Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

All Articles Published: May 2010

May 31, 2010

Encore 2.0: Beach Club and Surrender

Posted by Hunter

Think back to 2005 in Las Vegas.

This is when the main building blocks that are now Encore were being fleshed out. At that time, 10,000 hotel rooms were planned for the New Frontier and Stardust sites. This would make the planned Strip porte-cochere a very important part of arrivals at Encore.

Or so everyone thought...

Quick link to my complete set of 120 photos:

Also, my buddy Steve was long on the tour too and his take is here.

The rest of my write-up follows after the jump...

May 31, 2010

Vegas Gang #47 - May 27th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

First off, a note - very excited to announce that Jeff Simpson will be writing a bi-weekly column for Two Way Hard Three. I'm very excited to have him on board!

* Encore Beach Club Opens
* MGM Mirage vs. Perini
* Atlantic City Numbers Down
* Tropicana Reborn?

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

May 28, 2010

UPDATED: Encore Beach Club is (Almost) Here

Posted by Hunter

Tomorrow marks the opening of the new Encore Beach Club and photos have started to leak out. The other day, we had some nice nighttime shots posted over at VT.

Today, we have a few shots from the recent 'play days' going on as they put the place through its paces. Thanks to Dave for submitting these shots.

I'll be on-site for a tour of the new facility tomorrow and will report back.

Update: Just finished my tour. The link to the photos is below, though I haven't had time to organize them yet.

What did I think? The place is gorgeous. Top notch, well built - just what you'd expect from Wynn. I need more time to process my thoughts but I have to say any concern I had is pretty much washed away. Yes, I still think Surrender's design is a little over the top but the pool complex more than makes up for it.

The four main bungalows have to be the nicest of their type on The Strip - complete with fully decked out bathrooms w/ showers. The balconies over the street are a trip. No Wi-Fi unfortunately, a somewhat strange omission.

At full capacity, the place can hold about 2800 people. That's big. That said, the indoor portion that is Surrender is fairly small, about Blush size.

At night, there's a light-show built into the walls - we didn't get to see it but they were very enthusiastic about it.

The gaming includes a craps table, which is a nice touch. Limits will vary of course.

The newly expanded Switch not only has a magnificent glass wall but now includes a full patio for dining.

Some of my photos:

I did count more than a few Ed Hardy shirts in the line, which was pretty long.

We visited Beau Rivage in 2006, right after it re-opened post Katrina. I really enjoyed the property - very much a mini-Bellagio. If you get a chance sometime, I'd recommend checking it out for sure.

This is part of the lobby which is under a large glass canopy.

May 25, 2010

MGM Mirage Launches Augmented Reality iPhone App

Posted by Hunter

This morning, I awoke to an MGM press release announcing their new iPhone app, featuring augmented reality. Of course, anything iPhone and Vegas related immediately gets me interested so I dug in.

For those unfamiliar, augmented reality (AR) is a technique by which a user sees a live video stream with computer graphics overlaid, based on their location. So for instance, you hold up your phone and on the screen you see what the camera lens sees but with information painted on top, typically points of interest, etc...

This app, Vegas Reality, is in the App Store now and I took it for a little spin. This will probably sound like sour grapes to some but honestly, I wasn't all that impressed. The app has several downsides in my mind. First, it only includes MGM Mirage stuff. Understandable I guess but that means that over half The Strip has no annotations at all.

Once you drill down on a resort, there's a little bit of high-level information, less than you'd find on a typical resort Web site. The augmented reality bit only shows you the names of the resorts around you, basically the same info you'd get from reading the marquee.

The app does integrate Twitter, a feature that's also in the forthcoming 2.6 version of Vegas Mate for the iPhone.

All that said, the app is free (search for 'mgm mirage' in the App Store) so there's no risk if you want to try it for yourself. If you're not in Vegas, it simulates your location as being at the corner of Tropicana and LVB. The app requires an iPhone 3GS or greater and does not work on the iPod touch at all.

One important question - AR requires the use of the video camera but that technology was recently banned at Luxor and Excalibur. Is this app not welcome there either?

I actually built about half of an AR feature for Vegas Mate 2.5 but I dropped it for an important reason - augmented reality isn't very useful in most real-world situations! Walking around with a phone in front of you isn't very desirable and due to the limitations of GPS technology, it doesn't work well inside, a place where something like this could be awesome if done right. Maybe someday, if we can get this kind of thing embedded into sunglasses...

I can imagine the pitch meeting for this app - AR looks fantastic in a demo but most users try it once and then put it back down. The AR revolution never took off. Trust me, we won't see people walking down The Strip, phones held aloft looking for these annotations anytime soon.

I expect more and more apps for all platforms from the resort companies. So far though, they're treating them more like they would Web sites. If they want to really knock people's socks off, they need to understand this is a new medium and adjust strategy accordingly.

This shows that sort of thinking but with a technology itself (AR) that's a bit half-baked.

May 22, 2010

Welcome To Your New Hotel Room

Posted by Hunter

There's an interesting story in the Sun about some of the new 'green' room designs showing up at the Hospitality Design Expo.

Of course, a big part of CityCenter's marketing is their LEED status - an important achievement, no doubt. I'm all for reducing energy consumption and I'm glad builders are taking this into account in their designs but when I make my buying decisions, it's little to no part of it.

How about you?

Thanks to @detroit1051 for sending the link.

May 20, 2010

Las Vegas Public Transportation For Tourists

Posted by Hunter

I'm adding this article into the next version of Vegas Mate but it looks very useful so I decided to publish on the Web as well.

Read after the jump to get the low-down on public transportation options, from our very own mike_ch.

May 20, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Treasure Island

Posted by Hunter

This is a photo of Treasure Island's lagoon, taken before they repainted the high-rise exterior and removed the original sign. This is a great example of a themed hotel done right.

The exterior has been substantially modified since then.

May 19, 2010

Vegas Mate Updates For iPhone and iPad Coming

Posted by Hunter

I'm prepping updates to both versions of Vegas Mate, coming very soon.

Vegas Mate for iPad 1.2: Submitted to Apple a few days ago, it features proper landscape support as well as a few other tweaks. It's a relatively minor update.

Vegas Mate for iPhone 2.6: A bigger update than the iPad version with photos, Twitter integration, some UI tweaks, global search and a lot of other changes. I hope to have this submitted by the end of the week.

Both updates will be free for existing customers.

I'm excited to get these out to folks, especially the iPhone update, which has been in the works for awhile. After this, the next update will be for the iPad and include a big new feature. Following that, a major overhaul of the iPhone version, something I'm not ready to discuss yet.

In addition, both products now have dedicated Web sites with product info and support questions, including screen casts if you're not familiar with how the products work.


Wow, this seems like it is a full on shooting war now.

Perini paid to have the following 11 page letter posted in the Review Journal, asking Governor Gibbons to open an investigation into the MGM Mirage / CityCenter payment dispute.

Trust me, you want to read this...

Perini is playing hardball on this one, no doubt. They recently told investors in their conference call that they intend to fight for every penny they believe they are owed.

UPDATE: MGM has responded. What's interesting is that they are now paying the subs directly, clearly wanting to diffuse that part of a potential public relations nightmare. Smart on MGM's part.

Without the contracts and supporting docs, there's really no way to make a call on this either way. My prediction that City Center would end up as a giant lawsuit seems to have been proven correct.

May 12, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Aria

Posted by Hunter

This photo of Aria's American Fish restaurant was taken the day before the resort opened to the public. I think this is an interesting bar design - the solid bar and simulated forest behind the glass.

May 11, 2010

Vegas Uncork'd: Conclusion

Posted by Hunter

Uncork'd has now come and gone.

@atdleft has a final submission for this year to wrap things up. Can't wait for next year!

Uncork'd is wrapping up but before it exits the stage, it's time for a BBQ. I'm literally drooling.

Thanks again to @atdleft for all of his coverage this weekend.

After the jump for more.

Here's @atdleft's report on the Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting - this one made me particularly jealous - sounds good!

He has photos on TwitPic that aren't quite embedding correctly so you'll have to visit them here:


@atdleft is back, this time after a session with master chef Joel Robuchon.

One of the best restaurants in the city, if not the country, if you're into food you don't want to miss this.


NOTE: I was told that as recently as this week, some of these signs have disappeared. Word from MGM Mirage is that this doesn't indicate a change of policy, just a temporary adjustment of the signage itself.

Over the past several weeks, several bloggers and Las Vegas visitors noticed that at both Luxor and Excalibur, new signs had sprung up prohibiting guests from taking photos or videos in any of the two resort's public areas.

If you're interested in understanding and debating the new policy, continue after the jump.

May 7, 2010

Vegas Uncork'd: The Bradley Ogden Dinner

Posted by Hunter

@adtleft is back with another Vegas Uncork'd event, this time dinner at the popular Bradley Ogden restaurant at Caesars Palace.

Continue after the jump for all the details. Enjoy!

Wynn Resorts - Net Income: $27.0 million Revenue: $908.9 million More Info

Boyd Gaming - Net Income: $8.4 million Revenue: $398.4 million More Info

MGM Mirage - Net Income: -$96.7 million (loss) Revenue: $1.4 billion More Info

Las Vegas Sands - Net Income: -$28.9 million (loss) Revenue: $1.33 billion More Info

This thread will be updated as other companies report.

May 6, 2010

Vegas Mate iPad Contest - Winners Selected!

Posted by Hunter

Happy to announce that we have winners (yes, more than one!) in our first major contest.

The grand prize winner is 'Eric', who won a $500 Apple gift card so that he can pick up an iPad! Eric, check your e-mail to see if you're the Eric I'm talking about.

If Eric doesn't get back to me by 7pm tomorrow night, I'll pick another grand prize winner and update this blog.

Since I got so many great entries, I wanted to have more than one prize. I awarded two second place prizes, $100 Apple gift cards:

* Kara C.
* Eric R.

I've already heard from Eric. For Kara, the same rules apply - 24 hours to get back to me, as stated in the email I sent you earlier today.

I was floored by the quantity and quality of responses to this contest. So much so that I'm working on my next giveaway. This was a lot of fun and generated over 2,000 new reviews in the Vegas Mate database, something that benefits everyone that uses the app. Win-win-win (Wynn?)

Anyway, please stay tuned for info on upcoming contests and a huge thank you to everyone that participated. I truly wish I could give everyone an iPad.

As for Vegas Mate, on the iPhone I'm working hard on version 2.6 which will include photo galleries, some Twitter integration and a few other improvements. On the iPad, I'm working on 1.2, which will include an entirely new landscape mode. It's funny, until I had an actual iPad to use, I didn't realize how little I'd be holding it in portrait, so I need to re-do the UI a bit for the iPad app. Both updates will be free for existing users.

Ok, our coverage of Uncork'd 2010 is kicking off with an intro post from @atdleft.

Despite being a local, he's hanging out on The Strip this weekend to soak up all the foodie goodness.

Keep reading after the jump for more... plus lots more to come. Enjoy!

Also, don't forget I'm live at 7pm today to award the iPad.

Updated with some additional observations from the Uncork'd media photo shoot.

May 6, 2010

What Are Your Favorite Vegas Tourist Tips?

Posted by Hunter

I'm working on a Vegas Mate update and one of the things I'm looking for are great Vegas tourist tips.

You have any great tips to share? If so, leave 'em in the comments and I may use them in a future update!

One of my favorite tips: if dining alone, many restaurants have a bar that you can often just walk up to, reservation or not.

May 5, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Flamingo

Posted by Hunter

This time I'm back with a shot of one of the neon signs at The Flamingo.

Neon, when used well, is one of the things I love the most about Las Vegas. It's just so cool.

May 4, 2010

TWHT Gets Uncork'd This Weekend

Posted by Hunter

Happy to say that I am sending @atdleft to cover Vegas Uncork'd, an amazing gathering of chefs and food lovers in Las Vegas this weekend.

He'll be attending several of the most interesting events and we'll be posting about all the action.

This is an event I've always wanted to go to myself - at least we'll get to hear about it.


(and no, I didn't get tickets for free, I'm sending him because I love all of you)

Our iPad giveaway contest is now coming to a close and this Thursday, 7pm PT, we will pick a winner LIVE on UStream.

Here's the URL for the live stream:

NOTE: You don't have to be present to win but the original rule about contact within 24 hours applies. Details in the original post.

If you need a reminder what this contest is all about, there's still time to enter:

Good luck!

May 2, 2010

Vegas Gang #46 - April 30th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

Win an iPad! Details here: There will be a live broadcast of some sort to award the prize on Thursday. Look for details here on the blog in the next few days.

NOTE: This recording got screwed up somehow and we lost a segment of the show. Apologies to my fellow panelists and to the listeners. We salvaged what we could. Enjoy.

* Wynn Resorts Discussion (partial)
* MGM Mirage Name Change
* Boyd / Station Drama Continues
* Taking Photos In Casinos / New Luxor Policy

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

NOTE: We recorded an updated segment on Wynn in Macau, plus Marina Bay Sands:

May 2, 2010

Open Topic Discussion - May 1, 2010

Posted by detroit1051

"Oasis at Gold Spike". Stephen Siegel has found his niche in Las Vegas. I hope he succeeds.
Oasis at Gold Spike, Downtown