Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

February 14, 2010

Strip Walk - February 2010

Posted by Hunter

Mike is back with another Strip Walk. This time we venture through TI, Bellagio, PH Towers, Palazzo, Aria, NYNY and more, including a mini-review of the Dal Toro restaurant at Palazzo.



I've been here a few times in the past week or so, including once for dinner at Dal Toro (see below.) Everything was the same in the casino floor, but up by the mall level I don't seem to remember this Cafe Presse, and I certainly don't remember the juncture being filled up with tables for it.

Maintenance alert: Have you ever noticed how slot machines have those lights on top of them that flicker on and off like clockwork? Yeah, well, here's environmental lighting doing it's impression of that. And yes, people in uniform walked by and didn't notice or appear to be bothered by it.

To expand on something from last week, Smokin' Hot Aces is near Barney's and First Food. I'm generally not anywhere on the Strip when clubs are up and running, sorry.

I walked into the Lagasse's Stadium (formerly Sports Book, formerly 40/40) to see what was up. This space, which has long had trouble drawing interest between there being better sports books nearby (particularly at Wynn) and an odd location in the basement near the Lamborghini leftovers. It is now doing very good business compared to how it used to be. It was still a week away from Super Bowl weekend, but the room had warm bodies and looked to be making money.

So what did they do? First, they added a lot of sports memorabilia, which is also up for sale. My eyes were most drawn to the San Jose Sharks jersey that was signed by the team in the 2008-2009 season, but I saw a lot of other sports as well as one other hockey jersey (the Comcast-- I mean, Philadelphia Flyers, boo). They also put in at least one bank of Video Poker machines and two Compu-Blackjack machines. The end result feels sort of like a rec room some sports fan decorated for Guy Activities on a very large budget, or maybe a gambling/sports bar version of a 1980s arcade. Either way, it is clicking, and I see a lot of eating and watching and gambling and here I am talking at length about it. So, uh, success?

Compare this with First Food, which is in a location that is as awkward as the Guy Room outlined above, and also has a bunch of fancy bar food and plasmas running ball games. But is there a crowd there? Nope. It's kind of odd because you'd think First would have just a small advantage between these two awful locations with a lot of walk-by business from Treasure Island, but it just isn't so. People crossing the bridge from TI/Mirage are either walking to the Venetian as they've known to do for all these years, or are going downstairs to Walgreens and a much longer walk to the casino.

When your restaurant is getting it's butt kicked by Walgreens, how much longer can you afford to go?

Treasure Island

Outside the hotel and right by the crosswalk to Mirage and the Sands bridge, management has dropped a booze cart. Now there's a couple problems here. First of all, if you're so desperate for a buzz to stand around and drink outside on a particularly bad corner of Treasure Island, in the wintertime, huffing the exhaust of cabs that are coming in and out, you may want to reconsider why you came to Vegas instead of a bar back home. Secondly, with minor interest a small crowd forms and it becomes difficult to just walk around, sending foot traffic into the road. If you're going to open one of these up, fine, but put it where it isn't in everyone's way if it actually draws an audience. Better yet, put it by the front doors, either in this space next to the casino entrance, or over here between casino and registration entrances.

Indoors, Francesco's was finishing up. You can see the indoors here, here, and here. Gilley's is same as it was last time.

I checked out the coffee shop here, and prices had gone up. since I last checked. Burgers now cost as much as fancier foods, and start at $14, putting them at the same price as Emeril's Table10 across the street (Grand Lux at Palazzo is $9, and Lagasse Stadium is something like $11.) One burger is also called "The Biggest Burger on the Strip." It isn't. It isn't even as big as the 1lb double burger that this exact same place served under MGM Mirage ownership.

And, for the curious, the real biggest burger on the Strip is at the GameWorks Cafe outside MGM Grand. 1.25 pounds. Never tried it, can't comment on quality.

Caesars Palace

Some time ago, after Serendipity3 opened and my walks across Caesars started getting faster and faster, another Chinese restaurant opened at Caesars. I say "another" because Beijing Noodle No.9 got here first. I don't know when Sea Harbour opened but I can say that it occupies the space that used to be Empress Court in an awkward sorta-kinda 2nd floor dining room, while also food-wise replacing the now-gone 808. I think they actually moved the elevators, since I seem to remember them being further back than where they are (directly behind Rao's instead of 90 degrees to the south), though that would be a LOT of work to do.

All I know is two things: My use of international spelling in words like "harbour" is finally justified in this joint's name, and when I walked up some letters had fallen off the entrance wall. Somebody get maintenance on the phone.


Crystals is taking a bit out of Via Bellagio. Hermes has closed up and moved further south. No mention of what will replace it. My guess is that once rents at Crystals are closer to what they were intended to be, this corridor will become popular again. Even people who don't want to be in expensive stores have to walk through Via Bellagio to get to the casino, whereas Crystals is a bit avoidable, in addition to my feeling that Olives, Prime, and Picasso will draw more people that way than Mastro's and Puck.

I dropped into the Tutto gift shop and noticed that the butterfly shirt I noticed in the last column is just one piece of a butterfly-centric merchandise line for women. Yeah, uhhh, guys, about that...

Bellagio is now selling some of it's furnishings in Tutto and online at The Mirage has been doing this with the renovated rooms at the Impulse store (no online store that I know of), and prices between the two are pretty common although some stand out, and not in the way you'd expect. A Bellagio king pillow is $30, while a Mirage one is $60. Given that I could use a couple pillows, I almost jumped at that except that I was trying to not spend any money that day (guys, please don't raise the prices just on account of this column, ok? I'm giving you a plug. :) Bellagio mattresses and robes and towels cost a bit more. Given how much I liked the towels at Aria (which isn't selling it's rooms, from what I know) I'd like to get some of those too eventually.

Also, Bellagio isn't practically selling everything in the entire room like Mirage is. Sure, I can see buying a Mirage bed or the Mirage soap dish or something, but the hair dryer?

Otherwise, Bellagio was actually the cleanest I've seen it in a year. and employees actually conversed with me and someone with a namebadge seeing me trudging through the convention hallway asked if I was there for a slot tournament. Me! At a slot tournament! In a place like this! I declined but actually thanked her for asking, after so long of being ignored like so much riff-raff that belongs at Ballys or Flamingo.

I sat down once I reached the Spa Tower section and took some beauty shots of the pool courtyard.

So yes, Bellagio is beginning to suffer from some material damage that the maintenance team seems incapable of fixing (either due to budget or someone in the chain being unwilling), but if you aren't a frequent visitor looking for signs of stress and abuse, I can say that at least the ground floor is very clean and the people working there seem a bit cheerier and less likely to overlook you if you don't meet a guest profile (no doubt the economy has helped here, and probably CityCenter.)

The walkway to Vdara always has some lights that are gone out (or, if they're meant to be day-parted, some lights that are left on.)

Upon reaching the other side of the bridge I noticed this sign again and remembered that in the last column's comments someone asked why the bridge is closed. I asked at Vdara registration and was told that it was for "security reasons." Probably more the hotel's security than your security, I'm guessing they want to keep drunks from trying to leap to the HVAC system right at level. There is a person in a nice jacket at one side of the bridge both times I've crossed it.


Wandered over just to look at the closed Ah Sin that will soon be ripped up to make room for a major outlet/restaurant, operated by the Sugar Factory entity that's been popping up in shopping districts all over the Strip. This one will supposedly serve more than just junk food, if the press so far is to be believed.

So, here's an awkward shot into the window of Ah Sin, so you can enjoy it before it's gone.


Somebody on Twitter mentioned that you don't see photos of spas very often, and this one has been almost shrouded in secrecy, so I went in to go see why. Short answer: not much to see. Lots of granite (which does look more natural and earth toned than the marble which Wynn's designers like to throw everywhere) with some plants, some small water features, and some illuminated glass blocks that might look a bit 80s in a less modern setting (see: almost any other setting.)

One whole wall of the lobby is glass, and I tried to see what there was of the pool area from here. The hallway to and from the spa has some more brutalist views, with windows set in that sawtooth pattern you can find in the rooms allowing for a lot of different angles.

I don't like to judge my own pictures, but I think this photo defines what kind of experience comes to mind when I think of Bellagio, and this photo is equally adept at describing CityCenter even if it's very different. If you look closely, you'll notice that even though you're looking out over the roof of the ground/casino level, plants have been placed in the roof along skylight panels. The wall to the right is covered with a more earthen looking stone material, which sits juxtaposed against attention-getting glass towers. The kayak piece can be seen at a distance in the middle and a peek of Bellagio can be seen sitting almost uncomfortably between post-modern towers. And though saying this might cause Jim Murren to turn red in the face, the pointy white spires and the white steel overhangs they hold up over the porte cochere is evocative of 1967-era Tomorrowland.

In essence, an element of just about everything that makes CityCenter what it is, at least from the outside, is included there.

But enough navel gazing. This sign has a Self Park arrow that does not match the other arrow. It is larger, sitting on it's own "block", and unlit. I wonder why? Did the arrow originally point in the wrong direction?

Over at Crystals, I found the Mastro's restaurant going through training.

Planet Hollywood

I walked over to the towers. The entrance is in the back of the mall. The lobby is a large space looking out at the pool and cabanas. There's also a bar here, a sundries shop, what looks like a kids space, basically a unique mix of things expected for both a distant second tower, and a condo building.

There's a lot of modern paintings hanging on the wall, some of them are the typical mass-produced Warhol replicas, while others are more unique and they have little plaques with information. I liked how every table had a different design underneath the top.

Nearly all decor is more hip red and white than anything on this side of Richard Branson's ventures. Lone gripe? This material/design behind registration is also in use at M Resort, and was simply painted white.

Out in the Miracle Mile itself, by the Hawaiian Tropic Zone was a big wall for yet another Sugar Factory outlet that should be open (or almost) by the time you read this.

Over by the V Theater and the mall fountain, a "Stripper Bar" is being built. The construction wall warns you, "Hot Girls at Work." I'm not sure if that's a promise or a threat, but I assume they're licensed. Construction means jobs, and if there's one demographic in Las Vegas that is having trouble finding employment in this economy, it's Hot Girls.

Hey, at least I didn't make a stimulus joke.


I still enjoy how well done the exterior theme of this place is, so I stood around and took some photos of some ground level buildings. This plush watermelon hanging in a window is kinda quirky, and a clothes hanger is left in another. Peek through the barriers into the outdoor courtyard for Rok Vegas and in the windows you'll find... Panties on a chair? Well, given the space, I guess you can at least argue that it IS themed.

Bling is a chain. Guess I can't blame Treasure Island too much for their new fake diamond place, or at least it's name. I still think the best name for a zirconium place that I've seen so far is "Las Vegas Diamonds," since it says just as much about the town as it does the product.

((sung to Alicia Keyes' chorus from "Empire State of Mind"))

*At New York, New Yoooorrrrrk* *Nothing new here worth seeing* *Unless you've missed the de-theming* *Oh New York, New Yooorrrrk* *These empty lakes will depress you * *But Excalibur does it, too * *Let's hear it for New York, New York* *Hotel, Casino*

Tram-dalay Bay and Excalibur

The Tramdalay now has much shorter hours than I remember it having before. Service used to begin at 7AM just a month ago, and a year before that it used to run 24/7 since opening. Keep this in mind if you plan on staying at Mandalay and partying the night at MGM Grand or Aria. You can't rely on the tram to carry your staggeringly drunk legs home anymore.

Also, about that northern, Tropicana Ave depot outside Excalibur: Why are some of these signs perfectly centered and some of them aren't? This has always been this way, I think, but I only noticed it now. I guess it's "good enough," especially since in dozens of rides I only just now saw it, but I'd like to think at Bellagio or Aria they wouldn't settle for that.

Inside Excalibur, Marshall-Rousso wasn't really kicked out, it just moved. It's new space is formerly The Octane Store, formerly half of the Excalibur Gift Shop.

StripMunch Mini - Dal Toro

This restaurant, in the basement of Palazzo near Lagasse Stadium and the sports cars, is kind of hard to find and as a result doesn't get a ton of customers.You may have noticed that this is becoming a trend at Palazzo. You would be right. Still, on a floor where Jay-Z and a Bugatti Veyron could not find an audience and gave up completely, Dal Toro soldiers on.

You apparently can sit and eat near some sports cars (not the luxurious variety that was here at opening, but still some pretty expensive models) but that was not offered to us so you may need to inquire about getting one of the tables in the showroom if you desire.

The food is a mix of northern and southern Italian cooking without being too heavy on either seafood or the sauce/cheese mix you find at chains. The food, though sometimes jazzed up with some less common ingredients, was good sustenance but nothing you'll write to your people back home about. In his own review, John Curtas seems to think that the lasagna actually was inherited from the chef's grandmother, although I'll point out that other hotel restaurants from chefs big and small all seem to have dishes "alla nonna" on the menu, so there's either a lot of Italian chefs with Cookin' Grannies in this town, or that's just become a common thing to put on the menu.

In the middle of dinner, the Treasure Island battle started outside. This would be easier seen from the patio (closed for the cold), but from the windows of the dining room you could see the boat move forward, flashes of fire, and the boat sink and a lot of flashes of light when pyro went off. I honestly did not know that the boat actually un-sinks and sails backwards during the events of the new show (seriously, what the heck were they thinking?)

Dining room staff wears black and orange uniforms that say CREW in big letters on the back, as though uniform fashion was patterned after the EVENT SECURITY guys at a rock concert.

This seemed like an okay place, but with so many options in town I don't know if I'd come back here. If you want Italian for lunch, then this place will fit the bill, but people on Yelp seem to dislike breakfast offerings. For dinner there's a lot better options in town. There's now even better options in The Palazzo (which you'd think would have great Italian food with a name like that), since Lavo has ditched it's "Continental Europe" menu to become an Italian-Steakhouse hybrid.

*Dal Toro is in Palazzo and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bill was handled by another party and so this is a mini-review.*

Well, that's it for now. If you find this update was a bit lacking in content, keep in mind that I poured a lot of stuff into the last one and so this one had less to work with. However, you can find my actual, on-the-scene thoughts live from the Strip on Twitter. Save a search for the #StripWalk tag that I put on all relevant updates. Check it often, though; Twitter is having problems searching old tweets right now, so anything over a few days old won't appear for the immediate future.


Read archived comments (26 so far)
February 15, 2010 8:02 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike, a lot to read and digest. Thanks!
I assume TI's booze cart is on their property, but I'm surprised there's no prohibition of selling liquor in an "almost" public space.
Bellagio sounds pretty good in your comments. I'm looking forward to hearing MGM's Conference Call this Thursday, the 18th, to see what they say about Aria and Bellagio (if anything).
Is NYNY's lack of water a "green" thing, or did the mechanism get clogged up with debris?
Yay! Your photo of Mastro's shows linen tablecloths. Good for them!
Finally, I still use the sheets and towels daily that Wynn gave me in 2006. They are the best quality ever.

February 15, 2010 9:12 AM Posted by jinx

In reference to the booze cart, while I agree it's not in an ideal spot, it has been there at least since Summer. Caesars seems to have one or two in open areas as well, although a lot more open area to have it in.

February 15, 2010 9:14 AM Posted by doc_al

Mike, these are always great reads, thanks!

I was in "Lagasse Stadium" once on an NFL sunday. Very busy, couldn't find an open seat, great for them but not so much for me. Did leave me with sort of a claustrophobic vibe, but others might find it "cozy".

Your Aria/Bellagio comparison is interesting. I need to get there and form my own impression, but what I've seen in pics at Aria just doesn't say "resort" to me.

February 15, 2010 11:36 AM Posted by atdleft

Thanks for the 411, Mr. Mike C.

OK, I can't help it. Time to talk food.

Yes, there are better Italian options than Dal Toro in the area. And no, Lavo is NOT one of them. If the Vegas Valentino is anything like the LA Valentino, prepare to be blown away. (Btw, this is near the top of my "to eat list" to soon do.) And across the street at Wynncore, Stratta serves nice (and affordable) dinners while Sinatra is a complete class act.

Oh yes, and "della nonna" has become a commonplace cop-out on the menu these days... But it's rare to actually find a real lasagna that the nonna will truly be proud of. I'm trying to remember if Dal Toro has a veggie version...

February 15, 2010 12:05 PM Posted by parchedearth

I like the labeled artwork and seating areas in PHo towers. They might end up doing better than most of us thought. Should be interesting to see the costuming for the stripper bar. Sounds very similar to Hawaiian Tropic.

I can't really figure out why Lagasse stadium is doing so well in that location. The food is nothing special (especially for Emeril) and the space would be much better suited for a club. It gets crazy packed on football days. They having gaming rooms (roulette and BJ) as well.

First Food was a good idea, but lost its niche when it reduced its hours and separated the menus. There is always a need for an after hours higher end food joint (ala Society Cafe).

Dal Toro's bar has a design problem that makes it almost impossible to sit comfortably at the bar.

Ruffin has been making some odd changes at TI. Trying to reposition it as a higher end property by raising prices, while simultaneously putting in a pizza joint and Gilley's. I wonder what kind of occupancy they have. As for the beverage carts, I think they were originally by the Sirens/pirates show, but that was on-hold all fall.

February 15, 2010 2:15 PM Posted by atdleft


OK, I just notice First stopped serving breakfast. That sucks. They really did it well. Oh well, I guess this means more weekend brunches at Society and Mon Ami Gabi for me.

Oh yes, and I just don't get what Ruffin is doing with F&B at TI. The venues (opening Gilley's and retooling Francesca's as a pizza joint) suggest he's downscaling, but the prices (going up) suggest he's upscaling. All I'm hoping for is that they serve better food. Isla just doesn't impress and the Vegas Canter's puts the LA Canter's to shame... Just not in a good way.

February 15, 2010 2:28 PM Posted by Mike

I like the video of the light you would think they would notice this kind of thing and fix it right away!! If I owned the place I would be pissed, then again it wouldn’t surprise me as over at the MGM there has been a missing board on the ceiling to the left of the down escalator, its just after you go through the door going into the property. here is a link to a photo its at the verry bottom of the page.

February 15, 2010 2:32 PM Posted by mike_ch

atdleft: I don't doubt that Valentino is nice, but I only might eat at the grill and will probably avoid it altogether.

You and I operate in two different worlds. I'm not really a foodie, the only reason I think people would care about my food opinions is because when I read foodie reviews I am lost. I think some people (but not all people) might be interested in a "normal person's opinion" on it.

The other thing is that you're probably not going to see me having many meals on here that exceed about $20 or so. Last year I thought about treating myself for my birthday so I parked at Palazzo, saw what the prices were at Cut, and immediately wandered over to Wynn to choose between the buffet or coffee shop.

So yeah, I don't doubt what you're saying, but don't be surprised if your advice often goes unheeded, because you and I aren't very much alike when it comes to what we should eat and how much we're willing to pay for it. :)

February 15, 2010 3:14 PM Posted by atdleft

Mike C-

OK then, I'll eat at Valentino so you don't have to. :-D

And yes, it is interesting to read your "non-foodie food reviews". It is accessible for folks who don't hang around at Urbanspoon, Chowhound, and the foodie blogs like crazy ol' moi. I just can't help myself. I LOVE good food, I LOVE eating well, and I like to discuss my food experiences and continue learning about food.

So I hope you don't mind this foodie chiming in and offering my $0.02. :-)

February 15, 2010 3:22 PM Posted by mwdelta

Undoubtedly Ruffin is just trying to wring some more revenue out of those folks who tend to eat many meals on-property. F&B revenue is way more important at a middle-level casino than at a place like Wynn. Case in point - why Caesars charges 50% more for a slice of food court pizza than Pizza Place.

I also don't think $14 is outrageous for a burger when they are $9 at the local Applebee's.

February 15, 2010 5:02 PM Posted by atdleft


"I also don't think $14 is outrageous for a burger when they are $9 at the local Applebee's."

Well, I do if it's not top quality. BLT @ Mirage, Burger Bar @ Mandalay Bay, and LBS @ Red Rock (Yes, it's off Strip... But IMHO it serves the best burgers in town!) are all fabulous gourmet burger joints, and all have cheaper burgers than whatever is at TI's coffee shop.

Come on, are so many turistas that lazy? Would they really pay $14 for something most likely inferior to what they can find for the same price or less (!!!!) right next door at BLT Burger @ The Mirage?

And btw, thanks for pointing out what may be the biggest food lie shoved down our throats. Big chains like Applebee's pretend to be "bargains" as they tell us how many great "deals" they have for us and how much money we'll "save" going there... But in reality, they're no cheaper than a number of great (TRULY!) local restaurants that serve better quality food and better deserve our business.

Mr. ELV talked about it last summer, and I think it's something we need to remember next time anyone says anything about how "cheap" Chili's or Cheesecake Factory is.

February 15, 2010 7:21 PM Posted by mike_ch

To compare the TI burger directly against it's competition at the Palazzo, the burger at Table10 is also $14, First Food begins at about $12 and can get up there if you pile on toppings, and the burger at Grand Lux Cafe is $9. All are angus. Table10 is an Emeril's restaurant that specializes in cajun dishes and anyone just there to eat a cheeseburger is probably either doing it ironically or just with a group of people and doesn't like gumbo. First Food is priced a bit differently and you can see what your money gets you there because if you like unique toppings they will have them.

Compared to those joints, the Treasure Island coffee shop is, uh, a coffee shop.

There was also a burger that was $1-$2 more at TI because it was sirloin and not angus. I think I remember the waitress saying it was a bit smaller.

I'm not against $14-$16 burgers entirely. But if I pay that much then I expect it to be at a nice place like the Wynn Country Club ($16, sirloin), or else be very large or something.

February 15, 2010 9:18 PM Posted by mike_ch

atdleft: I think my favourite member of the chain gang is The Olive Garden in terms of not being worth the cost. I ate there at least four times over the winter because in my hometown it's the fanciest thing there is. And in fairness, the locally-originated regional chain they compete with is even more and offers less.

I'll give Olive Garden credit for setting off my interest in Italian that has me browsing menus up and down the town right now, but half the times I left hours later I wasn't feeling good and at least once, well, it didn't stay down. :-/

We have a tendency to avoid casinos as we see it being so expensive to eat there (and given what we spent at CityCenter just on buffet and coffee shop on NYE, we had a reason to believe it.) But then later in January I wanted Italian but not Olive Garden, and so I looked at the menu of Buca di Beppo since I literally can walk to one where I am. Looked at the price of Salvatore's at Suncoast to compare and was pretty surprised that the casino was less expensive. Got there and had alright service and much more edible food than Olive Garden, and none of that "we're almost closing hurry up and finish eating" attitude I'm used to there, too.

I still avoid the Strip pretty often, though. We're mostly going downtown or to burb casinos, particularly Boyd ones since it seems Stations have gone WAY downhill in the past two years.

February 16, 2010 11:15 AM Posted by atdleft

Mike C-

Heh. Olive Garden is to "Italian" what Outback is to "Australian"... It just isn't. My fave off Strip Italian spot is Marinelli's at The M. Surprisingly, the food is quite authentic and the flavors hit the right notes quite well. Terra Verde at GVR is OK, but the food didn't impress me as much... And it's fairly pricey for the smaller portions offered.

I dunno about Boyd... I've yet to find a good meal at any of their casino restaurants. Station has been more hit or miss, with the non-Station-run entities (like LBS at Red Rock & Terra Verde at GVR) tasting better than the more generally lackluster operations being run by Station F&B. So far, the best local casino food I've found has been at The M. They have some of the best off Strip restaurants and offer real value IMHO.

February 16, 2010 11:42 AM Posted by mike_ch

atdleft: Yeah, but I'm all the way up by Bacchus (can actually walk there in under 10 min) so the M is one of those once every blue moon kind of things.

The Rampart/JW Marriott combo is probably what we have closest to the M. I've never had anyting but the cafe (meh) and the buffet (cheap, but bleh), but I know that both Shizen and Spiedini are outsourced, if you want to call it that.

But it costs more than Suncoast or Texas Station, so it'll be a bit before we get to it.

February 16, 2010 12:54 PM Posted by atdleft

Mike C-

Well, lucky you! Are you really that close to Marche Bacchus? Hot damn, I'll be doing my post-b-day Saturday brunch there. I just LOVE that place!

So have you been to JC Wooloughans at JW Marriott? I've always meant to try that and Spiedini some time over there.

OK, try to get back to topic...

I can't hit The Strip all the time, so for me it's fun to go out and eat out when I can get a ride or hit The Deuce. And since The Strip is really the center of Vegas' culinary action, it makes sense for foodies like moi to hit The Strip to taste for myself all the fun things happening.

February 16, 2010 11:08 PM Posted by ooo000

Regarding TI... I ran into some folks bakc in January that claimed they were staying there for about 50 a night. So if rack rates are up, there's certainly some kind of deals out there.

I'm interested to see if Ruffin can make something of the place. I know in the club hay-day MGM seemed pretty successful marketing it to 20 somethings, but even before the sale it seemed to have gone off the radar. To me, it sits in tough spot between Mirage, Venetian/Palazzo, and Wynn. Yea in the boom time there was alot of room for their price point, but these days everyone is competing for business. Even with the pirate show, it certainly seems to be the least interesting spot on that segment of the strip, especially with Mirage offering so much at a similar if not only slightly higher price point. The frontage is dark and feels dead outside of the brief pirate show times. I know there's alot of nostaligia for the themes on these forums, but I think the pirate thing sort of rides a similar line as the egyptian theme at luxor... which would be that it's too disneyesque to be taken seriously by some with certain tastes. I think buying TI is a bigger gamble for Ruffin than some might think.

February 17, 2010 9:07 AM Posted by Duffmanin order to

Speaking of TI, how is the gaming there now that it is no longer an MGM property? Did Ruffin keep the same odds/rules MGM had or has he made them more favorable to the player in order to gain some people that don't like MGM or Harrah's rules?

February 17, 2010 9:21 AM Posted by mike_ch

ooo: Treasure Island has never really sold itself entirely on it's own strengths, it started out as A Cheap Room Next To Mirage and after a fizzled attempt to compete with the Hard Rock it quickly re-established itself as A Cheap Room Next To Wynn/Palazzo. Fortunately for MGM and Ruffin, things on the north end of TI are much more appealing than they were when Wynn owned the place and it pretty much marked the end of the Strip for most tourists.

I'm not sure rates on rooms are going up, but looking at prices of restaurants and the new spa I'm thinking that Ruffin's strategy is to give people a deal on rooms and then ask for more than before on the services inside the hotel. I notice things slowly getting more expensive in there, but I spend a lot of time analyzing prices on things like menus and spa services. Someone who just dropped in might not notice or even particularly care that they're being asked to pay more, especially since the costs are about the same as Venetian, and still less than Wynn.

Of course, not to many years ago the idea of Treasure Island charging Venetian money for anything seemed absurd, but everything is topsy turvy now and it's a combination of one charging less while one charges more.

I think final judgment must be reserved until after Gilley's is opened since it's a big change and could be a pretty good draw. But Ruffin will be running the risk of the "dormitory" that MGM described Mandalay-era Luxor as, where people stay and make beelines between the room elevators and the exits.

If his plan is to subsidize room rates by charging a lot downstairs, then he could lose business from other hotels and us few locals.

February 17, 2010 9:36 AM Posted by mike_ch

Duff: I suggest you check this out, since it was updated recently:

February 17, 2010 12:06 PM Posted by atdleft


I'll second Mike C on this. When Steve Wynn ran Treasure Island, it was basically The Mirage overflow tower for cheapo families (or at least middle-class families that didn't want to pay more for Mirage). And after MGM Mirage's brief attempt to make it a Strip party palace on the level of Hard Rock and Palms, it seemed to settle as a overflow tower for cheapo revelers that didn't want to pay Venelazzo/Wynncore prices.

I guess Phil Ruffin is taking this to another level, but it's just confusing for me to see him downscaling some of the amenities while upscaling all the prices. IMHO Mike C is right (again) that he risks making TI into a "bedroom casino" where folks might just come in for the hotel and play a few bucks on the slots... But then head over to Venelazzo, Fashion Show, and Wynncore for all the better shopping, dining, and entertainment. Especially if the F&B prices are the same or HIGHER (!!!!) than Venelazzo and Wynncore, then I just can't see too many tourists so lazy and/or stupid to pay more for inferior products.

February 18, 2010 11:44 AM Posted by doc_al

lol @ "some with certain tastes". Well-run businesses have entire departments devoted to figuring out how many is "some", who the "some" are, and what those "certain tastes" are (and how much they spend, and on what). So what *is* that for TI?

Can they compete in the "modern upscale" market"? I rather doubt it, it's too full a market and others are much better at it. So what's your differentiator? That, in the end, is the purpose of a theme. It makes you stand out, it tips the decision. Which is why I just can't fathom the un-theming of Luxor - at the end of the day, your major asset is still a big freakin pyramid. Embrace it. Same with TI - what's driving people to TI sans "pirate theme"?

There is no accounting for taste. I work in retail, it's amazing what does/doesn't sell. Tasteful doesn't matter, attracting/serving the customer does. One word: Excalibur. But I have a hard time believing the same customer is served by Mystere as is served by Gilleys. TI needs to find it's core customer, but all I see is Ruffin dogmatically doing what he did before. How long before TI advertises "the only bingo room on the strip!"?

February 18, 2010 2:18 PM Posted by mike_ch

doc al: So the modern upscale market is too crowded, but Gilley's and bingo is too dowdy? Huh?

I think most of us accept Treasure Island as a sort of low-end casino. Competes with Flamingo, Tropicana, Golden Nugget downtown, could include the Stratosphere if only it was closer. It's not downright slummy like Imperial Palace or Riviera, but in recent years the people running the place (who Ruffin has kept on) have had trouble identifying the place's niche. Ruffin didn't change any of that.

February 18, 2010 6:55 PM Posted by atdleft

Mike C-

I think what doc is trying to say is that Ruffin seems to be taking MGM's confusion over what TI is and who TI is supposed to appeal to a whole new level. On this, I agree with him. Again, I just don't get the downscaling of amenities and upscaling of prices.

Actually contrary to what doc said, I can see Luxor's recent redo making sense now. LAX is one of the hottest clubs on The Strip. Company and Cathouse are "fun" restaurants (even if the food at Cathouse is a tad subpar and disappointing for Chef Kerry Simon IMHO). MGM Mirage wanted to make Luxor younger, hipper, more casual, and more approachable... And IMHO it's all making sense now.

TI, OTOH, I just don't get. Will people going to see Mystere really want to stay for Gilley's? Will those looking for a simple burger really want to pay $14 for it?

When Steve Wynn and MGM Mirage ran TI, it was "low-end" in that it was a lower cost alternative to the more expensive casinos in the area... Just like what Luxor has become to Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo is becoming to CityCenter. Luxor and Monte Carlo aren't exactly grind joints...

But is that what Phil Ruffin wants to do to TI? He either needs to keep up the standards there to keep attract higher-end customers willing to pay more for food, drinks, and entertainment... Or realize that the only way for a grind joint to work (i.e. Circus Circus, everything Downtown save for Golden Nugget) is for everything to be cheap enough for low-rollers to feel comfortable playing enough on the penny slots and bingo to recover the losses on everything else and turn an overall profit.

February 19, 2010 12:23 PM Posted by mike_ch

Mystere is a limited-time engagement, the expiration date is well known and so it's working on borrowed time. Ruffin has been doing an alright job getting the likes of Bill Cosby and Leann Rhimes to play in the Mystere theatre on that show's dark nights, and I'm guessing that they'll scout for a replacement show when the time comes.

Like I said, they're gambling on their prices. What I saw of prices of the new spa weren't Encore high but they were up there with Aria and Canyon Ranch at Venetian, and food seems to be going up.

Keep in mind, TI has quite a lot of rooms even though it looks very small sitting between Wynn LV (less rooms than TI) and Palazzo (about the same.) That's a lot of people if occupancy is high and so Ruffin is guessing that a good number of them will want the convenience of not going to another hotel to pay slightly more than they did for amenities and services and restaurants than they did in the MGM era.

You and I, who know this town really well and don't wince at the thought of going to another hotel for something, we know that we can go to Canyon Ranch, we know that we can go to Society and get a better burger, or Grand Lux and get a cheaper burger, but if you're on the 19th floor of Treasure Island then you might not care that much.

It's not the kind of thing he could do if he owned New York New York and had Excalibur and Tropicana sitting nearby, but TI sits amongst a bunch of luxury hotels so people are going to have to walk a ways just to hit Harrah's (we'll assume the business loss to Casino Royale is almost insubstantial.)

February 26, 2010 1:03 PM Posted by Kenny

Every trip I take to Vegas, I always admired Paris' "hot air balloon" marquee but since my last trip to Vegas last month, that balloon is almost half faded white and is looking pretty shabby. But hey, what do you expect from a Harrahs property...