I stayed in a new Bellagio room and I'm telling you all about it.
My photos are here: http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Bellagio-August-2011/18787622_vpPdgc
The write-up is after the jump.
It's a lazy Saturday afternoon and that seems like a good opportunity to comment on two stories I saw posted today online.
First off is a note from Howard Stutz in the RJ, indicating that the Maloof's ownership stake in The Palms has been reduced from 85% to 2%. George Maloof remains as property president but for all intents and purposes, the family has comparatively very little stake in the business.
In the past, I've heard Maloof referred to as a gaming operations genius (I might even have said something along these lines myself). How could anyone say that now? The guy was forced to sell off virtually all of his ownership to keep the lights on - if you read between the lines, it sounds like there weren't a lot of other options.
Making money in the go-go era of 2005 wasn't all that tough. It's the operators thriving now and through the crisis that deserve respect.
Personally, if I owned a property, I certainly wouldn't want to get Maloofed.
Second up is a VegasTripping post about the room renovation project at Bellagio, including some photos. These changes have been widely anticipated - as one of the top properties in town, Bellagio's room product should set a standard for Las Vegas luxury.
The series starts out with a hallway shot, showing off new wall coverings and carpet. I agree with Chuck that the carpet color tone change is pretty awesome - I totally dig it. From there though, things go a bit downhill as we get into the room itself.
In my opinion, the bed/sleeping area is a bit of a disaster and given the relatively dramatic change, I expect it to be the most controversial part of this re-design. The headboard/wall combo isn't particularly ugly in a vacuum, it just doesn't fit in with what I've come to expect from Bellagio.
The much hated armoire is gone (good riddance!), replaced by what seems to be a functional, if not beautiful substitute. If this was the worst part of the re-design, this crime scene would be pretty uneventful. Given that Bellagio's rooms are smaller than some of its newer competitors, the large armoire never made any sense from a usability perspective.
In general, I like the overall color scheme and as VT notes, the rooms were way overdue for a change. Still, this feels like all reaction and very little new ground being covered. How long until these updates feel old and dated?
Coming up with a room design that fits Bellagio's language and overall message but that also can delight the changing tastes of luxury customers is certainly a challenge but I'm not sure that was even attempted here. What I see is a buffet of recent design choices taken from Bellagio's top competitors. There have been many signs over the years that MGM-folk don't really get what Bellagio is all about - what makes it special. So far, this is looking like it might be another one.
I'm saying these things without having yet stayed in the new rooms. It's possible there are super-secret hidden features that aren't obvious from these photos. Who knows, maybe the bed gives out free blow jobs or something. Absent that, so far I'm leaning towards seeing this as another example of a company that's lost it's way... That said, I'll try 'em for sure.
We're doing a Vegas Gang episode on Thursday so I guess I should just say thank you and leave it at that. This is great material.
Instead, I'm going to once again report on difficulty for MGM Resorts International - profits are still a Mirage - they just can't Wynn (get it?!? I'm so clever).
When a company does an early release of their financials and it includes several bullet points and a few paragraphs of figures, always read it in reverse. The most interesting stuff is always hidden behind a smokescreen of PR-speak.
The part of the company not infected with the virus that is CityCenter continues to deflate - down 13% for wholly owned operations (it was -16% last quarter). CityCenter may be a debacle but MGM needs the other places to keep the lights on.
As for Borgata, they did get an offer but it's below the amount they've been carrying on their books for the asset so they'll be taking a write-down this quarter to align their books with... well, reality. Will BOYD also have to do a write-down? I'd say probably.
When the Borgata thing is eventually settled, they'll not only get the cash from the sale but also their share of operations put into trust since the Pansy Ho debacle. That'll be one fat quarter when it hits but that's like when the drug dealer comes to your house and opens up his briefcase. He's not moving in, don't get too excited.
Say what you want about Borgata - and Atlantic City is certainly in trouble - but it is the top property there and has been helping to fill Jimbo's bank account every month. MGM may not have had much choice when it came to selling but that cash-flow is going to leave a hole of at least some size once the post-sale hangover wears off.
Interestingly enough, the day after we get news of improved Strip numbers (up 21%) for August, MGM reports taking an almost 10% hit in casino revenue for the quarter. How is that supposed to jive? This story cites baccarat as a bright spot but MGM's bac volume was down 6%. Does that mean that September cratered? Or were all these gains elsewhere? MGM still controls a huge percentage of the high-end bac play so this seems a bit odd.
As I previously wrote in my series on CityCenter, MGM is now going back to the markets for capital - they have loans of over a billion dollars due next year that they need to pay off. It will be interesting to see how much this influx of supply will impact prices on the open market. Much to the Swami's chagrin, stock was down 6% in after hours trading.
There is some good news, something else that I hinted at in my previous series - Aria is starting to swing over to the profitable side of the fence. It's had good volumes but this time around it got the hold percentages it needed to post a number in the black. ADR and REVPAR for Aria are both improving.
So I guess everything's fine...
This morning, I awoke to an MGM press release announcing their new iPhone app, featuring augmented reality. Of course, anything iPhone and Vegas related immediately gets me interested so I dug in.
For those unfamiliar, augmented reality (AR) is a technique by which a user sees a live video stream with computer graphics overlaid, based on their location. So for instance, you hold up your phone and on the screen you see what the camera lens sees but with information painted on top, typically points of interest, etc...
This app, Vegas Reality, is in the App Store now and I took it for a little spin. This will probably sound like sour grapes to some but honestly, I wasn't all that impressed. The app has several downsides in my mind. First, it only includes MGM Mirage stuff. Understandable I guess but that means that over half The Strip has no annotations at all.
Once you drill down on a resort, there's a little bit of high-level information, less than you'd find on a typical resort Web site. The augmented reality bit only shows you the names of the resorts around you, basically the same info you'd get from reading the marquee.
The app does integrate Twitter, a feature that's also in the forthcoming 2.6 version of Vegas Mate for the iPhone.
All that said, the app is free (search for 'mgm mirage' in the App Store) so there's no risk if you want to try it for yourself. If you're not in Vegas, it simulates your location as being at the corner of Tropicana and LVB. The app requires an iPhone 3GS or greater and does not work on the iPod touch at all.
One important question - AR requires the use of the video camera but that technology was recently banned at Luxor and Excalibur. Is this app not welcome there either?
I actually built about half of an AR feature for Vegas Mate 2.5 but I dropped it for an important reason - augmented reality isn't very useful in most real-world situations! Walking around with a phone in front of you isn't very desirable and due to the limitations of GPS technology, it doesn't work well inside, a place where something like this could be awesome if done right. Maybe someday, if we can get this kind of thing embedded into sunglasses...
I can imagine the pitch meeting for this app - AR looks fantastic in a demo but most users try it once and then put it back down. The AR revolution never took off. Trust me, we won't see people walking down The Strip, phones held aloft looking for these annotations anytime soon.
I expect more and more apps for all platforms from the resort companies. So far though, they're treating them more like they would Web sites. If they want to really knock people's socks off, they need to understand this is a new medium and adjust strategy accordingly.
This shows that sort of thinking but with a technology itself (AR) that's a bit half-baked.
Sorry no photo last week - I was off galavanting.
This time I'm back with an exterior shot at Bellagio. When I took this photo I was reminded, yet again, just how great all the exterior detail is at the resort. Great stuff.
Today, MGM Mirage pre-announced their first quarter earnings, two weeks early. These are subject to change but let's be honest, they probably won't.
Why would a company pre-announce? Typically they have some information that is out of alignment with what the market knows and wants to give it some time to absorb. Often it's bad news...
Let's look at MGM's announcement - keep in mind that MGM Mirage only owns half of the CityCenter joint venture (the good half?)
MGM has always been very helpful in breaking out their results by property. Unfortunately, it appears that they are reporting their 50% of CityCenter's results as a single blob - no way to know Aria vs. Mandarin vs. Vdara vs. Crystals. Hopefully we'll get more detailed info in the real quarterly filing.
Compared to the year ago quarter, this time they don't have the benefit of the TI sale nor the insurance income from the Monte Carlo fire. Also, they had to write down the residential inventory at CityCenter, all of which hurt them compared to 2009Q1.
What is interesting - the CCJV netted $24 million from poor saps that abandoned their deposits on residential units. Probably can't count on that cash for 2011Q1.
CityCenter is reporting an operating loss of $255MM in the first quarter, though $171MM of that is a charge related to the write down of the residential inventory. Aria's loss is pegged at $66MM, though most of that is depreciation expense.
Did you spend time at Aria and wonder why you didn't hear your neighbor in the room next door? Chances are, you didn't have one:
"Occupancy percentage at Aria was 63% with an average daily rate of $194."
Ouch. That figure, 63%, is pretty darn low. That said though, the $194 isn't too bad - you wonder if they had lowered rates more if they could have boosted the occupancy.
As a comparison, in the first full quarter Wynn Las Vegas was open, it had an ADR of $264 and 93% occupancy... Granted, 2005 was a very different time for Las Vegas so even mention that here is probably grossly unfair.
Their non-CityCenter results aren't great either - Adjusted Property EBITDA for the wholly owned stuff is down almost 20%. Table games hold was down (it was at the high end of the range in 2009), though volume was up compared to 2009. REVPAR took another hit, to under $100 at $94.
Because of the charges and the prior year having the TI sale, they swung from $355MM operating profit to an $11MM loss. MGM Mirage has worked hard to pay down its debt and that's starting to show in the results as interest expense decreases.
So - tough quarter for MGM but they have some cash and borrowing available so they'll probably ride it out just fine. Hopefully in Q2 we'll see Aria firing on a few more cylinders - hard not to think that if this bleeding continues that they'll shed some additional service folks and degrade the experience for the guests.
In other news, the company announced a private placement:
Mike's adventures continue: Encore Las Vegas, Bellagio, Aria, The Crystals and a stop at Valentino Grill @ The Venetian.
Click through to read the complete text. Photo gallery is here:
Mike is back with another Strip Walk. This time we venture through TI, Bellagio, PH Towers, Palazzo, Aria, NYNY and more, including a mini-review of the Dal Toro restaurant at Palazzo.
Our own mike_ch is back with a 'mega' Strip Walk, including his first time at CityCenter.
As regular readers know, Mike is never short of opinions - you'll get his full take on the new MGM Mirage development as well as a boatload of photos.
This is a good one - you don't want to miss it. Enjoy.
Complete gallery: http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Stripwalk-January-2010/10930508_gxkui
I love big cities. I'd much rather ride a subway than sit on a beach. I love museums and cultural events, great restaurants and urban activity.
New York is one of my favorites. If I had to live outside the US, I'd probably settle in London. I've been lucky enough to see Cairo, Jerusalem, Rome, Paris, Chicago, Istanbul and much of the rest of the world. Great cities are complicated, charming, messy, crowded, contradictory... and wonderful.
MGM Mirage is trying to replicate the best bits of those experiences in a new project opening soon on the Las Vegas Strip - CityCenter.
This past week, your humble host was given the opportunity to tour part of this new hospitality complex - 67 acres at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, located between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.
My experiences on that tour are after the jump - enjoy. CityCenter will be a hot topic of discussion for months if not years. I can't wait until you all can share your own thoughts.
Update: We're not allowed to publish the actual map but Chuckmonster traced a copy and posted it on VT. This is the casino level and includes much of the stuff I saw on this tour. His version looks identical to the 'real' one. Enjoy. http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=3019
Mike's back with another Strip Walk and this time it's all MGM, all the time.
Here's the complete photo gallery:
Read on for more...
Mike's back with a trip down The Strip including a lunch at First Food @ Palazzo.
Some updates and photos of City Center, Bellagio, Monte Carlo and more.
The complete photo gallery is here:
This morning, Nevada based MGM Mirage released their second quarter results:
A loss of $212 million for the quarter, along with lower revenues as well. Despite taking a big hit this quarter, some analysts believe MGM Mirage has turned their balance sheet around and should start to see some upside in the coming quarters. They miraculously were able to navigate a very difficult set of conditions this Spring without resorting to an asset fire sale.
Their massive City Center project opens in phases starting in October.
Thanks to Mike E over at VegasTripping.com for catching this one - a multi-part video interview set with design genius Roger Thomas, Executive VP of Design at Wynn Design and Development as he was honored this past February in Las Vegas.
Thomas was responsible for many major Wynn designs at properties including Wynn Las Vegas, Encore Las Vegas, Wynn Macau, Bellagio, Treasure Island, Beau Rivage, The Mirage, Golden Nugget and more.
A story today in the RJ about how MGM Mirage saved City Center.
Despite painting a rosy outlook at the time, things were very close to catastrophe.
This is a topic we touched on during a Vegas Gang show - I speculated that Murren and Co really pulled off a near-miracle in keeping the project intact. Knowing now that they did it without having to sell any additional Strip properties is even more amazing.
Happy to be back after a little bit of a break. Lots to talk about, as always.
* MGM Mirage Pulls a Rabbit Out of its Hat
* Fontainebleau May Not Be Totally Screwed (we'll see)
* UNLV Center for Gaming Research Trends
* MGM Mirage Selling Properties
Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to email@example.com.
MGM Mirage has proposed issuing some new debt and equity to raise up to $2.5 billion. Proceeds would be used to pay off other debts.
Part of the package would includes liens against Bellagio and The Mirage which translates into MGM not selling those places anytime soon.
A very tough quarter for the Las Vegas based operator - 20% reduction in net revenue. To their credit, they don't sugar coat it - things are tough in gaming and these results reflect that.
If they hadn't had some of the TI sale figures in this quarter, things would have looked even worse.
REVPAR took a big hit - looks like they had to significantly drop rates to stabilize occupancy.
Many of you have already seen the two part interview with Steve Wynn that Jon Ralston did. If not, watch here:
Part One (LV Sun)
Part Two (LV Sun)
Now, along with giving insight into his political beliefs, one of the more interesting bits is the talk about Wynn shopping for assets on The Strip. We also discussed this on yesterday's Vegas Gang. Would Wynn buy Bellagio? I think the consensus is that he meant what he said - if the price is right, Wynn Resorts may be game. This should not surprise anyone.
Wynn says Las Vegas is better off with multiple operators duking it out. I totally agree and hope that one of the positive outcomes of this downturn is that we have better, more vibrant bare-knuckled competition on The Strip. That would certainly make my job more interesting.
Can't get enough of The Steve? He'll be on 60 Minutes this Sunday with a piece by my favorite interviewer, Charlie Rose.
An article in the Wall Street Journal today discusses the possibility of more asset sales at MGM Mirage - perhaps enough that it may look more like a breakup of the company than just shedding a few hotel rooms.
(if that doesn't work, you can probably access through Google here)
While MGM Mirage shareholders might not love the idea of the best assets being sold off at potential fire-sale prices, maybe this would be good for The Strip and Las Vegas.
As others have said, when ARIA opens, will Bellagio suffer? If it had a different set of owners, they could compete head-on, full bore.
One thing is for sure - MGM Mirage has bet the farm on City Center.
MGM Mirage was due to file it's 10K quarterly report information with the SEC but instead, filed for an extension:
MGM Mirage is in an incredibly precarious position. If it cannot re-work its capital structure or sell off some additional properties, there may be no option other than Chapter 11 - almost unthinkable for a company that just a few years ago was the king of The Strip.
Principal shareholder Kirk Kerkorian has seen his stake shrink from almost $10 billion to somewhere just shy of $400 million.
Update: MGM Mirage's Jim Murren has sent a letter to employees about the company's financial condition: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/03/mgm-mirage-chairmans-letter-employees-about-compan/
Throwing open another open topic but I got this little nugget to kick around from reader Jeff in OKC:
"Is Bellagio cursed? I don't know of any curse, or any Indian burial grounds, etc., but, I think there's some bad mojo at the Southwest corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard. Since the Dunes was built there in the 50's, all kinds of unusual problems have plagued the property. Design and construction problems abounded there in the 60's and 70's. But ownership seems to be the biggest victim of strange things there. From legendary mob control, to the Japanese financial collapse that led to Steve Wynn getting the land. Spectacularly, for our purposes, Steve Wynn built palatial offices for Mirage Resorts, which he had to give up when he got in a cash bind and had to sell out in 2000. I understand MGM moved their HQ to Bellagio after the buyout, and Terry Lanni took over the same office. Lanni, as well, suffered an equally amazing fall from grace in just a few days during November, 2008. If I were Jim Murren, I think I'd move HQ back to the MGM Grand. Any thoughts?"
Vegas Gang #24 is online.
This week on the show:
Leave any comments below.
Vegas Gang #20 is online: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com
This time around we cover:
* Trippies 2008
* Gaming Stocks Slide
* Bellagio Turns 10 To Little Fanfare
* How MGM Mirage and Harrah's Market
Feel free to leave any comments below.
MGM Mirage announced their 3rd quarter results for 2008:
Profits are way down from the year ago quarter. MGM Grand Macau is doing a bit better and Bellagio had an unexpected uptick but generally, they're feeling the pinch as you can see in the figures.
Dave Schwartz reminds us that 10 years ago today, Bellagio opened:
Pretty amazing it has already been ten years - and the place still looks great and is always one of the top earners in town.
Mike Ch is back yet again - this time with a boots on the ground report from Planet Hollywood.
Our man on the scene braved the Palace of Earl to bring back some first hand intel.
As always, photos are here:
Also, he linked up some photos in his post as well. Enjoy after the jump.
As an aside, I'm well aware of how bad the photo gallery sucks. I've not had the time to do much about it but I actually think that might change in the near future. Stay tuned.
Here's a story from the Sun on today's reporting from MGM Mirage on their second quarter:
Some properties, such as Bellagio, didn't do as poorly as some might have guessed. Executives seemed bullish on the future.
The New York Times has a long story on Steve Wynn, Las Vegas and gaming in Sunday's paper. It doesn't break new ground for anyone familiar with Wynn or the industry, but it's interesting. The highlight for me was reading that Steve is irritated by the sound of rushing wind in the elevator shafts. The writer must not be familiar with the old DI. She makes it sound like Steve Wynn bought the homes around the property in order to build a golf course. Yes, he did, but the DI always had a golf course.
Read the story here:
The Chips Are Down in Vegas, but Steve Wynn Is Betting Big
Mike Ch is back again with his Strip Walk column. This time around, he shows us what's going on at The Mirage, Bellagio, City Center, Caesars and more.
Personally, I think that new entrance at The Mirage looks terrible - that sign is totally out of place.
I took my parents for a three-night getaway at The Mirage as a combined Mother's and Father's Day gift. This trip was ultra-mellow by my standards but just as memorable as any other. Rather than the usual play-by-play, I've broken the report down in sections. Feel free to skip around to parts that interest you.
(More after the jump)
It may have been a whole year in the works, but it felt like only yesterday that I had booked my flight as I was sitting impatiently at the airport. This was to be my last hoorah with Vegas until Encore's opening in December. Who knows if I'll hold true to that promise, but I planned this trip to the fullest knowing all too well that these rare opportunities don't come around very often.
(More after the jump...)
Thanks to reader Aaron_B for sharing this trip report from CES 2008. I know several readers will be interested to hear about and see photos of the renovated suites at Bellagio.
The photos are here:
We're back with another piece from guest author Matthew Farley. He was nice enough to write a piece previously on video table games.
This time the topic is old school service offerings and their place in today's Las Vegas, specifically as it relates to Binion's. An interesting piece and I thank him for sharing this with us. What do you guys think? Let's get a discussion going in the comments.
As for any other guest authors out there, feel free to contact me: editor AT ratevegas DOT com. We can give you some great exposure and writing is a lot of fun!
Here we are with a special Thanksgiving-eve 'Strip Walk' segment. This time around, mike_ch checks out the Frontier, Encore, City Center, Luxor, The Mirage and more. Text after the jump...
I've posted my Las Vegas Strip construction photos: Most Recent Las Vegas Photos
All sorts of great stuff including Encore's high and low rise buildings, WLV's villa atrium, Palazzo, the white tiger pit at The Mirage, City Center, P-Ho, Bellagio, and more.
The link above should show them all but you can also visit the November 2007 tag. Also, based on some feedback I plan to add new searching and sorting capabilities to the photo database soon.
On their earnings call today, MGM Mirage's Jim Murren discussed the recent problems with their guest reservations system, OPERA, that runs 7 properties for the company, mostly in Las Vegas.
Murren stated that the OPERA issue was due to a 'memory leak in the operating system'. He also stated that OPERA runs on an 'HP platform' and an 'Oracle database'. By 'HP platform', it's not clear if he means they are running on HP's PA-RISC UNIX operating system or HP hardware and something like Windows Server.
Murren claims the issue is resolved and they are fully operational but that they intend to have a backup system put into place for the future. He didn't break out the total cost of the problem for the company.
MGM Mirage posted their 2007 Q3 results - the company's net revenues are up 6% to $1.9 billion.
Some discussion on the call surrounded City Center and Dubai, Bellagio's baccarat room being closed, and the ongoing construction at former Mandalay properties.
Occupancy was up 1% to 97% and ADR hit $147, up from $140. REVPAR hit $143 from $135 a year ago.
An interesting item - gambling revenues, excluding Beau Rivage, are actually down 3% from a year ago.
Thanks to Mike for another installment of 'Strip Walk', or semi-regular feature that focuses on Las Vegas Strip construction progress.
Lots of great new info here and of course, we've got photos: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk
In Business Las Vegas did a fascinating interview with MGM Mirage President and COO Jim Murren last week. It is a highly recommended read that gives great perspective into the thinking that has driven recent deals with Kerzner, Dubai World and others.
It's clear that Terry Lanni and Jim Murren 'get it' when it comes to the biz side of the gaming industry - they are re-defining the standard practices that have been common knowledge in the industry. Business as usual? Not anymore.
From partnering with interesting companies to big ambitious projects like City Center in Las Vegas, they are bringing techniques that have worked well in the general hospitality industry to gaming and it seems to be paying off in spades.
Personally, I'd love to do an interview with Murren but MGM MIRAGE sometimes looks down on Internet media, even those of us with larger numbers than some print publications. I'm hoping one of these days these companies will wake up to that. They're not as bad as some companies but they could do better in this department.
A couple of quick hits today:
Steve Wynn is the guest on this week's, The Strip Podcast. He talks about Macau, nightclubs, and more. According to Wynn, Tryst is the top netting nightclub in town and Tao is fiddling with their numbers a bit. The interview is interesting and features a fun example of Wynn's office at work. Steve's thesis on why spending is up is sort of interesting.
Second up, thanks to Detroit, this link to an article from Robin Leach - will the nightclub boom continue.
Liz Benston interviews Bobby Baldwin in the LV Sun. He answers some of the questions we asked during our recent call-in podcast.
"He typically shuns publicity but was keen to address rumors that he might be leaving MGM Mirage - perhaps to join his old boss - after a management reshuffle. Baldwin would have been a natural choice for operations chief at MGM Mirage, a job that went to finance chief and CityCenter's chief idea man Jim Murren. Baldwin says he is impressed by Wynn's growth in Las Vegas and Macau but he's satisfied and challenged at MGM Mirage, at least for now.
The poker whiz from Oklahoma will retain control of CityCenter and the two adjacent resorts, Bellagio and Monte Carlo, while becoming chief visionary in planning projects along the Strip and beyond."
Our second time using Talkshoe.com and it was a lot of fun. Regular readers like Detroit1051, Mike E, Brian Fey, mike_ch and BarbaryKevin were all in on the action.
We covered a broad range of issues, from Cotai, Harrah's, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Palazzo, Encore, IGT and a lot more.
During the show we talked about Chuck's Macau diary. That link is here: http://www.macautripping.com
Okay, our next live podcast will be on this coming Sunday, the 16th at 7pm PT / 10pm ET.
We will be doing the show live with audience participation encouraged. We did this last time and it was fun... Using a system call TalkShoe, listeners can call in and be on the 'air', just like a radio talk show.
All the details to get on will be posted here on Sunday before the show.
It's gonna be fun - there's always lots going on in Las Vegas. I'll talk about my recent one day trip and I have a special report from a friend who experienced 'VMA Weekend' first hand.
Show Completed: We had a great time with a lively discussion on a bunch of topics. The show will be posted soon. Stay tuned for the next one, probably on another Sunday evening.
We're back with another Strip Walk! This was written almost a week ago and this time around you'll get Mike's comments but a few of my own sprinkled in - I was in Vegas for one night last week and took some of my own photos as well.
As always, the photos are here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk
Commentary after the jump...
MGM Mirage made a few changes in the executive suite which they announced today.
First off, the extremely capable Jim Murren has been promoted to President and COO of the company (from President, CFO, and Treasurer). Murren came from Wall Street and is probably the most responsible for MGM Mirage being a model for other gaming companies to follow, especially when talking about reporting. Murren will also oversee all properties except for those that are part of the 'City Center Campus'.
Bobby Baldwin has been moved into a new position - Chief Design and Construction Officer. He'll oversee all new construction and capital improvements in the US. He also will oversee the 'City Center Campus', which includes City Center, Monte Carlo and Bellagio.
Lastly, Dan D'Arrigo has been promoted to EVP and CFO.
All of these positions report to Terri Lanni, the company's Chairman and CEO. Additionally, John Redmond, who had been running the properties formerly in the MGM family, including MGM Grand and NYNY has resigned as planned.
Unrelated, Harrah's has scheduled an announcement for tomorrow regarding entertainment changes at their resorts in Las Vegas.
Shortly after my solo trip last March, my friend Jeff and I started talking about what we could do to celebrate his graduation. We decided to go to Vegas (no surprise there) around his birthday to kill two birds with one stone...
(Continue reading after the jump)
So, there's another story here on the site that was posted recently about Fontana closing... Well, we've learned that the closing is NOT for good, just for the balance of the year. It will be used for private gaming as other parts of the casino are remodeled... Look for Fontana to return in December 2007.
When it DOES re-open, there will no longer be food served due to the genius of the NV Clean Air Act.
I was just going to update the other story but a few other sites picked up on this and I wanted to make sure they got the updated info as well.
So - that's the story and I'm 100% confident in the sourcing on this one.
I have confirmed reports that Bellagio is closing its Fontana Lounge, a small live music/dancing venue overlooking the lake that's been there since the hotel opened in 1998.
Casinos change amenities all the time but this closing is notable because it offered lounge music and a low-key dance environment for slightly older customers, important as most all nightlife is focused on younger patrons and loud, club music.
MGM Mirage hasn't finalized plans for the space, though previously there have been poker tournaments held there and clearly it could be a prime restaurant spot.
Does anyone know of any good alternatives?
Update: See this story for more: http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2007/06/bellagios_fonta.html
The 6/20/07 WSJ reports that Kerkorian will withdraw his plans to take over Bellagio and CityCenter. Since the original announcement, MGM's share price is up 37%.
Was this only a ploy by Kerkorian and MGM to get the stock moving? Regardless, imo, MGM is still in play to be taken private.
An announcement may also be made today regarding a joint-venture between MGM and Kerzner Inetrnational to develop a multi-billion dollar casino resort on the 40 acres at the Strip and Sahara.
Subscribers to the WSJ can read the story at:
Kerkorian's MGM Plans in Doubt
Roger Thomas, Executive Vice President of Design for Wynn Design and Development, is among Architectural Digest's 100--a list of some of the world's most influential designers.
AD delves deep into his fascinating life and personal residence:
Also, an exclusive feature on Wynn's six Apartment (Atrium) Villas:
Be sure to view the slideshows for both articles (and what should be the fourth slide in the latter article here).
It's refreshing to read articles such as these that focus first and foremost on interior design and the specific companies Wynn D&D commissions for their custom furnishings.
The Mansion has definitely been dethroned for this level of accommodation. We can only wait and see what Palazzo, CityCenter, and Encore have in store.
Thanks to mike_ch who is back with another Las Vegas Strip development/construction update.
The photos are here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/mikech
Keep reading after the jump!
Technorati Tags: bellagio, casino design, condos, gaming industry, las vegas, lasvegas, lasvegassands, luxor, mandalay bay, mgm mirage, palazzo, photography, planet hollywood, project citycenter, trip report, vegas, vegas photos, venetian, wynn, wynnlasvegas
From Wall Street Journal
May 21, 2007 4:39 p.m. EDT
Tracinda to Enter Into Talks
With MGM to Acquire Bellagio
By DENISE JIA
May 21, 2007 4:39 p.m.
Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. announced Monday that it intends to enter into negotiations with MGM Mirage to purchase MGM's Bellagio Hotel and Casino and City Center properties.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tracinda said it also wishes to pursue strategic alternatives with respect to its investment in the world's second-largest casino operator, which may include financial restructuring transactions involving all or a substantial portion of the remainder of the company.
Tracinda currently owns 158.8 million shares, or a 56% stake in the Las Vegas-based company, according to the SEC filing.
Tracinda said it has made no decision with respect to any such restructuring transactions and reserves the right not to engage in or approve any transaction.
Shares of the company closed Monday at $62.89.
Updated by Hunter / Tuesday Evening: In an interview with Steve Friess, Bill Weidner from Las Vegas Sands indicated that his company might be interested in The Mirage and Treasure Island if MGM Mirage's properties were to be sold off individually.
Ok - this is getting a bit out of hand. Now, Weidner has actually expressed interest in those two properties in the past. I don't have a link but when the MGM/Mandalay deal was going through, everyone wondered if the FTC would require an asset sale to complete the purchase (they did not in the end). It was at that time he mentioned that LVS would be interested in buying The Mirage and/or TI to include with their portfolio. We know how that story ended.
Of course LVS is interested in The Mirage and TI - and not just a close approximation - these are places that perform very well and have a long established record. I was at The Mirage earlier today for dinner and despite it being a Tuesday, it was quite busy and doing well with occupancy. LVS would do well to score either property but it is so extremely unlikely that there's no point discussing it. Kerkorian's motivations are unknown but it seems more likely that instead of trying to raise cash through selling properties, he's either making a first step toward an LBO for MGM Mirage or it is an attempt to impose a valuation on the company that is closer in line to what he can see as MGM Mirage's rightful place in the market. The latter would be a particularly shrewd move and U'I'm sure we we will discuss these motivations more as we learn more.
Thanks to reader Aaron_B for providing this write up and photos from his recent trip to Bellagio.
His report follows after the jump and the photos, available at the link below, show off some of the recent construction work. You'll also see some comments on the new car rental facility at LAS.
Quick note on the balustrade damage: I remember seeing some of that way back in May 1999, just after opening. I looked out my window and was surprised that it was already cracked.
MGM Mirage reports Q12007 results this morning and despite posting some strong numbers that were solid gains, they didn't meet analyst consensus estimates for net income, mostly from lower than expected Las Vegas Strip gaming revenues.
Mississippi with Beau Rivage had a strong surge in activity as the property continues to come back from Katrina. Beyond that, Strip REVPAR jumped 9% and EBITDA was up as well.
I like to look at occupancy, ADR and REVPAR more than the revenue figures to get a feel for the real property performance and there was some growth there as well. The blended ADR for the Strip was $169 for the quarter and REVPAR at $162 with occupancy of 96%.
Here's the press release.
The New York Times has an interesting article that covers the upcoming growth spurt in Las Vegas. A lot of general info for a mass audience but I did think the quote from Wynn indicating that this was the 'most over the top' expansion so far was interesting.
Is this a bigger game changer than milestones like the International, MGM Grand #1, The Mirage, and then Bellagio?
Here comes mike_ch's Las Vegas construction update April 2007. This one covers Paris, Planet Hollywood/Aladdin, Bellagio, City Center, NYNY, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay and Luxor.
Thanks again to him for providing this stuff.
Photos are located here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent
There are also some new videos, located here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/videos
Technorati Tags: aladdin, bellagio, casino design, gaming industry, harrahs, las vegas, lasvegas, luxor, mandalay bay, mgm mirage, planet hollywood, project citycenter, trip report, vegas, vegas photos, video
Work got out a little early and I was on my way taking my sweet time to the airport. I had gotten a full eight hours of rest the night before and hardly any butterflies were flapping in my stomach.
Why was I not suffering the usual symptoms of pre-Vegas? Maybe because I knew it would be nearly impossible to top my last trip where I spent time in one of Wynn�s Fairway Villas with friends of nearly 20 years. What I did come to realize during this quick getaway, however, is that a solo trip where you meet others in town at your own leisure is something special in and of itself and a different kind of fun.
(More after the jump...)
Another construction update from mike_ch. This one covers Paris, Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon, The Venetian, Encore, Palazzo, Stardust (RIP), Frontier, Bellagio, Planet Aladdin, and Luxor.
Thanks again to him for providing this stuff.
Photos are located here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent
Also, we've got new VIDEOS! You can watch them here (goes from most recent to older): http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/videos
I'll be in Vegas this weekend to see Spamalot, take some photos, tour the CityCenter sales pavilion and attend wedding (not in that order).
Thanks again to Mike_ch who is kind enough to share his updates and thoughts on what's going on down on the Las Vegas Strip.
This one covers the Stardust, Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, The Venetian, Palazzo, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, New York New York, Planet Aladdin, and more.
Photos are located here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/mikech
Keep reading after the jump for the report.
Technorati Tags: aladdin, bellagio, boyd, caesars, casino design, gaming industry, harrahs, las vegas, lasvegas, lasvegassands, luxor, mandalay bay, mgm mirage, mirage, palazzo, photography, planet hollywood, project citycenter, stardust, vegas, vegas photos, venetian, wynn, wynnlasvegas
Thanks to reader Aaron_B for this well written trip report from Bellagio. This is his first contribution so let's give him a warm welcome.
Also, if there's anyone else out there that would like to share a report, please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I cannot guarantee that it will be published but I will guarantee to read it and get back to you. I'm especially interested in reports from hotels that we don't cover as often (i.e. not Wynn Las Vegas, The Mirage, Bellagio, etc...) but that doesn't mean you cannot submit one from the above.
Some photos are also posted:
The report continues after the jump. Enjoy!
I'm finally back with another podcast! This time around I'm talking about my recent trip to Bellagio (which includes meeting up with several readers/listeners and author Dave Schwartz) as well as the big news of the day - Harrah's going private! On top of that I catch up with a few news stories from the last two weeks. Enjoy!!
Here is the link to the photos mentioned in the podcast: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent
A reminder - feel free to call in and leave us a message about anything Las Vegas or Web site related. The call in number is: 702-508-4232.
Technorati Tags: bellagio, boyd, caesars, casino design, gaming industry, harrahs, las vegas, mgm mirage, photography, podcast, project citycenter, ratevegas.com, station, the beatles, vegas photos, wynn, wynnlasvegas
We checked into Bellagio earlier today after an almost three year lapse since my last stay. While a full trip report and a podcast will follow, I can say right now that I have been very impressed with the personalized, attentive service that I've seen since we arrived.
Not only did I get a call from the concierge before we arrived but since then they have been able to accommodate several requests thrown their way. Everyone has been extremely pleasant and our Spa Tower room is very nicely decorated and includes a great view.
Generally, I am very, very impressed so far. Coming in, my wife was saying that she wished we were at Wynn Las Vegas but after a few hours here, she's lost all sense of regret.
We've got some friends coming in later tonight (they are at the Barbary Coast) and I've got a few meetings setup over the next few days which I am looking forward to, even if there were a few folks that weren't able to make it. This is shaping up to be a fun weekend. I'm certainly enjoying myself... Signing off from Bellagio - Hunter.
I checked out of a Bellagio Suite in the main tower this morning and have just unpacked in a Wynn Parlor Suite. I tried to start a report early this morning, but Bellagio's internet service was down all night and still wasn't up at 9 AM. I'll offer a few opinions now and then add comments later. After all, I want to enjoy Wynn.
This will not be a trip report, but random thoughts start after the jump.
Roll The Bones is a new book by Dr. David Schwartz, the director of the Center for Gambling Studies at UNLV. His blog, DieIsCast.com is a great source for gambling information and news along with the ever-popular casino carpet gallery.
Dave has written several gambling related books in the past, including Suburban Xanadu, a study of the casino resort's evolution (this book features an in-depth look at Martin Stern, Jr., who's work we have mentioned several times in the past here on this site) and Cutting The Wire, a look at the Wire Act and Internet gambling.
You can buy this book here (and it supports this site in a small way): Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling
Keep reading after the jump...
This podcast includes some audio clips from my recent trip to Las Vegas. I talk about construction on Encore, CityCenter, Palazzo, Aladdin and more. Also, some special guests including Tim and Michelle from Five Hundy By Midnight and loyal contributor Mike E. We listen to a few messages from listeners (thanks for the theme song!) and even find some time to talk Vegas news.
Here is the link to the photos mentioned in the podcast: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent
A reminder - feel free to call in and leave us a message about anything Las Vegas or Web site related. The call in number is: 702-508-4232.
Technorati Tags: bellagio, casino design, gaming industry, las vegas, lasvegas, lasvegassands, mgm mirage, mirage, palazzo, photography, planet hollywood, podcast, project citycenter, ratevegas.com, vegas, vegas photos, venetian, wynn, wynnlasvegas
I had a nice two-night trip with the parents recently. Rather than give a full play-by-play as I usually do, I just thought I�d throw out some thoughts, highlights, and even some not-so-pleasant times.
I was over at Bellagio this trip. After eight stays at Wynn and having not stayed at Bellagio in six years, I was definitely due to give Wynn�s closest competitor another shot. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I�ll be making natural comparisons to Wynn LV here and there. In short, Bellagio impressed me in ways I had forgotten, but Wynn will remain my home.
(more after the jump)
I spent some time in Las Vegas this weekend (actually, a little more time than I had planned) and I wanted to report on my trip.
First off, I have posted construction photos of Encore, City Center, Bellagio renovations, Aladdin/Planet Hollywood, The Mirage (Japonais and Revolution), The Palazzo, and the pit that will become the Cosmopolitan.
I got to meet with a few readers/listeners, fellow podcasters and friends. I had a short chat with Elaine Wynn who is a real class act.
The photos are posted at this link, plus they are also in their respective categories:
More after the jump...
Technorati Tags: bellagio, caesars, casino design, gaming industry, las vegas, lasvegas, mgm mirage, mirage, palazzo, palms, photography, planet hollywood, project citycenter, treasure island, trip report, vegas, vegas photos, venetian, wynn, wynnlasvegas
This time around we spend most of the podcast talking about Las Vegas nightclubs, specifically which ones are popular right now, what it takes to get in, all about 'bottle service' and other useful info for those folks that are interested in the clubs but maybe haven't yet taken the plunge.
I was lucky enough to get Mike E. on the show to fill in the holes in my knowledge - while I have visited a few of these places, they really aren't 100% my thing. Mike did great and I wanted to thank him again for helping out.
Ok, I hope you guys enjoy the podcast, this one is another long one at just about one hour.
A reminder - feel free to call in and leave us a message about anything Las Vegas or Web site related. The call in number is: 702-508-4232.
This was mentioned in the comments but this is a big deal so I'm doing a full story.
There are no other Mobil 5-Star hotels in Las Vegas and only two restaurants (Alex and Robuchon).
Since this is sure to be controversial with our readers, let the arguing begin! It should be noted that there were several 4-star ratings, including Bellagio, the remainder of Wynn Las Vegas, the Four Seasons, The Venetian, and the Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas.
The Sun's Take:
Thanks to mike_ch for another set of construction updates from the field!
This time around we get info on Encore, Aladdin/Planet Hollywood, Palazzo, Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Treasure Island and the last day of the Stardust!
Thanks again to Mike for providing this stuff.
The photos are up in their respective categories but to see all recent photos:
Regarding his question below about The Mirage, they have partnered with the Los Angeles Lakers to be their official Las Vegas hotel. Oh, and by the way Mike, that picture of Bellagio's front desk office - I've always thought that was a great space. Nice shot.
Okay, Mike's update is after the jump.
Technorati Tags: aladdin, bellagio, boyd, casino design, echelon, gaming industry, las vegas, mgm grand, mgm mirage, mirage, palazzo, photography, planet hollywood, stardust, treasure island, vegas, vegas photos, venetian, wynn, wynnlasvegas
AAA announced its Five-Diamond awards for Nevada. I'm sure there will be differing reactions here to the addition of the 5th hotel to the list!
2007 FIVE-DIAMOND LODGINGS IN NEVADA
1. The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas, Henderson (fourth year)
2. Bellagio, Las Vegas (sixth year)
3. Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas (eighth year)
4. Skylofts at the MGM Grand (first year)
5. Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas (first year)
2007 FIVE-DIAMOND RESTAURANTS IN NEVADA
1. Alex, Wynn Las Vegas (second year)
2. Jo�l Robuchon at The Mansion, MGM Grand (first year)
3. Le Cirque, Bellagio (fourth year)
4. Picasso, Bellagio (sixth year)
AAA Five-Diamond Awards for 2007
Hey, we're back with the latest episode of the Worst Las Vegas Podcast - #7.
We talk about the following topics:
* Atlantic City / Trump + Wynn - We talk about what kind of impact a Trump+Wynn partnership might have on Atlantic City and what might possible.
* Construction Update - Thanks to 'mike_ch' for filling us in. This report covers spots like Bellagio's casino upgrades, Palazzo, Wynn's Encore and more. We talk about the article on the blog that is available here:
* What's Changed Since 2004 & Poker in Las Vegas - We talk about what it's like if you haven't visited in a couple of years plus what it is like if you have never sat down at a poker table in Las Vegas, just coming from an online poker environment.
This was a lot of fun to put together and if you're considering playing poker in Vegas, I think this is a must-listen for you. Thanks again to Phil for participating.
You guys have probably seen Mike's construction updates in the past. Well, we're turning them into a front page story as they are available... Thanks to Mike from all of us for providing this info and taking time out of his day to do this.
The body is after the jump but he's covering the following:
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore
Photos are linked and are posted to the RateVegas.com galleries. The most recent RV photos can always be found here:
I posted the second episode of the "Worst Las Vegas Podcast". Yes, it's two podcasts in a week. That's the way this thing is gonna be... Anyway, in this episode I talk about the Playboy Club at the Palms, a special talk with my friend Kevin on the Barbary Coast, and finally, a re-cap on my Bellagio tour from June.
I hope you enjoy, it's getting cheesier each time.
To listen, put the podcast feed into iTunes (copy and paste this into the podcast option in the Advanced menu):
BTW, Kevin's Web site is: http://www.gotkevin.com
I attended a casino function at Bellagio last week. A few notes I made appear after the break.
Thanks to reader John Hall for contributing another piece, this time the focus on Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. I can't say how much I appreciate contributions from you guys, the loyal readers. If you want to send something in, send it to: email@example.com
Ok, what do we have here? Well, as regular readers know, we have spent an awful lot of time looking at Steve Wynn properties, and Wynn Las Vegas over all of them. Well, before there was WLV there was Bellagio and it is still a literal cash factory on the Strip. After touring the back of house facilities, I have a renewed appreciation for the property - it's really a work of art in its own way.
Thanks to one of my readers who, for now, will remain anonymous, I was able to take a tour of the back of house areas at Bellagio.
This includes service kitchens for the restaurants, lake pump equipment, soda and liquor distribution, uniform cleaning and control, security, IT and much, much more.
I even saw the room where they put the bad people before Metro grabs 'em!
All that plus the VIP elevators and villa areas (sadly not the villas themselves) and other guest areas.
I left with am impression that Bellagio is a one of a kind masterpiece. If you want to read this very long entry, continue on after the jump.
So, I'm in Vegas checking out what is new and different and instead of just writing a simple note I decided to record audio as I walked through the properties... So, I guess this is the first Two Way Hard Three 'podcast'. I don't plan on podcasting on any kind of regular basis, this is a convenience thing. It's not short at over 30 minutes.
Anyway, if you don't like to hear people complaining about stuff, this isn't the podcast for you. I listened back and a lot of it is negative - I like talking about how people are screwing up... You have been warned.
NOTE: I recorded this late, late Friday night. I just listened to it again (and edited a bit). It's a little crazy sounding at times, very stream of consciousness. I also sound a little tipsy (never!). Hopefully I won't scare anyone off... Enjoy. I am off to a top secret meeting. Will report back when I have something to report.
Our podcasts are available via the RateVegas.com podcast RSS feed: http://www.ratevegas.com/feed/podcast
Technorati Tags: aladdin, bellagio, broadway, caesars, casino design, cirque du soleil, entertainment, gaming industry, harrahs, las vegas, mgm mirage, mirage, podcast, project citycenter, trip report, vegas, web sites, wynn, wynnlasvegas
I discovered this excellent and informative KNPR interview with Wynn Design and Development Executive Vice President Roger Thomas. This interior design guru is responsible for all interiors at Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. Listening to this interview it is clear that nothing there happened by accident. Fascinating interview.
For those that don't listen regularly, KNPR's State of Nevada is a great insight into all things Las Vegas.
Update: I had no idea that Roger Thomas is the son of E. Parry Thomas, the famous Las Vegas banker.
Today is a quarterly reporting day for MGM MIRAGE and report they did... Profits up 30%. They claim $135 million in savings from the combined MGM/Mandalay properties. I'll be listening to the conference call and updating this story as soon as I can - Windows Media Player is not cooperating at all.
Net revenues for the quarter were $1.9B and 'same-store' revenues were $1.2B, up 4% (they did 4% better even without the MBG acquisition). Occupancy stands at 97% (!) and the ADR (average daily rate, key indicator in hotel/leisure reporting) was $181 (up $5 from last year). REVPAR (revenue per available room - another key metric) was also up $5 to $175.
Quickly reading some of the detail, it looks like they wrote off about $24 million related to the Bellagio/Monte Carlo tram. This sounds like the tram is back out of service to accommodate CityCenter development. Eventually CityCenter will link the properties.
$380 million was spent on capital improvements, including CityCenter, The Mirage, Beau Rivage, and MGM Grand Detroit.
The Mirage will be the site of a new ultra lounge called 'Revolution', based on the Beatles and opening in the fourth quarter.
Supposedly the new Mirage restaurants are doing great and Japonais is scheduled to open in August.
CityCenter design for the main hotel is complete and excavation is underway. Foundations will be poured in about a month.
The Boardwalk demolition will take place on May 9th.
The new Bellagio parking garage (employees) is going to open in July.
CityCenter will have a sales center between Monte Carlo and NYNY and also 'discovery centers' in the lobbies of Bellagio and The Mirage.
Beau Rivage construction is progressing. Apparently the restaurants will be completely new, none of the old concepts are being rebuilt.
A few weeks back we announced a new interview series here on the site and our first subject we asked was DeRuyter Butler, head of architecture for Wynn Design and Development. Mr. Butler was gracious enough to accept and we began gathering questions.
The interview questions came from the readers. We then whittled them down to what we felt was a good mix of questions covering multiple topics and sent them off.
The answers to the various questions that got passed on are after the jump. Questions are in bold and his responses follow. An apology if your question didn't make the cut, there were quite a few great questions and we had to limit the number to keep this reasonable.
I think Mr. Butler's detailed answers will thrill anyone interested in Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and resort design in general. We're lucky to start our interview series with such an interesting subject.
Part III: Bellagio
Bellagio was the last stop on this unusually long trip to Las Vegas. It was interesting to stay at both Wynn and Bellagio on the same trip and compare my impressions of each. Until Wynn opened in April, Bellagio had been my property of choice since opening day in October, 1998. It still has much going for it.
A couple of different stories here.
First off, some more detail on the Landry's deal to buy the Nugget. We find out that Poster and Breitling made off like bandits:
Second, some tidbits from MGM MIRAGE:
About a year ago I was contacted by the Jerde Partnership, one of the architects that worked on Bellagio for Steve Wynn. They had seen some photos that I had online and were looking for permission to re-print them. In return I asked to see the sketches, pictures and other materials they developed for Mirage Resorts.
Keep Reading For More...
We went for a last minute trip to Las Vegas this past weekend and I decided to go out and take some photos to keep my friendly readers up to date.
The good stuff - October 2005 Photos - The Mirage, Wynn, Bellagio and More (My RateVegas photo gallery still has some issues - Flickr for now)...
Read more after the jump...
According to a new poll, Bellagio is the favorite resort of many Las Vegas visitors.
We always like to let folks know about other Las Vegas sites that we're into.
This site shows current and upcoming construction, along with some educated guesses about stuff like Encore at Wynn and Project City Center.
Anyone interested in Las Vegas construction should be checking this site on a regular basis.
Some readers may know that part of our parent site, RateVegas.com, is a 'Reader Question' area where our guests can write in and ask their vacation questions for me to answer.
Over the course of the last five years we've answered thousands of these important queries, on topics from luxury to Luxor and hot dogs to hot streaks. Some questions are bizarre, others seem to be repeated weekly. All are a good read.
In this post I'll chronicle some of the more interesting items. If you want to read all of the questions completely uncensored, you can also head over to RateVegas.com Reader Questions and get the goods for yourself (or submit your own). I will probably make this a semi-regular column here on the blog.
The answers posted are the one I originally wrote when the question was asked. Keep reading after the jump.
California here we come... right back where we started from... I�m on the runway heading back home from Philadelphia. Man, it was cold. I can�t wait to get home. Did you know that you can unlock the restroom on an Airbus A320 by adjusting a latch that is located behind the �Lavatory� sign on the bathroom door? At least on this United Airbus. The flight crew told me not to tell anybody... Whoops...
Bellagio was Steve Wynn�s ultimate design for a mega-luxury supercasino. It was built as Mirage++, clearly based on the same design principles but with higher quality everything and the benefit of lessons learned.
Up until he left the company in 2000, his fingerprints were all over the hotel. The in-house video and announcements were recorded by a woman that spoke with an Italian accent, replaced soon after he left with a native English speaker... I kinda liked �Bellaccio� as the pronunciation on the video tour! His meticulous attention to detail was unmistakable.
After Steve left, the hotel continued under the stewardship of his right hand man, Bobby Baldwin (at least until recently - Bill McBeath of The Mirage is the new president of Bellagio while Baldwin is his boss as the head of Mirage Resorts). Baldwin recognized a good operation and didn�t stir things up too much. Until December�s Spa Tower opening, the biggest changes were the addition of a nightclub (Light), replacing the Allegro Lounge with Caramel and swapping out the Sam�s/Nectar/FIX restaurant space to come up with something that worked.
Anyway, since Las Vegas� (currently) most high-profile casino has undergone some changes, we want to take a look and see if Bellagio is still Bellagio.
Dining: FIX and Sensi - If you compare Bellagio circa 2000 to today, we have two new restaurants on the scene. Forget that there have been intermediaries, those joints failed miserably. Finally, the hotel has winners with two new spots and since I�ve tried both, I feel qualified to comment. Each has tasty food and attentive service. Neither is inexpensive, so don�t look for these restaurants to fill that void at this hotel. Since most of the customers at Bellagio are less worried about the tab, I think both joints are a good fit. When dining at FIX, try the Bobby Baldwin Sliders, at Sensi, the corn soup and the lamb are both �don�t miss� items.
Guestroom Renovations - Turn the clock back to late 2003/early 2004. Management saw the upcoming Spa Tower looming and were worried that guests would feel that one set of rooms were preferable to the other, based on amenities and the age of the furnishings, etc... So the decision was made to renovate the Bellagio Tower rooms (also notice that Mirage Resorts guestrooms are almost all on a five year refurb schedule: 1998-2003 at Bellagio, 1992-1997 at TI and 1998-2003 at Mirage). The plan was to use the new designs for the Spa Tower rooms as the new standard in the Bellagio Tower. This meant a bit more marble in the entryways, mechanical curtains in all guestrooms (formerly restricted to suites), along with new furniture and color schemes. Along with these timely upgrades was a change we don�t love - room key cards instead of metal keys. We�ll discuss this below...
Casino Color and Design Choices - If you take a close look at the casino carpet and wall coverings, you�ll notice there are several test patterns being checked in the casino. It is most noticeable in the area near the restaurant Jasmine. The new patterns feature a lot less color and we�re just not sure if we like them. They are also featured heavily in the Spa Tower public areas. There is a chance they won�t be rolled out on the floor but they�ve been in place for months. I�ve heard rumors that Donna Baldwin, Bobby�s wife, is responsible for these changes. I don�t have evidence to back that up but that�s my guess based on a few stories I�ve heard.
Casino Floor With Massive Signage - Under the Wynn Doctrine, Bellagio�s slot machines generally didn�t have large attached signage with flashing lights, at least not many that were breaking from the customized style that IGT and Bally Gaming designed for the hotel. These days the slots are done up just like they are in any other casino and while there isn�t anything particularly �wrong� with that, it is certainly worth mentioning as this changes sight lines in the casino.
Porte Cochere Changes - So far I haven�t gotten the details confirmed by the hotel but I do know that the outside bell desk and main entrance are currently being refurbished. Rumor claims this includes a small waterfall and other improvements. We�ll share updated information as we have it. I can�t imagine this being too �bad� but we�ll see.
Brain Drain (Is Everyone Heading Back to Wynn?) - It�s no mystery that Wynn Las Vegas has �poached� many key employees from Mirage Resorts. Let�s get serious. There are only so many capable managers and line workers and they want to work for Steve - that�s where the true loyalty is. Also, based on my conversations with employees at MGM MIRAGE properties, some are a bit dismayed at the changes that have occurred and are looking for a new start. There is no denying that some top MGM MIRAGE folks, many that work at Bellagio, are heading for Wynn Las Vegas when employee training starts this month.
What Happened to the Keys? - When Wynn built The Mirage, he decided to use magnetic metal keys instead of the plastic key cards that are used in most large hotels. When Bellagio opened, it too used the metal magnetic keys. It is a nice touch that differentiates the hotel and makes an impression on the guest. Well, with the new Spa Tower and the Bellagio Tower remodel, the guestrooms now use traditional plastic key cards while the suites still use the metal keys. I think that�s a shame and I�m not sure why management decided to make the change.
The bottom line is that Bellagio is still very much the hotel that Steve built. While some changes have been made, the spirit of service remains. It�s a nearly 4,000 room hotel that is run like a boutique and quality remains high. Clearly they are concerned about their high end business and employees being poached by Wynn Las Vegas but that�s only natural. Not everyone will jump ship and both hotels will thrive. The competition from Wynn will push Bellagio to keep quality high.
Thoughts? Share your comments below.
Visit our Bellagio photos at Flickr: