had to laugh at how bad Luxor is - bland and pointless with no personality (like a cheap Plantet Hollywood wannabe)

Diversity is good, MGM had some really unique casinos I had to visit on each trip, I don't feel the need to now.

Also on my trip earlier this year, I also found the MGM casinos slot machines were really tight and the drink service was non existant. Luckily I stayed at Wynn, which as usual was excellent.

Cheers, Andrew