Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

I know for some folks, 2011 can't get into the rear-view fast enough. I've certainly felt that way during parts of this past year. It's been a tough one for a lot of reasons.

I thought about writing some sort of retrospective on 2011 but after putting it off for over a week, I realized that's really not what I want to talk about tonight. Since most of you are probably out and about and you'll be reading this in 2012, I think this makes more sense. Let's talk about some hopes and predictions for this next year.

Some Vegas Predictions and Hopes for 2012

I'm not sure how much predictions from me are worth but they're fun to make so here are a few:

- Fontainbleau Imploded: This thing has been a terrible eyesore since it first began to climb above ground. Since it doesn't look like that will ever change, it's time to rid the skyline of this monstrosity. Blow it up, tear it down - whatever. Just get rid of it. I'm sure the neighbors won't mind. Oh, and pay the contractors who got stiffed and release Glenn Schaeffer from any litigation so we can interview him without him getting sued. That guy has to have quite a story.

- MGM Replaces The Harmon With Something Interesting: I think we all know that eventually, one way or another, even if Perini gets some cash, The Harmon is a goner. When the building is inevitably removed, what comes next? The biggest complaint against CityCenter is that access from The Strip sucks. Instead of expanding The Crystals with some additional warehouse-as-retail space, add to Aria: additional casino, lounge, bar and restaurant space that runs right up onto The Strip. Put a pool/club complex on the roof - something that makes the patrons at neighboring Marquee jealous. I might not ever want to go there but it's a potential cash factory. I can already see a new set of Murren PR photos taken from the roof.

- Cosmopolitan Shows Modest Gaming Improvement: The hiring of Strip Wunderkind Tom McCartney will make a positive impact on the struggling property but it won't be enough to reverse the negative trend in the casino. Despite best efforts, I would not be surprised if one year from now, either Mr. McCartney, CEO John Unwin or lender/owner Deustche Bank will be exiting Cosmo, in one form or another.

- Linq Will Underwhelm At First But Eventually Become a Hit: Caesars' new project won't open in 2012 (construction begins in earnest over the summer) but given it's status as the only major construction project on The Strip, it will be a topic of conversation. My guess on Linq is that it will open to mixed reviews but about two or three years from now will be considered an important part of both Caesars bottom line but also many Strip visitor's vacation plans. A few of the first round of restaurants will likely miss the mark but they'll of course be replaced and while calling it the Strip's 'first meeting place' is absurd, it will become a legitimate 'city center', of sorts, over time. The wheel won't reach the level notieriety of attractions like the Fountains of Bellagio but will likely occupy the same latitude as say NYNY's roller coaster - an activity that visitors may try once but not something that commands a lot of repeat business.

- Tropicana's Moment in the Sun is Over: The property engendered a lot of goodwill with it's refurbishment and for awhile there it looked like it was about to crest over into a legitimate player in the middle tier of Strip properties. Instead, an exodus of key personnel, the botched Nikki Beach experiment and some underperforming restaurants have stalled the property's momentum. The Trop may be able to command slightly higher room rates than it did previously but it will largely sit out the city's recovery until it is eventually imploded and rebuilt... and that may have been the plan all along.

The Web Site

After the mega-redesign in 2010, I've been happy with how things have been going over on the main site. The volume of user reviews is up a good bit, making it a better resource than ever. No major plans to mix things up there in 2012, though new features in the app may require additional Web components as add-ons.

Vegas Gang Podcast

Personally, one of my favorite things to do is interviews and I'm hoping we'll have some good ones in 2012. We've been talking about a few possible subjects already. In addition, expect more news analysis and plenty of new Sure Bets as we find our way with the show next year.

Two Way Hard Three

Last year one of my goals was to do more writing. I failed. That doesn't mean it's not an admirable goal.

Vegas Mate App

I don't like to pre-announce what I'm doing with the app but there are big plans for 2012. The next update for VM is coming in early January with some new features that make things even easier and more seamless. After that, the big 4.0 update will be exactly that - with a Retina iPad 3 expected, Vegas Mate will never look the same. That's all I've got on that topic for now.


Lastly, I wanted to say thanks for everything in 2011. It was a tough year for a lot of reasons and while I won't miss it, I appreciate all of the support from the readers, listeners, app users and commenters. In the moments when I inevitably question all of the time and money invested in these endeavors, the goodwill from you fine people is always heartening. Thank you and Happy New Year.

"Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion." - Mark Twain


Read archived comments (12 so far)
December 31, 2011 9:58 PM Posted by NoDeuces

Happy New Year, Hunter.

January 1, 2012 8:48 AM Posted by detroit1051

A great New Year's surprise, Hunter. Thanks. The last shall come first: Your closing quote by Mark Twain is right on, 102 years after his death. What an American treasure he is.

The Trop's future does look cloudy. Some very smart people are better as "fixers" than as CEO's. Alex Yemenidjian was Kerkorian's fixer, and what a hell of a team they were with so much synergy between them. I don't believe Alex can do as well on his own. My guess is the Trop makes it through 2012 but not '13.

Speaking of fixers, I consider it a complimentary description, and that's what Tom McCartney is, as the Vegas Gang put it on the #71 podcast. McCartney probably took the Trop as far as he could, and he will certainly improve Cosmopolitan's casino performance. However, I still believe Deutsche Bank will sell the property to MGM Resorts in 2013. Most already consider Cosmo part of CityCenter, and it would fit into MGM's stable of Strip properties. If Vegas continues to improve in '12, MGM would be in a position to pull it off. That leads to The Harmon. The site needs to be the grand entrance to CityCenter, and MGM should keep a potential purchase of Cosmo in mind when it's deciding what to do after The Harmon is imploded. I'd feel more comfortable if Steve Wynn were planning The Harmon site than I do with Murren and his team.

January 1, 2012 10:42 AM Posted by jinx

Happy New Year, may you have a better 2012 as well.

On the Vegas points, I think you are right on in your read of Linq. I expect the same, a number of restaurants that don't fit being the roll out places, with better concepts coming in version 2.0. The end result will be a corridor filled with Margaritaville style crowds, which I believe is ultimately the goal of CET and given the location and the type of crowd they cater to well, I expect them to make it work.

1 other prediction. Cabo Wabo and PBR will close at Miracle Mile, those places continue to be revolving doors for concepts/restaurants.

January 1, 2012 12:27 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Excellent post Hunter. Thoughtful and thought provoking. Thanks you.

I think the Trop will find it's level in the next year, or so, and do fine. They tried to sell themselves to the WynnCore crowd, instead of the Flamingo, which is what they are a 3/4 size version of. The Flamingo makes a lot of money, and the Trop will too. Their cash flow needs are quite manageable IMO. Some of the rough launch had to be put at the feet of McCartney, though. He had to be in on those decisions, or he wouldn't be the wunderkind we think he is.
I don't think the Cosmo to MGM deal will be done for 3-5 years, at least. Somehow, I think MGM has to equalize the cost (and losses) of City Center, their share value, asset base and revenue, so they can make a equity swap for Cosmo. Deutsche also, needs more years to fully write off all their losses on the construction. But what do I know, I'm a 53 year old high school graduate who own a body shop. Big whoop ;-)

January 1, 2012 12:31 PM Posted by donnymac

Happy New Year Hunter!! I got my gf an iphone and will buy her VM in the next few days.

Th Tropicana was doomed from the beginning trying to market to the upscale crowd when in reality they should have marketed against Treasure Island, Luxor, Paris, etc.. or as a great alternative to Excalibur, IP, Flamingo, etc... They might be able to salvage this if they change their marketing strategy in 2012.

Maybe they could also tear down Stardustchelon Place while they are at it.

January 1, 2012 3:10 PM Posted by Ted Newkirk

Doesn't MGM have a huge balloon debt payment coming in 2013 that Murren talked about having to get ready to deal with? I don't follow the business side of things like you guys do, but I recall something to that effect in a business publication article just a few weeks ago. I believe he basically has to beat down the bankers (by his own admission) when the time comes.

If so, that doesn't seem well for buying Cosmo. Where would the cash come from when your bankers are going to look at your balance sheet and want pretty much every penny they can get their hands on? I don't know. I'm just putting it out there.

January 1, 2012 3:26 PM Posted by Hunter

It would definitely take financial engineering but it's not impossible - look at HET and PHo. Everyone said the same thing at the time - how can a company with more debt than the Apollo Program cost (pun intended) buy *another* hotel.

It would have to be the right circumstances to get the banks aligned but I wouldn't completely rule it out.

That said, DB has deep enough pockets that they may be willing to wait a lot longer than other banks would, making a distress scenario that could depress the price less likely.

January 1, 2012 4:07 PM Posted by Jazmin

Great post, Hunter. Happiness is certainly a rare quality in very intelligent people and, if it's not inherent, it is very difficult to cultivate. But do what you can to find joy in this new year, my friend. You deserve -- and should embrace -- all the great things that 2012 surely holds for you.

As for other great things that 2012 holds -- what about downtown? We've got the Mob Museum and Smith Center for the Performing Arts opening and maybe even Zappos getting settled in. You've got to think that combination will make at least some not-insignificant impact on an area that's been promising -- but not delivering -- an exciting, revitalized place for locals and visitors to spend time.

January 1, 2012 6:28 PM Posted by worldpool

h hunter i agree on evrything that you said i hope 2012 that las vegas will turn around

January 1, 2012 7:25 PM Posted by Romaman

Great topic and Happy New Year!
This year, as much as I love MGM, I hope that they split up and (as Mr. Wynn said) 'unbundle'. Its more exiting to see casinos with separate owners compete with each other as opposed to empires of places to other empires of places. The changes that would happen to the properties won't seem so corporate like what MGM does by modernizing them.

Another hope for the new year is the re-theming of de-themed properties. I'm sure MGM is the only one who does this to their properties but, it would be nice to see more trees in NYNY or more Egyptian motifs in Luxor. Its always been my #1 petpeve- detheming.

January 2, 2012 12:57 AM Posted by mike_ch

It's a hard sell for me to love an unthemed resort, but everything I think is great about the Cosmopolitan gets put at risk if it becomes part of a 'bundle' of casinos on the Strip and subject to the musical chairs of management in the large companies.

The only other big names in town that I think could do the right thing by it are Penn National (who probably wouldn't move fast enough but would likely keep many managers if their run of M Resort is any indicator) or possibly Boyd. Maybe LVS, since Cosmo's structure is generally organized in the way Sands likes to go with tenant restaurants.

January 2, 2012 6:48 AM Posted by Dan Short

Very good summary although as a proud Canadian, I hope the Trop survives. As I said to Tom McCartney at the podcastapalouza, I think they should emphasize the Canadian atmosphere instead of Miami beach. Perhaps Paul Anka or even Justin Beiber :)

The Cosmo is hotly pursuing my wife and I, non club goers but avid slot players. Perhaps they are learning a lesson from the other resorts. Slot players love free rooms.

MGM does have to do something with the access to the Aria casino. The easiset way in from the strip is to walk to the Bellagio take the tram to the Monte Carlo Aria entrance and back track a bit. Eliminating the Harmon and making it a normal walk way to the Aria would be the answer.

Adding the Cosmo to the MGM stable would allow a rear entrance to the Aria, but had been said, the finances are jsut not there, unless Deutch bank takes back interest earning debt. Better than losses.

Loved the latest Vagas Gang and with the loss of the Strip Podcast I miss the weekly interviews. Must check out Dr. Dave's. You could literally add Dr. Daves to your retinue or have you or chuck do seperate ones for you sites and the Vegas Gang.

Looking forward to the Vegas Mate update. My wife loves it and I get to see it once in a while. Problem is that we did not buy the 3G so we need WIFI. I notice you did not mention free WIFI returning. We can pnly hope. But the other casinos should offer a BOGO special. Nuy one WIFI get the second one half price.

As you say at the end of the updates, we love you guys.

Dan and Maureen