Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

All Articles Published: November 2010

November 28, 2010

The Admiral's Week In Review: 11/22-11/28

Posted by Hunter

It's Sunday so it sounds like a good time to do a quick weekly update. First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all those folks in the US and Canada. For me, Thanksgiving is always a refreshing chance to spend time with family without the commercial trappings of other holidays and this was no exception. In translation, that means I worked the entire weekend.

We had a a little bit of pre-trypto fireworks on Tuesday when Steve Friess and Mike Dobranski engaged in a little back and forth over how much they both like to eat great food (that was the topic, right?). I'll let you read the thread on VegasTripping, which does a pretty good job of explaining the ups and downs.

The most interesting part of that conversation is something that's a constant topic for me - the corrupting nature of free stuff from Las Vegas casinos. Once you get to a certain point and draw a certain number of tourist eyeballs, these doors start to open. This is a topic we discussed in the special Vegas Gang episode interview with Chuckmonster and is something that the Vegas Internet Mafia Executive Board discusses from time to time at the monthly meetings in our secret clubhouse atop The Harmon.

For my own part, I've taken free rooms and meals, though it's by far the exception, not the rule - I spend thousands of dollars a year on hotel rooms, food and other entertainment on The Strip. I've always done disclosures when writing about anything I got for free. That's a good baseline but in thinking about this more, I've decided to go further. From now on, anytime I get something for free from a Las Vegas casino, I'll let you guys know (either here or on Twitter), even if I don't plan to write about it. I think that should tie up that last potential loophole. I don't know what the specific policies are on other sites but perhaps they'll start to do something similar. I think it makes good sense and I certainly have nothing to hide and now you know what to expect without any question. Moving on...

In what is becoming a semi-regular thing, the Sun writes about something that many of us (including the Vegas Gang) have been discussing for ages (love ya Liz!) - that the pedestrian access to CityCenter sucks big time. Shocker! Next, we'll read that their big, fancy Elvis show isn't doing too well - egads!

Do you have $5,600 and and a burning desire to see Jay-Z whilst hanging with Las Vegas' finest? A limited number of complete, three-day packages are available for the New Years shindig at The Cosmopolitan. Yeah, that's a metric shit-ton of money but hey, it is New Years and the folks at the Cosmo have turned back the balance on your Citibank card to 2007 levels. If you can't cough up the dough, you could always low-roll it at Aria and then just watch on the big-screen marquee. Tell Jimbo we sent ya.

There's a pretty neat story in the New York Times about the super-hardcore swimmers they source for shows Le Reve and O. I feel asleep the first two times I saw Le Reve but it sure does sound like a lot of work. Oh, 'O" is good too.

Oh, and last but not least, this blog, the (brand new!) parent site, the podcast, my ridiculous Twitter account and Vegas Mate for iPhone were all nominated for Trippies. First off, a big thanks to everyone that wrote us in. When the polls open, we'll post all the details about voting. Everyone knows I'm a sore loser so let's not embarrass papa, ok?

I'm working on a post dreaming about the future of slot machines which should go up this week. I've also got about half of a story on Aria's suckage done but that topic is starting to feel pretty tired to me so it's hard to be enthusiastic about finishing it. We'll see. I spent the whole weekend working on The App so I'm pretty tired.

Have a great week,

November 27, 2010

Open Topic Discussion - (Almost) December 2010

Posted by Hunter

We haven't done one of these for awhile but it seems like a good idea to post another. Thanks to Jeff for the suggestion.

To kick off the discussion, there's a story today in the Sun about the El Cortez suite competition.

You may recall that back in August we had the estimable Ms. Epstein on the Vegas Gang to discuss this same topic.

I still like the idea, these months later.

Anyway, open topic away...

This is one of those days that you aren't sure will ever really come. I'm very happy to announce that the latest version of is now live and open for business. In April of this year, turned ten (!) - and I think this is the best version yet.

You can visit the site here:

The update features an all new-design that's heavy on photos and designed to be easier to navigate and to read. An enhanced search tool (still being tweaked a little)makes the content more discoverable, especially the thousands of 'Ask the Experts' questions I've answered for folks over the years.

An updated technological foundation sets the stage for several new Vegas Mate features that will be unveiled in the weeks and months to come. I'm keeping those under wraps for now but I'm pretty excited about them - they're so far ahead what the other Vegas apps are doing and I can't wait to share them.

I hope you like the updated Vegas-y goodness and the next time you come home from a trip, maybe spend a few minutes to share your thoughts with the community. Not only are your reviews visible on the Web but also for the many thousands of users of Vegas Mate on the iPhone or iPad. (and this blog) continues to be supported through advertising and affiliate revenue generated by hotel bookings via our travel partner, Expedia. Our prices there should be competitive so the next time you book a trip, consider doing it through that mechanism, assuming you can get the rate and terms you're looking for. That, along with engaging our advertisers, is one of the best ways to 'help out' your favorite independent travel sites be it RV, VT or XYZ.

So go on, check out the site... and leave a few reviews. It only takes a few minutes (assuming nothing breaks).

If you're using Vegas Mate, there will be a content update for users of v2.7.1 in the morning that should show up in the app. It matches some of the changes I made here on the site today.

For those that are interested in the technical details, I've written a bit about them after the jump.

Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin doesn't seem to think CityCenter was such a hot idea. Ok, that might be a bit of monday-morning-quarterbacking but he's also going out on a limb to say Cosmo is doomed, in his talk with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston.

He also revealed that his $1B offer for The Mirage was turned down by MGM's board just over a year ago.

Ruffin's typically one of the more restrained casino owners when it comes to making public comments. Interesting to see him coming out full on, including bashing President Obama.

November 19, 2010

Vegas Gang #54 - November 19th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Harrah's Cancels IPO
* Cosmo Talk
* Diamonds and Stars
* Marnell and M Resort

* Vegas Gang 'Sure Bets'

* Patron Tequila
* Sans Serif Fonts
* Settebello Pizza
* Instagram

Check out the show:

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

Thirty days to go.

Thanks to a trusty source, here we have a few shots of some Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas casino interiors, one of the ingress/egress areas (perhaps right inside valet, up to the restaurant level?) and then three videos of the West Valet, showing some of the really cool work the multimedia team is doing.

I've bemoaned the lack of technology being used in modern casino-resorts - well, here we are at least seeing something more inspired than using LCD panels for restaurant menus. Perhaps just a taste?

It's sort of James Bond meets the Bat Cave. If you want to know who Cosmo's ideal customer is, it's Bruce Wayne, no doubt.

I dig the look and I'm excited to see more.

My buddy Mr. Friess has a few more, including what to me looks like the centerpiece chandelier I've heard so much about:

That headline is a quote from Steve Jobs, to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2004. A year or so later, Apple released an iPod that played video on a 2.5 inch screen. It's often cited as classic Jobs misdirection.

Today's article in the Review Journal about MGM tearing down The Harmon is likely the same sort of statement.

Sure, the building clearly has structural problems - it had to be capped at half of it's height - but to my knowledge there's been no final or official declaration that the resulting structure is inherently unsound, just MGM's attempt to extract a larger settlement from their builder and their builder's insurance company.

MGM says "it is unlikely the Harmon will be completed using the building as it now stands." That leaves plenty of SEC wiggle-room for some 'repairs' to be made to the structure after the lawsuits are settled. Why would they have even finished the building if it couldn't be salvaged? They knew about the problems at least twelve months and millions of dollars before it was sealed.

Jeff Simpson thinks that Fontainebleau might get fontaine-blown-up. That I can imagine. The Harmon, not so much. Unless the building is condemned by the county, I bet on that thing opening someday - furnished with the money that MGM wins from Perini for (allegedly) royally screwing up the project.

Until then, it's the most expensive billboard on The Strip.

November 12, 2010

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #009: The Armchair Executive

Posted by Hunter

Jeff Simpson is back and this time around he's sharing his prescription for some of the most famous assets on The Strip and nearby.

How do you think these properties can survive the downturn? Share your thoughts in the comments.

It's been quite a week in Vegas-land. Hard to imagine that less than a week ago, we were reading a WSJ story that validated pretty much everything I wrote back in September about CityCenter.

From there, we were off and into conference calls, some of which included a few interesting tidbits. MGM told us that both Bellagio and MGM Grand will be getting room refurbs next year, while Steve Wynn explained that their Cotai development work was wrapping up and they'd start moving dirt around any day. The best part of that call was The Steve's ludicrous assertion that they're not secretive about their hotel designs - he practically laughed the questioner off the call. We'll see detailed models and drawings of Wynn Cotai just as soon as some inept outside designer posts them online, not because the company was feeling generous.

Speaking of leaks, they continue at Aria, where we've learned that they're working on a massive new signage package to lure Cosmo visitors and that they're even considering building The Strip's largest marquee. I've got loads of new CC stuff to share with you as soon as I'm done digesting it all.

That brings us to today, with the only piece of news this week that really surprised me - Wynn Las Vegas superstar Andrew Pascal has decided to leave the company, to be replaced with the reliable Marilyn Winn Spiegel (someone we considered as a VPP guest before we settled on the excellent Tom McCartney). What is Andrew going to do next? He's a young man, I can't believe that he's ready to retire.

Pascal has worked for Wynn for a long time but before this current stint, he was in Silicon Valley as Chairman of WagerWorks, a company that provided online casino games, playable for points. Is he headed back to tech? Chuckmonster is betting on Icahn but I just can't imagine that sort of transition.

Ichan's not really in hospitality, he's in hospitality finance - moving money around from distressed property to distressed property, a far cry from actually serving guests. Nope, I think for Pascal I'd put my money on a few months time off and then into some new entrepreneurial venture of some kind - more likely Silicon Valley than Spring Valley though. Maybe Aunt Elaine has eyes on angel investing - we know she can afford it.

What's more interesting is Wynn hiring a veteran Harrah's exec for such a tough job. The last HET (or should I say CZR?) alum to have the gig, Don Marrandino, didn't even make it to opening day. Spiegel is well regarded but the properties she's overseen for Loveman have very different guest satisfaction aspirations. Hopefully we're not in for a rocky transition just as Las Vegas starts to ramp up again.

Interesting stuff... In other news, I've been thinking recently about re-calibrating this blog and it's content. The landscape has changed dramatically since I started doing this and in a world where my time is limited, I want to make sure I'm spending it to do something that matters, not just be the second, third or fourth site to post on the same topic. More on this as decisions are made.

One last thing - if you haven't already, maybe go ahead and nominate this blog and my app Vegas Mate for The Trippies - you have three days left before they close. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be so pleased with being nominated that I'll spill a bunch of new juicy secret details about everyone's favorite massively overpriced, failing joint venture project.


November 4, 2010

Vegas Mate is Sponsoring Pub Crawl on VVN

Posted by Hunter

So, last year at Podcast-a-palooza, I met these crazy lookin' folks that were telling me about their Star Trek podcast. I'm not much of a Trekkie (or is it Trekker? I'll never know) but Dave and Alicia were super friendly and it was fun to meet 'em.

Well, fast forward to September of this year and I discovered that they are now hosting a video show, Pub Crawl, on the brand new Vegas Video Network (VVN is a new video network from Scott Whitney, one hell of a nice guy).

I'll admit to being pretty jaded when it comes to Vegas content - so much of it sucks. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Pub Crawl is a ton of fun. The hosts are naturals and they're great to watch. I chuckled more than a few times during the Halloween episode, for example.

Anyway, I liked what I saw and jumped on board, sponsoring a few episodes of the show with Vegas Mate.

If you enjoy semi-goofy fun, this is a great show - check it out.

November 4, 2010

UPDATED: Fall 2010 iPad Contest - Winner Announcement

Posted by Hunter

On Saturday, during the third annual Vegas Podcast-a-palooza, I picked a winner for my iPad contest using a custom app designed for that purpose.

The winner? The random selection landed on "Andrew kca", for a comment he made about the Rainforest Cafe at MGM Grand.

So, Andrew, if you read this, you need to email me immediately - editor AT ratevegas DOT com and we'll verify your prize. If I don't hear from you within 48 hours (let's just say Thursday at noon PT), I will pick another winner and this process will start again.

Thanks to everyone that participated!

Update: Sorry 'Andrew kca', you did not contact me in the time required. I will be drawing again - watch this space.

Update: A new winner has been chosen: 'D3wayne' for his/her review on The Voodoo Cafe at The Rio. Congrats!

Winner has claimed his prize! Thanks for playing - we'll do this again soon.

November 3, 2010

Vegas Podcast-a-palooza 3 Photos

Posted by Hunter

Just a quick post to indicate that I've posted a few photos from this past weekend. Some are of the event setup and some are just around town, including Aria's new high limit slots, Lakeside Grill at Wynn and other randomness.

November 2, 2010

Vegas Gang #53 - October 30th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

We are live from Vegas Podcast-a-palooza at The Flamingo.

Our guest is Tom McCartney, President of Tropicana Las Vegas. He was a really great guest, I think you'll enjoy it.

Check out the show:

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

November 1, 2010

WSJ Covers Tough Calls Made at CityCenter

Posted by Hunter

The Wall Street Journal has a new piece that dives deeply into some of the hard choices that the joint venture board has had to look at over the past few months as performance has continued to be elusive for the mega-complex.

WSJ: Rolling Dice on Giant Casino Complex (Registration Required)

One thing that does seem to be a bright spot - Aria's performance continues to improve.

I was personally there several times this weekend and volumes seem to be up. That said though, after visiting Blackjacker1979's SkySuite where the light bulbs flickered on and off and the music shut itself down to note an open door (incorrect), there are clearly still problems.

I'd expect CityCenter to market heavily to Cosmo guests starting in December, though one rumor I heard at Vegas Podcast-a-palooza sounded like a terrible idea: an advertising wrap on the Aria Pelli Tower. It would really be sad if it comes to that... How 'bout just building a real Strip marquee guys, huh? You could have the biggest one in town.