Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

September 20, 2010

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #007: Mommy and Daddy Will Be Right Back

Posted by Hunter

Here's Jeff's latest column wherein he examines parents towing their kids through the casino, Tamares and what's happening at The Plaza as well as his take on how The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will fare when it opens in December.


Dr. Dave Schwartz, director of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research, penned an interesting column for Vegas Seven magazine about parents who leave their children in cars while gambling and the response of casino security officers and gaming regulators to the problem.

Leaving kids in the car while a parent or caregiver gambles is wrong and an important safety issue, but I want to complain about a few less clear-cut issues involving children in and around Las Vegas casinos.

Children and adults under 21 are allowed to walk through Las Vegas casinos -- some casinos require them to be accompanied by parents -- but they are banned by state gaming law from loitering in the casino. I don't really like the law and wish minors could be excluded entirely from gambling areas, but casino designs typically force hotel, restaurant and entertainment patrons to walk through gambling areas to get to their destinations and the powers-that-be certainly have no appetite to make the city an adults-only destination.

Given that reality, my complaint is with parents and guardians and their poor decision making when it comes to their kids. Ask a Las Vegas casino security guard about parents with kids in the casino and you'll get some crazy stories. I'm not talking about kids parked in a coffee shop while Dad gambles, small kids left in the arcade while Dad plays blackjack, even Mom and Dad and their kids walking through the casino at a time of day -- say, three in the morning -- when children should be in bed sleeping. Those transgressions are everyday events that barely cause casino workers to raise an eyebrow.

About eight years ago I watched a man and boy who looked to be about eight squeeze through the aisle between a craps table and casino cage at the Golden Gate. The kid asked the man, presumably his father, what the dice table was and, before Dad could answer, the kid jumped up and tried to pull himself over the rail to see what was going on. The father pulled the boy down and a security guard standing by the cage immediately told the man they couldn't linger in a gaming area. I was at the other end of the table and at the time thought it was pretty funny.

Security officers all have far more egregious examples of parental stupidity, like small children or kids injuring themselves or getting sick in their hotel rooms while their parents are gone, presumably gambling or partying. On Fremont Street I've seen kids left outside on the sidewalk ("there'll be a show on the canopy in a few minutes") while parents go inside one of the casinos, and have seen the kids more than an hour later, still parked outside, sitting on the ground, waiting for Mom and Dad to return.

Folks say you can't legislate against stupidity and maybe that's right, but I'd like to see casinos get tough when it comes to guests with children. The customer isn't always right if he is leaving kids alone in their hotel rooms, leaving them unaccompanied near the casino or bringing them into the casino late at night -- after two in the morning, say, although I'd be fine with one o'clock -- without a damn good reason. Make sure parents with kids who are hotel guests receive a copy of common sense rules, and don't just warn violators. Boot them. And the same goes for non-hotel guests. Give them the heave-ho, and let the police know if laws were violated.


Next, I'd like to address the Plaza hotel's "temporary closure." I don't believe it will reopen in a year and wouldn't be surprised if it never reopens. I also won't be surprised if owners Tamares Group pulls the same stunt at the Las Vegas Club, making them three-for-three, with their Western casino being the other Tamares joint with a closed hotel. With room rates so low and with their properties in advanced states of disrepair and decrepitude, Tamares is closing the Plaza's rooms to allow it to lay off its housekeepers (Culinary Union members) and some maintenance workers, not that there are many left to lay off. I also am highly skeptical that Tamares will spend $20 million to refurbish the Plaza. I don't think they care about the casino business, and their attitude -- like those of the other cash-starved owners of other downtown casinos -- is really hurting all of the casinos downtown.


I hope the Cosmopolitan is successful and that it gets the share of business it deserves, but I'd like to throw a bucket of cold water on the optimistic expectations that some folks have for the soon-to-open property.

Cosmo will have some big advantages: Newest property, sweet location and a deep-pocketed owner, Deutsche Bank. I really like its Strip marquee and it has a strong lineup of restaurants. Property executives were smart to change the property's original design and confine casino action to the ground floor. And the early reports on rooms and interior design sound good. Room balconies will be cool (at least until someone takes a swan dive from the 30th floor).

But the disadvantages outweigh the positive. The economy and room and gaming revenue trends show no sign of an upturn by the end of the year, or even early next year. Opening a new resort in such a negative environment isn't easy -- just ask Steve Wynn and Jim Murren, and they had strong customer databases to mine to prop up occupancy with proven gamblers. That's Cosmopolitan's biggest problem -- no customer database. Ask the Aladdin's former owner. Sure, Cosmo has a partnership with Marriott but that's not enough. When Aladdin went bankrupt and became Planet Hollywood it partnered with Starwood, which wasn't enough to prevent its eventual sale to Harrah's.

Maybe the new property can tap a new market. Cosmo CEO John Unwin thinks so. In a recent interview he told that the hotel is seeking the "curious class." He said upwards of 100,000 of these people visit Las Vegas (in a year, presumably) and that "about 59 million that fall into this psychographic nationwide." Unwin said he hopes to draw them to the Cosmopolitan, particularly those who have an interest in visiting Las Vegas but have yet to do so. "We know there is a big opportunity for this customer and this experience," he told the site.

Hope is one thing, but I don't see a lot of difference between Cosmopolitan's aspirations and MGM Resorts' hopes for CityCenter and Steve Wynn's for Encore, and those openings were accompanied by big-spending public relations and advertising campaigns.

I expect the biggest question mark for the Cosmopolitan when it opens to be this: Just how deep into its pockets is Deutsche Bank willing to go?

-- Jeff Simpson, September 2010


Read archived comments (19 so far)
September 20, 2010 1:47 PM Posted by Brian Fey

I have to go with Jeff on this one. There are some huge fans on Twitter of Cosmo. I'm not anti Cosmo, but I can't understand these die hard fans, have no basis for their excitement. We know nothing about this place and people are going crazy over it. I just don't see enough evidence that this place will change my life. The location is as good as it gets, but they won't just step roll over the people that have been running things in this town for decades.

September 20, 2010 2:55 PM Posted by parchedearth

As to children, I think the properties can do more than just a "no strollers" policy and roll-away bed fees. I am suprised someone hasn't made their property 21+ only. The multi-tower properties could easily designate a family tower (i.e. Vdara, Palms Place, Paradise Tower at HR). Wynn has done the most with the stroller policy and building mostly King bed rooms.

I agree that Tamares will not reopen the Plaza, but I expect someone will buy it in a couple years and try to resurrect it. For downtown, the Plaza (and the Vegas club) have prime locations that will cripple the area if closed.

DB will be looking to sell Cosmo as soon as it opens. I am guessing they have been actively looking for buyers, but have determined they can get much more once the doors are opened. I'd wage they'd take $750M on Dec 16th (and are already prepared to write-off the rest). Even if the property becomes successful, I am not sure they could ever pay off the debt.

September 20, 2010 3:03 PM Posted by mike_ch

I'd like to say that most security people's idea of what is loitering is pretty bass-ackwards, as someone who walked around Vegas casinos from 18 onwards.

No, I'm not sitting in a chair and watching people play slots, I'm putting my shoe back on because it became untied, and then moving on to where I wanted to go. If it concerns you so much, you're welcome to stand there and watch me tie my shoe and leave, but don't act like the onus is on me to convenience you by choosing to walk across the hotel with one shoe, since I'm the one being paid to be there.

September 20, 2010 3:06 PM Posted by mike_ch

Or rather, I'm *not* the one.

I knew that with a run-on sentence that long, I was bound to make a mistake.

September 20, 2010 7:23 PM Posted by Jeff Simpson

parchedearth: An adults-only resort or tower for multi-tower properties is a great idea. And I agree 100 percent that Deutsche Bank wants to sell Cosmopolitan, but the bank is deep-pocketed enough to wait for the market to turn around (and for buyers). MGM, the logical buyer, obviously would be hard-pressed to buy soon.
mike_ch: My concern is really is for children and isn't young adults 18-20, although I agree with you most casino security seems to focus on that group -- those folks are the most likely to try to gamble and may be among the most likely to shoplift and vandalize. I covered a story almost a decade ago when Station Casinos chose to ban unaccompanied teenagers from Texas Station when they were getting rowdy while attending the movies and scaring away moviegoers and casino patrons.

September 21, 2010 5:32 AM Posted by detroit1051

Casinos are too hesitant in enforcing rules keeping children out of casinos. It takes a tragedy like the Sherrice Iverson murder 13 years ago in Primm to make headlines. Then, as time goes by, it's back to business as usual. Security guards aren't going to make parents more responsible, but they can and should boot them, as Jeff Simpson says. Fear of offending customers is no excuse for letting children roam casinos.

I'm excited about Cosmo's opening and its chance for success. Unlike Aria and CityCenter, genuine buzz and interest in the property started more than six months prior to the December opening. Who would have thought that Deutsche Bank could have a superior marketing program to MGM's? Imo, Cosmo's tweets are doing more than the "Remember to Breathe" campaign could ever do. Yes, there is no players club database, but 33 million Marriott Rewards members is nothing to sneeze at. If Cosmo is as successful as I expect, much credit will have to go to John Unwin, who is doing everything right in getting the brand out to the public across the country and internationally. I never heard of the Curious Class with its 59 million people, but it sounds like a good start. There will be much more pedestrian traffic from Bellagio, Caesars, Bally's/Paris, MGM Grand, etc, etc into Cosmo's Strip frontage property than into the set back Aria. Deutsche Bank may not want to remain in the gaming/resort business, but I bet they'll give Cosmo a year to show what it can do before making a decision. Maybe my mushy brain is easily swayed by all the hype, but I'm more interested in Cosmo than any other property in the past with the exception of Bellagio in 1998 and Wynn in 2005.

September 21, 2010 8:34 AM Posted by mike_ch

Jeff: I'm just simply talking about casino guards, who many times are not experienced security people but front-line workers who feel licensed to power trip. The casinos do absolutely nothing to make their own job easier in the form of 21+ bracelets or anything like that. The kind of treatment I got when I was young was things like getting harassed because my aging, nearing-disabled mother couldn't move fast enough for someone's liking. This is very different from someone holding a baby while they play slots, which I've seen happen in Reno.

I suspect I'll be a weird egg on this one, but I feel casinos should have ground rules for the convenience of their guests (no kids at tables) and otherwise be left alone on this one. The way the law is currently configured assumes the state knows what's better than most parents. And many opinions on the issue (including this one) already begin arguing from the point that all parents own judgment isn't good enough, thanks to a few awful people who do horrible things like leave children in cars in the heat.

September 21, 2010 8:37 AM Posted by mike_ch

Also, "the Curious Class" sounds like a warped version of Richard Florida's much-ballyhooed creative class. I love urban design philosophy and the like, and I never bought into his excessive profiling.

September 21, 2010 9:31 AM Posted by Dave

Mike--yes, "curious class" does sound a lot like the "creative class." I'm planning to ask Mr. Unwin about it when I get a promised sit-down interview with him next month.

I've got a piece on the Cosmo coming out in Thursday's Vegas Seven, where I lay out where the property is right now. They've definitely got a lot of work to do.

As with Aria, they've got all my wishes for success. I'm a little underwhelmed by their display ad campaign. There are two billboards at McCarran with the Comsopolitan logo and a simple message {Insert Clever Ad Copy Here}.

Yeah, that's the billboard--something telling us they couldn't think up a catchy slogan. At least the "Remember to Breathe" folks were swinging their bats, so to speak.

For me, the billboards are too self-aware. If they want to go for something irreverent and a little inside, why not just "OMFG!" or "PMP!"

September 21, 2010 12:10 PM Posted by Spyder

Shouldn't the onus of children in Vegas be on the parents? I understand having to take kids on vacation but if they choose Vegas shouldn't we really just break into their trailer back home and steal their Nascar commemorative dinner plates? There isn't any way for Casino/hotel operators to control who comes to their hotels, especially in this fantastic economy. My beautiful wife and myself are not going to have children but if we did, I think Vegas would be out as a vacation choice (when bringing the family). The whole city (well the Strip and Fremont anyway) should move to a more "adult" oriented feel, put the "sin" back in "sin city" as it were. But alas, until the economy gets great again, it's gonna be staring at parents who drag their kids around at 3 in the morning, leave them in cars and hotel rooms while they gamble, and when one of the young kids dies, gets abducted, or whatever then maybe something will be done. Hopefully to the parents!!

September 21, 2010 5:20 PM Posted by howardpark

Re: "curious class" - I'm still often surprised by the large number of people aged thirtysomething on up who have never been to Las Vegas and who have a lot of misconceptions about it. The Cosmo does have a lot going for it but unless the airlines expand seats going into Las Vegas and rental agencies stop shrinking thier fleets cost is going to keep many would be curiosity types away. Also, the growing "douchebag" image of Las Vegas is going to turn some folks off.

Re: the Plaza -- it's closing is going to cast a shadow over Downtown. It's such a shame to see a site with such potential go to waste. Let's hove that somebody from the deep pocketed creative class does something creative. Both the Plaza and the Vegas Club just cry out for something fun to be done and I don't think it really has to cost mega-zillions.

September 21, 2010 7:39 PM Posted by jinx

On Cosmopolitan, count me as one who thinks they have a huge hill to climb. The association with the Alladin is spot on in my opinion. The fact is they may believe there is a curious class, but if they haven't visited Vegas before or typically don't, I'm just not sure that even if they get them here, they are spending what they want.

I know the casino companies love to promote the fact that gaming is down to 50% of earnings, but let's not forget thats still 50% against the combined earnings of the rest of the resort.

A curious class is nice to fill occupancy, but without a high end player database of known gamblers, I just don't think they are going to make it for long, before the marketing changes drastically or they find themselves begging Phil Ruffin, MGM, or Harrahs to take the property off their hands.

September 21, 2010 7:55 PM Posted by DavidF

If you want to start an inflamed discussion on a Vegas Message board - Just bring up kids, light the Blue touch paper and retire to a safe distance……

We typically do Vegas without our Son so we can have some "grown up" time - I hesitate to say adult lest you get the wrong idea - but we did do a few days with him here back in 2008. you just have to do a different vacation i.e. be a parent.

Te trouble is the "Loitering Rule" is not 100% clear or known, I did not know about it, until I was warned by a Cocktail waitress when walking on the throughways, but at the end of the day its down to responsibility. Even Casinos that do their utmost to discourage children, such as Wynn do get their fair share, Making a tower/area 'Adults' only is a good idea on Paper, as is getting tough with parents, but it won't stop those who feel entitled, which it the root cause of the problem.

Plaza - I restate my comment from elsewhere, its got more chance of re-opening as "Biff's Pleasure Palace" in fact the more I think about it, the more I think thats a good idea.

Cosmo - I think a lot of the optimism is that it is an "Oasis" in the middle of a MGM/Harrahs Desert so to speak - but I have a question - maybe one that is better asked in 3-4 months time. You are in the Market for a Strip Casino, do you buy the Shiny New, but unestablished Cosmo, or the Older established, recently refurbished Mirage? Both apparently "On the Block". I have not looked at all the numbers, but in terms of Rooms, Casino Space and Convention space, they are roughly equal

September 22, 2010 5:53 AM Posted by Gray

I completely agree with you about parents and their kids in Vegas. How can anyone police parental stupidity though? I remember my uncle telling me a story of a dad who left his young daughter in an arcade to play while he went off to gamble. The little girl went into the ladies room and a teenage boy followed her, raped and strangled her. Even when my nieces were tweens, I wouldn't let them go to the restroom by themselves without keeping an eagle eye on the door. I wasn't about to let anything happen to them on my watch. If only these clueless parents cared as much about their own kids as they do about gambling.

September 22, 2010 7:28 AM Posted by PeterD

As someone that took his daughter Vegas when she was 18, I think why the fuck would you take your child there. We couldnt gamble, we couldnt go in bars. Essentially we saw Tournament of Kings, a little arcade action and a shitload of M and M world, and she was 18.
We return in less than a week, she is 22 now and we intend between us to try to drink Vegas dry. We suspect the house will win.

September 22, 2010 6:00 PM Posted by mike_ch

It requires a different kind of trip, certainly an 18 year old can be in a room by themselves sometimes or behave themselves at a nice restaurant, though?

I guess if your idea of a family generational activity is trying to drink Vegas dry, those ideas may simply not immediately come to your mind. :)

September 23, 2010 12:46 PM Posted by Javi

Ah, I remember going to Vegas when I was a kid. We stayed at Circus Circus, and my parents dumped me and my sister at the Carnival arcade with gobs of money while they did their gambling. Well, $20 back then was a lot of money to a kid. Of course, this was in the 80's, where kids can play in the streets without much fear or having overprotective parents. Not once had I left the property. I knew my bounds, and so did my parents. That being said - I believe there are two truly family friendly casino properties: Excalibur and Circus Circus. Let those damned kids run wild over there. Everywhere else, kick 'em out.

As for the Cosmo - They are doing lots of things right. They are getting their name out there by establishing booths in high visibility places (US Open, Golf tournaments) and having a decent presence on Twitter.

October 17, 2010 7:57 AM Posted by OZZY

I take my son to Vegas on some trips. I am not one of those parents that leaves their kids unattended . Ever. I never leave my kid in the car,hotel room,arcade or anywhere. Believe it or not there is more to Vegas than getting drunk and mindlessly dumping money into slot machines. I always have a very good time when i take my kid to Vegas. there are plenty of things to do with kids in Vegas. I have friends who live in Vegas and want to see my kid. So just saying i should leave my kid at home is the wrong answer.
I know for the most part . the debate centers on irresponsible parents. but there are plenty of parents who are responsible who come to Vegas.
So don't lump all of us into the same basket.

BTW. as far as parents carrying their kids through the casino at 2:00 in the morning. Have you ever been to Disney world? Leaving the parks to return to the hotel late at night is an everyday occurrence.

March 31, 2011 3:49 PM Posted by Paco

I'd like to address the Plaza hotel's "temporary closure" and if Tamares Group pulls the same stunt at the Las Vegas Club, making them three-for-three, with their Western casino being the other Tamares joint with a closed hotel.
As we know, Poju, the owner of Tamares is a billionaire. What possible advantage is there to run a money losing hotel. They can't be attracting gamblers who will make up for the room rates. I think you will start to see these place open 14 hours a day from 11 AM to 1AM to catch the people who come up for the afternoon and at night to see the light show. Poju knows he can't make money, he just wants to cut his costs so he won't be losing so much, and he can keep the contracts with the restaurants located in the casinos.