I'm teaming up with the guys at the 360 Vegas Podcast to include a new segment on their podcast, featuring recent reviews posted to the site and to my Vegas Mate app. It's going to be a lot of fun, but first, how about a few words about the show itself...
360 is only at episode number eight and that means you might not yet know about this new entry in Vegas podcast-land. The weekly show, run by irreverent co-hosts Bryan and Mark, is a lot of fun. To put it simply, if you're a fan of Five Hundy, Vegas Tripping, the Gang and this site, you should dig 360. The show is well produced and includes an extensive re-cap of everything from restaurant openings and closings and slot jackpots to the best recent Vegas TwitPic.
If you're addicted to Vegas info, you should add 360 to your playlist. They're on iTunes here.
As for the segment in question, they're going to be picking their favorite new VM/RV review each week to feature on the show. I read every single review that goes into Vegas Mate and they range from expected to hilarious.
I'm looking forward to it.
Episode #64 is up!
This time on the show:
* A special episode - 'meet the gangsters' featuring Dr. Dave Schwartz.
Late last week, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas unveiled its latest secret weapon--a purple truck. Since its existence was confirmed on Twitter, speculation about its true purpose has been running high. Would it dole out free indie rock and hipster glasses to the unwashed masses of Las Vegas? Would it spontaneously curate streetside happenings? Or would it actually do something useful, like provide free shuttle service? As usual with marketing promotions that want to go viral, it was shrouded in mystery.
Well, word has it they've been active this weekend, and I ran into the Cosmopolitan street team quite by accident this morning.
To learn what's going on with the purple truck, continue reading after the jump....
Ever wondered what might be in the water at pool-clubs like Rehab and Tao Beach? Well, you might be sorry you asked.
The Daily decided to investigate and discovered that just as you might have guessed, some of these places may be a bit less than clean. Urine, 'dissolved solids', etc...
It appears that Jerry Beale, hired to replace the then-retiring interior designer Roger Thomas, has left Wynn D&D and returned to his previous gig at Wilson Associates in Los Angeles.
Thomas famously decided to un-retire after the economy went sideways, leaving him running the interior design side of Wynn's creative shop - the gig that Beale thought he was being hired for.
Roger Thomas, in a specially narrated video from Steve Friess, insists that there's no bad blood (check the podcast feed) - and for all I know that's correct - but clearly, this didn't play out the way it was originally intended. Apparently, his contract ended a few months back and he decided to go back to LA. Roger is quoted in that interview as saying they remain close friends.
At Wynn, Beale is credited with leading the development of the Spa at Encore Macau as well as contributing heavily to the Encore Beach Club in Las Vegas. Wilson Associates also has done work in gaming, including the Mansion at MGM Grand and villas at Caesars Palace.
If you haven't already, listen to the latest edition of The Strip Podcast - Thomas' interview is full of interesting new info about Cotai and more.
According to the Macau Daily Times, MGM Paradise have completed the designs for their Cotai property.
This property, along with the potential future development from Wynn Resorts await government approval.
As noted by David McKee, it's not clear that American developers would be so patient if their grand plans were being so slowly mulled by Clark County personnel.
As long as Macau prints money, expect no criticism from the 'so blessed' American participants. Remember: China good / Obama bad.
If you love those Las Vegas Sun slideshow-riffic stories (15 intersections of certain death! click now!), you might like this quick, numbered list of potential future events that will likely never come to pass but may give you a chuckle.
On the heels of this morning's delightfully-sequined astroturf "angry showgirl" march to protest resort fees, I started pondering what other marches protesting other indiginities or inconveniences of today's Vegas I'd like to see. My brain stopped working after five, so that's all you get. If you've got any ideas, feel free to add them in the comments.
I'll continue to delight you after the jump.
Episode #63 is up!
This time on the show:
* Our Guest is M Resort President Anthony Marnell III
We have a frank discussion on operating in Las Vegas in this climate, nightlife customers vs. casino customers and more. It's a great talk - you'll enjoy it.
** Sure Bets **
This time around, Jeff reflects on Terry Lanni's role in Las Vegas and his own interactions with him.
Lanni died Thursday.
Continue on after the jump.
Former MGM CEO Terry Lanni died Thursday night.
If you look at the last twenty years of gaming in Las Vegas, it's hard not to see Lanni as one of the most important, even if lesser popularly known, figures.
Mr. Lanni combined The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Golden Nugget, New York New York, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus into a single conglomerate. Those mergers more or less forced Harrah's to absorb Caesars and other nearby properties, transforming The Strip as we know it.
Lanni approved the project now known as CityCenter and sold off half of it to Dubai. He notoriously took over Steve Wynn's office at Bellagio after the merger and felt guilty working in a space that was so oppulent. He didn't want priceless artwork, owned by the shareholders, sitting over his desk. I guess in that sense, he was sort of the anti-Wynn.
Not flashy. Quiet and behind the scenes... As much as I love the spectacle and bombast of gaming's many flashy CEOs, I have a lot of respect for Lanni's subdued methods.
Lanni was one of those lucky guys that came up in gaming at the same time that it was still being legitimized in the eyes of American business. When he originally came on board in the seventies, it required at least a certain amount of faith for a young exec to take the plunge and go to Nevada versus perhaps NYC finance - the markets were not yet totally accepting of the wagering biz. That said, when your 'graduating class' includes people like Steve Wynn, Phil Satre, Frank Fertitta Jr. and others, you're not in bad company. What a time to be able to chart the course for a growing industry.
I lost my own father to cancer three years ago, almost to the week. I'd be lying if Lanni's passing didn't make me think of him again today. I don't know anything about Lanni's condition or his family situation but I remember like yesterday what it felt like to live through that myself: it was predictably awful and I truly feel for the Lanni family today and wish them the best.
Terry Lanni, RIP.
Sad news from Jon Ralston that Terry Lanni, the former MGM Mirage boss, has passed away. Lanni had been battling cancer for the past several years. Our thoughts are with his family.
Lanni helped to shepherd the company two through mega-mergers: first with Mirage Resorts and then later, Mandalay Resort Group, creating the most powerful company on The Strip.
His tenure at the head of MGM was not without controversy. A confusing situation regarding his college degrees and the approval of the now-troubled CityCenter project marked the later parts of his career.
I never met Lanni but we did have a mutual friend and the word on Terry was that he was a class act.
More on Lanni:
Or, Hamsterdam under the Mandarin Oriental
With the recent spasm of homicides on the Las Vegas Strip (3 in less than two weeks), public safety on the Boulevard has become a big issue. I wrote a little about it here last week, and several local news outlets have given the issue more scrutiny. Yesterday I did an interview with KLAS's I-Team for a week-long series on the subject that will air next week.
I'll continue after the jump:
This is the 25th edition of the Simpson on Vegas column - congrats Jeff and thanks to all of you that are reading. I love publishing this column and I hope you're enjoying it too.
Jeff hits a few topics this time out but my personal favorite is a reminder that local business media could do more when writing about the gaming industry.
Anyway, keep reading after the jump for the full low-down.
Perception vs. reality.
In Las Vegas, the former is often more important than the latter.
Case in point: the vast majority of those who come to town to gamble don't leave winners. Most of them know it coming in; if it were any way else, how could casinos afford all of the fountain shows and ultra-luxe trimmings? They don't build them because people are carting money away, after all.
But most people have the perception--or at least the hope--that they'll get lucky, or at least have a swingin' time ending up broke. So, despite millions of visitors proving that regression to the mean is a money-making concept each year, people continue to gamble in Vegas--and buy lottery tickets, pick ponies, and visit casinos around the world.
When deciding what to do for fun, vacationers have no problem choosing perception over reality.
That's worked to Vegas' advantage, but what happens when perceptions shift from fun to fearful?
In less than two weeks, there have been two homicides on the Strip, each involving previously-unacquainted passers-by. Neither was a regrettable but could-have-happened-anywhere case of domestic violence spiraling out of control. Both happened when visitors to the Strip got into confrontations and decided that pulling a knife was the only solution.
These two fatal stabbings have been amply covered by the local dailies but haven't gone national...yet. But let's say the violence continues to escalate on the Strip, and fights, stabbings, and shootings become more common. It's only a matter of time before bystanders start getting caught in the crossfire.
Let's say one of them is an international visitor--say from Germany or Britain. The foreign press would have a field day with it, much like the murder of German tourists in Florida in the early 1990s or the recent slaying of two British tourists, also in Florida.
The LVCVA's bet big on international visitors. If safety becomes a concern, it's safe to say that they're not going to coming.
There are plenty of theories why crime rates rise and fall. Back in the 1990s, when crime rates in New York City were plummeting, many credited the broken windows theory for providing the key to turning around the city's out-of-control crime. In short, broken windows proponents believe that when small crimes--graffiti, fare beating--go unpunished, it creates an environment that breeds more serious crime by suggesting a breakdown in public order.
Could the Strip be due for some broken-windows style policing?
I don't know if there's a direct correlation between the free-for-all atmosphere on the Strip, with hustlers, buskers, and unlicensed vendors aggressively encroaching on pedestrians, and the recent uptick in violence on the Boulevard. But it seems a reasonable assumption to make. Now might be the time to redeploy Metro to crack down on the kinds of "quality of life" offenses that make the Strip seem like a lawless wasteland instead of a free-wheeling party zone.
I'm not an expert on policing or criminal justice, and I can't tell you definitively what the solution to the breakdown of order on the Strip. But when Metro Sergeant Tom Jenkins told me, point blank, the situation on the Strip is the worst he's seen in his 17 years on the beat, I became convinced that more people should listen to what he's saying.
We've got a career law enforcement officer telling us something needs to be done to clean up the Strip. Perusing the blogs and message boards on the subject, we've got plenty of visitors and potential visitors who are concerned for their safety on the Strip. And now, within less than two weeks, we've got two homicides on heavily-trafficked parts of the Boulevard.
What's it going to take before Clark County Commissioners and Metro leadership start taking this problem seriously?
Update: 24 hours, following another homicide, this one inside a Strip casino, Metro has announced it is shifting resources to beef up its presence on the Strip.
I haven't done one of these for a little while, thought it might be nice to check in and see what's popular in Vegas Mate recently. June 2011 was the most active month in the app since I began tracking. All of the data collected is anonymous.
1. Aria (Last Month: No Change)
2. Bellagio (Last Month: No Change)
3. Caesars Palace (Last Month: No Change)
4. Cosmopolitan (Last Month: No Change)
5. The Venetian (Last Month: #6)
6. MGM Grand (Last Month: #5)
7. The Mirage (Last Month: No Change)
8. Wynn Las Vegas (Last Month: No Change)
9. Planet Hollywood (Last Month: No Change)
10. Mandalay Bay (Last Month: No Change)
It's interesting to see how little these positions have swapped and also that Cosmopolitan has retained a strong place. The last place hotel was Vdara.
Here's some data on restaurants:
1. Bellagio Buffet
2. Wicked Spoon Buffet
3. 'Secret Pizza Place'
4. Mesa Grill
5. Mon Ami Gabi
7. Hash House a Go Go
8. Wynn Buffet
10. Earl of Sandwich
12. Aria Buffet
13. Cabo Wabo
14. Cheesecake Factory
As in previous months, buffets and casual dining are extremely popular. Restaurants like Delmonico and Craftsteak rounded up the top 20.
For shows and other activities, newcomer Absinthe was the most popular:
2. Peep Show
6. Fountains of Bellagio
7. Garth Brooks
Cirque has a solid showing but it's interesting to see them start at No. 5.
In the nightclub/dayclub arena, XS still reigns:
2. Wet Republic
3. Coyote Ugly
4. Playboy Club
6. Encore Beach Club
You might have read that the Las Vegas Hilton's days as a Hilton are numbered (if my calculations are correct, there are exactly 183 of them left).
Today we learned that the the Atlantic City Hilton has already lost its licensing agreement with Hilton Hotels and Resorts and must change its name, ASAP. It's not clear exactly when the agreement lapsed, but the property has begun rebranding itself as... the ACH.
Check out the website if you don't believe me.
The ACH name is obviously a placeholder. The property is currently for sale and there's absolutely no excuse to go through the effort and expense of a bona fide rebranding. At this stage, it adds nothing to the purchase price, so why bother?
Hopefully someone buys the property, invests some dollars, and gives it a thorough makeover and a new identity. For some reason the name "Seaside" is jumping out at me as a good one. It's rooted in one of the things the place has going for, its location. But they'll probably plug it into the Vdara hotel name generator and get a random string of consonants and vowels that has no tie to history, geography, or aesthetics.
The Las Vegas Hilton isn't changing signs yet, but it's going to have to do the same thing by the end of the year. Here things are a little different. The property isn't, to my knowledge, for sale. Right now it doesn't have a lot going right, but you can't find a better location for business travelers: adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center with a monorail that can take you to the Strip if you don't want to wait for a taxi. So I don't think it'll close--there has to be someone who sees the upside in the place, even if Colony hasn't had the best of luck with it.
So assuming that the Las Vegas Hilton isn't closing, what is it going to be called on January 1, 2012? Here are a few possibilities:
1. It affiliates with another national hotel brand. Hyatt? Wyndham? La Quinta? In any event, it wouldn't exactly bring pizazz to the property, and frankly it would be boring.
2. They go back to the future and rename themselves the International and go for a funky midcentury modern retheming. I'm seeing a Mad Men meets tiki bar vibe. Which might not make sense, but it does to me.
3. Return, hat in hand, to Cedar Fair and get a new Star Trek: The Experience open. This time, retheme the entire property to match: you could call it:
A) Star Trek: The Hotel Casino
B) Quark's Gambling Hall, Inn, and Resort
C) The Risa Suites (free horga'hn with checkin!)
D) The Final Frontier Casino Resort
4. Paradise Casino Resort: that's the street it's on, at least.
That's all I can think of...they've definitely got their work cut out for them. I'll stick with the International as the favorite, unless they just license another brand name.
In the LVRJ article, I talked about what Hilton Hotels might do next. Yes, they've got several properties around town, but they're not exactly convenient on the Strip or the kinds of destinations that would incent your loyalty program members. So it seems like they will be affiliating themselves with another casino.
Assuming that the MGM and Caesars properties are off the table, what does that leave them?
Wynn is already working with Pinnacle, though I don't know whether that would rule out an alliance with a purely hotel brand. LVS has Intercontinental. Cosmopolitan has Marriott.
That leaves the Tropicana, Treasure Island, Riviera, and Stratosphere.
My money would be on the first two--they'd both benefit from the added database. The Riviera, with new owners, is in flux right now. The Stratosphere is also a possibility, though I'd say it's way behind Tropicana and Treasure Island.
Let the speculation begin.