With a renewed push for a casino smoking ban in Nevada, I go to thinking: which would happen first--no smoking in a casino, or a casino dress code? They are both changes that some people think would improve the casino experience, but would probably be fought tooth and nail by most operators. I just can't see them turning away a player because he's in a t-shirt instead of a sportcoat, or because he wants to smoke.
Still, I thought it would be interesting to consider which of these following scenarios might happen first.
1. A casino eliminates its nightclub/dayclub.
Super profitable, yes, but draws a crowd that doesn't necessarily gamble. Pumping music and lines snaking onto the casino floor might disrupt players. But with insane mark-ups on bottle service, this thing is a cash cow. As long as people are willing to spend their money on it, these will be here. With casinos trying to simultaneously appeal to as many segments of the demographic pie as they can (business travelers, gamblers, vacationers, nightclubbers, retirees, etc, etc), I don't see anyone who's gotten into this game getting out just yet. The Tropicana/Nikki Beach partnership is the experiment to watch. Amid all of the gushing I haven't really heard too much talk about how the last two Nikki Beach casino locations--Reno's Grand Sierra Resort and Atlantic City's Resorts--didn't work out. It's not out of the realm of possibility that, as gleaming white as it is, Nikki Beach just isn't compatible with casino resorts.
2. A casino goes entirely non-smoking.
We've seen it happen in other states, but so far Nevada casinos have steadfastly resisted any legislative attempt to make them go smoke-free. Back in 2006, voters approved a referendum that forced taverns with kitchens to go smoke-free or retrofit separate smoking and non-smoking areas. That went over so well that tavern owners are trying to get the legislature to overturn that referendum. But could a major Strip casino go smoke-free by its own choosing? There's talk that Revel in Atlantic City might go that route, and with non-smoking facilities becoming the norm across the country, it's probably only a matter of time before at least one Strip casinos gives it a shot. Unfortunately, the conventional wisdom says that serious gamblers smoke, and I don't see any casino executives risking their job to gamble otherwise.
3. A casino institutes--and enforces--a dress code after 6 PM.
This one came up in JohnH's VegasTripping post earlier this week. Almost everyone decries the sartorial deterioration of Strip casinos; jackets and evening gowns have been replaced by t-shirts and shorts. Partially, it's a bigger cultural change (Americans don't get dressed up as much to go out as they once did), but it's also a sign of how the Strip's cast its net progressively wider. Since the 1980s, families and low-rollers have been welcome at most casinos, and that means a more casual experience. As thing stands now, if you've got money to spend, casinos don't care how you're dressed.
4. Metal detectors and limited entry to casinos
After that "epidemic" of casino chip robberies, I wrote a column for the Las Vegas Business Press about why casino crime was something we'd just have to deal with. Basically, casinos are built around the principle of open access--there are as few barriers as possible between the people outside and the slot machines inside. That means multiple entrances with no natural choke points to restrict the pedestrian flow. Without costly renovations that would restrict accessibility, it would be impossible to force all casino-goers to submit to scans for weapons. Casinos as we know them in Las Vegas are, almost by definition, impossible to secure in that way. Even if they lost a million dollars a month to strong-arm robbers, it wouldn't make economic sense for them to make patrons pass through Checkpoint Charlie before playing.
5. Another casino closes on the Strip
This is a real possibility. We've already seen the Sahara close this year, and though the Riviera has new ownership its competitive position isn't exactly strong. Some of the near-Strip casinos, like Hooters, Westin Casaurina, and the Tuscany might also be in jeopardy. Throw the Hilton into the mix, and there's a possibility that another Strip-area casino might shut down. If the current status quo--visitation up but overall revenues still flat--continues for another 2-3 years, this could happen.
6. A new casino opens on the Strip
There are five North Strip would-be casinos that were, at one point or another, in the pipeline, and presumably it would be one of these. Ranked in order of completion, they are:
Fontainebleau: almost got done, but is currently being sold for parts by Carl Icahn. Unless something dramatic happens, it's never going to open, and presumably the existing structure would be completely dismantled before another casino could be built there.
Echelon: Started, then stopped. With Morgans out of the picture and the economic picture changing so completely, you'd have to think they'd go back to the drawing board on this one, or least open it in phases.
Plaza/El Ad Property/Former Frontier: They got the ground cleared, but nothing else. Again, the market has shifted so much since this was proposed we will likely never see the planned-for ultra-luxe Plaza Las Vegas. It'll be a case of El-Ad taking a loss on selling the land to someone else who would develop it. Until occupancy and room rates increase considerably, that's not going to happen.
CityCenter North: The almost-happened MGM/Kerzner joint venture north of Circus Circus would have seen Circus Circus Manor demolished and created another "master-planned urban environment" at the north end of the Strip. Since the first one turned out so well (though business at Aria has improved, the condos, which were a defining part of the project, have been a wash), this isn't very likely.
SLS Las Vegas: Promised for 2014, but with very little in the way of specifics, it's hard to believe that this is going to happen.
Until there's a broader economic turnaround that translates into higher gaming revenues and REVPAR on the Strip, no one is going to roll the dice on building another very expensive property that will just dilute the market.
7. An end to resort fees and other add-ons
Nobody likes them--outside of executives who trumpet how much they add to the bottom line. They're insidious, they make the customer feel like he's being nickel-and-dimed, and unfortunately they're not going away. With news that airlines made more than $21 billion on additional fees in 2010, executives at Strip casinos that have seen declining revenues for three years are probably trying to imagine more ways to extract a little more cash for a little less service from their customers. The only problem is that air travel's not quite as dependent on good vibes--and continued customer goodwill--as casino gaming. It's gotten to the point where travelers expect to be screwed over by their airline; while many come to Las Vegas hoping that'll happen to them here, few of them want it to be at check-in. Until there's significant resistance from customers, these fees aren't going anywhere, and will probably increase.
8. The end of 6:5 blackjack
The casino version of the resort fee, this kind of payout deflation makes serious gamblers livid and creates the impression that the casino is looking to put the screws to patrons playing games that already have negative expectations. And the next time the 6:5 tables aren't filled with $5 and $10 players happily trying to beat the dealer, casino managers will listen to you without breaking into laughter while you tell them that. It's debatable how much the games actually increase casino revenues anyway, since any player sitting at a 6:5 table isn't going to really be much of a skill player, and probably would lose just as much--and as quickly--with 3:2 blackjacks, though he might feel like less of a moron. But since it seems to be working--whatever it adds to the casino experience--it's also probably not going anywhere.
The AP's Wayne Parry wrote an excellent article about Atlantic City's rise and fall. He reached out to me for my thoughts, and I answered several of his questions. Obviously, with space constraints being what they are I figured most of what I said wouldn't make it into the story, so I planned to post it here so I could share my thoughts with a broader audience. You can see many of the numbers I reference in my Atlantic City Gaming Revenue (pdf) report.
Here are his questions and my responses:
What were the crucial points on the way up--and the way down--for Atlantic City, and why?
The first seven years (1978-85) saw phenomenal growth. In 1982, Atlantic City casinos surpassed Las Vegas Strip casinos in total revenues. In the mid-1980s, though, things started to change. AC's table revenues began to stagnate; today, they are about where they were in 1985; adjusting for inflation, that mean's they've shrunk in real dollar terms. At the same time, the Las Vegas Strip really boomed. So by 1990, even though Atlantic City revenues were still growing, they were now increasing at about half the rate of the Strip's. Since 2007 (the decline predates the recession) revenues have declined by 9% per year, on average. That's worse than Las Vegas, and, unlike in Vegas, the bottom still hasn't been hit.
What could have been done differently, and at what point?
For a while in the mid-1980s, it looked like AC was going to become the world's gambling capital. That didn't happen because of industry and regulatory inertia. Everyone was happy to coast along since the money was coming in. The responses to Foxwoods and increased competition in the early 1990s (24-hour gaming, poker, keno, simulcasting) should have been the start, not the end. The failure to legalize sports betting was a historic mistake, and it's symptomatic of what ails the AC industry: a lack of strategic planning. By the mid-1990s, it should have been clear to everyone that there was going to be substantially more regional competition, and that AC needed something that no one else had. But for many reasons (political, cultural), the industry couldn't lobby successfully for sports betting, which would have been a game-changer.
In general a less parochial perspective on behalf of legislators, regulators, and the industry would have benefited everyone. Casinos were worried about their "competition" at the other end of the Boardwalk, not Foxwoods, Las Vegas, or Delaware. While AC's market share was getting chipped away in the 1990s and 2000s, Las Vegas was successfully building up its own in the face of dramatically more competition, particularly in California, its primary feeder market. AC execs should have seen what was working in LV, and the regulators should have empowered them to make the necessary changes.
What do you think is the worst-case scenario for Atlantic City's future, as well as the best-case scenario?
Worst-case scenario is that the ROI is no longer there, and future investment dries up. The city saw this happen from the 1940s to the 1970s, and it isn't pretty. It's happening right now in Northern Nevada. Casinos close, and the existing operators run what's already there, but don't do much to attract new interest. There will still be revenues, but you won't have as many jobs or any real prospect for growth.
Best-case scenario is that the regulators get out of the way and the state creates an environment that attracts new capital. New people with new ideas come into the market (seeing a bit of this with Revel and Golden Nugget) and are able to create distinct destinations that continue to draw visitors--and their money.
What do you think of what is going on now with the tourism district, regulatory reform and the greater overall state attention to AC?
It's a good idea, but it has to be done right. I'd suggest looking at what worked and what didn't in Las Vegas. In addition to building attractions, the entire region needs a marketing push.
What role did municipal government have in the industry's decline, and how might it help bring it back?
As with the regulators, it's mostly a failure to imagine something besides the status quo. I don't see much leadership coming from the municipal level: mostly the city needs to provide services to its residents and businesses and, as much as possible, stay out of the way.
Can things ever get back to where they were just four years ago, or are we in for a "new normal" of reduced revenues and third-class status, behind NV and PA?
Things will never go back to where they were: conditions have just changed too much. If things remain as they are, the city's casinos will slowly lose market share to PA, NY, DE, MD, and whoever else gets into the game. If there's substantial new development and a coordinated effort to brand and market the city in a different way, Atlantic City can be successful again, but it's going to require a reinvention, not a return to the past.
Basically the city needs to stop looking backwards and start looking ahead.
Now that we have a date (10/22/11) for the first annual Vegas Internet Mafia Picnic, speculation is building about which hotel the VIMP braintrust will deign to grace its presence with. Naturally with an event of this significance, there's a considerable veil of secrecy around the high-powered negotiations that are taking place at this very moment.
Since I'm not directly involved in the complex back-and-forth that's currently on-going, I'm free to publicly speculate about where the VIMP will end up pitching its tent (yes, it's going to be that exciting of a weekend). Here are seven distinct possibilities:
Flamingo: Hosted the final (for now) Podcast-a-Palooza last year; we might get some overflow wedding guests, too.
Cosmopolitan: The newest with the mostest on the Strip, for the foreseeable future. Special bonus: the Cosmo will have the mother of all door prizes, a completely comped weekend (RFB) at one of its swanky clubside bungalows. The winner won't be picked randomly, as in the past. Instead s/he will be the one who guesses correctly the exact number of hours and minutes that Chuckmonster has to wait before his room is available.
Tropicana: Currently setting the Vegas eating press all abuzz with its spectacular opening party for Nikki Beach, this would be a great chance for the resort to show off its new look. Unfortunately, no one invited looks good in white.
Sahara: For a special one-night-only event, the fencing comes down and the VIM invades! Tragedy ensues, however, when Sam Nazarian, true to his word, secures a construction loan and chooses that weekend to implode the place to make way for the SLS Las Vegas, which opens on December 15, 2014.
Wynn Las Vegas: Yes, its social media star has been fading, but the resort offers the perfect venue: a repurposed Alex, which is just right to accommodate the raucous but eminently discerning Picnickers. It could happen.
Bellagio: The atmosphere is electric (and quite cramped) as the revelers push out the construction crews for an evening and take over the in-progress Hyde Lounge.
Vdara: Paul Carr guest stars as we take this weekend to highlight what is truly one of the Strip's under-appreciated gems.
Wherever this event lands, this much is clear: even five months out, excitement is building, and casino executives are working themselves into a frenzy out-bidding each other for the right to hold the gathering. Keep checking the official Vegas Internet Mafia Picnic website for updates.
Landry's Inc. a Houston-based company that owns a full spread of restaurant chains and Downtown Las Vegas and Laughlin's Golden Nuggets, has officially taken ownership of the now-former Trump Marina and will be putting about $100 million into renovating it. Meanwhile, a vaunted plan to allow "mini-casinos" has resulted in exactly zero construction to date. That's exactly what anyone would have predicted when the mini-casino concept was first mooted, and it's a good sign that some operators, at least, see some upside in the market.
First, some history. Steve Wynn's AC Golden Nugget opened in 1980--it was the first Atlantic City casino to be built new from the ground up, not a patch-and-paint job of an existing hotel. Wynn was young, charismatic, and with the help of Frank Sinatra and many others, made the Nugget the Atlantic City casino for high rollers. Wynn was a hero in Atlantic City: one year, he gave all of his managers new cars as bonuses, which made him an absolute legend. But in 1987, frustrated with the regulatory regime, he sold the Golden Nugget to Bally's. If you want to hear a good first-hand account of the change-over, listen to my podcast interview with Roger Gros, who describes the tears shed when Steve left town. The Golden Nugget become Bally's Grand, then The Grand: A Bally's Casino Resort, then the Atlantic City Hilton. [Personal history: My first job inside a casino was working in the Bally's Grand ice cream parlor back in 1989. And I left a ton of quarters in the old Golden Nugget arcade before that. So you could say this was the first casino I spent a substantial amount of time in.]
Across town, Hilton Hotels started building a hotel-casino on the marina in the early 1980s. By 1985, they had it ready to open, with signs installed and matchbooks printed with the Hilton name, when the Casino Control Commission denied the company a license for doing business with Sidney Korshak, a Chicago attorney with reputed mob ties. Donald Trump, who was in the midst of a struggle for control over what became Trump Plaza with Holiday Inn/Harrah's, bought the nearly-finished Hilton and renamed it Trump's Castle. This was both a way for him to expand his casino holdings and for him to strike against Harrah's, whose Harrah's Marina was across the street.
Trump's Castle lasted until 1997, when, after a plan to rebrand it as a Hard Rock casino fell through, it became Trump Marina. For years it was the runt of the Trump Entertainment Resorts litter. Back in 2008 Trump almost sold it for $318 million--it would have become a Margaritaville casino. Landry's paid a cool $38 million and is planning to put $100 million--not the $150 million that was thrown around before the sale became final--into a complete renovation.
So it turns out that, for $138 million, Landry's gets a spiffy "new" casino hotel with about 1,000 rooms, 70 table games, and 2,000 slots (give or take). Considering Encore Beach Club alone cost about $70 million, that seems like a pretty good deal.
And let's compare it to the "mini-casinos" that were supposed to be Atlantic City's savior. I spent a lot of time trying to debunk the idea that the proposed mini-casinos are feasible, let alone will bring the salvation of Atlantic City.
These mini-casinos are limited to 20,000 square feet and can be built with only 200 hotel rooms instead of the previously-required 500. Back in March 2010, when the idea was first floated, I did ran a few cursory numbers and determined that, with casinos that size, the projects would be difficult to keep open if someone waved a magic wand and created them; there was no way that they'd ever be able to pay for their construction. The money just wouldn't be there.
Meanwhile, rumors were flying that certain operators were going to come to town and spend $300 million--no, make that $450 million--on building a mini-casino. In a blog post that would surely make me a modern Nostradamus if I wasn't saying anything that wasn't completely obvious to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of business and no vested interest in the outcome, I posited a hypothetical scenario: why build a $300 million mini-casino when Trump Marina could be had for $75 million?
This is what I wrote back in 2010:
So instead of starting from scratch and investing $300 million in a new facility with one-quarter of the revenue potential, why not just buy Trump Marina and renovate it-really renovate, almost beyond recognition? Even if you put $100 million into it, you're still saving money, and you've got a much bigger, better-situated...casino with way more potential upside.
As it turns out, that's exactly what Landry's is doing. And we've yet to see ground break on one of the two now-permitted mini-casinos. And, as I said earlier this year when mini-casinos were approved, "Paying fourteen times the price for less than one-quarter of the footprint is beyond delusional."
Looking around the market, there are still opportunities. Caesars Entertainment has four properties in Atlantic City--about 40% of the market. I'm sure they'd be willing to spin off the Showboat if they could find a willing buyer. In 2011, it doesn't really add anything to the company except more rooms and slots. Bally's/Wild Wild West/Claridge has a huge footprint and lots of potential should the market turn around, Caesars is the prestige brand (and now corporate namesake), and Harrah's is the second-best performer property in town, behind Borgata. So Showboat would probably be available if the money was there, and if it's not already encumbered by a debt agreement.
The Atlantic City Hilton's woes have been well-documented, and with the Tropicana under Icahn's control, that's easily the most vulnerable, and the only one that's officially on the market. Anyone got $30 million burning a hole in their pocket? If you had the money to invest in improvements and marketing, it could be a solid buy.
Basically, what happened to Trump Marina is proof that, if the economics are right, there are still operators willing to invest in Atlantic City--and you don't need mini-casinos to persuade them to dip their toe in the water.
Episode #61 is up!
This time on the show:
* Sahara Closes
* Don Barden, Bill Pennington Pass Away
* Wynn as Chinese Company / Wynn Social Media
* Blue Ribbon Re-Builds
** Sure Bets **
Jeff's latest is a few random thoughts on MGM, Bobby Baldwin, and the renovation progress at The Tropicana.
Read on after the jump and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.
Daniel Negreanu is not universally loved but as a high-stakes, visible professional poker player, he's anted up in all the big rooms.
This past week, he posted some thoughts on all of the biggies: Bellagio, Wynn, Aria, Venetian and The Mirage. If you're interested in poker or just curious about how a big-timer sees the various choices, it's interesting reading.
I'm happy to report that Vegas Mate 3.1 has hit the App Store. This update, originally planned as a relatively small set of changes, turned out to be a three month endeavor. Whew.
After the jump, a few more details on specific changes but here are some of the most important bits:
Trip Templates are a new feature designed to provide sets of trip recommendations to Vegas visitors that are trying to decide what to do. Imagine suggestions for outings like 'bachelor party' or 'business trip', each including a set of hotels, restaurants, activities and other tips.
I was able to get some friends to contribute templates - a huge thank you to everyone that was able to be a part of it. Trip templates will continue to be added and updated over time.
The original vision for the app was to have an iPad version that was great for pre-trip planning and then also an iPhone version that was useful on the go. Up until now, the biggest piece missing in this equation was the ability to sync trips between devices.
Well, trip sync is now included in 3.1. It works over WiFi for devices on the same network and also works via email - the file that is generated can be imported into any copy of Vegas Mate running 3.1 or later.
Ultimately, the app is all about content. This time around, I've added new photos, new tourist tips and new feeds in the news area.
Vegas Mate 3.1 is a free update for existing users and $1.99 to purchase for new users. It requires iOS 4.0 or greater. If you like Vegas Mate, it'd be great if you could leave a review/rating in the App Store, even if you've done so before.
Those are the biggies for this update. More after the jump.
The headline says it all. Well, almost. The date is October 22nd.
Details will be forthcoming on the official page.
October 22nd. Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic.
Bring your own mayonnaise, bitches.
In today's flurry of email headlines (which continue whether I'm in the office or not) I read a blurb saying that Wynn Resorts "has become" a Chinese company. Certainly this is no surprise to Wynn. I remember him saying that as far back as 2005, though then it was more along the lines of, "One day Wynn Resorts will be a Chinese company.
Of course, this is getting press now since it's being coupled with his criticisms of the Obama administration, but looking at the numbers, it's clear that Wynn Resorts has been a predominantly Chinese company for quite some time. Here's a chart:
As you can see, there's nothing particularly momentous about the first quarter results when it comes to the revenue split: in fact, Macau's share is down slightly from calendar 2010. The bigger news, though, is that Wynn Cotai is about to start in earnest. He's not far enough along that a peek at the just-opened Galaxy hasn't sent him back to the drawing board for some elements of the Cotai project (and wouldn't you love to have been part of that conversation?), but he's clearly thinking build, rather than plan, for the near future. As soon as the government gives him its OK, he's going to start construction.
The potential for the future is what's changed his mindset. Let's fast forward to 2016, when Wynn Cotai has a few quarters under its belt. Wynn predicts that the Cotai project will double his Macau revenues. Using calendar 2010 for a baseline, and assuming that Las Vegas and Wynn/Encore Macau revenues remain stagnant (they won't, but lets assume they do for the purposes of this exercise), Cotai's doubling of Macau revenues does the following:
So, if all other things remain the same and Cotai performs as Wynn expects, by 2016 more less than one-fifth of total Wynn Resorts revenue will come from Las Vegas.
That being said, it makes a lot of sense to hold his annual meeting in Macau. It's where most of his revenue comes from, which means it's where his most important customers are. And it makes even more sense to speak of Wynn Resorts as a predominantly Chinese company, because that's where most of the action is.
When Harrah's got out of the Promus umbrella, it didn't consider moving its headquarters back to Reno, which was where the company was founded and, until the 1980s, where it was based. Instead, it moved to Las Vegas, which was clearly the center of the gaming world and a market that Harrah's wanted to get more involved in. (Today, as Caesars, it is nothing if not involved in Las Vegas). Wynn's increasing Sinoization is a sensible response to the direction that the business is headed.
Also, Wynn's a developer at heart. He's clearly relishing the challenges of building Cotai, and he's not done learning about the Macau market. Here's an extended quote:
"I believe the Cotai [project] is the best work we have done. It's a departure in many aspects. It has many new things and new approaches to the way the property is presented. I think the public is going to be very excited. It's very comfortable and user-friendly. Now that we have nine years of experience in Macau, as you saw with Encore we are learning how to really address the emotional and physical needs of our guests.
"That kind of insight comes with time and experience. Thankfully we have the experience."
It's easy to see how China's at the top of Wynn's mind these days. He's getting to build there, something he's not going to do in the United States for the foreseeable future. If I was Wynn, you couldn't get me to talk about anything but China these days.
Like many news organizations, the RJ now has a mobile specific site designed to make it easier to read on smaller screens. This practice is not entirely without controversy - some make a strong argument that a well designed Web site doesn't need a separate mobile version and that users with sophisticated smart-phones would rather just get the full features of the 'real' site. This is even more true with larger devices like iPad and thus companies like the New York Times just show the real deal (or have custom apps).
Some of the issues I've noticed with m.lvrj.com:
1. You're sent to the mobile site by default and there doesn't appear to be an easy way (any way?) to access the real site on an iPhone.
2. The desktop site and the mobile site appear to be at least somewhat out of sync. For example, there's an article about Pinnacle appearing on lvrj.com right now that doesn't appear on the mobile site - in fact, the entire business sub-section seems a day old. I'm guessing the mobile site isn't directly published by their CMS - looks like the content is delayed somewhat. Not exactly a great feature for a news site, to be missing the latest content.
and perhaps the biggest issue:
3. If you follow a link to a specific story from a tweet or email on an iPhone or Android device, you don't get the story, you get the mobile index. No context and no clues as how to find the story, if it's even on the mobile site (see #3). This behavior seems at least partially dependent on the referring site - when clicking through from TWHT I got the real site but when I clicked the link from an email (no referrer), I get redirected.
Hopefully these are just temporary bugs that will be fixed soon. What's weird is that I'm getting the results inconsistently, as if different requests are hitting different Web servers that aren't all configured the same way. At first I thought I was crazy or had done something that locked me into the mobile site. I don't think that's the case but if you get different results or know a work-around (other than changing the user-agent), please post a comment.
I haven't been able to nail down a specific access pattern but between lvrj.com, www.lvrj.com and reviewjournal.com, I can usually get the full site on the iPad if I try.
To compare, here's the normal site and then the mobile site on the tablet screen. If I could choose, I'd just stick to the real site and have them focus their time on improving that, creating a better experience for all users.
According to a Clark County filing, Las Vegas Sands has applied for permits to modify part of their Las Vegas Strip frontage, specifically the area beneath the replicate clock tower at the southwest end of the property.
The changes are set to include re-working the landscaping and other decorative materials but the biggest modification seems to be relocating that Denny's/Sephora/clock tower entrance to the north side, allowing them to partially enclose some of that space and create about 2,800 square feet of new retail.
The complete filing is here.
Thanks to Detroit1051 for pointing this out.
Yeah, so this isn't about gambling addiction but I couldn't resist the use of the headline on everyone's favorite in-casino pamphlet.
Jeff's back with the latest installment of his column and this time around, it's looking at a common thread in recent casino corp conference calls: a reduction in comps to rated players.
The article is after the jump.
My friend Steve Friess announced today that he is moving to Michigan so that he can pursue a fellowship at the University of Michigan (which, unsurprisingly, is in Michigan).
Yes, Las Vegas will be Friess-less.
I got to talk to Steve about it this afternoon and it's obvious he's really excited about the new challenge so as a friend, I'm thrilled for him... and also bummed. C'est la vie.
On a professional level, I'll miss his blog posts, podcast interviews and random Twitter-fire. His new position will keep him focused on that work and that means no more contributing to side-projects like Vegas Mate.
I'm not sure what else to say except to wish Steve and Miles luck. I guess now I have a reason to visit Michigan.
I'm sure he'll have a lot more to say about it on his blog.
Some notes from my trip, now two weeks past:
- Hotel: Stayed at Cosmopolitan and tried their lowest end room product, the City Room (which I believe is the only room offered with two beds). I took my brother along on this trip, who is 29. This was his first experience at the Cosmopolitan and he absolutely loved it. Everything from the design, to the room to the pool - right up his alley. It was interesting to see the place through someone else's (significantly less jaded) eyes.
- Cosmo: Generally, things went well. The room was clean and we got in right way. I visited the spa and while I appreciated the design, the attendant allowed towels and used cups to stack up all over the place and they didn't have any combs or brushes for your hair. Weird. In the casino, I was informed that none of the bars have Stolichnaya Vodka (they have flavors but not the normal stuff). It's such a common brand, that seemed odd to me as well. Service was pretty good throughout the resort. Friendly workers and lots of curious folks wandering the property. I didn't see a lot of gaming action.
- Food: Hit some places I'd already been or had been recommended to me: China Poblano (twice - so good), Tacos al Gordo (near Encore ; very good taco stand style - highly recommended. It seems their new Strip outlet was a surprise to some based on the Twitter reactions), Steak and Shake (South Coast ; was fun and worthwhile but the line was loooooong). Drinks at Sinatra where we had a long talk with the bartender - he'd actually served The Chairman long ago.
- CityCenter: Took my bro through CityCenter for the first time. He's an artist and really appreciated the work they've installed around the campus. He didn't care for The Crystals very much though ("this place is a disaster. WTF?")
- Construction: Ruffin is removing more of the TI lagoon to add a Starbucks and some sort of margarita debacle. The area being torn up is the southern tip, between the porte-cochere and the front of the hotel. Further down The Strip, the Tropicana is looking more 'finished' - less jarring moments as you move from a renovated part of the hotel to one that hasn't been touched. At Cosmo, Blue Ribbon was having it's floors replaced (it's since re-opened) - in talking to employees, it sounds like it was pretty dramatic when that pipe broke (I can't believe we haven't seen any random customer video). The Sugar Factory at Paris is just as ugly as I expected it to be.
- Sahara: Went by for what might be the last time. It was medium busy in the casino but the employees looked pretty sad and tired. Being in there was a bit of a bummer but I'm glad I got the opportunity to take some pictures.
- Crowds: This was a Tuesday and Wednesday night but it was crowded. There were people everywhere. Nice to see.
- Vegas Video Network's Pub Crawl: On Wednesday, I went to a taping of Pub Crawl at the Vegas Video Network studio. This was a lot of fun and if you're a fan of the show, you should consider it on your next trip. Everyone was super friendly and they're a laugh riot. Bring booze.
I took a load of photos. They're available here in case you want to see them.
A couple of great new choice Steve Wynn quotes in this RJ piece:
"They started CityCenter on all debt alone. It was luck they bumped into those guys from Dubai," he said. "They gave them $5.4 billion. It's gone. How could you lose $5.4 billion here, you've got to be an imbecile or a moron."
and also, on Cosmo:
"The place is worth $500 million," he said. "It will throw off $40 million to $50 million at nine times earnings. That's 10 percent of what it cost."
Oh, BTW - congrats Steve!
Read the whole piece here