Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

July 1, 2011

A tale of two (soon to be former) Hiltons

Posted by daveschwartz

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.


Read archived comments (9 so far)
July 1, 2011 12:09 PM Posted by robert griffith

Vdara? How could anyone have thought that was a good name???

The LV Hilton IS for sale, believe me. Colony would cut a huge discount to get out from under this white elephant. They are terrified they'll go the way of the Sahara.

Completely agree about AC Hilton. Why get creative when you're either going to sell the property or shut it down? My bet is on the latter.

July 1, 2011 4:58 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

I recall when the contract came up for renewal about 2008, Colony said they would go back to the International name if an agreement couldn't be reached. Personally, I hope that's still the plan.

We spent a couple hours checking out the Hilton on Sunday. I still love it! I think it is a classic and extremely functional design that is pretty much unmolested. There haven't been extra towers, showrooms and other additions glomed on to it making it an impossible to navigate mis-mash (such as Caesars Palace). The main entrance is still the most beautiful, IMO. The overall size of the property seems modest by today's monolithic standards and is easy to understand and walk. I think it is cleaner and nicer than any Harrah's property, except maybe Caesars or Paris. I would slot it about even with Monte Carlo, below Mirage and Paris.

I think the International, Riviera and Circis-Circus should band together and set up some kind of shuttle system running from the Monorail exit at the International on over to the Riv and Circus. They should claim that since the Sahara is gone that is the North end of the Strip and they are creating the new "Casino Axis".

July 1, 2011 5:53 PM Posted by mike_ch

Any chance they might toss some money at the LVCVA to brand themselves something along the lines of "The Resort at Las Vegas Convention Center"?

The LV Hilton is far away enough from the Strip and has seen so much mood whiplash from the old classy part of the casino to the SpaceQuest part (and the classy part isn't anymore. Ever seen the photos of shocked women looking down they put above the men's room urinals?). Their best escape plan that I can see is that they simply identify themselves by their location in the style of "Disneyland Hotel" or "Aliante Station."

July 1, 2011 6:16 PM Posted by mike_ch

Oh, and one other thing: I wouldn't be surprised to see if Marnell and his Penn National partners attempt to woo Hilton. M's numbers aren't that great and their hotel operation has to be suffering somewhat.

These big national hotel chains usually don't care about having a prime strip location as much as they do having a place in every town that looks clean and comfortable, and M's amenities and price point cross a good number of Hilton brands. It's not for the Hampton Inn crowd, but people who stay at Hilton, HIlton Garden, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, and Waldorf-Astoria (don't doubt it, they just built one at Disney World.)

Depending on the relationship between Loveman and TPG, the Palms might also be a contender, but for some reason I doubt it.

July 2, 2011 2:07 PM Posted by Romaman

If I'm not mistaken, the AC Hilton use to be Steve Wynn's Golden Nugget. How has it been maintained over the years since he sold it in the 80's?

July 3, 2011 9:21 AM Posted by detroit1051

I agree with Jeff in OKC. The Hilton should revert to its original name, International. The name reflected the excitement the property generated over the years, even after it became Las Vegas Hilton. Imo, the Hilton's demise began with Star Trek. It diminished the luster of the entire property. I remember when The Hilton's original sign went up, only to be toppled by the wind in 1994. It was replaced shortly thereafter by a stubbier version.
Regardless, The Hilton had great suites, some large rooms and top restaurants in the era before Steve Wynn.

July 4, 2011 12:03 PM Posted by Carl Pankowski

Let's go with The Paradise Resort. Great idea. (As long as they don't spell it Para-Dice. Always thought that was tacky). I think Wynn and the Trop have their hands full, and ACEP, The Stratosphere, has enough trouble on the north end of the strip.
Ruffin is doing a great job with the TI. He has the money and the resort fits his "everyman" business model. Purchased and marketed properly, the property has the ability to be a great profit center.

July 5, 2011 10:33 AM Posted by robert griffith

Romaman, yes, the AC Hilton was the former Golden Nugget. Over the years there were some interesting things done there since Wynn's departure. When it was the "Grand", they had a huge grandstand next to the beach and had acts like Jackson Browne, Steve Miller, Doobies and even Frank Dean and Sammy (the real ones, not the tribute acts). But today, it's a dump. A friend stayed there the other night and said the bathroom of the first room assigned to him had exposed wires! Other than a popular beach bar, it's a non entity in AC. On Mondays all the restaurants are closed!

To show you how far they went downhill, when Landry's came back to AC to re-establish the Golden Nugget brand, they choose Trump Marina to buy even though they could have gotten the Hilton even cheaper.

If any hotel is going to close in AC in the next year, this is the one.

July 6, 2011 3:39 PM Posted by American Gaming Guru

I vote for the International as well! I also echo that the LV Hilton is definitely for sale! Colony has done a miraculous job of over-paying for their casino investments over the past decade. What appeared to be a brilliant move with Harvey's early on is completely over-shadowed with their Station's BK, Resorts surrender, and mortgage defaults on the Hiltons in LV and AC. Their Tunica properties, arguably the most down-market, are their most profitable and actually keeping the remaining portfolio's lights on..I suppose. Anyway, what a shame. I do not agree on a previous posters comments on the AC Hilton. I have stayed there as well. While it certainly is not a 5 star hotel, it does still possess a quiet ambiance which I really enjoy. The real problem is that quite is probably not what Colony had in mind when they bought it!