Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

May 23, 2011

Vegas Gang #61 - May 23rd, 2011

Posted by Hunter

Episode #61 is up!

Listen here:

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 **

* MLB Cleveland Indians
* Five Hundy By Midnight Episode #300
* Five Guys Hamburgers
* Beco Butterfly 2
* Tacos El Gordo


Read archived comments (11 so far)
May 24, 2011 7:32 AM Posted by detroit1051

Wow. Bonus footage, 1 hour 20 minutes. Great podcast.

Fascinating discussion of Sahara's ignominous end at the hands of Nazarian. It was sad to hear several comments by you guys to the effect that "...all Vegas can do is hope." For a city which never had to hope in past decades, it just built and succeeded, the word hope is sort of jarring.

I wish Wynn or LVS would buy up the North Strip area, but after hearing more details from Dr. Dave on the shrinking percentage of business that Las Vegas contributes to WYNN, I can't believe either Steve or Sheldon would commit more to the Strip. Jeff's comment about Icahn picking up a land play at a fire sale could happen.

Regarding the classic property names on the Strip, I'm not sure Vegas visitors have the same attachment we Vegas geeks have. After all, it's 40-50 years since the days Sinatra and the Rat Pack hung out at Sahara or Sands. That's before many of today's Vegas visitors were born.
Dunes closed in 1993, so a 35 year old visitor today was still in high school then and has no recollection (or probably interest) in the place. Same with Desert Inn and Sands to a certain extent. I just don't think we're living in an age where Retro is a big deal. Going off on a tangent, that's what makes me wonder how long-lived the Mob Experience and Mob Museum will be. It's all ancient history to most. It seems the new mantra is "Show me the clubs!"

May 24, 2011 9:36 AM Posted by Hunter

Alone it's not enough to build a concept around but I get a lot of questions from people about the more famous old places, especially The Sands and to a lesser extent the Desert Inn. For The Sands, I think the whole Rat Pack thing gives it more lasting value than you might expect.

Talking to friends and relatives who are certainly *not* Vegas geeks, I'd argue that those older brands are potentially *more* alluring for people that never saw the originals (which, in many cases, were in pretty crappy shape when they were imploded). Movies like Oceans 11 (remake) created a bit of a mystique around some of the older properties that are now gone.

Also, I wouldn't generalize with regards to customer habits. Clubs are popular but it's a somewhat narrow slice of the market in terms of number of people. I know more folks that dislike clubs than like them and that becomes more true as you get up above age 30. Given the profit margins, they seem here to stay but just because they get a lot of ink doesn't mean that there are many other attractions that are very, very healthy in Las Vegas.

May 25, 2011 5:02 AM Posted by Las Vegas Window Cleaning

It seems like the old Vegas I remember as a kid is long gone. We used to take our family to the wet and wild next to the Sahara during the summer and then over to the pirate show at treasure island.

With this landmark going its only a matter of time before we are left with only new sleek casinos on the strip.

May 25, 2011 6:39 PM Posted by American Gaming Guru

Bravo to your comments on Don Barden and Bill Pennington! It is a real shame that the press did not cover their passings. Interestingly enough, I went to Mr Barden's Majestic Star corporate page where they do not even acknowledge his death! They have an interesting photo of their Fitz Tunica casino flooded out, but nothing of their Chairman's passing. Shameful. Regardless of his difficulties in the industry, he was personally a class act.

May 26, 2011 1:55 AM Posted by Jeff Simpson

Guru, thanks. I will confess I am still riled up.
The more time passes without mainstream LV media writing decent stories about the deaths of Pennington and Barden, the greater their oversight. It is shameful.
On the podcast I said (something like) "the local print media was too busy writing about the Billboard Music Awards, a new lollipop at the Sugar Factory or a new nightclub DJ" to focus on the infinitely more important and interesting stories of the two deceased executives.
I'm not sure what has happened in recent years to turn coverage so insipid but it may be a related to an influx of Las Vegas newcomers into newspaper management jobs and a mistaken belief that Las Vegans care more about celebrity culture than the city's recent and distant past. If print media bosses don't know and understand the city's and industry's history -- and many clearly don't -- how can they be expected to ask their reporters to research and write about it?
It truly is pathetic.

May 26, 2011 4:48 AM Posted by American Gaming Guru

Jeff, I could not agree more! Your comments on the podcast were spot-on. Keep up the good work! My favorite podcast on the internet.

May 27, 2011 3:10 PM Posted by Dave

I'm working on something that will rectify that omission in a small way, but it'd be nice to see something else.

May 27, 2011 6:06 PM Posted by detroit1051

Don Barden's home town remembered him.

June 8, 2011 5:51 AM Posted by detroit1051

I'll post this story here since Vegas Gang talked about Wynn as a Chinese company.

Does anyone believe Steve would sell Wynncore to Caesars and leave the U.S, entirely? At first, I thought it was far-fetched, but Steve is unconventional, has a bitter relationship with the Obama administration and sees expansion opportunities everywhere except here.

If Caesars were to buy, Loveman would have a world-class property, not a so-so one as in Caesars Palace and he would have a golf course on the Strip.

As Steve enters what is probably his last decade as a bold innovator and creator, and as he tries to recapture his youth with Andrea, maybe this isn't so far-fetched after all.

Here's the link to Frank Fahrenkopf's interview with Dow Jones:

June 8, 2011 6:32 AM Posted by Jeff Simpson

I don't know at what price or even if Steve Wynn (and Elaine Wynn and Kazuo Okada) would be willing to sell, but I can't imagine Caesars (or its private equity owners) would want to buy only the Las Vegas portfolio of Wynn Resorts.
I think Caesars CEO Gary Loveman realizes how important it is that the company gets its straw in the Macau drink, and the company has not shied away from bold gambits and purchases in the past.
If Wynn did decide to sell I can't imagine him doing a deal without a return ticket into the business (similar to how he bought the DI as MGM Grand was acquiring Mirage). Maybe the Caesars owners would carve out an autonomous way for Wynn to continue with an ownership stake; maybe he would be chairman and Loveman the executive (CEO).
The Wynn Las Vegas and Encore properties and the golf course are clearly valuable assets that would boost the Caesars portfolio but there is no way they'd do a deal without getting their foot in the door in Macau. Maybe they could spend $10b-$12b+ for ownership of Wynn Resorts but only 40 percent of the company's Macau operations, with SW, EW and KO keeping the remaining non-public share of Wynn China.
Another possibility that would have tremendous US and especially Las Vegas antitrust implications: Caesars buys MGM Resorts. With its 51 percent share of MGM Macau and a low corporate stock price (esp. compared with Wynn Resorts) an MGM buy would be, in effect, a way to improve on a dollar-cost-average basis Texas Pacific's and Apollo's way-too-expensive purchase/private takeover of Harrah's/Caesars.

July 11, 2011 10:45 AM Posted by Eric

Finally got around to listening to #61, #62 is next!!! Shame on me for letting this sit unheard for so long!!

Great show, really interesting stuff. Loved the discussion about defunct brand names -- Dunes, Sahara, Stardust, etc. I'm firmly in the group that hopes the LV Hilton reverts to The International. And I never knew that Echelon planned to have a "Stardust Lounge." That would have been / would be pretty cool.

You guys seemed to skip over the most obvious example of this "brand reuse," however -- Sands. Not only did Adelson keep the name for his company, he uses the name (and the old logo) on the convention center in Vegas, and the properties in Singapore, Macau, and Pennsylvania.

Isn't there even a "Sands High Limit Room" or some such thing inside the Venetian, with the old-style typeface and logo?