Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

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September 3, 2012

Is the Strip Finished?

Posted by daveschwartz

Courtesy of Detroit1051, that's what this 40-year resident thinks. Here's his description of a recent trip to the heart of Nevada's economic engine (after the jump):


July 16, 2012

Venetian Launches App w/ Indoor Navigation

Posted by Hunter

Smartphones like the iPhone and Android devices revolutionized personal navigation with GPS and Google Maps, making it easy to navigate to anywhere you want to go. The one big omission? Indoor support.

GPS, the technology used to pinpoint your location on the globe, requires line-of-sight to satellites in the sky. It doesn't work indoors and even the tall skyscrapers in large metros can cause problems for reception. To combat this, phone designers have used other technologies like Wi-Fi radios to triangulate indoors. Typically, this gives a low level of precision, far less accurate than GPS.

Google, a constant pioneer in mapping technology, started working in earnest on indoor maps this past January, using this technology. With a heavy mesh of Wi-Fi base stations inside a building, the system can, reasonably accurately, determine your location just like it would with GPS. A preview of that support is available on Android but it's not widely deployed and not available on iOS as of yet.

This morning, The Venetian announced a new version of their iOS and Android app that includes similar technology to provide indoor mapping and navigation for people wandering around the MEGACENTER complex. I haven't tested it yet myself but it looks pretty great... or at least the idea is great, if it works.

This is an important moment. Eventually, indoor mapping will be something that users come to expect but for now, it's an 'oh wow' feature as people realize they never have to wonder how to get to the restaurant for dinner again.

I'm looking forward to a lot more of this sort of thing and the minute that it's practical for Vegas Mate, expect to hear more about the details.


Happy Memorial Day to all y'all out there. I've got a little bit of hot info for those of you taking the day off to relax.

Steve Wynn, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts and recent Cotai land grantee went on the record with Macau Business magazine to talk in detail about the project and also a little bit about Las Vegas. Some tidbits:

- The property will cost about $3.5 billion to build.
- Construction starts in June.
- The land is setup for a single hotel - future expansion will be limited to smaller additions.
- The project includes a 300 meter (almost 1000 feet) long lake. It will be bigger than Bellagio's lake and feature more advanced water fountains that cost about $90 million to build.
- The hotel is in an 'X' shape with maximum 45 meter distances to guest rooms.
- Like Encore Macau, it's all petite suites and larger.
- It will include villas with outdoor pools like we've seen in Las Vegas.
- 2,000 rooms.
- Around 40 retail shops.
- No 'Alex' - he's sold on the idea that people like 'fun' dining and don't want to sit for ages and have Michelin Star food.
- The property will open at once. "We don't do phases"

When it comes to Las Vegas:

- He talks about Climax as if it's still happening in Vegas, though he does not say where. This is a pretty recent interview that seems to have been given after we had heard that the Climax club planned for the Alex space was scuttled due to soundproofing problems.
- Apparently a new show is being developed for Las Vegas that could also work at the Cotai property. New show? Interesting. Displacing Le Reve? Something permanent for the Encore Theater? Miss Spectacular re-born?

Anyway, lots of info here and while some of it was already public, nice to have a single source.


February 23, 2012

Vegas Gang #74 - February 23rd, 2012

Posted by Hunter

Episode #74 is up!

Listen here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2012/02/vegas-gang-74-february-23rd-2012/

This time on the show:

- Wynn vs. Okada
- Echelon
- MGM Results and CityCenter's Flaws
- Dr. Dave's Banging Week

** Sure Bets **

Chuck - Delancy Street Foundation Moving Team
Dr. Dave - KISS $500 VIP Ticket to Golf
Hunter - Ollo Clip


I'm very happy today to have a post from a guest writer, Paolo Mello.

Many of you will undoubtedly know Paolo from Twitter, where he posts as @paolomello. You'll also find him contributing to comment threads here and at VegasTripping.com where his username is 'middleclassbuzz'.

Paolo is a Nevada native and Vegas expert, currently living in New York City. In this excellent piece, Paolo muses on the future of leadership at Las Vegas gaming companies.

You'll find his text after the jump - enjoy!


February 3, 2012

Monte Carlo iPad App Brings Panoramic 3D Tours

Posted by Hunter

Monte Carlo has introduced a new iPad app, featuring 3d-ish walk-throughs of parts of the property.

If you ever used the flawed-but-ahead-of-its-time Quicktime VR, you have a sense of how this works. Pick a part of the facility and you have a finger-pannable panorama, giving a good feeling about how the place looks and feels.

Tour the rooms, restaurants, casino, spa, meeting rooms and even Hotel32. All of the major areas are represented here.

The iPad-only app weighs in at a relativey hefty 151MB and includes a few extras like integration with Google Maps and their various social media pages.

Overall, the app is a bit clumsy and feels more like a technology demo than a finished product: the pseudo-slot interface certainly doesn't help. That said, there's something about these realistic panoramas that really make you feel like you are there.

I give Monte Carlo points for doing something different and blazing a new trail, especially when it comes to building apps on smartphones and tablets.

More of this kind of innovation, please.

[Thanks to Dave for pointing this out.]


January 10, 2012

The Property Host

Posted by Hunter

Between gambling, food, booze and rooms, I spend a lot of money in Vegas casinos every year and yet I've never had a host that I could call to reward me for my loyalty. As a result, I haven't been shown much... and hey, as a 'journologger' (love making up terms), maybe I shouldn't be seeking that out anyway. I'm not too worried about myself but I definitely see a weakness here. Lets look more closely.

Over the past decade and especially since the Great Recession, we've seen some of the historical institutions of the casino industry remake themselves. These days, gaming revenue makes up only 39% of the average total, a shift from 15 years ago when it was closer to 58%.

What should be the next sacred cow to fall? The casino host.

Ok, maybe 'fall' is not the right way to look at it - how about transform instead? There was a time when the goal of these sales-oriented-sometimes-mercenary employees was simply to get you on property to sit at a slot machine or hit a dice table, plied by free drinks and a couple of comps to the coffee shop. At this point, that's old-style thinking.

Capturing every ounce of revenue from both gaming and non-casino operations should be the goal of every property GM or president. Why is it then that loyalty programs are still mostly gambling centric? How about a new class of 'property hosts', rewarding recurring visitors, not just to the penny slots but to the suites as well? The current system is a relic of a previous age.

Along with revenue diversification should come promotional and loyalty diversitifaction as well. We've seen some of that with new programs designed to highlight the 'leisure spend' dollar - but not nearly enough. Plus, they still charge for crappy Wi-Fi that barely works (no, I'm not gonna stop bitching about that).

Sure, Las Vegas casinos will always need a few high-end hosts to take care of the big players but there's a whole new and emerging market of customers who want to be taken care of for just spending money on stuff outside of the casino: Rooms. Suites. Shows. Clubs. Food. Retail. Better food. Golf.

Free tip: Care about these people, even if they don't gamble. You'll make more money.

If I spend $1,800 on a couple of nights in a suite, why is that worth less than dropping the same amount on Wheel of Fourtune? Sure, you had to pay a housekeeper to clean the room but the marginal cost there is negligable (or at least that's what they taught me in college). Sure, casino dollars may drop fastest to the bottom line but this a newly competitive economy. Money is money is money.

Now, there are definitely properties that have been working to moderninze along these lines, even if they still use the older nomenclature of 'casino host'. The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas Sands (Venetian & Palazzo) and to some degree Caesars' Total Rewards and MGM, among others, have all started to credit for some non-casino spend.

Great but not enough. Looking at overall spend should be the standard, not a 'revolutionary practice' or half-measure.

This is not new ground to cover. Some Vegas casinos have affiliations with national hotel brands that have this mastered and in some cases allow customers to spend those points in Clark County. Learn from them!!

The traditional marketing strategy of casino-centric hosts is outdated. The sooner it is replaced by something that captures and rewards every dollar coming into the city, the better off the Strip operators will be, serving happier and more loyal customers.


Are you coming into town next week for CES? Is this your first time in Vegas or maybe even in a casino? We've got some tips that you might find helpful for getting around, finding a charger, getting online and more...

Got more to add? Feel free to share your tips in the comments.

Also, if you're heading to Vegas and have an iOS device, pick up Vegas Mate in the App Store.


October 26, 2011

STOP IT: Hostile Shopping Mall Design

Posted by Hunter

Just a quickie post about a pet peeve that is reinforced every time I'm in Las Vegas: hostile shopping mall design.

You see this at The Crystals (photo below) and also at the Forum Shops - instead of allowing someone to walk directly to their destination, the guest is re-routed, sometimes way out of the way, to put them in front of more stores. It's beyond annoying.

Now, this is nothing new. Companies like Disney are the masters of putting retail in your face. I don't realistically expect this to stop anytime soon.

Still, blow me.


October 16, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #032: Implosion City

Posted by Hunter

It's time to blow some crap up!

SoV is back. Happy Sunday.

This time around, Jeff explains what's going up in smoke and when. Enjoy.


September 29, 2011

Vegas Gang #67 - September 29th, 2011

Posted by Hunter

Episode #67 is up!

Listen here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2011/09/vegas-gang-67-september-29th-2011/

This time on the show:

- An Interview with Roger Thomas, Executive Vice President of Design, Wynn Design & Development.

DON'T MISS: Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic

** Sure Bets **

- South Florida Casino Expansion
- Tassels, Fringe, Trim and Imperial Orange
- Super B Burrito @ Eastern & Pebble
- BrainToniq


September 18, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #030: Advice For the Center Strip III

Posted by Hunter

This is SoV #30! Congrats to Jeff on the milestone and thank you to all of you for reading.

Here's Jeff's latest 'advice' column, this time with thoughts on Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan, Bally's, Aria, Planet Hollywood and Paris.

Enjoy!


September 16, 2011

Former Wynn Boss Pascal Working on Social Gaming?

Posted by Hunter

The scuttlebutt on Twitter this afternoon is that Andrew Pascal, former COO and President of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, is working on a new startup focused on 'social gaming'. Indeed, a view of his LinkedIn profile indicates perhaps something along those lines. His venture firm's Facebook page includes links to two upcoming products: QRious (I assume some sort of QR code nonsense) and another called MyVegas (as an aside, 'MyVegas' is also the name of the social networking feature on popular travel Web site VegasTripping.com).

The word is that he's started a new company, including former execs from companies like MGM Resorts. That gaming company has reportedly expressed interest in Pascal's new operation and may be the first to roll out any new products they reveal.

Before his stint at Wynn, Pascal ran wagerworks, a startup devoted to online gaming. Pascal is the nephew of Wynn Resorts director Elaine Wynn.

For a long time I've been saying that younger gamblers are pretty bored by slot machines and features like interactions with Facebook, Twitter, etc... seem overdue. Perhaps this is a move in that direction? I've met Pascal a few times but to say I know him would be massively overstating. Still, my impression is that he's a very smart guy and sees the tech blind spot that a lot of these gaming and hospitality companies have.

What is Pascal working on? If you have any info, email us and let us know. Anonymity guaranteed!


September 5, 2011

I'm Vegas Homeless

Posted by Hunter

I've realized recently that I'm Vegas homeless. When I think about it, I probably have been for a long time.

What does being 'Vegas homeless' mean? I lack a consistent home base. There's no hotel I can rely on to offer me a great stay and friendly service at a price that's reasonable. I don't have a single casino in which I concentrate my play. There's no one hotel I care about and no one hotel that cares about me.

More after the jump...


August 31, 2011

Bellagio Room Re-Design: Not As Bad As You Thought

Posted by Hunter

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.


We're back with part three of Jeff Simpson's 'Advice for The Strip' column here at Simpson on Vegas. In this episode, it's the other side of the Center Strip.

Continue after the jump...


August 17, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #028: Advice For the Center Strip

Posted by Hunter

We're back with part two of Jeff Simpson's 'Advice for The Strip' column here at Simpson on Vegas. This time around it's Venetian, TI, Mirage, Casino Royale and Harrah's.

Continue after the jump...


Meeting the county imposed deadline today, MGM Resorts International is suggesting that the unfinished Harmon tower at CityCenter be imploded.

http://www.vegasinc.com/news/2011/aug/15/mgm-county-demolish-harmon/

http://www.lvrj.com/business/mgm-resorts-seeks-clark-county-approval-to-implode-harmon-tower-127762883.html

The Harmon was deemed structurally unsound after various construction flaws were discovered. This would certainly be a dramatic end to the long drama that's been unfolding since before the complex opened.

MGM is currently involved in litigation with builder Perini so this may take awhile to work its way through.

Are we looking at a full-scale implosion? Some sort of dis-assembly followed by more minor demolition? Either way, this is a major pedestrian thoroughfare so it sounds like a mess.

I'm sure Marquee Day Club is thrilled... With Cosmopolitan still struggling to find it's legs, taking that pedestrian walkway out of commission for what could be an extended period can't be good news.

UPDATE: Looks like they want to make this happen inside of six months.


July 17, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #026: Remembering Lanni

Posted by Hunter

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.


July 15, 2011

The Quiet CEO

Posted by Hunter

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.


July 15, 2011

Former MGM Boss Terry Lanni Dies

Posted by Hunter

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:

- Las Vegas Sun
- Las Vegas Review-Journal

- 2008 Interview w/ Steve Friess


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.


June 23, 2011

Vegas Gang #62 - June 23rd, 2011

Posted by Hunter

Episode #62 is up!

Listen here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2011/06/vegas-gang-62-june-23rd-2011/

Jeff kinda sounds like he was calling from the moon, so sorry about that.

This time on the show:

* Bellagio Re-Design [photos]
* Sahara Sale [photos]
* George Maloof and his Plams
* Atlantic City: Toast?
* Wynn + Adelson Are Buddies
* Predictions

** Sure Bets **

* 'Midnight in Paris'
* Jeff Simpson on Twitter
* Paternity Leave (but stay away from aggressive ducks)
* 'Everything is a Remix'


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.


June 14, 2011

Sahara sneak peek II

Posted by daveschwartz

Here's the second half of my pictures from a liquidation.

Read after the jump for more photos from the Sahara's liquidation sale. Everything--and they mean everything--must go.


June 14, 2011

Sahara sale sneak peek

Posted by daveschwartz

Yesterday I attended the media sneak peek of the upcoming Sahara liquidation sale. The fun starts for real Thursday, at 10 AM, when the general public will be admitted. For the first four days, you have to pay $10 to get in; after that, it's catch as catch can. Today (Tuesday), industry buyers have a chance to snap up the industrial-grade restaurant and hospitality equipment.

After the jump, I'll share a few pictures inside the incredibly tomb-like Sahara as it prepares for the sell-off.


June 8, 2011

Mob myopia

Posted by daveschwartz

Other people have already discussed the LA Times piece that featured "vintage Vegas" attractions, but I want to focus on a very narrow part of the set-up for the list of attractions, particularly this quote:

"It was better in the old days when the mob was still here," said Aiko Shono, a 35-year resident of Sin City. "Everyone had a job, everyone was friendly [and] people were not rude." (read full story here)

Coupled with longtime Golden Steer server Fernando Camacho's description of Anthony Spilotro holding court at his private booth ("Anybody who came through that door had to kneel and kiss his ring"), it creates quite a disconnect.

On one hand, it was an earthly paradise of full employment and universal civility. On the other, grown men had to literally kneel and grovel before a man whose only claim to power was his brutality. Demanding that kind of servility of his underlings shows a side of Spilotro that makes it difficult to consider his reign an enlightened one; after all, there was a reason General Zod (he of the cool accent and kneeling fetish) was the villain in Superman II.

Besides my knee-jerk revulsion towards the spectacle of retainers being forced to publicly abase themselves before self-appointed mob kingpins, I'm amazed that a journalist would take claims that "things were better when the mob ran the city" at face value. The woman who he quotes on the superiority of mob-era Vegas was about seven years old when Boyd Gaming took over the Stardust, the most convenient reckoning of the end of the mafia imperium in Vegas. What makes her an expert on when Las Vegas was better? She wasn't in the job market then, and when you're in first grade people are generally pretty polite to you whether they've made their bones or not.

I'm sure the small business owners who mafiosi like Spilotro preyed on have a much different view. Having your shop burglarized, being shaken down for protection money--these don't make the kind of warm-and-fuzzy memories that are the low-hanging fruit of "I remember when" Vegas stories.

When you look at the track record of Spilotro and his associates--murder, extortion, and grand theft for starters--you don't really see the work of nice guys intent on building a better city.

I'm not going to claim that I was keeping an eye on things in the Dunes soft count or sitting in the Sands steam room divvying up sphere of influence, but in my considered opinion--based on historical evidence including law enforcement files and interviews with many people who were active in the gaming industry when the mob was supposedly running everything--things might have been better for a few people--namely, those at the top--but weren't so good across the board.

For one, if you happened to be black you wouldn't even be allowed inside a Strip or Downtown casino until 1960, a point that's often lost in the nostalgic backwash. And if you weren't juiced in you could have a hard time getting ahead. There were just as many petty rivalries as there are today, just as many good people passed over for promotion and less-talented but better-connected schemers who got ahead.

It's also worth saying that most of us wouldn't have been on the inside, splitting up the skim and enjoying the run of the Strip--we'd have been the people organized crime was terrorizing to maintain its grip on power.

That's why it irks me when people just nod their heads and agree whenever they hear old-timers--or even newcomers--reminiscing about how much better things were when the mob ran Vegas. It's just a complete lack of critical thinking and basic logic--by definition, organized crime's power rests on the threat of brute force and is an affront to the idea of rule of law. Bobby Kennedy attacked it as an "enemy within" that rivaled the threat of communism, and it's unfortunate that, just like the very real presence of Soviet-funded organizations on American soil in the postwar period has been minimized by the US's ultimate triumph in the Cold War, the menace that organized crime posed to average Las Vegans has been airbrushed away and replaced by a cartoon history where the mob had no victims.

Unfortunately, there's the perception that laundered mob memories are profitable. Between the Mob Experience at the Tropicana, the forthcoming publicly-funded Mob Museum, or even the El Cortez using the likeness of Bugsy Siegel in its 70th anniversary promotions,championing a mobbed-up past is becoming common. Back in 1965, publicly embracing known organized crime figures would have cost you your gaming license (it cost Frank Sinatra his). Today, there's even a Godfather-themed slot machine in Las Vegas casinos. That movie (well, the sequel, but lets not split hairs) depicts the ongoing corruption of public officials by organized crime interests. You've got to wonder if people in the industry have a wicked sense of historical irony, or they're not really looking at the message they're sending out. It's OK to celebrate white collar criminals and embezzlers in the past? Even though you're paying tribute to notorious rule-breakers, we're still supposed to believe that your own business practices are above reproach?

Organized crime, which, contrary to the final scene of Casino, is still with us today, is no laughing matter, and celebrating its past excesses while turning a blind eye to its current ravages strikes me as the worst kind of myopia. It's one thing to remember and even laud the work of men and women who, though they worked in the old regime, weren't defined by violence the way out-and-out mafiosi like Spilotro were. It's another to surrender our history entirely to the carte blanche glorification of organized crime, particularly when there are plenty of people still around who can tell us just what was going on back then.

It's not that we should forget that episode in our history--it's that we're doing a disservice to those who lived through it by remembering it incorrectly.


May 31, 2011

Which will we see first?

Posted by daveschwartz

With a renewed push for a casino smoking ban in Nevada, I go to thinking: which would happen first--no smoking in a casino, or a casino dress code? They are both changes that some people think would improve the casino experience, but would probably be fought tooth and nail by most operators. I just can't see them turning away a player because he's in a t-shirt instead of a sportcoat, or because he wants to smoke.

Still, I thought it would be interesting to consider which of these following scenarios might happen first.

1. A casino eliminates its nightclub/dayclub.
Super profitable, yes, but draws a crowd that doesn't necessarily gamble. Pumping music and lines snaking onto the casino floor might disrupt players. But with insane mark-ups on bottle service, this thing is a cash cow. As long as people are willing to spend their money on it, these will be here. With casinos trying to simultaneously appeal to as many segments of the demographic pie as they can (business travelers, gamblers, vacationers, nightclubbers, retirees, etc, etc), I don't see anyone who's gotten into this game getting out just yet. The Tropicana/Nikki Beach partnership is the experiment to watch. Amid all of the gushing I haven't really heard too much talk about how the last two Nikki Beach casino locations--Reno's Grand Sierra Resort and Atlantic City's Resorts--didn't work out. It's not out of the realm of possibility that, as gleaming white as it is, Nikki Beach just isn't compatible with casino resorts.

2. A casino goes entirely non-smoking.
We've seen it happen in other states, but so far Nevada casinos have steadfastly resisted any legislative attempt to make them go smoke-free. Back in 2006, voters approved a referendum that forced taverns with kitchens to go smoke-free or retrofit separate smoking and non-smoking areas. That went over so well that tavern owners are trying to get the legislature to overturn that referendum. But could a major Strip casino go smoke-free by its own choosing? There's talk that Revel in Atlantic City might go that route, and with non-smoking facilities becoming the norm across the country, it's probably only a matter of time before at least one Strip casinos gives it a shot. Unfortunately, the conventional wisdom says that serious gamblers smoke, and I don't see any casino executives risking their job to gamble otherwise.

3. A casino institutes--and enforces--a dress code after 6 PM.
This one came up in JohnH's VegasTripping post earlier this week. Almost everyone decries the sartorial deterioration of Strip casinos; jackets and evening gowns have been replaced by t-shirts and shorts. Partially, it's a bigger cultural change (Americans don't get dressed up as much to go out as they once did), but it's also a sign of how the Strip's cast its net progressively wider. Since the 1980s, families and low-rollers have been welcome at most casinos, and that means a more casual experience. As thing stands now, if you've got money to spend, casinos don't care how you're dressed.

4. Metal detectors and limited entry to casinos
After that "epidemic" of casino chip robberies, I wrote a column for the Las Vegas Business Press about why casino crime was something we'd just have to deal with. Basically, casinos are built around the principle of open access--there are as few barriers as possible between the people outside and the slot machines inside. That means multiple entrances with no natural choke points to restrict the pedestrian flow. Without costly renovations that would restrict accessibility, it would be impossible to force all casino-goers to submit to scans for weapons. Casinos as we know them in Las Vegas are, almost by definition, impossible to secure in that way. Even if they lost a million dollars a month to strong-arm robbers, it wouldn't make economic sense for them to make patrons pass through Checkpoint Charlie before playing.

5. Another casino closes on the Strip
This is a real possibility. We've already seen the Sahara close this year, and though the Riviera has new ownership its competitive position isn't exactly strong. Some of the near-Strip casinos, like Hooters, Westin Casaurina, and the Tuscany might also be in jeopardy. Throw the Hilton into the mix, and there's a possibility that another Strip-area casino might shut down. If the current status quo--visitation up but overall revenues still flat--continues for another 2-3 years, this could happen.

6. A new casino opens on the Strip
There are five North Strip would-be casinos that were, at one point or another, in the pipeline, and presumably it would be one of these. Ranked in order of completion, they are:
Fontainebleau: almost got done, but is currently being sold for parts by Carl Icahn. Unless something dramatic happens, it's never going to open, and presumably the existing structure would be completely dismantled before another casino could be built there.
Echelon: Started, then stopped. With Morgans out of the picture and the economic picture changing so completely, you'd have to think they'd go back to the drawing board on this one, or least open it in phases.
Plaza/El Ad Property/Former Frontier: They got the ground cleared, but nothing else. Again, the market has shifted so much since this was proposed we will likely never see the planned-for ultra-luxe Plaza Las Vegas. It'll be a case of El-Ad taking a loss on selling the land to someone else who would develop it. Until occupancy and room rates increase considerably, that's not going to happen.
CityCenter North: The almost-happened MGM/Kerzner joint venture north of Circus Circus would have seen Circus Circus Manor demolished and created another "master-planned urban environment" at the north end of the Strip. Since the first one turned out so well (though business at Aria has improved, the condos, which were a defining part of the project, have been a wash), this isn't very likely.
SLS Las Vegas: Promised for 2014, but with very little in the way of specifics, it's hard to believe that this is going to happen.
Until there's a broader economic turnaround that translates into higher gaming revenues and REVPAR on the Strip, no one is going to roll the dice on building another very expensive property that will just dilute the market.

7. An end to resort fees and other add-ons
Nobody likes them--outside of executives who trumpet how much they add to the bottom line. They're insidious, they make the customer feel like he's being nickel-and-dimed, and unfortunately they're not going away. With news that airlines made more than $21 billion on additional fees in 2010, executives at Strip casinos that have seen declining revenues for three years are probably trying to imagine more ways to extract a little more cash for a little less service from their customers. The only problem is that air travel's not quite as dependent on good vibes--and continued customer goodwill--as casino gaming. It's gotten to the point where travelers expect to be screwed over by their airline; while many come to Las Vegas hoping that'll happen to them here, few of them want it to be at check-in. Until there's significant resistance from customers, these fees aren't going anywhere, and will probably increase.

8. The end of 6:5 blackjack
The casino version of the resort fee, this kind of payout deflation makes serious gamblers livid and creates the impression that the casino is looking to put the screws to patrons playing games that already have negative expectations. And the next time the 6:5 tables aren't filled with $5 and $10 players happily trying to beat the dealer, casino managers will listen to you without breaking into laughter while you tell them that. It's debatable how much the games actually increase casino revenues anyway, since any player sitting at a 6:5 table isn't going to really be much of a skill player, and probably would lose just as much--and as quickly--with 3:2 blackjacks, though he might feel like less of a moron. But since it seems to be working--whatever it adds to the casino experience--it's also probably not going anywhere.


Jeff's latest is a few random thoughts on MGM, Bobby Baldwin, and the renovation progress at The Tropicana.

Read on after the jump and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.


May 22, 2011

Negreanu Reviews Vegas Poker Rooms

Posted by Hunter

Daniel Negreanu is not universally loved but as a high-stakes, visible professional poker player, he's anted up in all the big rooms.

This past week, he posted some thoughts on all of the biggies: Bellagio, Wynn, Aria, Venetian and The Mirage. If you're interested in poker or just curious about how a big-timer sees the various choices, it's interesting reading.

http://www.fullcontactpoker.com/poker-journal.php?subaction=showfull&id=1305926938&archive=&start_from=&ucat=&


May 11, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #021: When The Fun Stops

Posted by Hunter

Yeah, so this isn't about gambling addiction but I couldn't resist the use of the headline on everyone's favorite in-casino pamphlet.

Jeff's back with the latest installment of his column and this time around, it's looking at a common thread in recent casino corp conference calls: a reduction in comps to rated players.

The article is after the jump.


May 4, 2011

April 2011 Trip Notes (Cosmopolitan, et al)

Posted by Hunter

Some notes from my trip, now two weeks past:

- Hotel: Stayed at Cosmopolitan and tried their lowest end room product, the City Room (which I believe is the only room offered with two beds). I took my brother along on this trip, who is 29. This was his first experience at the Cosmopolitan and he absolutely loved it. Everything from the design, to the room to the pool - right up his alley. It was interesting to see the place through someone else's (significantly less jaded) eyes.

- Cosmo: Generally, things went well. The room was clean and we got in right way. I visited the spa and while I appreciated the design, the attendant allowed towels and used cups to stack up all over the place and they didn't have any combs or brushes for your hair. Weird. In the casino, I was informed that none of the bars have Stolichnaya Vodka (they have flavors but not the normal stuff). It's such a common brand, that seemed odd to me as well. Service was pretty good throughout the resort. Friendly workers and lots of curious folks wandering the property. I didn't see a lot of gaming action.

- Food: Hit some places I'd already been or had been recommended to me: China Poblano (twice - so good), Tacos al Gordo (near Encore ; very good taco stand style - highly recommended. It seems their new Strip outlet was a surprise to some based on the Twitter reactions), Steak and Shake (South Coast ; was fun and worthwhile but the line was loooooong). Drinks at Sinatra where we had a long talk with the bartender - he'd actually served The Chairman long ago.

- CityCenter: Took my bro through CityCenter for the first time. He's an artist and really appreciated the work they've installed around the campus. He didn't care for The Crystals very much though ("this place is a disaster. WTF?")

- Construction: Ruffin is removing more of the TI lagoon to add a Starbucks and some sort of margarita debacle. The area being torn up is the southern tip, between the porte-cochere and the front of the hotel. Further down The Strip, the Tropicana is looking more 'finished' - less jarring moments as you move from a renovated part of the hotel to one that hasn't been touched. At Cosmo, Blue Ribbon was having it's floors replaced (it's since re-opened) - in talking to employees, it sounds like it was pretty dramatic when that pipe broke (I can't believe we haven't seen any random customer video). The Sugar Factory at Paris is just as ugly as I expected it to be.

- Sahara: Went by for what might be the last time. It was medium busy in the casino but the employees looked pretty sad and tired. Being in there was a bit of a bummer but I'm glad I got the opportunity to take some pictures.

- Crowds: This was a Tuesday and Wednesday night but it was crowded. There were people everywhere. Nice to see.

- Vegas Video Network's Pub Crawl: On Wednesday, I went to a taping of Pub Crawl at the Vegas Video Network studio. This was a lot of fun and if you're a fan of the show, you should consider it on your next trip. Everyone was super friendly and they're a laugh riot. Bring booze.

I took a load of photos. They're available here in case you want to see them.


April 14, 2011

Citizen Kirk

Posted by Hunter

It's the end of an era... sort of.

MGM Resorts International founder and primary shareholder is stepping down from it's board of directors in June.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/kerkorian-to-leave-mgm-resorts-board-in-june-119840964.html

Kerkorian built the largest hotel in Las Vegas three times with The International, the original MGM Grand and then the MGM Grand we know today. Inextricably linked with Las Vegas, his fortunes have risen and fallen with Southern Nevada's.

What does this mean for MGM and Las Vegas? Probably not a whole lot will change. While it seems clear Kerkorian has served as an advisor to Murren and Lanni before him, it doesn't sound like that advisory relationship will change much, at least in the near term. If MGM executives could convince the board to go ahead with CityCenter, they're pretty much being allowed to do whatever they want over there anyway.


March 19, 2011

Dr. Dave: Thoughts on Bacc & Pennies

Posted by daveschwartz

Last week, one of the local dailies ran a story reporting on the latest trend: baccarat and penny slots are big revenue producers for casinos, particularly on the Las Vegas Strip.

Great story, but it's about 6 months out of date--at least where baccarat's concerned. And, as a look at the numbers will show, the ascendancy of the penny slot is hardly news. There's a real story in here, but it's not the one you read in the paper--and it's not necessarily a good one for Nevada gaming.

(More after the jump)


March 11, 2011

VegasTripping Pegs Sahara Closing Before MSM

Posted by Hunter

My friends at VegasTripping.com nailed a big story and this time they got it before it was reported in either of the big Vegas newspapers.

Nice work Chuck.

Oh, and by the way, The Sahara is closing May 16th.

Las Vegas Sun

LVRJ


March 1, 2011

Federales Investigate Las Vegas Sands

Posted by Hunter

Ok, so it's the US, not Mexico... I just really wanted to say 'Federales'. Anyway, here's the deal...

It seems the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) have decided to investigate Las Vegas Sands under the provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This investigation came to light in Sands 10-K, filed today.

It seems that allegations by Steve Jacobs, a former exec at Sands China Limited (LVS subsidiary) triggered this investigation. He alleges all sorts of shady and underhanded dealings, some supposedly instigated by the head Rascal operator himself, Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson.

No way to know if any of Jacob's allegations are true - he clearly has an axe to grind with the brain-trust at the MEGACENTER™. Still, would it surprise anyone to find out if this really was how business was conducted over there? Secret investigations of your enemies? Bribes? Kinda exactly how I imagine things might work when billions are on the line and your regulator is a semi-corrupt authoritarian state. But hey, what do I know...

Can't wait to see what happens... My bet is probably nothing. The SEC doesn't really have a great track record when it comes to busting real financial criminals.


This time on the show:

Mr. DeRuyter Butler, Executive Vice President of Architecture @ Wynn Design & Development is our special guest.

We discuss Cotai, Fontainebleau, his role at Wynn D&D as well as CityCenter and challenges of working in China. Plus, we find out that Sheldon has been giving us all the middle finger since 1999.

This is a 'don't miss' interview.

If you love casino design, construction and all the thinking behind it, check it out.

Check out the show: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


Here's my promised write-up on La Cave Food and Wine Hideaway at Wynn Las Vegas, a great new addition to the food and beverage lineup at the resort. I had a great time and I'm looking forward to going back on a future trip.

Continue after the jump for the full details.


Finally, after a few weeks of percolation (oh, and Cosmo madness + a major app update) here is my write-up of a stay in a new Parlor Suite at Wynn Las Vegas. I came in to share the details with y'all and to generate material for the next Vegas Mate content update.

Photos: http://vegasmediagroup.smugmug.com/WynnParlorSuite/WynnLasVegasParlorSuite/15342884_StqTd (Note: some of these are a little hazy due to a camera malfunction - sorry).

All the details are after the jump.


So, here's my 4,200 word set of notes on my stay last week at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

I hope you enjoy it - please leave your comments below.

If you want to see photos from my stay, a complete gallery is located here.

Keep reading after the jump.


December 18, 2010

Vegas Gang #55 - December 16th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

Our special guest this week is Steve Friess of The Strip Podcast.

This time on the show:

* The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Opens

* Vegas Gang 'Sure Bets'

* Dr. Dave's Jay Sarno Book
* Cosmo Pizzeria
* McCarran Airport (LAS)
* The Traditional Las Vegas Sports-book
* Holstein's @ Cosmo

Check out the show: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


December 17, 2010

You Always Remember Your First Time

Posted by Hunter

That could almost be a headline on the cover of Cosmo, the magazine. As you might have guessed though, this is about The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which opened this week on the Las Vegas Strip.

My two night stay was pretty bumpy and based on the experiences of others, it sounds like I was not alone.

What sort of problems?

Well, I plan to write another post with more detail on this topic but to give you a flavor: our room wasn't ready until three hours after we were told to arrive for check-in, neither of the TVs in our room worked properly (one of them could not be shut off without being unplugged and on the other you couldn't change channels), neither bathroom had a bathmat so water made the marble floor very slippery, we did not receive the turn-down service either night we were there, and the TV couldn't be used for many of the built in services such as checkout and reviewing of messages.

That's a partial list of the problems I recorded with the room. It doesn't include any of the good stuff either - that will be in a dedicated post about the room and the stay that discusses some of the great things about the design and a few things that really bugged me from a functional standpoint.

The question I want to ask is this: what should a guest expect of a brand new hotel and how should a brand new hotel market itself before it is running like a finely tuned machine? Are opening night guests asking for abuse? Should new hotels make disclaimers or offer discounts?

To set the stage for this discussion, I'd like to include a few important bits of information about this week:

* The per night rate for the Cosmopolitan this week was significantly higher than comparable rooms at other Strip resorts (traditionally this is a very slow time of the year).
* The front desk staff told us that all the rooms had been extensively checked for problems prior to any guests checking in. It's hard to imagine how this could be correct given some of the basic issues like TVs not working.
* Cosmo CEO John Unwin was quoted in several interviews saying the staff was ready and excited to open the doors and to welcome guests. If anything, I'd say expectations were raised in the pre-opening press, not lowered.
* There was no disclaimer or notice to incoming guests that kinks were still being worked out and that they may need to be patient, etc...

Based on the comments on Chuck's post and some of the stuff I read on Twitter, I get the impression that some folks believe that this is just what happens with new hotels and the first guests should just deal with it. Maybe most people feel that way - I'd like to find out.

I think it's an interesting question but for me it boils down to getting what you pay for - they promised a lot and didn't deliver on that promise, at least in terms of hotel operations. Based on that, I think that the complaints are justified, even if we're not talking about curing cancer here.

None of the problems I encountered are even close to terminal. If they pivot and fix these issues, then this will be a distant memory in no time. Early signs indicate that they're serious about raising their game. We'll see.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


December 15, 2010

Welcome to The Fabulous Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

I'm on the ground this week for the Cosmo opening and today was my second chance to tour the property, this time in a more extended fashion than last week. It was great to be able to spend a little more time and really check things out.

I'm still excited. The rooms really are drop dead gorgeous and the terrace views from the upper floors are insane. They make you gasp when you step out for the first time.

I've posted a bunch of photos as well as a video. Enjoy.

I also got a chance to join a David Rockwell interview with Blackjacker1979. Rockwell had a hand in a large amount of the property design. That should be posted soon - it's only about ten minutes but was quite interesting. Thanks to Eric for letting barge in.

Hotel check-in is tomorrow afternoon starting at 1pm, followed by a chance to try some nibbles from the various restaurants. The curtain goes up for the public at 8pm - I'll be at the craps tables.

Can't wait!


December 12, 2010

Cosmopolitan Opening: Coverage This Week

Posted by Hunter

The big week is here - Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opens on Wednesday. I'll be in town most of the week to cover the event for for my favorite Internet readers, you.

The fun starts on Tuesday with another set of tours and interviews, continues on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and then wraps up at 8pm when the doors are open to the public.

Two Way HQ will be setup in my Cosmo suite so that I can bring you all photos, video and commentary from me and a bunch of other interesting folks too. Should be fun and it's the last one of these we'll get to do for awhile.

For those that are also in town, there are several meet-ups planned:

12/14 10:11pm Mandarin Bar - Mandarin Oriental

12/15 6:11pm Chandelier - The Cosmopolitan

12/15 8:00pm THE COSMOPOLITAN OF LAS VEGAS OPENS

12/15 11:11pm Vesper - The Cosmopolitan

12/15 1:11am Bond - The Cosmopolitan

Hope to see you there.

In addition to the opening coverage, I'll be performing a final round of 'boots on the ground' testing for Vegas Mate 3.0, which is about to be completed.


December 10, 2010

UPDATED: Cosmopolitan: Different That Matters?

Posted by Hunter

I'm writing this post several hours after getting my first look at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with my good friend Chuckmonster, following an interview with CEO John Unwin. Let's be honest - the hype machine surrounding the opening has been running overtime for the past few weeks. Cosmo has been getting a lot of ink, most of it positive, even if tentative. I won't be coy: I was impressed with what I saw. In some cases, very impressed.

Given that, when discussing this new property I think it's useful to turn back the clock a year. When I first toured Aria in November of 2009, I found a few things I liked there too. Based on my glance today, there's more to appreciate in the design and innovation of Cosmo than there ever was at Aria but it underlines a fundamental truth: without great service, no hotel will matter very much to any customers that matter very much.

We saw a lot today and to be honest, I'm still processing everything.

One thing though, stood out so dramatically that I can't stop thinking about it - the views, from the terraces in the tower to the restaurant patios to the windows overlooking the lake at Bellagio from the Identity Lounge - they are stunning... beyond stunning.

The Cosmopolitan appears to be embracing it's place on The Strip and reveling in it - personalizing it and making it an integral part of it's identity. Doubling down on it even. Unlike CityCenter, where designers seemed almost ashamed to be part of the legacy of their neighborhood, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas seems to be all about providing a window to the excitement that's both inside and outside it's doors.

I had a lot of fun on our tour today. I love the little details like the varied light fixtures and chandeliers (not THE chandelier, though that is stunning as well), the Japanese soaking tubs (again, with great views), the huge suites with their wine fridges and complete cocktail gear, the varied and interesting restaurant designs, the at-first-seemingly-random but at closer-examination-definitely-not collection of LP covers leading the way down to the now not-so-secret pizza place, and one gaming innovation: casino cabanas.

That last item is a simple but unique idea and I'll be very curious to see if it plays - table games, separated via beaded curtains, allowing you and your buddies to have a semi-private experience without running afoul of state law.

In our interview, Mr. Unwin repeatedly gave us the phrase 'different that matters'. It appears that's something of an ethos for the new resort - change and challenge the operational and design status quo but not just for the sake of doing so - it has to be done for a reason. I like the sound of that philosophy but it's too soon for me to judge if that's just a catch-phrase or if it means something tangible.

I'm back here next week and I'm looking forward to it. It will be a lot more fun to write about this stuff when I have photos and tales of customer service to share. Right now the place is all promise.

I hope that promise is fulfilled because that would be a lot more fun than the alternative.

UPDATE: We got permission to post a few new, blurry photos of the joint - the lobby, part of the casino and the Vesper bar, which is right off the lobby. We'll have full-on, real, non-blurry photos and video in a few days.

http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Cosmo-Construction-Part-2/15027609_Bu8vE#1122441680_ry4mH


December 9, 2010

Vegas Gang: "Unwin-terview" - December 9th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Special Edition - Hunter and Chuck interview John Unwin, CEO of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Check out the show: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


December 4, 2010

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #010: 3-2-1 Cosmo

Posted by Hunter

The esteemed Mr. Simpson is back with his latest column. This time around the bend, he'll share his thoughts on the opening of the Cosmopolitan as well as discuss a recent stay at Aria.

Enjoy!


That headline is a quote from Steve Jobs, to a Wall Street Journal reporter in 2004. A year or so later, Apple released an iPod that played video on a 2.5 inch screen. It's often cited as classic Jobs misdirection.

Today's article in the Review Journal about MGM tearing down The Harmon is likely the same sort of statement.

Sure, the building clearly has structural problems - it had to be capped at half of it's height - but to my knowledge there's been no final or official declaration that the resulting structure is inherently unsound, just MGM's attempt to extract a larger settlement from their builder and their builder's insurance company.

MGM says "it is unlikely the Harmon will be completed using the building as it now stands." That leaves plenty of SEC wiggle-room for some 'repairs' to be made to the structure after the lawsuits are settled. Why would they have even finished the building if it couldn't be salvaged? They knew about the problems at least twelve months and millions of dollars before it was sealed.

Jeff Simpson thinks that Fontainebleau might get fontaine-blown-up. That I can imagine. The Harmon, not so much. Unless the building is condemned by the county, I bet on that thing opening someday - furnished with the money that MGM wins from Perini for (allegedly) royally screwing up the project.

Until then, it's the most expensive billboard on The Strip.


It's been quite a week in Vegas-land. Hard to imagine that less than a week ago, we were reading a WSJ story that validated pretty much everything I wrote back in September about CityCenter.

From there, we were off and into conference calls, some of which included a few interesting tidbits. MGM told us that both Bellagio and MGM Grand will be getting room refurbs next year, while Steve Wynn explained that their Cotai development work was wrapping up and they'd start moving dirt around any day. The best part of that call was The Steve's ludicrous assertion that they're not secretive about their hotel designs - he practically laughed the questioner off the call. We'll see detailed models and drawings of Wynn Cotai just as soon as some inept outside designer posts them online, not because the company was feeling generous.

Speaking of leaks, they continue at Aria, where we've learned that they're working on a massive new signage package to lure Cosmo visitors and that they're even considering building The Strip's largest marquee. I've got loads of new CC stuff to share with you as soon as I'm done digesting it all.

That brings us to today, with the only piece of news this week that really surprised me - Wynn Las Vegas superstar Andrew Pascal has decided to leave the company, to be replaced with the reliable Marilyn Winn Spiegel (someone we considered as a VPP guest before we settled on the excellent Tom McCartney). What is Andrew going to do next? He's a young man, I can't believe that he's ready to retire.

Pascal has worked for Wynn for a long time but before this current stint, he was in Silicon Valley as Chairman of WagerWorks, a company that provided online casino games, playable for points. Is he headed back to tech? Chuckmonster is betting on Icahn but I just can't imagine that sort of transition.

Ichan's not really in hospitality, he's in hospitality finance - moving money around from distressed property to distressed property, a far cry from actually serving guests. Nope, I think for Pascal I'd put my money on a few months time off and then into some new entrepreneurial venture of some kind - more likely Silicon Valley than Spring Valley though. Maybe Aunt Elaine has eyes on angel investing - we know she can afford it.

What's more interesting is Wynn hiring a veteran Harrah's exec for such a tough job. The last HET (or should I say CZR?) alum to have the gig, Don Marrandino, didn't even make it to opening day. Spiegel is well regarded but the properties she's overseen for Loveman have very different guest satisfaction aspirations. Hopefully we're not in for a rocky transition just as Las Vegas starts to ramp up again.

Interesting stuff... In other news, I've been thinking recently about re-calibrating this blog and it's content. The landscape has changed dramatically since I started doing this and in a world where my time is limited, I want to make sure I'm spending it to do something that matters, not just be the second, third or fourth site to post on the same topic. More on this as decisions are made.

One last thing - if you haven't already, maybe go ahead and nominate this blog and my app Vegas Mate for The Trippies - you have three days left before they close. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be so pleased with being nominated that I'll spill a bunch of new juicy secret details about everyone's favorite massively overpriced, failing joint venture project.

Cheers.


November 3, 2010

Vegas Podcast-a-palooza 3 Photos

Posted by Hunter

Just a quick post to indicate that I've posted a few photos from this past weekend. Some are of the event setup and some are just around town, including Aria's new high limit slots, Lakeside Grill at Wynn and other randomness.

http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Vegas-Podcast-a-palooza-3/14493362_Rhdvb


November 1, 2010

WSJ Covers Tough Calls Made at CityCenter

Posted by Hunter

The Wall Street Journal has a new piece that dives deeply into some of the hard choices that the joint venture board has had to look at over the past few months as performance has continued to be elusive for the mega-complex.

WSJ: Rolling Dice on Giant Casino Complex (Registration Required)

One thing that does seem to be a bright spot - Aria's performance continues to improve.

I was personally there several times this weekend and volumes seem to be up. That said though, after visiting Blackjacker1979's SkySuite where the light bulbs flickered on and off and the music shut itself down to note an open door (incorrect), there are clearly still problems.

I'd expect CityCenter to market heavily to Cosmo guests starting in December, though one rumor I heard at Vegas Podcast-a-palooza sounded like a terrible idea: an advertising wrap on the Aria Pelli Tower. It would really be sad if it comes to that... How 'bout just building a real Strip marquee guys, huh? You could have the biggest one in town.


October 27, 2010

Let The Bummer Years Begin

Posted by Hunter

The Fontainebleau is about to open.

A re-invigorated Plaza project has broken ground and Boyd is halfway through putting up a gorgeous red-gold glass curtain wall on Echelon Place. Jim Murren is a semi-successful investment banker in Connecticut, the Marnell's own the recently joined Rio/Palms complex and Nevada's recently elected junior senator is attending the groundbreaking of a monorail extension that will bridge McCarran Airport, The Strip and Fremont Street.

Can we fast forward to 2017? I'm sure that's what some Las Vegas casino operators would wish for. It's hard to blame them.

Things look a bit sour for Las Vegas - August numbers notwithstanding, let's be honest - some of the city's best boom-time customers don't have any more money to spend on bottle service and $500 dinners at SW. Sure, the biggest players haven't lost enough to kill their gambling habit but that mid-tier backbone - successful young people, boomers and a smaller segment of folks truly blowing the rent on a weekend in Vegas - they're still pretty fucked up from this recession.

Well, at least it's not as bad as it is in Atlantic City where the top operator doesn't even want to own the other half of their property. In my mind, AC is toast.

As someone that has spent the last ten years as mostly excited about Las Vegas and now sells a product that is inexorably linked to the city, I have to say that things look very tough for the next few years.

A CB Richard Ellis study publicized today really laid out the bad news. The market won't be able to handle the massive increase in supply for some time. Thanks a lot CityCenter. At least we don't have any more rooms coming online anytime soon... Oh, crap... Thanks a lot Cosmo.

The Cosmopolitan will be the last property for awhile, and that's almost certainly a good thing. In a way, they may end up with an advantage - they can be the 'newest property on The Strip' for five years or more. That title worked great for The Aladdin. Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

Some of the issues mentioned in the report are structural - air traffic is more difficult than ever in the era of shoe-bombers and naked body scanners. Asian baccarat is slated to increase but that alone is not a market savior. The formerly solid underbelly of Las Vegas tourism - that combination of California drive-ins along with southern and midwestern vacationers... well, they're hurting... and that's not going to change anytime soon (damn that Obama-Reid-Pelosi-Boehner-Palin-McCain cabal!)

It's easy for Wynn to charge $200+/night for a weekend night when the town is half full but when Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo and Treasure Island are all offering rooms in the sub-$50 range (sans the ridiculous resort fees), those rates are harder to justify... and how anyone could feel good about a $150/night room at Aria or Vdara mystifies me. Just say no.

But it's not the Wynns of the world I'm worried about. Aside from maybe Las Vegas Sands, they're probably best positioned to ride this turbulence out. As a lover of the history of Las Vegas, it makes me a little sad to see how little of their revenue now comes from the 'Gambling Capital of the World'. In quarterly earnings today, LVS reported that barely 15% of their revenue comes from their two Strip casinos. With Singapore on the rise, LVS is again a gaming company to watch, even if their numbers don't yet match Chairman Adelson's bluster.

Why am I writing this? I dunno. For whatever reason, a few stories today sucked me in and I felt compelled.

See you Saturday.


October 22, 2010

Vegas Podcast-a-palooza - One Week Out

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Podcast-a-palooza, the star-studded, action filled event of the year, is next Saturday. Seriously, if you miss this you won't ever forgive yourself.

All the details are at VPP.com but, VegasTripping has some good tips for those planning on coming.

Our guest on the Vegas Gang will be Tom McCartney, the president over at the Tropicana. I'm looking forward to talking with him, hearing Rita Rudner as the guest on The Strip and then watching Tim and Michelle knock it out of the park again with Five Hundy By Midnight.

See you next Saturday @ The Flamingo.


October 18, 2010

Dick Whitman Doesn't Know What He Wants

Posted by Hunter

** Mad Men Spoiler Alert **

Do you love furry little creatures? The Cosmopolitan hopes so.

The hotel broadcast their first TV commercial during the finale of Mad Men, the popular AMC advertising drama. During the final episode, viewers were shocked to see that Don Draper fell in love with his secretary and got engaged, all in the space of about 42 minutes.

Sure, 'Megan the Secretary' is good looking and seems to actually be capable of a real conversation but come on, Don's clearly emotionally damaged since his marriage broke up and it's hard to look at this as a long term thing. I think most viewers cringed when they watched him dial Faye Miller, the seemingly substantive woman that looked really good for Don, only to blow her off.

Will your flirtation with the Cosmopolitan be longer lasting? There's been a good amount of gushing about the property in advance of it's opening. I've said more than a few kind words myself. Will that last when the credit cards start swiping?

We're now at the point when the resort starts to go from a set of interesting concepts that are easy to appreciate into a 'why the hell didn't housekeeping show up and where the hell are my bags' potential reality.

How will the Interwebs react if Cosmo has the same sort of sputtering opening that Aria had, one year ago? Has Cosmo built up enough goodwill to get the benefit of the doubt if there are major snafus? It will be an interesting test of both the hotel and all of us that write about this stuff.

As for the commercial itself, I don't know what I was expecting but I wasn't totally sold. For me, it seemed a bit like they were trying too hard to establish their cool and edgy bonafides. The commercial felt a little like a live-action version of a nightclub half-pager you'd see in the Weekly or Vegas Seven. For a casino ad, it has resulted in a remarkable amount of commentary, which of course means they accomplished at least one goal.

This first ad didn't give us a look at the resort - none of it was actually shot on property. What we don't know is if they'll be following it up with more television advertising and what those spots could be like.

To my eye, the spot was squarely aimed at fun, taboo and youthful vitality (as well as those older folks desperately clinging to youth by any platinum card necessary). As we've seen in abundance since May 28th, when you target the Hard Rock / Palms crowd, it's very hard to filter who comes through your front door. Will this be a hotel full of Surrender patrons? Personally, I'm hoping the answer to that is no but we'll have to see - I bet some people are already planning how many rollaways they can get into a wrap-around.

My good friend Charles says he loved the ad. I certainly wouldn't say that. One place I do agree with him though, it's wayyyyy better than Aria's advertising.


October 14, 2010

Vegas Gang #52 - October 14th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

Podcast-a-palooza - Oct. 30th, 2010. Our guest will be Tropicana Las Vegas President Tom McCartney - all the details are available on the Web site.

* PENN Swallows M
* August Gaming Figures
* MGM May Sell Borgata ; Not Making Much Money
* Room Rate Survey Data

* Vegas Gang 'Sure Bets'

Check out the show: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


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...


Wow, this is just too funny. It seems that the unique construction of CityCenter's Vdara creates a parabola that focuses the sun's rays, right onto the folks using the pool.

One guy in the story claims it singed his hair and there are supposedly melted plastic bags to prove how powerful this thing is. Even the employees seem to be calling it a 'death ray'. Of course, MGM is trying to play it down. The name they prefer: 'solar convergence'. Ha!

I try not to link to RJ stories but it's the only place you can read all the details:
http://www.lvrj.com/news/vdara-visitor---death-ray--scorched-hair-103777559.html

You can't make this stuff up.

On a more serious note, will this have any impact on condo owners trying to get out of their contracts? I could imagine an enterprising lawyer including this in their complaint.


This is the final part of a series about the problems that MGM Resorts International faces at CityCenter and how those problems may be impacting the important relationships they need to run their businesses.

Based on fascinating new insight into operations at the various CityCenter components, we dive deep into how the complex is doing and how bad things might get.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three - this post

Please leave your comments on this post.


This is part two of a three part series about the problems that MGM Resorts International faces at CityCenter and how those problems may be impacting the important relationships they need to run their businesses.

Based on fascinating new insight into operations at the various CityCenter components, we dive deep into how the complex is doing and how bad things might get.

Part One
Part Two - this post
Part Three - tomorrow.

Please leave your comments on this post.


This is part one of a three part series about the problems that MGM Resorts International faces at CityCenter and how those problems may be impacting the important relationships they need to run their businesses.

Based on fascinating new insight into operations at the various CityCenter components, we dive deep into how the complex is doing and how bad things might get.

The other parts of the series will be posted later this week.

Part One - this post
Part Two - Sept. 8th
Part Three - Sept. 9th

Please leave all comments about the series on this post. It's all after the jump.


August 25, 2010

Cosmo Gets a Guest Database From Marriott

Posted by Hunter

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, currently rising between CityCenter and Bellagio, has solved one of its bigger pre-opening problems - the lack of an existing customer database.

They've decided to partner with Marriott on this, giving those existing customers a Strip outpost to use their rewards points and the Cosmo a large database to market to. It's not a player database but it is better than nothing.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20100825/us-cosmopolitan-las-vegas-marriott/

The Cosmopolitan is joining Marriott's 'Autograph Collection'. View the other participating hotels here: http://www.marriott.com/autograph-collection-hotel/travel.mi


Vegas Podcast-a-palooza is coming up fast - October 30th is right around the corner.

Our hosts at The Flamingo have setup a special room package just for listeners / attendees. These special rates are only available to you special folks and it's a great deal.

To book the package: https://www.harrahs.com/MakeReservation.do?propCode=FLV&packageCode=IFPOD

You don't have to stay at The Flamingo to come to the show but this is a great deal so please take a look.

In addition to the great room package, The Flamingo is offering a 3X RC multiplier for Podcast-a-palooza guests! The details on how to get your point upgrades will be forthcoming but this component will be available to everyone coming to the event, not just people that stay in the hotel.

Thanks so much to Harrah's and The Flamingo for being so generous - support our hosts!


August 12, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Paris Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

I'm including Paris Las Vegas this week as an example of a themed property that looks pretty good - the inclusion of several important Paris landmarks across the facade, the 'cobblestone' streets inside (which can be a little painful to walk on sometimes) all the way to the half-size Eiffel Tower - one of the youngest themed properties on The Strip.


Harrah's Entertainment - Net Income: -$274 million (loss) Revenue: $2.2 billion More Info

MGM Resorts International - Net Income: -$883.5 million (loss) Revenue: $1.53 billion More Info

Boyd Gaming - Net Income: $3.4 million Revenue: $578.4 million More Info

Wynn Resorts - Net Income: $52.4 million Revenue: $1.0 billion More Info

Las Vegas Sands - Net Income: -$4.7 million (loss) Revenue: $1.59 billion More Info

This thread will be updated as other companies report.


I am very happy to announce that Vegas Podcast-a-palooza 3 will take place October 30th, 2010 at the Fabulous Flamingo on the Las Vegas Strip.

We'll do the three podcasts in the afternoon, followed by a little cocktail get-together - this is your chance to explain to me why the iPhone sucks, tell Chuck all about remembering to breathe or to ask Steve Friess if he knows how to make the Asian Equation.

Seriously, this is going to be a really fun time and we want all of you guys to come out, hang out, meet us and have some fun.

All the details: http://www.vegaspodcastapalooza.com

We're hoping to have some room deals for folks so if you think you might like to stay at The Flamingo, stay tuned.

Thanks to Chuck for the great site and big thanks to the folks at Harrah's Entertainment for hosting this year.


This morning Wynn Resorts pre-announced 2nd quarter results for their operating subsidiary that runs the Wynn Las Vegas / Encore resort complex on the Las Vegas Strip. These results do not include Macau operations.

The complete news release is here: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1449953&highlight=

The results clearly show that Las Vegas is struggling. Wynncore is arguably the very top of the market and compared to a year ago, they are taking a bigger loss. That said, occupancy and ADR don't look as horrible as they could have been. Despite increased occupancy, REVPAR was down.

I'm sure the folks at Wynn are looking down the road at CityCenter without a distinct lack of kind words - adding thousands of rooms into the market has only served to depress rates further (we're still waiting for an increase in supply to raise room rates, as some analysts have suggested would be the case when more rooms come online later this year).

The news release also mentions increased health care costs. Can't wait to hear another episode of the Steve Wynn vs. Obama Show on their next conference call.


May 31, 2010

Encore 2.0: Beach Club and Surrender

Posted by Hunter

Think back to 2005 in Las Vegas.

This is when the main building blocks that are now Encore were being fleshed out. At that time, 10,000 hotel rooms were planned for the New Frontier and Stardust sites. This would make the planned Strip porte-cochere a very important part of arrivals at Encore.

Or so everyone thought...

Quick link to my complete set of 120 photos:
http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Encore-Beach-Club-Opening/12383285_fRXH4

Also, my buddy Steve was long on the tour too and his take is here.

The rest of my write-up follows after the jump...


May 31, 2010

Vegas Gang #47 - May 27th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

First off, a note - very excited to announce that Jeff Simpson will be writing a bi-weekly column for Two Way Hard Three. I'm very excited to have him on board!

* Encore Beach Club Opens
* MGM Mirage vs. Perini
* Atlantic City Numbers Down
* Tropicana Reborn?

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


May 25, 2010

MGM Mirage Launches Augmented Reality iPhone App

Posted by Hunter

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.


May 22, 2010

Welcome To Your New Hotel Room

Posted by Hunter

There's an interesting story in the Sun about some of the new 'green' room designs showing up at the Hospitality Design Expo.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/may/22/forget-how-firm-bed-check-out-shower/

Of course, a big part of CityCenter's marketing is their LEED status - an important achievement, no doubt. I'm all for reducing energy consumption and I'm glad builders are taking this into account in their designs but when I make my buying decisions, it's little to no part of it.

How about you?

Thanks to @detroit1051 for sending the link.


May 20, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Treasure Island

Posted by Hunter

This is a photo of Treasure Island's lagoon, taken before they repainted the high-rise exterior and removed the original sign. This is a great example of a themed hotel done right.

The exterior has been substantially modified since then.


Wow, this seems like it is a full on shooting war now.

Perini paid to have the following 11 page letter posted in the Review Journal, asking Governor Gibbons to open an investigation into the MGM Mirage / CityCenter payment dispute.

Trust me, you want to read this...

http://media.lvrj.com/documents/Letter_to_Governor_about_MGM_Payment.pdf

Perini is playing hardball on this one, no doubt. They recently told investors in their conference call that they intend to fight for every penny they believe they are owed.

UPDATE: MGM has responded. What's interesting is that they are now paying the subs directly, clearly wanting to diffuse that part of a potential public relations nightmare. Smart on MGM's part.

Without the contracts and supporting docs, there's really no way to make a call on this either way. My prediction that City Center would end up as a giant lawsuit seems to have been proven correct.


May 11, 2010

Vegas Uncork'd: Conclusion

Posted by Hunter

Uncork'd has now come and gone.

@atdleft has a final submission for this year to wrap things up. Can't wait for next year!


Uncork'd is wrapping up but before it exits the stage, it's time for a BBQ. I'm literally drooling.

Thanks again to @atdleft for all of his coverage this weekend.

After the jump for more.


Here's @atdleft's report on the Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting - this one made me particularly jealous - sounds good!

He has photos on TwitPic that aren't quite embedding correctly so you'll have to visit them here: http://twitpic.com/photos/atdleft

Yum!


@atdleft is back, this time after a session with master chef Joel Robuchon.

One of the best restaurants in the city, if not the country, if you're into food you don't want to miss this.

Enjoy.


NOTE: I was told that as recently as this week, some of these signs have disappeared. Word from MGM Mirage is that this doesn't indicate a change of policy, just a temporary adjustment of the signage itself.

Over the past several weeks, several bloggers and Las Vegas visitors noticed that at both Luxor and Excalibur, new signs had sprung up prohibiting guests from taking photos or videos in any of the two resort's public areas.

If you're interested in understanding and debating the new policy, continue after the jump.


May 7, 2010

Vegas Uncork'd: The Bradley Ogden Dinner

Posted by Hunter

@adtleft is back with another Vegas Uncork'd event, this time dinner at the popular Bradley Ogden restaurant at Caesars Palace.

Continue after the jump for all the details. Enjoy!


May 6, 2010

Vegas Mate iPad Contest - Winners Selected!

Posted by Hunter

Happy to announce that we have winners (yes, more than one!) in our first major contest.

The grand prize winner is 'Eric', who won a $500 Apple gift card so that he can pick up an iPad! Eric, check your Yahoo.com e-mail to see if you're the Eric I'm talking about.

If Eric doesn't get back to me by 7pm tomorrow night, I'll pick another grand prize winner and update this blog.

Since I got so many great entries, I wanted to have more than one prize. I awarded two second place prizes, $100 Apple gift cards:

* Kara C.
* Eric R.

I've already heard from Eric. For Kara, the same rules apply - 24 hours to get back to me, as stated in the email I sent you earlier today.

I was floored by the quantity and quality of responses to this contest. So much so that I'm working on my next giveaway. This was a lot of fun and generated over 2,000 new reviews in the Vegas Mate database, something that benefits everyone that uses the app. Win-win-win (Wynn?)

Anyway, please stay tuned for info on upcoming contests and a huge thank you to everyone that participated. I truly wish I could give everyone an iPad.

As for Vegas Mate, on the iPhone I'm working hard on version 2.6 which will include photo galleries, some Twitter integration and a few other improvements. On the iPad, I'm working on 1.2, which will include an entirely new landscape mode. It's funny, until I had an actual iPad to use, I didn't realize how little I'd be holding it in portrait, so I need to re-do the UI a bit for the iPad app. Both updates will be free for existing users.


May 6, 2010

What Are Your Favorite Vegas Tourist Tips?

Posted by Hunter

I'm working on a Vegas Mate update and one of the things I'm looking for are great Vegas tourist tips.

You have any great tips to share? If so, leave 'em in the comments and I may use them in a future update!

One of my favorite tips: if dining alone, many restaurants have a bar that you can often just walk up to, reservation or not.


May 5, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Flamingo

Posted by Hunter

This time I'm back with a shot of one of the neon signs at The Flamingo.

Neon, when used well, is one of the things I love the most about Las Vegas. It's just so cool.


May 4, 2010

TWHT Gets Uncork'd This Weekend

Posted by Hunter

Happy to say that I am sending @atdleft to cover Vegas Uncork'd, an amazing gathering of chefs and food lovers in Las Vegas this weekend.

He'll be attending several of the most interesting events and we'll be posting about all the action.

This is an event I've always wanted to go to myself - at least we'll get to hear about it.

Enjoy.

(and no, I didn't get tickets for free, I'm sending him because I love all of you)


May 2, 2010

Vegas Gang #46 - April 30th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

Win an iPad! Details here: http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2010/03/submit_your_veg.html There will be a live broadcast of some sort to award the prize on Thursday. Look for details here on the blog in the next few days.

NOTE: This recording got screwed up somehow and we lost a segment of the show. Apologies to my fellow panelists and to the listeners. We salvaged what we could. Enjoy.

* Wynn Resorts Discussion (partial)
* MGM Mirage Name Change
* Boyd / Station Drama Continues
* Taking Photos In Casinos / New Luxor Policy

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 editor@ratevegas.com.

NOTE: We recorded an updated segment on Wynn in Macau, plus Marina Bay Sands: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2010/05/vegas-gang-special-wynn-episiode/


April 20, 2010

MGM Mirage to Become MGM Resorts Intl.

Posted by Hunter

Personally, not a fan.

Which property is their top performer again? Oh, right.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/mgm-mirage-asks-shareholders-to-allow-name-change-91616739.html


April 15, 2010

Strip Walk - April 2010

Posted by Hunter

Mike is back with Strip Walk and this time, he's heading into Palazzo, Luxor, CityCenter, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace and more.

Food reviews for Solaro (Palazzo) and Grotto (Golden Nugget).

Complete photo gallery is here:
http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Strip-Walk-April-2010/11815947_kraey


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.

Complete Release:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1413122&highlight=

In other news, the company announced a private placement:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1413121&highlight=


April 2, 2010

Vegas Gang #45 - April 2nd, 2010

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang is back!

Win an iPad! Details here: http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2010/03/submit_your_veg.html

* Station Casinos Re-Org
* CityCenter's First Hundred Days
* CityCenter vs. Perini
* Atlantic City Mini-Casinos
* Closure of CalNeva

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


March 29, 2010

CityCenter, Perini Begin to Slug It Out In Court

Posted by Hunter

The development of CityCenter was notable for all sorts of reasons - a massive, expensive new development on The Strip is always a big story.

By now, everyone knows about the problems, most notably what happened with the stunted Harmon Hotel tower. Well, it seems that since the project is now up and running, it's time for the lawsuits to start flying.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/mar/29/strip-slugfest-pits-owner-builder/

As the Sun says - it could get ugly.


March 22, 2010

Strip Walk - March 2010

Posted by Hunter

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:
http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Strip-Walk-March-2010/11542241_VD4fu


Las Vegas Sands - Net Income: -$113.9 million (loss) Revenue: $1.28 billion LV Sun

MGM Mirage - Net Income: -$434 million (loss) Revenue: $1.45 billion LV Sun

Harrah's Entertainment - Net Income: $295.6 million Revenue: $2.09 billion LV Sun

Wynn Resorts - Net Income: -$5.2 million (loss) Revenue: $809.3 million More Info

Boyd Gaming - Net Income: -$1.0 million (loss) Revenue: $384.9 million More Info

This thread will be updated as other companies report.


February 25, 2010

Vegas Gang #44 - February 25th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* MGM's Aria - 2 Months In
* MGM Mirage Exits Atlantic City / Wynn Enters Philadelphia Market
* Greenspun / Station Casinos Relationship Disintegrates
* Lake Las Vegas Shuts Down
* President Obama's Remarks and Visit
* Harrah's Interested in The Palms?

Check out the show: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2010/02/vegas-gang-44-february-25th-2010/

Feel free to leave comments below. Trivia questions can be sent to editor@ratevegas.com - we might use yours on the show.


February 23, 2010

Weekend at CityCenter's Arrghhhh-ia

Posted by Hunter

This weekend, hoping to break a long set-in case of the burnout blues, I decided at the last minute to head to Las Vegas. Some friends would be in town, it sounded like fun. Hell, I might even get to see the president (I didn't).

Continue after the jump for the rantings and raving of a madman.


February 14, 2010

Strip Walk - February 2010

Posted by Hunter

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.

Enjoy.


February 11, 2010

Vegas Mate 2.5 - 13,000 Words of Content Goodness

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Mate, my Las Vegas travel guide for the iPhone and iPod Touch, is about to be updated again, to version 2.5. This will be the tenth update to Vegas Mate since it was originally released in August 2008.

What's new in this version? Nearly 13,000 words of updated or brand new content, along with some other tweaks and enhancements.

As I look at the future of Vegas Mate and other related apps (ahem, iPad ahem), I see good content as being right at the core of delivering a top-notch product. With that in mind, I hired my good friend, highly acclaimed freelancer Steve Friess to produce a few words (sometimes more than just a few) on virtually all of the hotels in the Vegas Mate database.

The result is a fantastic update full of a ton of information (some of which was new to me!) I couldn't be more happy with the way it has turned out and I'm sure you'll love it too. It's really fantastic.

My plan is to submit 2.5 to Apple in the next few days so it should be available relatively soon - maybe a week from now if the stars align properly. Vegas Mate updates are free to all existing customers.

In other news, I'm happy to say that a new Vegas Mate Web site is practically done (I cringe whenever I look at the current VM site). It features more info on the app as well as several screen casts showing the app in action.


January 22, 2010

Vegas Gang #43 - January 21st, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Fontainebleau + Ichan
* Resort Fees
* Harrah's + Planet Hollywood
* Harrah's iPhone App

* Vegas Gang Trivia Episode #1

Check out the show: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2010/01/vegas-gang-43-january-21st-2010

Feel free to leave comments below. Trivia questions can be sent to editor@ratevegas.com - we might use yours on the show.


January 19, 2010

Strato-bleau Moving Forward

Posted by Hunter

According to the Las Vegas Sun, it appears that financier Carl Ichan will probably end up as the new owner of the Fontainebleau project, the hulking shell of a half-finished hotel looming over the north end of The Strip.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/jan/19/carl-icahn-take-ownership-fontainebleau-las-vegas-/

It's not clear yet exactly when, or even if, the project would be restarted.


January 14, 2010

Strip Walk - January 2010 - CityCenter Mega Edition

Posted by Hunter

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


January 8, 2010

Updated: Harrah's To Launch iPhone App

Posted by Hunter

The Las Vegas Sun is reporting that Harrah's will be launching an iPhone app sometime this month.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/jan/08/harrahs-launches-iphone-app-caesars-bypasses-check/

This sort of thing is inevitable - I expect more of this to come.

What's not really mentioned in the article though - GPS doesn't really work indoors. On the iPhone, it falls back to cell-tower triangulation which is not very accurate (it could tell you that you were on The Strip but not that you were specifically inside Caesars) - that's a problem that I combat with Vegas Mate too. I'd invest in high-quality interior maps if I could use them that way.

Now, the other way an iPhone can locate itself is through registered Wi-Fi access points - if Harrah's is installing and registering Wi-Fi stations, that would improve the ability to locate indoors (for Vegas Mate too - it all works the same way). That would be great for everyone.

The author also refers to the app 'text messaging' users. I assume they mean Push Notifications, which are like text messages but are not really the same thing. It's a pretty high level article so I guess the specific details aren't too terribly important.

I haven't tried the app yet but I certainly will. In the meantime, the far more comprehensive Vegas Mate is on sale this week for the bargain price of $1.99.

Update: Is this 'Caesars Palace' app on the App Store the app they're talking about? If so, it's already out... and quite basic. Looks like basically a brochure in app form. Also, it appears to download each screen of data as you move through the app. That means it won't work offline for iPod Touch users. If this is the app they're talking about, count me underwhelmed.


January 5, 2010

Harrah's Blog Disses Resort Fees

Posted by Hunter

Very interesting item on the Harrah's blog today that ties into some of the things we've been talking about.

http://lasvegasblog.harrahs.com/las-vegas-hotels/more-bang-for-your-bucks-no-resort-fees/#utm_source=feed&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed

Basically, a post putting down resort fees and the resorts that charge them. I guess this means the PHo resort fee will be getting the axe sometime soonish? Theirs is pretty small at only about $5.


December 31, 2009

Vegas Gang #42 - December 31st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* CityCenter Opens
* 2009 Recap/2010 Look Forward
* Gary Jacobs and MGM Mirage

Have a Happy New Year. We love you.

http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2009/12/vegas-gang-42-december-31st-2009/


December 31, 2009

Vdara General Manager Responds

Posted by Hunter

A few weeks ago I wrote an open letter to Vdara General Manager Angela Lester about problems I had during my stay. I'm happy to say that today I got a detailed, point-by-point response from Ms. Lester that covers each specific issue I raised.

All service operations have missteps, especially brand new ones. The thoughtful response indicates that they truly want to fix these problems and improve quality. I appreciate her taking the time to respond in full.

As for if I will visit Vdara again - certainly. While I prefer gaming properties when in Las Vegas, a Vdara firing on all cylinders could be a nice alternative.

Ms. Lester's response is after the jump.

Happy New Year!


December 22, 2009

Serrano Serrano Serrano

Posted by Hunter

This is a short post about something I haven't been able to get out of my head. I had lunch at Julian Serrano inside ARIA this past Friday. Serrano is doing tapas at this joint, unlike the far more formal Picasso at Bellagio.

Wow. I can't wait to go back.

Not only is it open for lunch but given the restaurant's tapas format, it's super easy to try a bunch of different flavors without committing to one dish. In some way's it's the anti-buffet - small portions of the best food you'll ever have.

The shots of what I tried:

http://img129.yfrog.com/i/ilez.jpg/
http://img111.yfrog.com/i/kr4o.jpg/

any my personal fave: http://img158.yfrog.com/i/dns.jpg/


December 22, 2009

Open Letter To Vdara General Manager

Posted by Hunter

Both of my trips to Vdara were extremely problematic for me as a guest - stuff was broken, long waits, service issues, etc... I decided to write a letter detailing my experience to the hotel's general manager, Angela Lester.

I also decided to post the letter here, after the jump. If she responds, I will also make sure to post that as well.

I tried to be fair and this is not meant to embarrass the hotel but as a paying guest, this stuff shouldn't happen. Comments are welcome.


December 19, 2009

Mandarin Oriental - December 2009

Posted by Hunter

For my last night, I stayed at Mandarin Oriental... and am I glad that I did. This place is amazing.

Here are some photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157623031987786/

I'll be writing and posting all throughout the next week with my thoughts - for now, I'll leave it at these!


December 18, 2009

UPDATED (AGAIN): ARIA Opening Is In Full Swing

Posted by Hunter

The coverage is rolling - http://www.ariaopening.com.

Also, I just uploaded 190 photos from inside ARIA to Flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157622883489405/

Got to sample some of the restaurant cuisine - so far great stuff. Lots of details to come but the staff here seem happy and excited - fun!

Update: Photos of two rooms at Vdara (I was moved to a suite due to 'issues'). http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157623015555862/

Update 2: More photos of ARIA and opening night festivities: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157623025422570/


December 12, 2009

Vegas Gang #41 - December 11th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Dr. Dave Tours CityCenter
* Hunter Stays at Vdara
* Jeff Explains How Harrah's Can Buy P-Ho
* Fontainebleau Drama Continues

http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2009/12/vegas-gang-41-december-11th-2009/


December 11, 2009

ARIAOpening.com - Just Like Being There!

Posted by Hunter

I'm very excited to see ARIA open next week - after all these years and billions of dollars, it's like Christmas is coming early. Despite your opinions on the complex (and I expect them to vary a good bit), it's a ton of fun to see a new place turn on the lights.

Now, not everyone can be there in person - if you want to follow the action live, we've once again partnered with VegasTripping.com to build a special site just for you: ARIAOpening.com. On the site, you can easily see a special feed of our tweets, photos and videos.

For those that ARE going to be there, we need your help! Our new site accepts photo submissions sent to pix@ariaopening.com. After being moderated, the photos end up on the site for all to see (there are instructions available if you want to see how it works). The person who takes the best photo, as judged by myself and Chuckmonster, will win a brand new iPod Touch and a copy of Vegas Mate.

It's gonna be a lot of fun and I can't wait to see the amazing photos you'll all submit.

http://www.ariaopening.com


December 11, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

Posted by Hunter

A LVRJ article on the new trend (?) of sunlight being let into casinos:

http://www.lvrj.com/business/newest-strip-resorts-let-the-sunshine-in-79039977.html

Of course, Encore made a significant play for this and I think very successfully - parts of the casino are indeed flooded with light.

The author mentions CityCenter as an extension of this. My first impression walking through ARIA was certainly not that I needed sunblock. The casino is directly up against the porte-cochere glass doors in several places and light certainly spills in at the edges... maybe it's because the color scheme is mostly earth tones but it 'felt' dark to me.

There are certainly wonderful spots at ARIA, such as the main registration desk, the Harmon entrance and the entire promenade level, that are very well lit.

I hope this is indeed a trend that continues... Personally, I'd love to see a joint where the entire casino floor ceiling to be a skylight. Could be an amazing design feature, no?


December 9, 2009

Vdara Mini-Review: December 2009

Posted by Hunter

This past weekend, I spent one night at Vdara, the CityCenter condo-hotel the opened December 2nd. Can you really form opinions after one night? I accept that some will say no. I'll be back at Vdara soon but I wanted to share the good and bad of my first experience.

I do have sympathy for small glitches surrounding a brand new hotel - these things happen everywhere and I don't read too much into them unless they continue on subsequent trips.


December 8, 2009

More Time Inside CityCenter's ARIA

Posted by Hunter

I got a second chance to check out part of CityCenter's ARIA last week - I figured this would be a good time to share some of those thoughts.

The 4,004 room resort is the centerpiece of the project, including the only gaming space in the complex.

Continue after the jump for some additional thoughts...


December 7, 2009

UPDATED: No Push For Locals as ARIA Customers?

Posted by Hunter

This one was too odd not to post. Steve Friess has a blog post with a quote from MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren where he says he doesn't really care if locals visit ARIA, implying it's the least important part of the complex (to him?).

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2009/12/murren-is-ok-with-locals-skipping-aria.html

This seems like an odd thing to say, the simplest reason being that ARIA has a killer spa, pool day-club and a bunch of high-end restaurants, let alone 150,000 square foot casino. It'll be interesting if he backtracks from this at all - almost sounds like it didn't come out right.

Update: It gets even better!


December 2, 2009

LA Weekly: CityCenter - Vegas 4.0

Posted by Hunter

I'm gonna assume you're not sick of CityCenter and want me to keep feeding you all the details... Here's another 4,000 words to keep you busy - Steve Friess writing for LA Weekly:

http://www.laweekly.com/content/printVersion/785987

I got to talk to Steve for part of this story - it was fun. Lots of interesting stuff in there - check it out.


December 2, 2009

ARIA Opening Week Meetup Schedule

Posted by Hunter

Here's the schedule for meetups scheduled during ARIA's opening week:

15th 7:21pm Fontana Bar // Bellagio (or maybe somewhere at PHo)
15th 11:21pm Mandarin Bar // Mandarin Oriental (if we can get in)
16th 7:21pm Bar Vdara // Vdara
16th 11:21pm // GRAND OPENING
17th 1:21am CityBar // ARIA
17th 1:21pm View Bar // ARIA
17th 7:21pm Bar Moderno // ARIA
18th 7:21pm The Deuce // ARIA

If this looks oddly similar to this, it should. We're doing the meetups together.

More info about our coverage, including a chance to win a prize, soon.


December 1, 2009

UPDATED: Vdara: Some Photos and Opinions

Posted by Hunter

Dr. Dave Schwartz has blogged a bit about his walk through Vdara this morning. Also, his photos are available here:

http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Vdara-Opening-December-2009/10509653_9nXmf

Also, VegasRex has his own take, another interesting read.

I'll be at Vdara on Saturday to explore it more fully, along with The Crystals, before the big event in two weeks.

Update: Steve Friess lends some new pictures and thoughts about Vdara.


December 1, 2009

CityCenter: First Component, Vdara Opens

Posted by Hunter

Tomorrow morning, the first component of CityCenter, the Vdara condo-hotel, will open for paying customers. There's a party tonight that I'll unfortunately be missing - a charity shindig for the Sebastian Copeland Foundation.

Some info on Vdara and the Silk Road restaurant:
http://www.lvrj.com/news/vdara-hotel-is-first-to-open-kicking-off-citycenter-78206222.html

Thursday will see the opening of The Crystals retail mall and then Friday, Mandarin Oriental - this is a big week for the project.

One important aspect is traffic flow and the Sun has a story, with diagrams, of how it all works:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/dec/01/ins-and-outs-citycenter/


Three interesting stories breaking this morning:

Binion's to Close Hotel Tower - the legendary Downtown hotel has announced they will be closing the hotel tower and restaurant facilities as a result of the bad economy:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/Binions-to-close-hotel-tower-lay-off-100-workers-78149717.html

Harrah's Entertainment, who have been buying Planet Hollywood debt, is taking the process to the next step - Nevada gaming regulators:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/Harrahs-moves-to-acquire-Planet-Hollywood-78146292.html

Las Vegas Sands raised $5 billion in an IPO for their Macanese operations:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/LV-Sands-raises-5-billion-announces-timeline-for-Macau-construction-restart-78127742.html


November 29, 2009

UPDATED: Jim Murren: The Man and His City(Center)

Posted by Hunter

A story in today's Sun delves into Jim Murren's thinking regarding the design of CityCenter. It's an interesting look at the process and gives more insight into the man, someone that hasn't had a well-defined public persona beyond the quarterly conference calls.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov/29/one-mans-concept-real-story/

Murren talks about CityCenter inspiring people to create art - that would be incredible were it to occur. Perhaps a modern-day Renoir will be so-moved by slot machines - I'm a little skeptical.

The author, Liz Benston, makes reference to people that have described CityCenter as "a themed version of New York as envisioned by a Manhattan transplant". That's one of the points I raised in my write-up of the site tour. Sounds like Murren would match it more closely with master-planning done in places like Abu Dhabi - perhaps that is more apt but I think the basic premise still holds.

There are some nice photos with the piece, including the Crystals/ARIA pocket park, one of my fave places in the complex (and it sounds like one of Murren's too).

Vdara opens on Tuesday. Hard to believe that we're finally at the finish line!

Update: A related update - the LA Times has some interior photos, though mostly specific textures and related design elements including some stuff I saw and some I haven't yet seen.

http://www.latimes.com/travel/destinations/lasvegas/la-tr-citycenter29-2009nov29-pg,0,853232.photogallery

http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-citycenter-closeup-2009nov29-pg,0,37081.photogallery


November 25, 2009

ARIA Fountain Test ; Crystals Walkway Opens

Posted by Hunter

Some interesting CityCenter related photos and videos today.

First a tourist video of a test of ARIA's porte-cochere fountain:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_984aK2mZ4A&feature=player_embedded

Also, the overhead walkway and sidewalk in front of Crystals is now open:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33394294@N05/

Enjoy.


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


November 20, 2009

Vegas Gang #40 - November 20, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Hunter Tours CityCenter
* Fontainebleau
* Global Gaming Expo 2009

I believe we'll have someone from MGM Mirage Design Group on a future episode, not too far away. Feel free to submit questions here.

http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com


Perennial bridesmaid Penn National Gaming made a formal bid for the shut-down Fontainebleau project on the Las Vegas Strip today - the bid: $50 million. Bidding ends January 15th, 2010.

The project has incurred over $1.5 billion in construction costs and is estimated to require perhaps a similar amount to complete to original specification.

If Penn pulls this off, they'll have their first Las Vegas Strip presence - something they've toyed with for some time... If this does happen, Jeff Soffer is going to enter the gaming disaster hall of fame, right next to new-Aladdin developer Jack Sommer... Sommer? Soffer? Odd name similarity there... Anyway...

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov/17/penn-nationals-bid-sets-auction-fontainebleau/

Update: Since this was written, Penn National has been outbid by a group lead by investor Carl Icahn: http://www.lvrj.com/business/fight-for-fontainebleau-72364182.html


I'm trying something a little different this quarter - a single thread to cover all gaming companies reporting.

I will update this thread as other companies report.

Wynn Resorts - Net Income: $34.2 million Revenue: $773.1 million
* Wynn Las Vegas / Encore Las Vegas: ADR: $210 Occupancy: 83.9%
* Wynn Macau: ADR: $263 Occupancy: 89.2%

Boyd Gaming - Net Income: $6.3 million Revenue: $398.2 million
The Echelon project will remain mothballed for three to five years.

Harrah's Entertainment - Net Income: -$1.05 billion (loss) Revenue: $2.28 billion
Harrah's is privately held.

Las Vegas Sands - Net Income: -$123 million (loss) Revenue: $1.14 billion

MGM Mirage - Net Income: -$750.4 million (loss) Revenue: $1.533 billion LV Sun

Station Casinos - Net Income: -$455.4 million (loss) Revenue: $255.7 million. Station is privately held. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/nov/16/station-casinos-loss-widens-reorganization-costs/


Interesting promotion from Planet Hollywood - you pay $600 and can stay 10 nights between now and March 2010, working out to $60 a night.

What makes this really interesting is that there are no blackout dates and the hated resort fee is waived.

http://www.planethollywoodresort.com/ags_accommodations_phanatic.php?utm_source=SoMe&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=DPASS

For frequent visitors, these sorts of promotions could really save some money. Props to PHo for trying something like this.


November 6, 2009

Encore Beach Club Underway?

Posted by Hunter

The Encore Beach Club, which we broke all the way back in August, is finally starting to take shape.


This photo was posted to VegasTripping.com today (used with permission - thanks blackjacker1979).

Yikes. It appears they've yanked out much of the plush-ness that was the Encore atrium. Here's what it looked like before Paul Bunyan came through:

You can see that even the stuff around the edges of the high limit room is gone. It's slightly out of frame but I assume this tree, an ancient Aloe, is gone too - though I assume moved and not killed as it was over 100 years old. The company has a good track record for preserving these things, some of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I can't imagine that Paige Dixon, Wynn Resorts' chief horticulturalist, enjoys ripping out something that worked as well as this did - it was a small space but one of my favorites in the Wynncore complex.

It seems odd to start indoors on this project - most of the work will be outside. This area is open to the casino, the upscale Switch (though reportedly underperforming) restaurant and the High Limit Slot room. Perhaps this landscaping will be replaced in-kind before exterior work even begins?

Another shot:


November 1, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - November 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

In Boyd Gaming's Call, they said that Echelon would remain dormant for three to five years, but they wouldn't take down the construction already started: "We anticipate using or incorporating the structure that's already in place into the new project."
I don't know the cost of clearing the land compared to maintaining the construction hulk, but this is obviously detrimental to The Strip. Further, when the market recovers, it doesn't seem likely that Boyd would follow its original vision for the development.
Boyd should be a good citizen and remove the skeletons. We may see how much influence Steve Wynn has on the subject: "When told that Boyd wasn't going to do anything with Echelon until the next presidential election, Wynn became somewhat incredulous. He wants to see Echelon's unfinished steel structure disappear as much as he wants to see the Obama administration vacate the White House."

Echelon Could Use Some "Tarp" Assistance



October 21, 2009

Vegas Gang #38 - October 21st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Live from Vegas Podcast-a-palooza 2 @ The Palms.

We discuss CityCenter with our guest MGM Mirage Sr. VP of Public Relations Gordon Absher.

http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

Feel free to add your comments below...


October 21, 2009

LV Weekly on Podcast-a-palooza 2

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas Weekly writer Richard Abowitz was on-hand this past weekend for our second annual Vegas Podcast-a-palooza at The Palms. The resulting article is now available online:

http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2009/oct/21/new-media-hits-strip-podcast--palooza/

More after the jump...


October 20, 2009

PH Towers Tour Photos

Posted by Hunter

On Monday, we got a tour of PH Towers, the condo-hotel-fractional-ownership building set to open in December on the Planet Hollywood property.

My photos are here: PH Towers Gallery

Along the ride for the tour was Steve Friess, who wrote it up also, as well as big-time Vegas Twitter maven VegasBill.

Thanks to @phVegas for organizing the event for Vegas Podcast-a-palooza attendees. As for that event, I'll have a post about it and the audio of the shows up as soon as humanly possible.


We wake up to a story about MGM taking $1.1 billion in charges against CityCenter.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/oct/20/mgm-mirage-take-11-billion-charge-citycenter/

No big surprise, this is required by the accountants and no one could argue that the value of these assets hasn't fallen... though 31% is a big number. Kerkorian is even looking to potentially reduce his stake.

In other more interesting news, I was able to take a gander at a few shots of Aria's interiors (see Chuck's take here). I won't be publishing these photos but like VT, I'm happy to give my impressions.

Continue after the jump...

Update: Not to pimp this too much but this offer for Aria came across from MGM Mirage - $160 for some nights.

http://clk.atdmt.com/MGM/go/181980103/direct/01/?kbid= 26584&m=0

Also, I'm happy to answer questions about the stuff I've seen, if you have any.

Chuck's spent some more time analyzing the materials and has some more thoughts.


October 1, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - October 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Gaming stocks ended the 3rd Quarter with very nice share price increases. Now, what will happen when CityCenter opens?

Strip stocks stage September surge
LV Sands, MGM Mirage, Wynn Resorts rise


September 26, 2009

Vegas Gang #37 - September 24th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

New episode is up: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

We discuss:

* Planet Hollywood + Harrah's?
* Fontainebleau + Penn Nat'l?
* Stanley Ho's SJM
* Niche Marketing @ Monte Carlo
* Gaming Figures
* Aria

Do you have questions for MGM Mirage's Alan Feldman? He'll be our guest at Vegas Podcast-a-palooza in October. Leave your question in a comment and we'll consider them for the show.


Mike's back with another Strip Walk and this time it's all MGM, all the time.

Here's the complete photo gallery:
http://photo.ratevegas.com/Other/Strip-Walk-September-2009/9727750_8SAVd

Read on for more...


September 15, 2009

Harrah's Investing in Planet Hollywood Debt

Posted by Hunter

The news that Harrah's had started buying Planet Hollywood debt started fluttering around on Saturday and finally got some major coverage yesterday.

Basically, PHo has been hurting, just like everyone else. I'm sure Harrah's sees an opportunity to potentially pick up a Strip property at a discount, ala Tropicana AC or LV.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/59318702.html

Potentially great business decision for Harrah's but I hope this doesn't come to fruition. As others have said, The Strip doesn't need more consolidation - it seems to be healthier and do better with more operators and more competition.

If this does go down, it would be interesting to see if regulators have more pause after the events of the last few years.


September 14, 2009

City Center Wins Some Green

Posted by Hunter

City Center isn't even open and it's already winning some green. By that terrible pun, I am referring to their LEED certification for Aria and Vdara, two components of the project.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/59215277.html

This is a great thing - not only does the company get a tax abatement for up to ten years, it gets them a bunch of extra press and builds some additional excitement... plus, helping the environment isn't a bad thing either.


August 20, 2009

MGM Grand's 'Prima' Program

Posted by Hunter

I saw the 'Prima' promotion from MGM Grand maybe a week and a half ago and didn't think much of it - at first glance I guess I didn't really get it... until I listened to the T&M Show (kinda like H&M but with some Replacements, more shoe-talk and less Scandinavians).

Turns out, the deal goes something like this: book at MGM Grand under this program and you commit to spending $500 on top of your room cost - basically a credit on your room account. In return, you get all kinds of deals and special offers during your stay including 2-for-1 drinks, 2-for-1 entrees at restaurants, VIP check-in, a limo trip, club access, etc...

This is interesting! I'm sure many people can relate to spending something in this range (or more) during a trip of a few days, especially if they concentrated their activity at one hotel and if show tickets are involved.

As far as I know, there aren't other deals of this kind out there, at least not explicit like this one is. Curious to see how this goes for them and if Prima is around in a few months.


Vegas Mate 2.0, the latest release of our popular iPhone application for Las Vegas tourists, is now available via the iTunes App Store (opens in iTunes). 2.0 is a free upgrade for existing users and costs $4.99 for new users.

Vegas Mate is an interactive, location enabled travel guide that includes tons of information about hotels/restaurants/attractions both on and off The Strip, as well as user reviews and other useful information. This release represents months of work - most of the app internals were re-written to take advantage of iPhone OS 3.0 and beyond, which is required for this release.

Here's a sample of the new features:

* Over-the-Air Content Updates - We can now push out content updates over the air without having to push a new release through iTunes. This means we can be more current with the constant openings and closings in Las Vegas.

* Restaurant Menus - Many of the restaurants now include viewable menus.

* Favorites - Mark hotels, restaurants and activities as favorites, useful for trip planning and re-visiting top spots.

* News and Events - Read news stories from many Vegas sources ; view upcoming events.

* Massively improved map system.

* Updated user interface.

Special thanks to all that helped test the release, with extra special thanks to Joe P., Chuck S. Monster, and Mike Ch.

A screen cast of v2.0 is available here: Vegas Mate Screen Cast

Releases of Vegas Mate will continue in earnest - there's a list of features for 2.1 and beyond already on the drawing board and I expect a 2.0.1 with a few little bug-fixes will be in the works soon.


August 10, 2009

Exploring ARIA's Public Areas and Casino Floor

Posted by Hunter

One of the benefits of running a site like this is that from time to time, certain information comes my way before it hits the general public.

Most recently, this would include floor-plans of ARIA's public spaces and casino area. The hugely anticipated City Center anchor hotel, opening in mid-December, looks pretty great to my eyes.

In addition to being such a major milestone, ARIA is important because it is meant to be the crown of the MGM Mirage empire. The current occupant of that top slot, Bellagio, was designed and built by now-competitor Steve Wynn. MGM Mirage hasn't 'authored' a major Las Vegas resort for many years, its empire having been assembled through acquisition instead of development.

If you want some details about what is inside of ARIA, continue after the jump.


Here's the latest installment in our 'Strip Walk' series in which our intrepid reporter, Mr. Ch, visited several major Strip casino resorts in the heavy heat of Summer.

The photos are located here:
http://photo.ratevegas.com/gallery/9099885_BTuxq

Continue after the jump for all the juicy details.


August 3, 2009

MGM Mirage Reports Second Quarter 2009 Results

Posted by Hunter

This morning, Nevada based MGM Mirage released their second quarter results:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1315638&

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.


August 2, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - August 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

High rise condos are the subject of a story in the RJ. The concluding paragraphs summarize what many others have been saying:

"What is the end game for Las Vegas? Returning to its roots as an affordable and diverse entertainment destination, Nichols said.
"We became too much of the $500 bottle of vodka and multihundred-dollar room," he said. "We increased capacity at a higher price point when there was no demand for that. There's a direct relationship between price point and market share. If entertainment, rooms, and food and beverage get back in line, just like any service or commodity, that's when the town will rebound."

To read more:
High-Rise Plans Go Flat In Las Vegas


July 30, 2009

Las Vegas Sands Posts Second Quarter Loss

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas Sands, operator of The Venetian and The Palazzo in Las Vegas and several casinos in Macau, posted a loss of $171 million for the second quarter of 2009.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=185629&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1314517&highlight=

Looking at the details, they had two large one-time charges and without those, they'd have swung to a $22 million profit. Those charges include a non-cash impairment related to the shopping complex at The Palazzo, worth substantially less than originally thought.

LVS, which is building a new property in Singapore, believes it can realize $500 million in annualized efficiencies through cost cutting. They're not all that specific about what they want to do but that's a big number... I'm sure you intrepid readers could suggest a few things they could cut back on, no?


July 30, 2009

Wynn Resorts Posts Second Quarter Income Plunge

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas based Wynn Resorts reported their second quarter results this morning. Net revenues were below many analysts expectations but EBITDA was stronger than expected.

The press release is here:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1314279&highlight=

Occupancy in Las Vegas is off almost 10 points from the year ago quarter and ADR is down to just over $200 as many recent visitors can attest to. REVPAR in Las Vegas was off over 35% to $188, though over 2,000 additional rooms are included in the figures for this quarter.

The stock has been trading up $5/share as of this writing.

Update: Fixed the poorly worded headline.


July 27, 2009

Wynn's Roger Thomas Honored - Video Interview

Posted by Hunter

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.

Roger Thomas - Chapter 1
Roger Thomas - Chapter 2
Roger Thomas - Chapter 3
Roger Thomas - Chapter 4
Roger Thomas - Chapter 5
Roger Thomas - Chapter 6


MacauTripping got a great tip to some renderings done for Wynn Design and Development by Mike Hong and Associates. Along with renderings for Encore in Macau (SW Steakhouse?), there's also concept work for unbuilt resorts in Singapore and Monaco.

http://www.macautripping.com/tripping/post.php?p=367&src=rss

Enjoy them while you can - they may be pulled down at some point.


July 12, 2009

Harrah's to Build 'Street 'o Shops' Near Flamingo

Posted by Hunter

Harrah's latest plan is to take the dirty, smelly alley between The Flamingo and O'Shea's and turn it into a 'collection of about 20 restaurants and bars' with a giant ferris wheel type contraption at the end.

The LV Sun has an article and renderings: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jul/12/harrahs-plans-new-street-bars-eateries-near-strip/

Let's try and recall how many different plans and schemes that Harrah's has floated in the past few years. Also, hard to forget the numerous giant-ferris-wheel type projects that people have announced.


July 10, 2009

Vegas Gang #34 - July 9th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Episode #34 of the Vegas Gang is up: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

Rich Moriarty from Union Gaming is our guest.

We discuss:

* Harrah's and Station LBOs
* May 2009 Gaming Figures
* Las Vegas Sands Re-Starting in Macau
* City Center: Crystals Retail Information

and more...

Update: I mis-spoke during the show, indicating that Station filed Ch. 11. That's not the case, though they are still in negotiations with their lenders. I apologize for the mistake.

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


Yes, Strip Walk is back - July 2009 edition. This time, Mike added a little food critique as well.

The photos are here: http://photo.ratevegas.com/gallery/8741533_RQdWc

Enjoy!


Fascinating article today in the Sun about the fast-paced world of design and construction on the Las Vegas Strip.

Cost overruns and safety issues at projects like Fontainebleau and City Center have highlighted the massively iterative nature of the design process, sometimes at the cost of millions.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jun/28/practice-building-designs-are-done-hits-wall-fonta/


June 21, 2009

City Center: Rescued From The Brink

Posted by Hunter

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.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/48721837.html

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.


June 20, 2009

Vegas Gang #33 - June 18th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Happy to be back after a little bit of a break. Lots to talk about, as always.

We discuss:

* MGM Mirage Expands to Egypt
* Tropicana Atlantic City Sells to Ichan
* Fontainebleau Files Chapter 11
* City of Dreams Opens on Cotai

Also, check out WinoTripping.com and Vegas Mate 2.

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 editor@ratevegas.com.


June 20, 2009

Oh Ye of Modest Means, Cometh to the Casino

Posted by Hunter

We know that all casino operators take their player databases and deliver offers based on the customer's profile - better customers get better offers, though sometimes it can be far more complex than that - bringing in a long lost customer, enticing some specific block. They use high-end relationship management software to pull these things together.

It becomes more interesting when an operator makes a mistake and the customer gets to see how they are classified in the database.

Over the past day or so, MGM Mirage sent out email marketing information for the Michael Buble concert on July 4th weekend. At the bottom of the offer, where it has the players name, it appears they accidentally included the account classification.

Here's what mine looked like:

mature_wealth.png

I'm not sure what 'Mature Wealth' actually means - I'm 29 years old and haven't been staying or playing with MGM Mirage as much as I did a few years ago. Even when I had, I never dropped any large coin at their properties - it did make me chuckle though.

What's more interesting is that other readers reported tags such as 'Modest Means' - not sure if calling customers poor is the hook MGM was looking for to get people back on property.

Did you get this email? Any other interesting tags you're willing to share in the comments?


June 12, 2009

Strip Walk - June 2009

Posted by Hunter

Mike is back with a Strip Walk for June 2009 including Encore, Palazzo, Treasure Island, City Center and more.

As always, the photo gallery is here: http://photo.ratevegas.com/gallery/8511233_PnJR7

Click through to read more.


June 10, 2009

Vegas Mate 2.0 Preview - Coming in July

Posted by Hunter

The first version of Vegas Mate was released in August of last year. It was my first effort for the iPhone, which at that time had just started allowing developers like me to create applications to be sold on the iTunes App Store. I'm very happy with how Vegas Mate has done since then. I don't disclose sales figures but there are thousands upon thousands of happy users and it seems to be going strong. So what's coming next? Lots.

In March, Apple gave us developers insight into new features they were adding in iPhone OS 3.0. This free iPhone system upgrade ($10 bucks on iPod Touch) includes stuff like copy and paste, MMS, integrated searching and a lot more. Under the covers, there are a ton of new hooks and tools that developers can use to make their software better. With this in mind, I began working on Vegas Mate 2.0 to incorporate the new stuff.

iPhone OS 3.0 will be released next Wednesday the 17th and I'm hoping that Vegas Mate 2 will follow about a month later. It's basically a complete re-write, taking advantage of many of the new features that Apple provided. The revised plumbing allowed me to add a few things I've wanted in there for quite awhile.

Vegas Mate 2.0 will be a free update for all existing users and yes, it will run on the upcoming iPhone 3GS announced this week.

Here's some of what's new in Vegas Mate 2.0:

* Over-the-Air Content Updates - existing versions of Vegas Mate required a full update via the App Store to get content changes in there. I've done 9 updates since last August but with how quickly Vegas is changing, I wanted something far closer to real-time. Now all content updates will occur wirelessly from our server.

* News, Promos and Events - I'm integrating some popular RSS feeds as well as info on current promotions and events. This isn't designed to take the place of a regular news tool, just a quick hit of info for travelers that's Vegas specific. More about how this works as we get closer to the release.

* Designate Hotels, Restaurants and Activities as Favorites for Quick Access - There are hundreds of items in the Vegas Mate database. Users can now mark items as 'favorites' and see them from a new screen. This should hopefully make trip planning with Vegas Mate easier.

* Restaurant Menus - Where available, I am adding the ability to view restaurant menus from the app. VM2 will launch with a number of restaurants that will quickly expand.

* Live, Google Maps Right in the App - The current version of Vegas Mate has maps but they didn't include all of the richness that the native 'Maps' application provides. That's all changed now with full maps embedded right into the app.

* Updated User Interface - The UI has received a lot of spit and polish all over the place.

* New Content - As always, the quantity and quality of in-app content has increased.

Now, it's possible I may change some of these features before launch but it's looking pretty dialed in at this point. I love working on Vegas Mate and I'm glad that so many of you enjoy it too. I've got a 'potential features' list a mile long but I always like to hear other ideas, even if I don't end up using them.


Not a big surprise given the funding problems they ran into when the banks pulled their last $800 million but it's still worth noting that this is bad news.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jun/09/fontainebleau-developer-files-bankruptcy/

Thanks to reader 'G' for sending this to me.


June 4, 2009

Tropicana 3.0?

Posted by Hunter

As has been reported in many corners, plans for changes at the Trop in Las Vegas are moving forward.

This RJ story has the details:
http://www.lvrj.com/business/46897947.html

Even if they pump a $100 million into this place, it will still be the Trop. Don't get me wrong, it could go a long way to clean up the casino floor - new carpets, some paint, etc... but let's not pretend that all of a sudden people are going to mistake it for a five-diamond joint.

Trop 3.0 could do just fine targeting the mid-market.


May 29, 2009

Schaeffer Out at Fontainebleau Resorts

Posted by Hunter

Former Mandalay Resort Group executive Glenn Schaeffer is out as the top dog at Fontainebleau Resorts. This is another *major* blow for the company that is already struggling with financing problems related to its Strip resort.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/46476427.html


May 21, 2009

Vegas Gang #32 - May 21st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Happy to be back after a little bit of a break. Lots to talk about, as always.

We discuss:

* 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 editor@ratevegas.com.


May 19, 2009

REVIEW: Disney's The Lion King @ Mandalay Bay

Posted by Hunter

We sent Mr. Mike_Ch over to Mandalay Bay to see the new production of Disney's The Lion King.

He came back with a mighty helpful and dare I say insightful review.

Enjoy after the jump!


May 16, 2009

Tropicana Las Vegas Take Over Plan Continues

Posted by Hunter

The private equity takeover plan that includes former MGM Grand exec Alex Yemenidjian seems to be moving forward.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/may/15/equity-firm-plans-take-over-tropicana/


May 13, 2009

MGM Mirage Plans Offering to Reduce Debt

Posted by Hunter

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.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/may/13/mgm-mirage-issues-plan-avoids-selling-bellagio-mir/


May 9, 2009

Strip Walk - May 2009

Posted by Hunter

Here we are with another Mike_Ch Strip Walk for late April / early May 2009.

You'll visit Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and more.

Everything is after the jump. The full photo gallery is here.


May 8, 2009

Monte Carlo to Introduce Hotel 32

Posted by Hunter

As per an email marketing campaign, Monte Carlo will be introducing 'Hotel 32' in the coming weeks or months.

Details are sparse and MGM Mirage says they're not ready to divulge more yet but the images in the email seem to show a heavily upgraded 32nd floor, the top level damaged by the January 2008 fire. There may also be a special lounge on this floor for suite guests, though that's not confirmed.

http://click.mgg01.net/t/6315812/27690704/12343953/0/

Hotel 32 is expected to start accepting guests sometime in August of 2009.


May 6, 2009

Las Vegas Sands Reports Q1 2009

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas Sands reported their first quarter results and as many could have guessed, they lost a little money this time around - looks like $87 million.

Details here:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=185629&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1284548&highlight=


May 5, 2009

Wynn Resorts Posts First Quarter Loss

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts posted their first quarter numbers today:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/may/05/wynn-resorts-posts-first-quarter-loss/

Looks like Macau, sometimes the lifeboat for earnings, wasn't able to pull it off this time.


May 4, 2009

MGM Mirage Reports First Quarter 2009 Results

Posted by Hunter

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.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1283960&


May 3, 2009

Fontainebleau Interiors and Animation

Posted by Hunter

CSM at VegasTripping.com has posted some still images of Fontainebleau Las Vegas interiors that were captured from a video rendering. Chuck's post and stills are here:

http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=2655

The original video is here:

http://www.spine3d.com/portfolio/animations.html

Chuck mentions in his post that it amps up his interest in the property a good margin. While I think some of it looks interesting, that overhead casino shot reminds me of a nicer version of Planet Hollywood. Of course, I may change my mind when I see it in person.

Still, very interesting. Hopefully this place is completed sooner rather than later.


Sad news this morning - long time Las Vegas headliner Danny Gans, who recently opened a new show at Encore Las Vegas, has apparently died in his sleep. He was 52 years old.

Gans previous show at The Mirage had a long successful run, as did his previous off-Strip engagement at The Rio.

While perhaps not known outside of Las Vegas, Danny Gans' show was one of the town's most popular.

I know Gans was married and had children. Very sad.

Review-Journal: http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/44137092.html

Las Vegas Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/may/01/reports-las-vegas-headliner-danny-gans-dies/

Update: Richard Abowitz has the Wynn statement: http://vegasblog.latimes.com/vegas/2009/05/breaking-vegas-headliner-dead-at-52.html

Update: Steve Friess spoke with Gans manager Chip Lightman: http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2009/05/danny-gans-dead-at-52.html


April 29, 2009

CityCenter Funding Plan Approved

Posted by Hunter

After a very anti-climatic afternoon which saw MGM Mirage shares stop trading ahead of the closing bell, we see this news that MGM and partner Dubai World have hammered out an agreement, along with the lenders, to make sure CityCenter is completed and opens later this year.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1282241&

It appears that MGM Mirage had to put Circus Circus and its land up as a lien as part of this deal, if construction costs go over.


April 23, 2009

Vegas Gang #31 - April 23rd, 2009

Posted by Hunter

We're back with another episode! It can be downloaded here.

Our special guest is casino expert Bill Zender, author of Casino-ology, a collection of his writings over the past several years. Zender was also a guest on Dr. Dave's excellent UNLV podcast.

We discuss:

* Game Protection and the Future
* Casino Consolidation on The Strip
* 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 editor@ratevegas.com.


April 23, 2009

LVSUN: Fontainebleau Funding Disaster

Posted by Hunter

According to the award winning Las Vegas Sun, Fontainebleau is suing some banks that apparently don't want to loan about $800MM that was promised to complete the project.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/apr/23/fontainebleau-files-lawsuit-over-funding/

Funny, we were just talking about FBleau on the VegasGang today. Episode to be posted soon.


According to the WSJ, investor Carl Icahn and Oaktree Capital, a private equity firm, have been buying up MGM Mirage bonds and are pushing for the company to file bankruptcy.

More as it develops.

Update: WSJ link.


April 10, 2009

UPDATED: Dubai to MGM: Never-mind, Our Bad

Posted by Hunter

It seems Dubai World has floated a proposal in the drama that is CityCenter.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123939646828409297.html

Hopefully you can read that (I will post a free link when/if I can) but it basically sounds like they're saying that all the parties should agree to fund the rest of the project - you know, kinda like the original plan they had when they struck their deal in the first place.

Under this plan, MGM Mirage, Dubai and the banks would remove some of the contingencies surrounding the final $3 billion (every time, this number seems different) in funding required to finish the project.

Also, a different story from the RJ about MGM Mirage about the banks letting them continue to go along alone, without DW:
http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/42822312.html


April 10, 2009

Steve Wynn on Ralston / Sunday w/ Charlie Rose

Posted by Hunter

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.


April 9, 2009

Gaming Numbers Published

Posted by Hunter

We will touch on this on the next Vegas Gang show but I wanted to post this for comments.

As is typical, the gaming figures have been released. They are of course, down.

Dr. Dave thinks the RJ is downplaying the bad news.

In related news, word comes that the Gaming Control Board is forming an internal crisis team to deal with bankrupt casinos.

Harrah's was able to pull off a debt swap that looks to have improved their position a bit.


April 1, 2009

Encore, March 29-31.

Posted by Mike E

Here's a short review from my most recent trip including tours of both the Duplex Apartments and Sky Casino at Encore. Enjoy and feel free to skip to sections that interest you.


March 26, 2009

When The Fun Stops: City Center May File Chapter 11

Posted by Hunter

Sources are telling the Las Vegas Sun that City Center may be forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy tomorrow, if they miss an important financial payment.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/26/reports-citycenter-hires-law-firm-preps-bankruptcy/

This is also being covered by the WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123811086468552891.html#mod=testMod

NOTE: This isn't a filing for MGM Mirage, just City Center LLC.

We'll see what happens here. It is unclear if MGM Mirage would be allowed to make the Dubai World part of the payment if they wanted to and if they did, it might not be in their interest to do so, even if they had the cash.

At this point, both companies are positioning themselves in a legal pissing contest for control of the project.


March 26, 2009

Vegas Gang #29 - March 26th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

We're back with another episode! It can be downloaded here.

This time around we discuss:

* Casino Photography Rules
* MGM Mirage vs. Dubai World
* Tropicana / Chapter 11
* Las Vegas Sands in Macau

Feel free to leave your comments below.


March 23, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - March 23rd, 2009

Posted by Hunter

We haven't had an open topic for some time so here goes...

One thing to kick it off: Dubai is suing MGM Mirage over City Center:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/41688037.html

And the LVSUN:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/23/lawsuit-clouds-future-citycenter/


March 17, 2009

MGM Mirage Reports Fourth Quarter 2008 Results

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage has posted their late filing of their results from the fourth quarter of 2008.

Summary from the company here:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1267058&

Unless I'm missing something, seems like they intentionally left out some of the worse looking numbers, leaving analysts and readers to compute them for themselves. Loss per share of $4.15? Not good. Occupancy hovering in the 85% range - I was actually expecting a bit worse.

The language in the filing , likely required by auditors, is pretty stark - it spells out the trouble that MGM Mirage is in regarding financing the completion of their projects.

A conference call is scheduled for this evening and this post will be updated once I have time to read the whole filing.

Update: More from the WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123732708930762149.html?mod=rss_whats_news_us


March 14, 2009

WSJ: MGM Mirage Facing Breakup

Posted by Hunter

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.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123699441708227489.html

(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.


March 13, 2009

Harrah's - $5.5 Billion In Asset Write-downs

Posted by Hunter

They are writing down massive amounts of goodwill... plus, the properties aren't throwing off nearly as much cash as they used to.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/13/harrahs-reports-loss-says-lv-properties-hit-hard/


March 11, 2009

Construction Issues at Cosmo?

Posted by Hunter

Another week, another report of building problems left undiscovered by officials. Instead of City Center, now we have the neighboring Cosmopolitan, the property that can't seem to find a permanent owner having been taken over by its financiers after the developer defaulted last year.

The RJ reports: http://www.lvrj.com/news/41078077.html

With all of this talk about buildings not being properly checked during construction, I can't help but to recall these issues with Harrah's a few years back:

http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2007/10/harrahs_cut_cor.html

http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2008/04/vegas_gang_6_ap.html


March 7, 2009

Deutsche Plans Cosmo Overhaul ; Deal With Hilton?

Posted by Hunter

Stories in the Sun and RJ today have word that Cosmo owner Deutsche Bank have decided to re-design the interiors of some floors, resulting in work stoppage.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/06/work-cosmopolitan-resort-hold/

Also, there's word that the bank may have signed a deal with Hilton to operate the hotel and/or casino portions - Deutsche does not have a Nevada gaming license and a recent deal with MGM Mirage seems to have fallen apart.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/40891687.html


Two unrelated stories from the Las Vegas Sun.

First off, it seems Moody's are saying that Fontainebleau might be in trouble if they can't sell condos (insight!):

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/04/moodys-fontainebleau-could-default-debt/

Then we also have Harrah's, a company struggling to avoid bankruptcy. They're attempting to re-structure their debt to avoid that scenario.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/04/harrahs-could-be-short-cash-pay-debts/

Let the good times roll!


March 4, 2009

UPDATED: MGM Mirage Misses SEC Filing

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage was due to file it's 10K quarterly report information with the SEC but instead, filed for an extension:

RJ: http://www.lvrj.com/business/40703237.html

Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/mar/03/mgm-mirage-says-it-needs-more-time-file-annual-rep/

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/


February 26, 2009

Vegas Gang #27 - February 26th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

We're back with another episode! It can be downloaded here.

This time around we discuss:

* Boyd Offers to Buy Station Assets
* Wynn Resorts Q4 2008
* iPhone Card Counting Software Makes the Rounds
* 2008 Gaming Abstract Figures
* M Resort Opens Sunday

Feel free to leave your comments below.


February 24, 2009

Wynn Resorts Q4 Results: Down But Not Out

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts has released their financials for Q4 2008:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1259580&highlight=

Not great, as expected. Still, not terrible. For the quarter, adjusted net income was $7.6 million, down from $82 million a year ago. Most of this decline is due to Las Vegas as Wynn Macau saw an uptick. They also took a tax charge, bringing the GAAP earnings for Q4 to a loss of $159.9 million.

While only online for a little more than a week in 2008, we get our first peek at how the company will be reporting Encore. It seems that they will not be breaking the WLV/Encore numbers apart. For the Las Vegas complex ADR was $281 and REVPAR was $224. Occupancy was down to 79.7% for the quarter - incredibly low.

Wynn Macau seems to be humming along nicely with a 35.6% revenue bump over 2007.

All the details are in the press release linked above.


February 23, 2009

MGM Mirage and Cosmo in Deutsche Wedding?

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Anthony who pointed out this breaking story... It appears that the rumors may have some truth to them - this has been floating around for a few weeks without any substantiation.

It seems that Deutsche Bank may be looking to extricate themselves from the situation they find themselves in with Cosmopolitan by offering to help finance the rest of MGM's City Center project.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/40126262.html


February 23, 2009

City Center Starts Taking Reservations for ARIA

Posted by Hunter

ARIA, the main hotel component at City Center, is taking reservations starting today. The first night for regular guests is December 17.

The Web site for bookings, which also contains some new renderings of the property and rooms is here:

http://www.arialasvegas.com

Rates for opening night are currently at $299 (ouch) for what is normally a very very slow week in town. We'll see if those come down.

Reservations for Vdara, the condo hotel next to ARIA, are expected to open today as well [online here - thanks Mike P!] for dates starting in October. Not sure what it will be like to stay in what will still be a construction site in the delta between those two openings.

This is the first opening of a [ed: Las Vegas] hotel for MGM Mirage since the company was combined in 2000.


February 22, 2009

LVSun: Fontainebleau May Run Into Problems Post Open

Posted by Hunter

Not a new story but I've been out of commission for the past 36 hours... Looks like some analysts believe that Fontainebleau may run into some cash issues post open, later this year.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/feb/20/sp-fontainebleau-could-have-trouble-making-payment/

Of course, we here and pretty much everyone else, everywhere else has been saying this too.


February 17, 2009

Strip Walk - February 2009

Posted by Hunter

Mike's back with another Strip Walk column. He's got some photo links in his post but if you want to see the entire gallery, click here:

http://photo.ratevegas.com/gallery/7348756_YyrfG

Continue after the jump to get your Vegas fix.


February 13, 2009

Vegas Gang #26 - February 12th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

We're back with another episode! It can be downloaded here.

This time around we discuss:

* Atlantic City
* Las Vegas Economic Woes
* Tropicana Re-Brands as Value Property (!)
* City Center's Harmon is Stunted

Also, be sure to check out the new podcast from the UNLV Center for Gaming Research. You can subscribe to that here: http://gaming.unlv.edu/podcast.html


February 11, 2009

UPDATED: Las Vegas Sands Reports Q4 2008

Posted by Hunter

The Q4 2008 numbers are in for LVS - the first major operator to report their results.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Las-Vegas-Sands-Corp-Reports-prnews-14329562.html

Looks like an operating loss of $34.4 million, down from income of $133.6 million in the same quarter last year (GAAP). Adjusted, it's a $17.1 million loss vs. a previous year Q4 income of $71.1 million.

In Las Vegas, occupancy was 93.7% for the quarter - better than I expected (though not broken out by property). In Macau, occupancy was at 90%. While not providing figures, the company admits that the Four Seasons Cotai has been slower to ramp-up than they would have liked.

The company believes it can save $250 million a year through a new efficiency program (read: likely layoffs, hour reductions, etc...).

They have gotten their average borrowing rate down to around 3%, which is pretty good considering it used to be almost twice that.

We will no doubt be discussing tomorrow on our next episode of the Vegas Gang.

Updated: Management said that they don't see any market segment where they could really raise room rates other than perhaps in the group segment.

They are working to try to combat the recent national sentiment that seems to be pointing at Vegas based business trips as some sort of 'boondoggle'.


February 11, 2009

Eating Las Vegas - 'Trouble With Encore'

Posted by Hunter

John Curtas is one of my favorite people writing about Las Vegas. His take on the Vegas food scene is always informative.

Curtas today posted a run down of some of his Encore experiences which are worth a read: http://www.eatinglv.com/2009/02/the-trouble-with-encore/

Now, I am no food critic. I have a fairly unsophisticated palette though I do enjoy food quite a bit. Having eaten at all of the restaurants in the post, while I cannot rebut any of the specifics, I will say that I would put Botero in the list of restaurants at Encore I would look forward to going back to. Both of my meals there were quite good, by my admittedly 'simple' standards.


February 8, 2009

UPDATED: City Center Structures to be Re-checked

Posted by Hunter

After rebar problems at The Harmon went unnoticed, Clark County is requiring MGM Mirage to assure them and the public that the structures at City Center are sound.

This article in the Sun:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/feb/06/just-making-sure/

and another piece in the RJ:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/39192767.html

detail the process. Perhaps the biggest issue isn't that errors were made - that happens on job sites all the time - but that they still can't figure out how it happened and passed the various, required inspections. That points to a possible systemic breakdown in the evaluation process.

Updated: A story in the LV Sun today titled 'Adaptation or 'disaster'?' discusses what the Harmon changes will mean for the project overall - a very interesting piece.


February 4, 2009

Encore Las Vegas - January 2009

Posted by Hunter

After spending a few more nights at Encore in the middle of January, I'm sharing some more of my thoughts after the jump.

Along with this, I am still working on editing some additional audio that was taken during various media tours - a substantial job given the varying quality of the source material.

Continue on for a little bit more about Encore.


Two unrelated but interesting stories:

Wynn Resorts has long prided itself on not laying off employees (though that does not seem to apply to the Wynn Design and Development sister company who recently shed several jobs). Today the company announced some measures aimed at keeping people employed, even if that means less pay, less hours and reduced benefits:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1251586&highlight=

a little more from the LV Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/feb/03/wynn-announces-salary-reductions-reduced-work-week/

In other news, the IRS followed disgraced Fry's executive Omar Siddiqui to The Venetian this week. They are investigating allegations of tax fraud. Siddiqui was a Las Vegas high roller at several properties for years.

http://www.mercurynews.com/topstories/ci_11611329?source=email


February 3, 2009

LV Sun: Tropicana to Re-Brand With Value Focus

Posted by Hunter

According to this article in the Sun, the Tropicana has hired a branding/marketing firm to help them re-make their image to go after the value conscious consumer.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/feb/03/tropicana-hires-branding-firm-focus-value/

Perhaps a market that was becoming more and more under-served on The Strip but not sure if this was the lifeboat that customers were hoping for,


January 28, 2009

LVSUN: Las Vegas Sands Directors Sued

Posted by Hunter

According to the Las Vegas Sun, the board of directors of Las Vegas Sands, owners of The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip as well as several casinos around the globe have been sued for mishandling the company.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jan/28/sands-lawsuit/

Apparently this is not the first time this has happened and suits like this not are uncommon when a company sees a dramatic drop in their share price.


January 22, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - January 22nd, 2009

Posted by Hunter

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?"


January 19, 2009

LV Sun: Fontainebleau Has The Cash To Keep Rising

Posted by Hunter

Funny to see this story today in the Sun about the financing at Fontainebleau:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jan/19/fontainebleau-has-cash-keep-rising/

Just the other day as I was walking outside Encore, I was thinking to myself that it didn't look like much glass had been added to the tower at FBleau since December. Well, photographic evidence proved otherwise - my mind was just playing tricks on me and the glass is indeed rising.

When I checked out the visitors center there a few weeks back, there was a lot of construction activity in the low-rise portions. It is telling though that so far I don't think they will even sell you a condo - perhaps a chance they want to keep their options open?

The visitors area includes a large model of the complex, which does look interesting, as well as a model room. The room itself was nicely appointed - you can see Schaeffer and THEHotel written all over its style. Not quite as big as I would have expected, but then again, neither are the rooms at ARIA.


As some already know, I spent some time last week at Encore Las Vegas for what Wynn Resorts called 'Media Week'. Over the course of 5 days of events, various forms of media were invited to come stay at the hotel and participate in all sorts of events from back-of-house tours to eating in the restaurants.

After the jump for more, including a link to the audio extra...


January 16, 2009

Vegas Gang #25 - January 16th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #25 is online.

This week on the show:

* Harrah's Suspends Caesars Palace Tower
* LVS v. ELAD v. WYNN
* Rumors Swirling Around The Mirage Sale
* Encore Media Week

Leave any comments below.


For the past several weeks, rumors of a potential sale of The Mirage have been making the rounds. Personally, I've heard at least two different versions and one from a credible source, though no one that has claimed direct knowledge of a deal.

Today, Howard Stutz in the RJ has a piece that made the front page 'Breaking News' section on the persistent rumors:

http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/stutz/Rumors_rife_about_possible_sale_of_The_Mirage_.html

In all the versions of the story I keep hearing, the buyer is always Penn National, with Pinnacle Entertainment a distant second chance possibility. The rumored price is typically between $1.2 and $1.5 billion.

MGM Mirage has consistently said that they evaluate all offers but they have nothing to announce.

Still, does this sale make sense for MGM Mirage? Without a dollar figure, it's hard to say but as Stutz indicated, if liquidity is enough of an issue to force this, I would have expected other assets to be divested first, such as the 50% stake in Borgata or perhaps something like Luxor. Of course, The Mirage may be the only asset that this buyer wants (and can afford - I'm sure they'd love Bellagio).

The Mirage has recently been significantly re-worked and would be a great Las Vegas starting point for a company like Penn.

And to those that keep hoping Steve Wynn would buy the hotel back - no chance (unless the price was super-low). He's looking one direction and that's forward.

UPDATE: As stated in the comments, the RJ link is dead and the home page now includes a note saying Penn Natl is not interested... At this time...


Thanks to reader Mark D., we have this bit of news from the LVRJ:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/37462974.html

So, along with MGM Mirage's announcement last week about The Harmon being built without its condos, we have this. I hope they at least finish the shell so it doesn't look crappy.

Updated: The LV Sun chimes in: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jan/12/caesars-palace-delays-opening-tower/


After a few weeks of massive rumormongering, it turns out something was indeed going on with The Harmon, the hotel and condo tower planned for the north end of the City Center complex.

The condo portion of The Harmon will be cancelled and the hotel will now not open until 2010, making it the last part of the complex to come online.

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/citycenter-announces-scope-changes/story.aspx?guid=%7B4F71EC88-5B2A-467B-9539-DAE76305AD04%7D&dist=msr_4

more from the LV Sun:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jan/07/builder-error-significant/


January 6, 2009

UPDATED: Elad Asking Adelson For Help?

Posted by Hunter

This is sort of a bizarre story... It claims that Elad, the company that purchased the New Frontier and plans to build The Plaza there someday, is supposedly asking Las Vegas Sands for financial help.

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idINL67500620090106?rpc=44

Does that make any sense to anyone? LVS has had more than their share of financial problems recently... what sort of help could they possibly offer?

Update: More from Bill Lerner via Steve Friess:
http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2009/01/wynn-or-adelson-want-frontier-land.html


December 31, 2008

Vegas Gang #24 - December 31st, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #24 is online.

This week on the show:

* The Trippies are announced this weekend.
* Encore Las Vegas Opens - EncoreOpening.com
* MGM Mirage Sells Treasure Island to Phil Ruffin
* The Harmon / City Center / Light Group Parting Ways?

Leave any comments below.


December 31, 2008

Strip Walk - December 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike is back with the final Strip Walk of 2008.

Yes, there's some more Encore stuff in here but most of the column is dedicated to the rest of The Strip - do not fear, Encore haters!

Enjoy. Main text and photo links after the jump.


December 27, 2008

Encore at Wynn Las Vegas - The Designers

Posted by Hunter

Thousands of pieces - furniture, hand-woven carpets, wall coverings, chandeliers and everything else that makes up a Las Vegas resort - were all custom-picked and either built or acquired for Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, the latest creation from a team that's been working with Steve Wynn for almost three decades.

Keep reading after the jump for more.


December 26, 2008

Encore's Grand Opening Review

Posted by Mike E

Here's my full review of Encore including four restaurants, the spa, and other notes from my December trip. Enjoy!


December 24, 2008

Encore Coverage from Around the Web

Posted by Hunter

Many of my colleagues have also been writing about Encore and the opening festivities.

Here are some links not to miss:

http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=154&page=1

http://www.dieiscast.com/2008/12/22/and-now-for-an-encore/

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/blogs/dmckee/index.cfm/2008/12/22/Deep-Red-Encore

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2008/12/encore-from-last-night.html

I'm sure there's more good stuff - feel free to add to the comments.

If you didn't catch them last night, I posted more photos on Flickr - these will also be moving to a gallery on RateVegas.com shortly.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157611429036671/


December 22, 2008

Encore Suites at Wynn Las Vegas - First Impressions

Posted by Hunter

This will be somewhat brief - I will write a full review of this first stay probably later in the week - but I wanted to share a few first impressions, brought to you from Encore's 61st floor.

I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour this morning by Roger Thomas, VP of Design for Wynn Design and Development. He is responsible for most of the interiors of the resort, along with previous creations like Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and Treasure Island. He refers to himself as an 'author' when talking about the design process. Given how much thought goes into his 'prose', I think that's appropriate.

The tour was great - I took a lot of notes that I will transcribe later.

In a word I would describe Encore as breathtaking. It's much smaller - very intimate. It is a fantastic complement to Wynn Las Vegas. The casino, as many anticipated, is very similar to Wynn Macau with smaller chambered areas. Personally, I think this design is a huge win, though it might not work with a larger space. It's more appropriate for a smaller casino floor as they have here.

There are walk up bars on all sides of the property - Thomas told me this was in direct response to customers wanting more bars on the WLV side. One of the bars on the east end of the casino is a huge glass wall overlooking the pool, flooding the gaming areas with natural light.

For restaurants, we saw Sinatra (retro, 60s Palm Springs kinda vibe, but not in an old sorta way). Later in the afternoon, I watched them install the 1953 Best Supporting Actor Award in its display. It's gorgeous.

Had a quick lunch at Society Cafe Encore and it was really fantastic. Simple dishes but my chicken sandwich was perfectly done.

The Esplanade includes several high end boutiques, including a new home store featuring Roger Thomas' furniture. The Wynn and Company Jewelers on this side are displaying the 'Wynn Diamond', a 231 caret stone that is breathtaking to behold.

While not being much of a nightclub guy personally, we walked through XS and I was impressed. I think it's got a chance at being the top spot in town - the interplay between the pool and the club is amazing and sure to be a huge hit, likely to be copied elsewhere.

The Tower Suites lobby is tucked away from the casino floor, as it is at Wynn Las Vegas, while the main Resort check-in is open to the main walkway on the North side. Tower Suites is less of a preferred option at Encore, though the rooms we did see on that side were huge and amazing. The 2 and 3 bedroom, two level sky villas sounded impressive, though we did not get to tour one (yet).

They're being pretty tough about photos so far. I'm hoping that will ease up at 8pm when the place officially opens.

There's a ton of interesting design detail in this place - as much or more than Wynn Las Vegas.

More to come. Please follow us at EncoreOpening.com and feel free to ask questions to us there via Twitter or if you can't do that, leave a comment.

Also, room photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lasvegas/sets/72157611429036671/


December 21, 2008

LVRJ Posts First Encore Interior Photos

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to readers for pointing this out.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has posted a few PR shots of Encore's interior. They include a couple of shots of the atrium and the spa. Others have rightly pointed out there's a lot of design cross over between Encore and the 'Villa Atrium' at Wynn Las Vegas.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/media/slideshow/encore_opening/


December 18, 2008

Encore Weekend: Meetup Info and Coverage Reminder

Posted by Hunter

Friends... Encore's opening is upon us. In case you missed the announcement, we'll be covering all manner of opening details at EncoreOpening.com as we partner with VegasTripping.com to bring you great coverage.

You can follow our Twitter and Flickr streams there directly. If you want to get involved, you can tweet to @ratevegas or @vegastripping to ask questions, leave comments, etc...

Also, several other readers who mentioned they'd be in town talked about perhaps getting together for a drink at some point... Several ideas were thrown around but if it works for others, I'd suggest 6:30pm on the 22nd at Parasol Up (Wynn Las Vegas). This would allow a little time for conversation before the public unveiling of Encore at 8pm. Everyone is welcome.


Yesterday, as I was waiting in an interminable airport line, I got a call that came up as 'Wynn Las Vegas' on caller ID. That could have meant one of two things - someone was calling to yell at me about something I wrote or there was some problem with one of my hotel reservations - as many of my readers know, I'm booked at Encore for opening night and will be at WLV before that.

Well, it was the latter...

The call was from an Assistant Hotel Manager who told me that the room I had booked at Encore, a Tower Suites room, was not available and I would have to be downgraded. The explanation was that a 'computer glitch' had made the rooms available for sale when they should not have been. The manager said they 'just figured it out' and were making calls to people. Well, I booked Encore the first moment it became available (someone told me I was the second person to book online, after our friend Brian Fey). That was October 31st.

So, for a month and a half, these rooms (as well as the larger suites) were incorrectly available to book online and apparently no one noticed until December 15th. Uh-huh.

My currently unsubstantiated guess is that they got a better-than-expected RSVP from invited guests and didn't have the rooms to put them in, so they started to bump regular bookings down from the Tower to Resort side of the hotel. I'm working on getting a confirmation on my theory.

Now, I understand the casino is a VIP business and this can happen. Such is life. My first issue would be if I was lied to about the computer glitch in order to get me to 'go quietly' and accept the lesser room. I suggested upgrading to a larger, more expensive room but those were also not available. I wanted to have access to a few types of different rooms for photos and commentary for you fine people, hence my protests when the call came in.

My disappointment will subside. Life will go on.

What's interesting though is that as of now, it seems like people that booked through Wynn's Web site got short shrift compared to other methods. For instance, another reader here had booked through the American Express Travel Agency and thus far has not received a similar phone call about adjusting the reservation. Will he keep his more deluxe rooms?

If this turns out to be true, customers need to be careful who they choose to book with. The advice I've handed out to hundreds of thousands of site visitors - that booking with the hotel directly is often the best route - may no longer hold true in all cases.

Did other readers get the same call? If so, how did it go? What did they tell you? Did they offer you any compensation? I know that at least Brian was able to negotiate a dining credit as part of this downgrade so it's not a total loss.


December 11, 2008

Vegas Gang #23 - December 11th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #23 is online: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time around we cover:

* Mirage Volcano Reborn (Photos: here
* Encore Suites at Wynn Las Vegas Opens December 22nd - http://www.encoreopening.com
* Nevada Gaming Numbers from October 2008
* Las Vegas Marathon

Feel free to leave any comments below.


December 9, 2008

The Mirage Volcano Reborn

Posted by Hunter

I was able to catch the media event for the rebirth of the volcano at The Mirage last night.

Photos from the event are here. A video is embedded after the jump.

I loved the new setup. It's so much more fun than the old version. Not only is there more fire and better music but the entire structure just looks much cooler - the rock is more natural looking and 'veins' of lava even show up when it's blasting.

The 'FireShooters' that WET Design built for this project are custom - part of the high cost is due to investing in new technology to make it one of a kind.

After being a sorta 'bleh' attraction for some time, I think this is now near the top of the list of recommended things to check out on your next trip.

For those interested, there are also a bunch of Encore and WLV photos in the gallery as well.


We've been alluding to our upcoming coverage for the opening of Wynn's Encore for some time and now we're spilling the details.

I'm proud to announce that we're teaming up with my esteemed colleague, Mr. Chuck S. Monster of VegasTripping.com to bring you coverage that will be the next best thing to being there.

We will both be 'twittering' (or is it 'tweeting'?) via Twitter, posting copious amounts of photos on Flickr and recording our observations for what I'm certain will be multiple blog postings. You can post your questions to our Twitter streams and we will do our best to answer them right from the casino floor.

To make it easier on your inner-Vegas-addict to keep up with everything, we're compiling it all in one place:

http://www.encoreopening.com

That's your one stop shop for all things Encore. The page updates itself so when the gates open, you can sit back and let the sweet nectar flow. See Chuck's note on browser compatibility here. His recommendations are seconded from this corner as well.

There's been some talk about doing a special 'Vegas Gang' episode and while the logistics of how possible that will be are not yet clear, rest assured that we will be getting everyone's opinion on Encore out to you as soon as humanly possible.


December 3, 2008

Strip Walk - November 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike_ch is back with his latest Strip Walk. This one is more in 'trip report' style as he was slummin' it down on The Strip for a few nights at The Grand.

It's a long one so grab a cup of coffee and sit back.

http://photo.ratevegas.com/keyword/stripwalk


December 2, 2008

BeeGees Musical at Encore? Wynn Arts Center?

Posted by Hunter

Robin Leach has come forward with a couple of supposed Wynn Las Vegas / Encore updates.

First is that Wynn wants to do a BeeGees musical at Encore, which may or may not be called 'Stayin' Alive'.

http://vegasdeluxe.com/blogs/luxe-life/2008/dec/01/exclusive-news-steve-wynn-and-bee-gees-plot-emstay/

Second is that supposedly Wynn will break ground on a 4,000 seat 'Wynn Arts Center'.

http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/blogs/luxe-life/2008/dec/02/steve-wynn-plans-4000-seat-arts-center-new-encore/

I assume this would have to be out on the golf course side of things as there's little space elsewhere.

I should note that Leach has not always been the most reliable in the past. As some commenters suggest, it might be prudent to see what unfolds here.


December 1, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - December 1, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

It IS a difficult balancing act, cost control vs customer service. If the holiday season ends with a slow New Year's, the Strip's strategy of superior customer service may have to be rethought, but what is the tipping point at which customers rebel?

"In recent months, the profits of several big casino operators have fallen faster than revenue, or total sales before expenses. It's a sign that the companies have not cut costs deeply enough to offset the decline in their business.
On the Strip in the third quarter, MGM Mirage's revenue fell 9 percent, and earnings declined more than 15 percent over the same period in 2007; Harrah's Entertainment's revenue declined 12 percent, and earnings fell 17 percent over the same year-ago period."

Cutting Costs vs Serving Customers


November 26, 2008

The Mirage Volcano Reborn - December 8th

Posted by Hunter

The Mirage volcano will be officially reborn on December 8th but they've been testing the new setup for the past few days.

If you want to see a video of what we're in for, click below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snXPGF0BrAI

I'll be in Las Vegas on the 8th to see it for myself and report back.


November 26, 2008

UPDATED: Jim Murren Takes Reigns at MGM Mirage

Posted by Hunter

It's official - Jim Murren has been moved into the CEO and Chairman slot at MGM Mirage.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1228030&

No one needs to repeat that this is a very tough time for business on The Strip and Murren will not have an easy time of it.

Now, does this mean anyone ends up leaving MGM? Does Bobby Baldwin stay? Who gets the now-vacant COO job?

Update: Lanni has declined even a seat on the board. Odd. http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/35155994.html


November 26, 2008

Global Gaming Expo 2008: Alive and Kicking

Posted by Hunter

Matthew Farley, author of "Good Food, Good Whiskey, and a Good Gamble: Outdated Nostaligia or Still Effective Today?" was kind enough to write up and share his thoughts after attending G2E in Las Vegas.

This dovetails nicely with yesterday's Vegas Gang coverage of the event.

Thanks to Matthew for sharing his insights - I'm sure you'll all enjoy this.

Click through for more...


November 25, 2008

Vegas Gang #22 - November 25th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #22 is online: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time around we cover:

This is a special episode, focusing on the annual G2E gaming conference.

Feel free to leave any comments below.

Also, please consider voting for us in the Trippies!


November 20, 2008

Strip Walk - November 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike Ch is back with another Strip Walk. Click through to enjoy.

As usual, there are some photos included but this time around you'll see the debut of our new photo gallery. Gone (hopefully) are the days of duplicated photos, strange bugs and error messages. It's still being tweaked so let us know if you find problems but generally I think it's a nice improvement.

The new gallery is here: RateVegas.com Photo Gallery

Lastly, if you read Mike's prose you will see he's soliciting photo and recon requests from you guys for his next trip. Please respond in the comments here.


November 18, 2008

An Inside Look at City Center Construction

Posted by Hunter

The Las Vegas Business Press sent a reporter in to City Center to work as a construction hire for three days. The write up is here:

http://lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2008/11/17/news/iq_25074122.txt


November 13, 2008

Vegas Gang #21 - November 13th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #21 is online: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time around we cover:

* Terry Lanni to Leave MGM Mirage
* Las Vegas Sands Financial Woes Continue
* Should the Nevada Gambling Age Be Lowered to 18?
* WSOP Changes This Year

Feel free to leave any comments below.

Also, please consider voting for us in the Trippies!


November 13, 2008

UPDATED: MGM Mirage CEO to Retire at Month End

Posted by Hunter

Terry Lanni, MGM Mirage's chairman and CEO, is planning to retire at the end of the month.

Jim Murren, COO, is being recommended for the job.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/34422724.html

Whoa... Didn't see this coming. End of the month? That's not much time for a transition. Is he sick? Hopefully not [ED: a memo to employees says it is not health related].

I can't imagine majority shareholder Kerkorian would toss him during such a tumultuous time. They've worked together for ages... It must be something else... The timing is just so strange.

Update: MGM Mirage press release here:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1226453&

We're discussing this on the Vegas Gang, which will be out later today.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal is reporting there are some questions about his MBA from USC as the school could not verify the degree.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122661583489225999.html?mod=testMod


November 10, 2008

Las Vegas Sands Will Raise $2.14 Billion

Posted by Hunter

After posting fairly dismal third quarter results today, Las Vegas Sands indicated that it should have deals in place by the end of the week that will give it access to over $2 billion in new capital.

The company recently informed investors that it was in danger of breaching debt covenants due to leverage issues.

The company is suspending part of its ongoing Cotai Strip development in Macau to focus on its two other projects: Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and Bethlehem, PA casino project. The St. Regis condo project on the Las Vegas Strip will also be suspended.

http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?feed=AP&date=20081110&id=9365806

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/11-10-2008/0004922432&EDATE=


November 8, 2008

LVSUN: Lower Gambling Age to 18?

Posted by Hunter

The LV Sun has an interesting article about the possibility of shifting the gaming age from 21 to 18 in Nevada in an effort to stimulate an industry that's hurting.

A few episodes ago, we discussed potential regulatory changes in gaming as a response to the economic crisis, though we focused on allowing strip clubs in casinos, the general concept is the same - will changes in regulation be sped along due to cash problems?

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/nov/07/idea-floated-lower-state-gambling-age-18/


November 8, 2008

Harrah's Earnings Drop ; Layoffs Hit Atlantic City

Posted by Hunter

Harrah's earnings took a hit, as expected.

From the Sun: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/nov/07/harrahs-sees-fall-third-quarter-earnings/

The RJ says they are going to work on cost cutting: http://www.lvrj.com/business/34137664.html

Also, from a newer blog that Dave Schwartz clued me in on, some info on AC layoffs: http://www.gamingatlantic.com/index.cfm/2008/11/7/Atlantic-City-Blues--good-news-too


As required by law, Las Vegas Sands filed a disclosure statement with the SEC today that indicates the company may not be able to maintain required leverage ratios which could put it in danger of a default.

A default could potentially lead to other action such as bankruptcy, though the company did not use that term in its filing.

Will Sheldon Adelson lend the company more money? Is he in a position to do so?

Will we see cuts at their resorts, in either staff or service?

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/34023824.html

UPDATE: The Las Vegas Sun has more:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/nov/06/las-vegas-sands-may-miss-covenant-requirements/


Last night was the opening of the new Cirque du Soleil show 'CRISS ANGEL Believe' at Luxor. The show features illusionist Criss Angel's magic combined with the artistry that we know from Cirque.

Well, it seems that CDS' run of perfection may be over, at least if they don't end up completely re-working the show that premiered last night.

Many of the reviews are in and they're not great.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/nov/01/illusion-elusive-angels-believe/


November 1, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - November 1, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

A friend said he had heard that Caesars Palace has mothballed the entire Centurion Tower due to lack of demand. Centurion Tower is 14 stories and opened in 1970. Can anyone confirm this?


October 31, 2008

UPDATE: Wynn Resorts Third Quarter Call

Posted by Hunter

Just got off the Q3 2008 call for Wynn Resorts. Final quarterly numbers are here:

Wynn Resorts Q3 Results

On the call, the company discussed it's cash position (strong), it's future outlook and plans.

Encore is scheduled to open December 22nd, though it's still not 100% clear the first date that the public will be able to book a room. We should get that information in the coming weeks.

When asked about development on Cotai, Steve Wynn stated that they were waiting to see evidence that the current supply in Macau had been absorbed properly and at that time they'd proceed on that front. With The Venetian and Four Seasons on Cotai, the market does seem to be struggling somewhat to support the new properties, with the visa restrictions contributing to that.

It sounds like Wynn Resorts is in no hurry there - they plan to build what they describe as the world's most amazing resort and one would assume anything that fits that description will stand the test of time.

On the topic of purchasing perhaps distressed gaming assets, that pretty much was shot down - Wynn likes to build, not buy.

Overall, quite a bit of confidence from the principals.

Updated: As of this morning, Encore is accepting reservations from opening night (December 22nd). Yours truly will be there that first night, reporting all the details... We'll have photos, blog updates and live twittering.


October 30, 2008

Vegas Gang #20 - October 30th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

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.


October 29, 2008

MGM Mirage Reports Third Quarter Results

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage announced their 3rd quarter results for 2008:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1219027&

and

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/33503729.html

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.


October 28, 2008

Boyd Gaming Evaluating Options for Echelon

Posted by Hunter

This RJ piece indicates that Boyd Gaming is not sure when construction on their halted Las Vegas Strip project, Echelon, will resume.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/33468339.html

BYD reported its earnings today (not great) and yesterday we got news that retail operator General Growth Properties is trying to sell off Las Vegas assets because it can't make the mortgage payments. Crazy times indeed.


October 28, 2008

Encore Party Set For Wynn's Birthday?

Posted by Hunter

After finally getting temporary certificates of occupancy for part of the structures at Encore, planning for the opening is starting to firm up.

We're hearing that Wynn Resorts staff can now start to use the hotel tower and new convention rooms with more to come as other areas are completed.

The other tidbit that's starting to leak out is that instead of a grand opening for Encore like the sort we're used to, the Company may opt instead to have a gala birthday celebration for Steve Wynn (his birthday is January 27th) to celebrate the opening of the hotel.

Yesterday Wynn Resorts put out a press release that once again mentioned that the hotel was taking reservations from January 12th onward. It's still not clear if we'll see any customers occupy the hotel before then.

The hotel has been taking reservations for weeks already but it's funny to see a bunch of news organizations parrot the press release and announce that the spigot has been opened.


October 25, 2008

Strip Walk October 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike Ch is back with another Strip Walk. This one covers Encore, Treasure Island, City Center, The Mirage, Palazzo and more.

Photos are here:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/october2008

Thanks Mike! Enjoy!


October 18, 2008

Tropicana Scraps 10,000 Room Redevelopment Plan

Posted by Hunter

In what should come as a surprise to no one, Tropicana Entertainment has confirmed that the plans that would have put 10,000 rooms on that site are dead and any future development could be seven years away.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/31224039.html

It's good to hear they want to put some money into much needed maintenance but if they think that putting a food court by the pool is going to turn this place around, they're insane.


October 16, 2008

Harrah's in Trouble?

Posted by Hunter

David McKee posted this story today about potential financial problems at Harrah's Entertainment:

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/blogs/dmckee/index.cfm/2008/10/16/SOS-Harrahs

We also covered this at length in today's Vegas Gang episode that will go up in a day or so.


October 15, 2008

Bellagio Turns 10

Posted by Hunter

Dave Schwartz reminds us that 10 years ago today, Bellagio opened:

http://www.dieiscast.com/2008/10/15/happy-birthday-bellagio/

Pretty amazing it has already been ten years - and the place still looks great and is always one of the top earners in town.


October 14, 2008

Frank Rosenthal, Dead at 79

Posted by Hunter

Frank Rosenthal, the inspiration for the character played by DeNiro in the movie "Casino" has died at age 79.

Rosenthal was a Stardust casino executive before it was seized by the FBI. He was a legendary bookmaker that was banned from Nevada casinos as a member of the 'Black Book'.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/30982809.html


October 13, 2008

Wynn Resorts Preliminary 3rd Quarter Results

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts decided to release preliminary third quarter results today at the close of the market.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1208899&highlight=

At a glance it seems that Wynn Las Vegas will either squeak by with a $2 million profit or post a small $2 million loss. This is down from $35.8 million in the year ago quarter. Part of this is pre-opening expenses but mostly it sounds like lower EBITDA.

WLV ADR is down by $10 from the year ago quarter.

Wynn Macau is expected to clock in between $57 and $63 million, way up from the $39.2 million in the year ago quarter.

They're not offering much guidance given the economy and the Macau visa restrictions.

It seems like once again the Macau property salvages the earnings. The company reported having $1.7 billion in cash.


October 11, 2008

VegasTripping Covers City Center

Posted by Hunter

My good friend and fellow Vegas Gang-banger Chuck Monster from VegasTripping has been doing a bang up job covering what MGM Mirage has in store for us at City Center.

If you haven't seen these already, be sure to check out the following links:

ARIA:
http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=152&page=1

City Center Tram:
http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=2326

ARIA Pool:
http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=2323

VDara Pool Deck:
http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=2322


Check out this YouTube video that combines Wynn's Encore renderings with construction photos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGpO1Zlchis

Huge thanks to Mike E for tracking this down.

Also, this piece in the Sun on Encore:
http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/gaming/2008/oct/09/wynn-encore-will-take-hit-despite-position-strengt/

Wynn talks about hoping to open on December 22nd if he can get temporary occupancy before that. In the past they haven't seemed as worried about getting that occupancy certificate so why this time?

The piece also talks about opening a couple of hundred rooms per day so I guess we have confirmation of the first Wynn soft opening, at least when it comes to planning.


October 9, 2008

RJ: Wynn Las Vegas Dealers Lose at Supreme Court

Posted by Hunter

The LVRJ is reporting that the Wynn Las Vegas dealers that sued to remove the tip sharing program have lost their appeal:

http://www.lvrj.com/news/breaking_news/30691889.html


October 6, 2008

NY Plaza Wins Strip Resort Name Case

Posted by Hunter

My friend Steve Friess has a note on his blog about the outcome of the Elad vs. Tamares case over naming use rights for "The Plaza" for a future resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2008/10/breaking-ny-plaza-wins-can-use-plaza.html

Give it a look. Also, Vegas Gang member Dave Schwartz was an expert witness in the case - expect us to touch on this in the next 'Gang episode.


October 5, 2008

Vegas Gang #18 - October 2nd, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #18 is online here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time around we cover:

* Las Vegas Web Roundup
* Tropicana Resorts Update
* Adelson Lends to Sands
* Sports Book Betting

Feel free to leave your comments below.


October 5, 2008

Quickies: "Switch" at Encore, Cher Done For 2008

Posted by Hunter

Two quick unrelated items:

* EatingLV.com has a tidbit about "Switch", one of the new restaurants at Encore. Supposedly it will feature an internal environment that does just that - switches mid-way through the evening.

* Looks like Cher is having some health issues that will force her to cancel shows this year, which will no doubt hurt Caesars Palace.


October 4, 2008

Las Vegas Weekly - Buyer's Market for Nightlife?

Posted by Hunter

Interesting article in the LV Weekly talking about the economic situation and it's impact on Las Vegas nightlife - we may see a swing to a more customer hospitable Saturday night.

http://www.lvweekly.com/news/2008/oct/02/carousing-crisis-clubbing-buyers-or-sellers-market/


October 2, 2008

Circus Circus Clown Coming Down?

Posted by Hunter

Here's an item posted on LVA that talks about the possibility of the iconic Circus Circus Las Vegas marquee coming down to make room for some rides.

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/whatsnews.cfm#3636

I get the fear just thinking about that thing.


September 30, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - October 1, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

Cirque's Criss Angel show has been taking some hits. Any reaction from Vegas locals?
Does Criss Angel's Cirque du Soleil Show at the Luxor Really Suck That Much?

LA Times Preview


September 30, 2008

Check Out Large Group of City Center Renderings

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to donnymac for pointing this out - a site with a bunch of renderings that I haven't seen, at least not all of them:

http://activerain.com/blogsview/702919/34-brand-new-renderings


Once again, another StripWalk from MikeCh, this time covering South Strip properties (and a trip to the Hard Rock).

Continue after the jump to read the details, photos are here:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/september2008


September 21, 2008

Vegas Gang #17 - September 18th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #17 is online here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time around we cover:

* Economic Update
* Kansas Update
* Strip Clubs in Strip Resorts?
* Mega-Resort Designs of the Future?
* ARIA Update

Feel free to leave your comments below.


September 18, 2008

ARIA Restaurants Announced

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage has started to leak the info on the restaurants that will be built inside ARIA, the main resort at City Center.

Two takes on the line-up, which is heavy on big names and maybe a couple of great restaurants:

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2008/09/aria-sings-food-glorious-food.html


http://www.eatinglv.com/2008/09/aria-announces-celebrity-chef-lineup/


September 15, 2008

UPDATED: City Center Room Photo - Tech at Aria

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Josh for pointing this out.

The LA Times has an article about tech at City Center's main hotel, Aria. The article includes a room mockup photo:


http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3029/2848186661_9c330d983f_m.jpg

The full article:
http://travel.latimes.com/daily-deal-blog/index.php/tech-leads-the-way-a-2733/

Update: This MGM Mirage press release has more info on all the tech going into the room. Some of it sounds pretty cool, though I hope the Internet speed is a bit higher than 128kb that they indicate in the release.


September 10, 2008

The Mirage Details Re-Launch of Volcano

Posted by Hunter

The Mirage Volcano, a fixture on the Las Vegas Strip for almost 20 years, is being re-launched.

MGM Mirage teamed with WET Design (Fountains of Bellagio) to re-create the iconic front-feature.

http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/mgm/34865/

WET brought in Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla sensation Zakir Hussain to create the audio for the new volcano.

More info here:
http://www.mirage.com/attractions/volcano.aspx

Scheduled to be unveiled later this year, we have a bunch of photos of the construction progress here:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/mirage


A big thank you and congratulations to Sean, the author of this excellent trip report featuring a stay at Wynn Las Vegas. You sir, are a class act, putting all of this together.

This is a very fun story that I can pretty much guarantee will make you smile. It even includes a special guest appearance by Steve and Elaine Wynn!

Keep reading after the jump for more...


September 4, 2008

Cosmopolitan Finds a Buyer

Posted by Hunter

It seems that the embattled Cosmopolitan Hotel project on the Strip has found a buyer after the bank foreclosed on the original developer.


http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/sep/04/buyout-keeps-cosmopolitan-play/

Thanks to Mark D for pointing this out.

Also, some coverage in the RJ:

http://www.lvrj.com/business/27848684.html


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:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/august2008

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.


August 27, 2008

40/40 Club at Palazzo to Close / Lavo Opens

Posted by Hunter

Word comes this morning that the 40/40 Club at The Palazzo is closing. This has been long rumored and many have doubted the place was doing very well.

In other Palazzo news, Lavo, the club from the creators of Tao, has opened. Lavo is notable because it is the center of ongoing litigation between the operators and Las Vegas Sands.


Mike Ch is back with another Strip Walk.

This time he hits both ends of the Strip with Luxor, Echelon, Encore, City Center and more.

Photos are here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/august2008


The RJ posted a story in which they confirmed tips they had been sent regarding City Center construction workers having alcohol before they entered the job site.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/26371359.html

Perini, the site's main contractor, has a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol and drugs.

Construction safety has been highlighted at City Center due to the number of construction deaths since the project began.


Another development in the saga of the Tropicana and Columbia Sussex. This time, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has recommended that the Las Vegas Strip casino be taken over by an unlicensed group of trustees as it progresses through bankruptcy.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/aug/06/unlicensed-board-clears-hurdle-control-tropicana/

What's interesting is that they are not licensed employees and that they say that CoSux head Bill Yung is no longer part of the decision making process.

This decision, as well as the recent stoppage at Echelon and other Las Vegas issues will be topics on tomorrow's Vegas Gang.


August 5, 2008

MGM Mirage Q2 Profit - Down 69%

Posted by Hunter

Here's a story from the Sun on today's reporting from MGM Mirage on their second quarter:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/aug/05/mgm-2q-profit-drops-69-percent/

Some properties, such as Bellagio, didn't do as poorly as some might have guessed. Executives seemed bullish on the future.


August 1, 2008

Breaking News: Boyd Delays Echelon

Posted by detroit1051

This was rumored the past few days. It's too bad for Las Vegas and the North Strip. I hope they can resume construction in a year or so. BYD's Conference Call is at Noon today, so we'll get more information then.


NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Casino operator Boyd Gaming Corp (BYD.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Friday it has decided to delay construction of its new Las Vegas Strip casino called Echelon and suspended quarterly dividends.

The company also posted lower second-quarter profit as the U.S. economic slowdown reduced gambling revenue.

The company also said it has decided to delay the construction of Echelon due to the challenging economic environment. It plans to resume construction in three or four quarters, assuming credit market conditions and economic outlook improves.
Boyd Delays Echelon


July 29, 2008

Motoman's July 2008 Trip Report

Posted by Hunter

Regular reader motoman has been kind enough to share with us a report of a recent trip. Here's Moto:

"What follows is a fairly lengthy report about a fairly mundane trip (certainly not up to Mike E standards, but then, who could top that? ;-) It's roughly chronological but each paragraph has its own subject, so feel free to follow along, skip ahead, or skip completely as you prefer, after the jump."


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.

Photos:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/july2008


Despite a softening Las Vegas market, Wynn Resorts pulled through with some strong company-wide numbers.

According to the Company: "Net revenues for the second quarter of 2008 were $825.2 million, compared to $687.5 million in the second quarter of 2007. The revenue increase was driven primarily by a 50.3% increase in revenues at Wynn Macau."

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1179096&highlight=

I'll have to listen to the conference call later - if there's anything good in there, I'll update the post.

Update: Listening to the call now - as Jeff indicates below, classic Wynn on display in the call. Lots of fun to listen to as he takes jabs at various parties - and he has the numbers to back him.


July 24, 2008

Trump Tower LV Laying Off 20% of Workers

Posted by Hunter

KVBC is reporting that Trump Tower in Las Vegas, the condo project from The Donald, is laying off 20% of its workforce.

This comes shortly after an article from Steve Friess where he predicted doom and gloom for the golden clad property.

I stayed there this Spring and while I'm not interested in going back, we had a nice time.

Thanks to Mike for shooting me the story this AM.


Here's a KLAS interview with Steve Wynn covering the Encore hiring, his take on City Center, Encore itself and more...

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/global/video/popup/pop_playerLaunch.asp?vt1=v&clipFormat=flv&clipId1=2719390&at1=News&h1=WEB%20EXTRA:%20Steve%20Wynn%20on%20Hotels,%20Jobs

Thanks to Chuck at VT for pointing this out.


July 18, 2008

Palazzo Restaurants Reviewed (Part One)

Posted by Hunter

This link made the rounds last week and I didn't post it but I've been enjoying this blog so much, I now feel like I need to share.

If you love Vegas food, this is a site to visit regularly (or subscribe via RSS).

http://www.eatinglv.com/2008/07/the-palazzo-restaurants-part-one


July 18, 2008

Nazarian Has Big Plans for The Sahara

Posted by Hunter

Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a great article on Sam Nazarian, new owner of The Sahara.

He wants to provide a superior experience, even for guests priced out of the market by the swing to luxury offerings - he plans rooms at about $200 a night. That doesn't mean implosion - he wants to work with the canvas he has, while adding to it and improving it.

It's a great read, check it out.


July 12, 2008

Vegas Gang #12 - July 11th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

The show is up:
http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time we feature:

* Wynn Hires Tim and Tim / Wynn Early Financials
* Nevada and Illinois Post Bad Numbers
* Tropicana E.Coli Outbreak
* Don Barden / Pittsburgh
* MGM Mirage / Wynn Resorts Market Cap

Comments welcome below.

Don't forget the Podcast-a-palooza:
http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com/2008/07/vegas-gang-podcast-live-august-16th-vegas-podcast-a-palooza/


July 12, 2008

Will Winslow's Guide to Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

Dave Schwartz, fellow Gang member and Die is Cast blogger has released the latest 'Winslow's Guide'.

If you love Las Vegas, you'll love this guide.

http://www.dieiscast.com/2008/07/11/winslows-11-2008-is-out/


Just saw this fly across the wire - Wynn Resorts has announced preliminary 2nd Quarter results:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1173860&highlight=

Operating income at Wynn Las Vegas is expected to be $18-22 million, down from $63.4 million last year. Wow, big drop. Looks like they are blaming it on lower hold percentages, lower ADR, and lower occupancy.

On the other end, Wynn Macau did much better than last year it seems with operating income almost doubling to $100 million or so.

The company also announced they will be buying back more shares.


Mike's returning with a new Strip Walk. This time we see Fontainebleau, Encore, Echelon, City Center, Luxor and more.

Keep reading after the jump and check out his photos:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk


July 8, 2008

Treasure Island 2008 Review at VegasTripping.com

Posted by Hunter

My good friend and fellow Vegas Gang member, Chuck at VegasTripping.com has posted an updated review of Treasure Island.

I used to stay at TI all the time and I used to recommend it as a great value. That was before the hotel went through massive transformations a few years back... The rates have gone up so it's less affordable than it was but there are still some good things about TI. I really like Isla and I am interested to try Social House. Mystere is still a show I recommend all the time.

Anyway, check out Chuck's review:
http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=149&page=1


June 27, 2008

VegasGang #11 Posted

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #11 is online here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This time we feature:

* Encore at Wynn Las Vegas Opening
* Cosmopolitan Sued Over Its Name
* MGM Mirage Using Social Networking
* Harrah's Pays Debt With Debt
* Adelson Profiled in New Yorker

Feel free to add comments below...


June 25, 2008

VegasTripping Posts Encore Photo Update

Posted by Hunter

My good friend and fellow 'Gang Member', ("yeah, I'm in a gang") Chuck has posted a bunch of new Encore construction photos:

http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=2144

Enjoy!


June 23, 2008

The New Yorker Profiles Sheldon Adelson

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to fellow Vegas Gang member Jeff Simpson for this link... Looks like the New Yorker has done a profile on everyone's favorite casino overlord, Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands. Check it out below. Also, props to Jeff for the mention!

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/06/30/080630fa_fact_bruck


June 18, 2008

A Tiny Bit More on Wynn's Encore...

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts started booking rooms at Encore today, for dates from February 6th, 2009 onward. They *may* accept guests before that date but for now, you cannot confirm anything earlier.

A little bit more info on the property:

* Encore will also feature a segmented hotel tower between suites and standard 'resort' rooms. As at Wynn Las Vegas, Encore's 'Tower Suites' will have their own valet, check-in and elevators.

* Encore will feature 5 new fine dining restaurants.

* As we already know, the casino will be bathed in natural light with pool and garden views.

* Encore will feature a new nightclub.

* All suites include wireless Internet access, 42" plasma TVs, and large bathroom TVs.

* The standard Encore room will feature L shaped couches in the sitting area. The standard room size is 700 square feet.

* They are also offering Parlor and Salon suites.

As we have previously heard, while Encore is described as an all-suite hotel, the standard room offering will be a segmented single room, featuring an innovative partition system.

I thought it was interesting to hear them describe Encore as a "new signature resort from the Wynn Collection". This is clearly in their script as two different reservationists gave me that line.


I had heard from several sources that while reservations for Encore at Wynn Las Vegas open up this Wednesday, they would not be taking bookings for arrivals before February 6th, 2009 (Super Bowl weekend).

Well, this seemed a bit strange... I checked into it myself and it is true that you cannot reserve rooms before early February. I guess it's possible the first two months are for invite only players but I find this hard to believe.

I'm still told Encore's casino should open in December - what does this mean? A soft opening for Steve Wynn, the king of the hardest of hard openings who is on record disparaging the soft opening at The Venetian and Palazzo? I'm personally pretty shocked if this is the case.

I've heard some rumors as to why - leading me to believe they may have had no choice - but nothing I've been able to confirm.

This is developing... Still plenty of time for things to change.

Update: Fellow Vegas Gang Podcast contributor Jeff Simpson contacted Wynn Resorts for comment and, unlike myself, was actually able to get a response. Wynn and Co. are saying they plan to open in December as originally planned and they're just being super-extra-cautious by not allowing normal reservations until February. Maybe that's all there is to it. Wynn Resorts - I'm happy to be a 'witness' at the official opening. :-)


June 15, 2008

The Mirage, June 8-11.

Posted by Mike E

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)


June 13, 2008

MGM Mirage Using Social Nets Twitter and Facebook

Posted by Hunter

Well, it was just a matter of when and who - Las Vegas casino operators using social networking technologies to promote their wares.

Actually, some of their affiliates, such as the Light Group, have been using these tools for some time... but now the big kahuna, MGM Mirage, is getting into the act through a new site called the Vegas Concierge.

The new Web presence uses Facebook and Twitter to push short bursts of info to users. I expect every other operator to follow at some point.

For those not already aware, we have a Twitter account for this site and I also have one of my own.


June 13, 2008

Vegas Gang #10 - Economic Woes to Bankrupt LVS?

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #10 is up - http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

This episode focuses on the CityCenter walkout and the economy vs. Las Vegas. We cover a few stories on the specifics, including an entry suggesting that LVS is heading for Chapter 11. That may be an extreme outcome but its an interesting discussion point.

Also, a little bit on the iPhone and its impact on Las Vegas.

Enjoy the show and feel free to post your comments here.

UPDATE: Stiffs and George's has a story about Palazzo's underwhelming performance: http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/blogs/dmckee/index.cfm/2008/6/13/Oops-he-did-it-again


The Las Vegas Sun is reporting on a workers strike at City Center, MGM Mirage's large development on the Las Vegas Strip.

Due to a rash of construction deaths, the workers are demanding increased safety provisions be made before work will start again.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jun/03/workers-walk-citycenter-site-protest/

Update: It's possible that work will re-start again soon - it appears Perini and the trades had a positive meeting.


June 1, 2008

Tao Nightclub Attempts Ballot Box Stuffing

Posted by Hunter

All you readers probably realize that the 'parent' of this blog is our ratings site, RateVegas.com. We allow readers to rate and review hundreds of Las Vegas hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and more. It's been running since 1999 and has a huge database of worthwhile data.

Over the years, I've added several features designed to protect against malicious uses of an open system - I was getting a ton of submissions that were nothing but spam links to gambling sites. I track the IP address of each submission for the purposes of comparison (no personal info is tracked or stored unless you submit your email address).

Well, over the past few months I've noticed quite a few glowing reviews for Tao Nightclub at The Venetian. At first they looked legit but the wording from week to week was QUITE similar. I checked and of course they are all coming from the same IP - one that is registered to Cox Communications in Las Vegas, NV, the region's cable modem provider.

So, it appears that Tao, or someone working for them, is attempting to defraud the public with fake reviews posted through my service. I assume they're doing this elsewhere as well.

I mention this just because it is interesting. I'll do nothing more but delete the incoming fake reviews and continue on my day.

Any other site operators notice anything like this? Fake comments? Planted submissions? Are Vegas casinos, clubs and PR operations *finally* getting smarter about using the 'Net?

Also, a note to Vegas businesses that want to get their word out - I'm happy to listen to your pitch and I love sharing interesting stories and info with my readers. Just don't try to come in the back door.


May 30, 2008

Vegas Gang #9 - "Wynn + Harrah's = Good Times?"

Posted by Hunter

The latest episode is live - check out our discussions here:

http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

Comments welcome below...


May 29, 2008

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas to Become 'W Las Vegas'?

Posted by Hunter

The rumor floating around today is that The Related Cos has purchased/taken over the Cosmopolitan project on the Las Vegas Strip and it will be an outpost of the 'W' hotel chain. Time will tell...

http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/whatsnews.cfm


May 19, 2008

Details on "ARIA" - City Center's Anchor Hotel

Posted by Hunter

As speculated, the name 'ARIA' is official.

MGM Mirage's press release had a bit more info than I've seen published elsewhere. I don't usually just publish these things but I think this is of interest so continue reading after the jump.


Vegas Gang Podcast #8 has been posted:

http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

Comments can be posted here on this site, below.

Our guest is Steve Friess and we cover his book, 'Gay Vegas' as well as Las Vegas marketing, MGM Mirage splitting up, casino cheating and more.


May 16, 2008

LV Sun: City Center Will Open in Stages

Posted by Hunter

Despite the original plan to open everything in November of 2009, it seems MGM Mirage is now planning to open the complex in stages, starting August 2009 with the first condo tower and going through December 15, 2009 when the main hotel opens.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/gaming/2008/may/16/citycenter-will-not-all-open-once-after-all

NOTE: They refer to the main hotel as 'Aria'. It's my understanding this name was scrapped. Also, unrelated - new Vegas Gang going up tonight.

Update: People on the Internets seem to think this name is correct. We'll see I guess. I don't really like the name, FWIW.


May 14, 2008

Luxor : Lost In Transition - VegasTripping.com

Posted by Hunter

My good friend Chuck at VegasTripping.com is just back from Las Vegas and wrote up a little report about the transition at Luxor:

http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=139&page=1


Yes, we're back (and better than ever?).

Anyway, the episode is posted here: http://www.vegasgangpodcast.com

Comment away!


May 5, 2008

Tropicana Entertainment to File for Chapter 11

Posted by Hunter

It looks like the 'chickens are coming home to roost' for Tropicana Entertainment - in our pre-call bater for Vegas Gang, Jeff Simpson tipped us off to this story.

Thanks to Chuck for the link.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jCaSMpwrAzEulgNBAe6Lj0iiHrfQD90FOA480


This past week I was able to try a few new restaurants and so I have some brief comments on what I thought. To give some background on my tastes, I'm a pretty simple eater into traditional restaurants and while I do like to splurge when I can, my day-to-day tastes are basic.

Cut (Steakhouse) at The Palazzo - Cut is a new restaurant from Wolfgang Puck, located at The Palazzo in the atrium that connects to The Venetian. We were seated right on time for our reservation and overall service throughout the meal was excellent. They offer quite a few variations on the beef - both American and Japanese and many sub-variants. They're good at explaining the relative merits, as well as suggesting sauce pairings and other dishes. My New York from Nebraska was basically prepared perfectly. I also had some mashed potatoes that were addictive as hell and finished with a killer take on banana cream pie. I easily recommend Cut to anyone looking for a good steak, though Delmonico down the hall still has an edge IMHO.

This is not a good place for vegetarians. Very few alternatives.

One strange thing, common to both Cut and Table 10 - the decor of the restaurant seems several degrees cheaper than what you'd expect based on food, prices and service. Both places felt more like 'mall restaurants' than other high end joints like Delmonico, Carnevino, Prime, etc...

Nove (Italian) at The Palms - I don't make it over to The Palms that often and when I do, it's almost always just to eat. I love Italian food and was looking to try something new so we ended up here.

The restaurant is located near the top of the Fantasy Tower which guarantees a great view of The Strip. We weren't next to the window but you can still easily get a nice look.

The menu has a lot of simple, traditional Italian dishes. We had a pizza and salads to start and I followed with chicken parmigiana. All of the food was really, really good. Incredible mouth watering and addictive.

Service was present but not overbearing and the overall decor and vibe was comfortable and casual. I would come back to Nove pretty much anytime.

I did have a slight altercation with an employee as we were leaving. I may or may not write that up later but he didn't work for the restaurant so no points off for them.

Table 10 (American) at The Palazzo - I've eaten at quite a few of Emeril's restaurants in both Vegas and New Orleans and I've never been disappointed.

Table 10 was another winner - great food. I had jambalaya which was full of chicken and shrimp - tasted great. Also, the 'cheddar beer' soup was awesome. I finished with sorbet that was good but was nothing special.

Service was strong. I spilled water all over the table and they were in there faster than I could snap my fingers cleaning things up.

Regarding decor, see my note above. Sorta a strange trend but unmistakable. The kitchen is open to the dining area so you can watch them work, plus you can see across to Wynn Las Vegas and Encore.

For any of the above restaurants, please feel free to leave questions in the comments and I will try to answer.


Mike_ch is back with the latest Strip Walk. This time we have a look at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, New York New York and Luxor.

Notes after the jump, photos here:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk


April 22, 2008

Wynn Resorts Puts Las Vegas Sands In Cross Hairs

Posted by Hunter

On the most recent episode of The Strip Podcast, Steve Wynn talks about his ultimate plans for the golf course - two new hotels for a total of 10,000 rooms (including WLV and Encore) and a 1.5 million square foot convention facility.

Clearly, this would put Wynn Resorts in direct competition with the various other convention centers in town, most specifically Las Vegas Sands and their Sands Expo. No specific timeline was given for the development.


April 21, 2008

A Stay at Trump International Tower - Las Vegas, NV

Posted by Hunter

For my first stay in a condo-hotel, I picked the Trump International Tower, right off the Strip in Las Vegas. This is a short write up of our experience this past weekend.

Continue after the jump for more...

Photos: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/trump


April 17, 2008

Sands on Trial Over Macau Deal

Posted by Hunter

I really should have posted this earlier as it is a fascinating story.

It seems a gentleman that allegedly helped Adelson's company get into the Macau market believes he was promised more compensation than he has received (nothing so far).

Well, now he's suing the company in a Nevada court. Should prove a very interesting exercise.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/apr/17/trial-outs-sands-dealings-macau/


The rumors are true! Gans will move to Encore when it opens, leaving The Mirage.

What's funny is that Wynn denied this point blank to Steve Friess in the last interview.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1131831&highlight=


Harrah's Entertainment, the recently gone-private casino behemoth, has decided to change its name - to Caesars Entertainment. Fun.

http://investor.harrahs.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=84772&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1127757&highlight=


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...)


April 8, 2008

Vegas Doom and Gloom From The UK

Posted by Hunter

A Las Vegas-is-gonna-go-bust doom and gloom article from the Times Online in the UK.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/chris_ayres/article3701686.ece


April 5, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - April 5, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

The Wall Street Journal follows up on the condo-hotel bubble, and focuses much of the story on Residences at MGM Grand and Trump's new tower. The story should be available without a subscription:

"It's been a very bad investment," said Moji Adekunbi, a 47-year-old engineer, who bought a $550,000 condo-hotel unit in the Signature at the MGM Grand in 2005 in Las Vegas, where one of every four hotel rooms being developed is a condo-hotel unit. Mr. Adekunbi counted on the cash flow from renting out his unit more than covering his $3,000-a-month mortgage payment, leaving him with a tidy profit.
He said the developer's sales staff led him to believe that the hotel would have 94% occupancy and $350-a-night rates, Turns out, he said he is netting only between $400 and $1,800 a month before his mortgage payment."
Condo-Hotel Buyers See Investments Sour As the Market Weakens


Steve Friess chats up Steve Wynn for this weeks The Strip Podcast and there is no shortage of great quotes, particularly near the end when he gets into Adelson's claim that at one point he had offered Wynn a job.

I assume the show will be posted sometime Thursday. It's certainly worth a listen, along with a few bits on Encore and the Binkley book, "Winner Takes All".


Some may recall that before the 're-opening' of the Aladdin as Planet Hollywood, I was quoted in a London paper by writer Steve Friess and gave a less than stellar prognosis for the troubled property. That subsequently lead to an exchange between Friess and Hollywood principal Robert Earl.

Anyway, as I said all along, I have nothing against the property or its operator and here's a story that indicates their strategy is indeed working, pulling PHo back from the abyss that was the Aladdin. For the sake of healthy competition, I hope we see this continue. Congrats to them for hard working paying off it seems.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/17216192.html


March 27, 2008

Crown Las Vegas Looks Dead

Posted by Hunter

It looks like the Crown Las Vegas project, which was to be a super tall hotel tower at one point, is dead - at least in its current incarnation. Something will be built there someday, the question is what.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/17044791.html


March 23, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - March 23rd, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Another open topic for discussion.

One thing of note - I got some photos from Mike_Ch which I published:

http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent

Thanks Mike!


March 23, 2008

Walk On The Left! Stand On The Right!

Posted by Hunter

VegasRex is covering one of my biggest pet peeves in Las Vegas - people that don't know how to WALK. You'd think that walking would have been mastered at a young age - certainly by college... But no... It seems it is still a mystery here in 2008. People don't realize that not everyone wants to walk/stand at their speed and they make it impossible to get around them. How about a little courtesy for your neighbors?

Sometimes I think walking should require a license - something I can revoke for the idiots that don't get it.

http://www.vegasrex.com/2008/03/23/vegasrex-vindicated-again

Whew. I feel better now.


March 23, 2008

Related Joins Bidding on Cosmopolitan

Posted by Hunter

According to the WSJ (sorry, registration required), the Related Companies, no stranger to distressed Vegas developments, is looking at the Cosmopolitan project.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120613069739055703.html?mod=hpp_us_whats_news

Thanks to Brian for the tip! Happy Easter!


Steve Friess picked up on the news from Wachovia that Elad is putting the Plaza Las Vegas project on hold due to the challenging credit market:

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2008/03/plaza-put-on-hold-as-wynn-predicted.html

Very interesting, especially coupled with the Cosmopolitan news. Friess apparently just did an interview with Steve Wynn where the casino mogul predicted this.

Update: Elad, the developer, is denying the report so at this point this is in question.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/03/17/financial/f175003D71.DTL

Thanks Hail2Skins!


We talk the concept of 'free' and casinos, lots of fresh details on Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Majestic's Vegas numbers, and more. This is a don't miss for Wynn fans.

The participants include:

Jeff Simpson - http://www.lasvegassun.com and http://www.inbusinesslasvegas.com

David McKee - http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/blogs/dmckee/

Dave Schwartz - http://www.dieiscast.com

Chuck Monster - http://www.vegastripping.com

Direct Download: http://media.ratevegas.com/37-VegasGang03062008.mp3


Dave Schwartz has an interesting article where the talks about a piece from Wired that is discussing the proliferation of free services in business, especially on the Internet. Dave spins that into a gaming business narrative and breaks it down for us.

http://www.dieiscast.com/2008/02/26/could-casinos-become-free


February 26, 2008

Encore Suites at Wynn Las Vegas - Coming December 2008

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts have settled on December 2008 as the unveiling for Encore Suites, the sister resort going up next to Wynn Las Vegas.

Few new details besides the opening timeframe are in the press release, though it does allude to many of the features we've already covered here in the past.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1112568&highlight=


We're back with roundtable #2 - this time around the topics include Crown investing in Harrah's/Station, MGM Grand Detroit, Pure being raided by the IRS, Cuba as the next Macau and more.

The participants include:

Jeff Simpson - http://www.lasvegassun.com and http://www.inbusinesslasvegas.com

David McKee - http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/blogs/dmckee/

Dave Schwartz - http://www.dieiscast.com

Chuck Monster - http://www.vegastripping.com

Direct Download: http://media.ratevegas.com/36-podcast_02212008.mp3


February 21, 2008

MGM Mirage Project Jumps: CityCenter Sale, RevPAR Up

Posted by Hunter

Some info on MGM Mirage's quarterly results, announced today:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1110879&

http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/mgm-mirages-net-profit-soars/story.aspx?guid=%7B74B0CA0C-98F3-4472-B48D-EB7F4B52CDFA%7D


February 20, 2008

Tax Evasion at Pure? IRS On the Scene

Posted by Hunter

This is still breaking but it seems like the Feds raided Pure, the nightclub at Caesars, today.

Pure is not run by Harrah's, it is a separate entity.

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=7901495&Call=Email&Format=Text


February 12, 2008

Wynn Resorts Reports Q4 Results

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts just reported their results.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1107473&highlight=

That's the press release. I'll update this with some thoughts as soon as I have a chance.


February 12, 2008

Las Vegas Sands To Replace Sands Expo Center

Posted by detroit1051

Las Vegas Sands hosted an Investors Day on February 11 in Las Vegas. Management presented detailed information on the company's operations in Las Vegas and Macau as well as on other projects being built or planned both in this country and overseas.

One important announcement was the plan to build a New Sands Expo at the corner of Koval and Sands. Once the facility opens at the end of 2010, the land that the existing Sands Expo Center sits on could be used for another resort or other purposes. The site is 20 acres and is part of the Venetian/Palazzo complex.

The Investors Presentation is available as a webcast and as a slide presentation. The slides of the New Sands Expo and of the 20 acres for future development are very interesting.

Investors Day Slides=Part I
Investors Day-Part II
Webcast Replay Links


The first episode of what could become a new, semi-regular podcast has been posted.

It doesn't yet have a name but the working title is 'Vegas Roundtable'. It's a gaming industry related podcast in a discussion format. Today's participants include:

Jeff Simpson - http://www.lasvegassun.com and http://www.inbusinesslasvegas.com

David McKee - http://www.lasvegasadvisor.com/blogs/dmckee/

Dave Schwartz - http://www.dieiscast.com

Chuck Monster - http://www.vegastripping.com

Thanks to all participants. The podcast is in my normal feed for 'The Worst Las Vegas Podcast' but it will probably move to a dedicated feed. Also, if anyone can think of a good name, drop them in the comments.

If you don't subscribe to the feed and want the direct URL, here it is:
http://media.ratevegas.com/35-roundtable_1-02_07_08.mp3


February 4, 2008

UPDATED: Las Vegas Sands Reports Q4 2007 Results

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas Sands reported their Q4 2007 results and the press release is here:

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/080204/lam127.html?.v=23

I'll update this story in a bit with some details and numbers once I have a chance to dig in.

Updated: Ok, I took a look at the numbers, which were down a bit. They cited increased development costs, which looks like it makes sense. Net income was WAY down but they had a ton of costs from opening Palazzo and post-opening stuff at Venetian Macau on Cotai. Interest expense was way up which indicates they had to fund some of those through bank loans. The Cotai property didn't perform at the level they wanted in terms of winnings but volume seems pretty strong - the property is already contributing about half of the company's gross. With Palazzo and Venetian Macau open, Sands is setup for a pretty nice story in fiscal 2008.


Some new photos posted this afternoon:

http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/encore
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/montecarlofire

The Encore shots give a really good look at the final layouts for the big parts of the project. You can see all the skylights in the low-rise for the new spa, plus I assume that lattice roof area will be filled with glass as well. Overall, looking good - can't wait to see more.

Thanks to Brian and Mark for sharing their photos.

Regarding the podcast, I have GarageBand open now - hopefully I'll get this finished shortly.


January 30, 2008

Monte Carlo Fire and EIFS

Posted by Hunter

Last week, most TV sets were tuned in to see the facade of a Las Vegas hotel, the Monte Carlo, engulfed in flames. I'm no expert in fire safety but I know what was going through my head, watching in real time: this fire is moving FAST and whatever is on the top of that building looks to be fueling it.

In the hours and days that followed, one term was repeated over and over: EIFS.

Instead of demonizing an easy target, I'm glad that I've had the chance to speak with several folks fluent in EIFS details, including some industry representatives. Keep reading after the jump and I'll share a couple of things I've learned.


Not sure how serious this is yet. Obvious now that it was pretty serious.

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=7774764

Update: I'm watching the live video on lasvegasnow.com and it looks pretty bad. Lots of black smoke that actually looks like it is coming from two places.

Updated: The fire is extremely bad. Multiple floors on the South side - that side of the building at the top are basically destroyed. Major destruction. Wow, this is really bad. Clark County Firefighters are incredibly brave - they are up on the roof working to put this out. I guess guests are being moved to MGM Grand Garden Arena. Nice.

Diablo's Cantina indeed. I hope no one was hurt.

One interesting point - on the South side there, there is no low rise building at the base of the hotel tower. Hopefully that is making it easier to get crews closer from the ground.

Links:
http://www.lvrj.com/breaking_news/14369312.html
http://www.knbc.com/videostream/9476753/detail.html
http://lasvegassun.com/blogs/news/2008/jan/25/fire-monte-carlo/

Hats off to the amazing work of the Clark County Fire Department in getting this thing under control so quickly - and it does seem to be pretty much under their control now, despite the few flames still burning. Now the question is what does this mean for the property - how bad is the damage?

Update: Thanks to Mike_Ch, some more photos of the aftermath: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent


January 23, 2008

Palazzo Las Vegas - Opening Weekend Thoughts

Posted by Hunter

Palazzo is the finest hotel ever built in Las Vegas - Las Vegas Sands In-Room Magazine

"Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." - Red Faced Guy

I was in Las Vegas at the end of December on a trip that was supposed to coincide with the soft opening of The Palazzo, the first major property to open on the Strip since Wynn Las Vegas in 2005. Of course, we know how that turned out - Las Vegas Sands postponed the soft-open for a few days and by the time guests were walking through, I was back at home.

When another excuse for a trip popped up, this time coinciding with the 'real' opening of The Palazzo, the credit card was primed and ready. I reserved a standard 'suite' for two nights at a rate of about $300/night. I've been a critic of The Venetian in the past but I really wanted to go into this past weekend without pre-judging the property... at least that was my goal.

Keep reading after the jump for my thoughts on The Palazzo, some comparisons to other properties, and some specific notes on the photos.

Photo gallery: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/palazzo


January 21, 2008

Encore Construction Photos

Posted by Hunter

Ok, still working on my Palazzo story but in the interim, here's some recent photos of Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

Some nice shots showing low-rise progress. Curtains and what looked like furniture was in many of the lower floors of the high-rise.

In particular, this shot shows where the glass wall looking over the pool area will be:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/show/5809?gallery_id=78

And the rest of the shots:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/encore


January 19, 2008

Palazzo First Thoughts

Posted by Hunter

We checked into a standard 'suite' at The Palazzo last night. I will be writing more when I get home, as well as publishing some photos, but here are some overall thoughts quickly, before I head out:

I really like the lobby and atrium areas - they look fantastic... but they may be the best parts of the property.

The room is nice, though I don't consider a single room a suite, even if it has a separated living space. The room is nicely appointed, though some of the fixtures look cheap.

Service has been great. A bellman walked us to our room, though I assume that's because it was slow. I am told on 80% of the rooms are open.

The casino is a disappointment. It's just a huge open room. Better than The Venetian but nowhere near as nice as WLV or Bellagio in this regard.

The pool area looks closed at the moment and only a few restaurants are open. I haven't spent much time in the shops yet.

This place is just what any close watcher of LVS would expect - it's The Venetian, slightly upgraded.

So, as I work on getting more data, what sort of things are you guys interested in?


January 17, 2008

Open Topic Discussion: January 17, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

Sheldon Adelson: He is driven. Interesting article in the NY Times.
"...the Venetian is now the Strip�s second most profitable casino hotel, behind only the Bellagio, said Robert A. LaFleur, an industry analyst with the Susquehanna Financial Group, and that is with only a third of its revenue coming from its gambling floor."

When 3rd Place on the Rich List Just Isn�t Enough


January 13, 2008

Trip Report January 2008: Bellagio Suites and Palazzo

Posted by Hunter

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:

http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent

Enjoy!


The Cosmopolitan, one of the more interesting upcoming deveopments on the Las Vegas Strip, is reportedly looking for investment capital. The Las Vegas Sun's new gaming blog reports:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/gaming/2008/jan/11/cosmopolitan-looking-investors/

Update:The mortgage holders have foreclosed: http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/djf500/200801161602DOWJONESDJONLINE001065_FORTUNE5.htm


Well, the gaming win in the great state of Nevada declined a good bit last time 'round:

http://www.vegastripping.com/news/news.php?news_id=1857&src=rss

Not good for our favorite multi-national casino conglomerates. It's hard not to link this to the degrading confidence in the US economy overall. Gaming is often somewhat insulated - people love to wager no matter how screwed they are - but of course there would be some kind of a hit if things go down big time in the US of A.


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!


December 31, 2007

UPDATED: Palazzo Opens Just to Spite Me

Posted by Hunter

Well, Palazzo's casino and some other public spaces are open.

http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/2007/12/first-look-palazzo.html

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=402119&page=13

We got back from Las Vegas on Saturday - I was really hoping to see the insides myself. So much of the exterior needs work but I guess they were just determined to start the cash meter.

Update: Thanks to Mark for sharing some exclusive photos with us. You can see them here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/palazzo

Updated Again: I just booked two nights over the opening weekend so we'll be reporting on the full Palazzo experience.


December 30, 2007

THEhotel, December 26-29, 2007

Posted by Mike E

After a six-month hiatus, I headed back to town spending three nights at my old, favorite haunt before Wynn opened: THEhotel. My thoughts on the property, some gambling highlights, and general observations follow after the jump.


December 24, 2007

Caesars Palace Dealers Vote to Unionize

Posted by Hunter

Well, this could be the second shot across the bow in the industry as we see a second major Las Vegas casino's dealers vote to have union representation.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/12797112.html

Following Wynn Las Vegas dealers before them, is this a reflection on management in these two organizations? Will we see dealers at an MGM Mirage property go this route?


December 23, 2007

BREAKING: Palazzo Will Not Have Guests in December

Posted by Hunter

It turns out that due to 'construction delays' there will be no hotel guests at Palazzo in 2007. I have confirmed with hotel staff that guests are being moved to The Venetian if they so desire.

Still working on final word if even the casino will be open this coming week - it's looking doubtful.

Thanks to Brian for the heads up on this.


December 21, 2007

Mirage Room Remodel to Start in February 2008

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Andy who spotted this on The Mirage's official Web site. It seems the rooms are getting a full on make over starting in February and based on the pictures, they are totally tossing the current room decor.

http://www.mirage.com/hotel/hotel_remodel.aspx

Wow, that's drastic. Now, I totally think the rooms need to be redone but honestly, I think this design goes a bit too far for my tastes. I love the amenities they are adding - that's great... and, I think generally the vibe is okay but this is like cranked too far. It's as if they had one or two many committees weigh in on this, each tweaking the design a bit to the point that there's no longer any cohesion.

Thoughts?


Mike_ch is back with another Stripwalk. This time he visits Encore, City Center, TI, Palazzo, Luxor and more. Check it out after the jump plus don't forget to check out the new photos:

Photos: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk


December 6, 2007

Crown Las Vegas Moves Forward; Two Towers

Posted by Hunter

Another piece of news from the recent press, the Wet N' Wild Crown Las Vegas project is moving past the Planning Commission after slashing their height, which may mean that they will end up with two towers.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/12197841.html


December 6, 2007

Harrah's Buyout One Hurdle Away From Done

Posted by Hunter

It's making its way through the regulatory process in Nevada, with one hurdle to go.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/12197831.html


December 6, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: December 6, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

I missed this story on vegas.com's new Arrow bus service, in cooperation with the monorail. It was written up in today's Miami Herald:
Vegas.com introduces high-tech bus service on the Las Vegas Strip
Here's the route map and details:
http://www.vegas.com/transportation/trolley.html
Is there a big enough market for both The Deuce and Arrow?


December 1, 2007

Steve Friess Goes Over Vegas' Worst To Come

Posted by Hunter

My friend Steve Friess has an article in the Las Vegas Weekly that goes over some of the worst ideas, coming soon to a Las Vegas near you.


http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/content/nc/news/single-story/article/steve-friess-big-bad-and-ugly/


November 28, 2007

Welcome to MEGACENTER, May I Take Your Coat?

Posted by Hunter

Well, it appears at the geniuses at Las Vegas Sands have decided that they needed a name for the combined complex of The Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo Center. That name? MEGACENTER (yes, all caps). Dumb name. I wonder if they considered other gems such as THEMegacenter or maybe even CITYMEGACENTER.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119621320341806038.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Also, as has been reported elsewhere, Palazzo's opening moved from 12/20 to 12/28, no doubt cause they realized it was impossible to make 12/20 work. There's a good chance I'll be in town for this opening so I'll keep y'all posted. I don't think I'm brave enough to reserve a room.


The RJ has details on the departure of Tropicana's CFO:


The embattled parent company of the Tropicana on the Strip took another blow with the resignation of the company's chief financial officer after only 120 days in the position. [From ReviewJournal.com - Business - Tropicana CFO quits, takes new job]


November 25, 2007

Planet Hollywood / Robert Earl Update

Posted by Hunter

For those following the fun, here's a recap on all the excitement:

The original article by Steve Friess where I was quoted is here.

Then, the first followup was on Steve's blog here, where we had a little commentary.

The latest is the Friess article in the Las Vegas Weekly, which can be read here.

Anyway, lots of fun and I will of course update you as it (if it) unfolds further.

Update: More from Chuck at VegasTripping: http://www.vegastripping.com/features/feature.php?feature_id=127&page=1


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...

Photos: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk


November 20, 2007

Plaza Hotel vs. Plaza Las Vegas Name Show Down

Posted by Hunter

A piece on Steve Friess' Vegas blog yesterday talks about the upcoming clash between the Downtown Las Vegas Plaza Hotel and the upcoming Plaza Las Vegas, destined for the site of the now demolished New Frontier.

Like Steve says, this one seems clear. I'm curious how this will shake out - Elad has deep pockets, they could probably license the name and pay off the cash strapped Tamares (they still own the Plaza, right?)


November 14, 2007

November 2007 LV Strip Construction Photos Posted

Posted by Hunter

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.


November 13, 2007

New Frontier Implosion

Posted by Hunter

Okay, that was amazingly cool. If you've never felt the raw power of a building fall, make sure you put the Tropicana Island Tower implosion on your Jan/Feb calendar.

I took a ton of photos. They are here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/newfrontierimplosion.

That's probably it for now - I'm super tired and it's been a long day. Lastly though, another big thank you to Steve Friess who hooked me up with the pimp media access. Thanks Steve!!!


November 12, 2007

New Fronter Implosion - Our Coverage

Posted by Hunter

Well, I decided that I'm going to jump in the car and head to Las Vegas to photograph and shoot video of the implosion of the New Frontier tonight (early tomorrow).

I'll be trying to do this as 'live' as possible, including posting to my Twitter feed @ratevegas. Also, Flickr should have updated photos and of course I will be posting here, but that's probably going to have a little delay, just due to the nature of the tech. The Twitter feed will be the most up to date as it happens.

So, wish me luck and you'll hear from me soon.

Update: If anyone reading this is either a Wynn Resorts employee or is staying at Wynn Las Vegas and has a room overlooking the Frontier, drop me a line at editor AT ratevegas DOT com - myself and another high-profile Vegas blogger/writer would love to watch from your window.


November 5, 2007

The Mirage Replaces White Tigers With Burgers

Posted by Hunter

I got a press release this morning from MGM Mirage regarding a new restaurant going in at The Mirage. BLT Burger will be replacing the Habitat at the resorts' Southern-most Strip entrance.

This is another nail in the coffin of Siegfried and Roy's tenure at The Mirage. As for the restaurant, the press release states:

"BLT Burger's diverse menu will offer quality ingredients including beef (sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket cut), American and Japanese Kobe, lamb and Ahi tuna burgers along with soft, no-frills buns. Onion rings and a variety of French fry options, including waffle-cut, sweet potato and chili cheese, will complement the meal. An array of milkshakes in classic and spiked varieties will be available along with a selection of ice cream floats. Nostalgic glass-bottled sodas, innovative cocktails, as well as a focused selection of wine and beer will quench every guest's thirst."


October 30, 2007

Wynn Resorts Reports Q3 2007 Results

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts just reported as the market closed - the conference call is about to start and I'll update this with any interesting info.

Quarterly revenue was $653.4 million, up from $318.1 million last year - all because of Macau. Adjusted property EBITDA was $186 million.

Adjusted net income: $73.4 million, compared to a $1.3 million loss last year. GAAP net income was $44 million and that figure from last year was skewed by the sale of the Macau sub-concession.

Lots of interesting details in the press release: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1069836&highlight=

ADR at Wynn Las Vegas: $282, up from $271 a year ago. Occupancy was 96.6%.

ADR at Wynn Macau: $245 and occupancy was 91.9%.


October 30, 2007

MGM Mirage Blames OPERA Failure On Memory Leak

Posted by Hunter

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.


October 30, 2007

MGM Mirage Posts Third Quarter Results

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage posted their 2007 Q3 results - the company's net revenues are up 6% to $1.9 billion.

Details are here: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=irol-SECText&TEXT=aHR0cDovL2NjYm4uMTBrd2l6YXJkLmNvbS94bWwvZmlsaW5nLnhtbD9yZXBvPXRlbmsmaXBhZ2U9NTIzODMxMSZkb2M9Mg%3d%3d

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.


October 28, 2007

Open Topic Discussion - Oct. 28, 2007

Posted by Hunter

Here's a new open topic thread for y'all. A couple of notes on this sunny Sunday:

Regarding the piece on VT&T regarding the Encore casino and a 'poker island', based on the plans I have seen and the people I have talked to, this is off the mark. Now, the plans I originally saw for the low rise stuff have substantially changed since then, as we have already discussed... My understanding is that there is no poker room planned for Encore, plus the walkway changes he talks about obliterate the retail that's planned along the WLV-Encore corridor and generally just sound like they waste space. I am very skeptical.

Second, thanks to reader MikeP for sending in a photo inside Palazzo's retail area, plus the new aquarium at The Mirage: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent


October 25, 2007

The Mirage Lobby Aquarium Is Re-Born

Posted by Hunter

According to a release I got today, the aquarium that is behind the desk at The Mirage, which has been shrouded in black for months, has been revealed.

It's a whole new affair with more animals, new artifical reef and a new filtration system.

Supposedly the aquarium features 1,000 marine life forms in 20,000 gallons of water.


October 21, 2007

Palazzo - Opening on Time?

Posted by Hunter

An article over on the VegasRex blog talks about the Palazzo and if it will open on time. It's a question that a lot of people are asking - and wondering if 'opening' will be qualified with 'limited'.

Now, some of what Rex talks about are probably less of an issue than he makes them out to be - when these high-rises are built, the lower floors are finished, fixtures are installed and furnished while the upper floors are still being framed and curtained.

We know that the retail shops will be open in January and the 'Jersey Boys' show will be later in the Spring. Also, I'm pretty sure that some of the convention space expansion will probably not be open on 12/20 either.

Anyway, any inside info in this thread would be fascinating - what do you guys think?


October 20, 2007

Palazzo Construction Detailed

Posted by Hunter

An interesting article in the LVBP goes over the Palazzo project - I didn't realize it was the largest steel project in North America - and it explains doing the framing that way vs. the more typical cement pours you see all over town.

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2007/10/19/news/iq_17358839.txt

Not so sure about that comment about LVS' 'typical attention to detail' though.


October 13, 2007

RateVegas for iPhone Updated With New Features

Posted by Hunter

Howdy all, just a friendly note to let you know that I have updated the iPhone version of RateVegas.com to include a new feature that I hope will be useful.

When visiting Las Vegas, I find that often people want to know what restaurants are nearby (not just in) the hotel they are currently hanging out in. Well, we added a new feature to handle exactly this - the system asks where you are and gives the top rated restaurants in all nearby hotels - pretty neat!


http://www.ratevegas.com/iphone/


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


October 11, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: October 11, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

Can Le Reve be salvaged? I haven't seen it, but Wynn has been tinkering with it for two years now: Is it a first class show?
Le Reve Continues To Evolve


October 10, 2007

Inside The MGM MIRAGE Brain Trust: Jim Murren

Posted by Hunter

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.


October 4, 2007

Harrah's Cut Corners With Rio Renovation? Unsafe?

Posted by Hunter

Wow, another crazy story, this time involving Harrah's and the Rio.

Did officials cut corners during a recent renovation? It seems some contractors have come forward and alleged this may be the case.

Clark County is on the case.


September 27, 2007

Strip Walk: September 2007

Posted by Hunter

Well, you know the drill at this point. Another episode featuring MGM Grand, Wynn Las Vegas, City Center and more.

Photos are here: RateVegas Photos

This time we get a bonus video: Diablo's Cantina



September 24, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: September 24, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

"USA Today" profiles Terry Lanni:
"Throughout its history, Las Vegas has seen its share of legendary tycoons, from Howard Hughes to Steve Wynn. The low-profile Lanni flies under the public's radar, but he's one of the most-respected and influential forces in the $90 billion gaming industry.
"I've dealt with a few CEOs, and I'd have to rate Terry up there at the top," says Kirk Kerkorian, the 90-year-old owner of Tracinda, which held 56% of MGM Mirage's stock as of June. "I've always liked this company. We've got a hell of a team there."

Executive Suite: You can bet on MGM Mirage's Lanni



Well, that was a great conversation... We had an in-depth talk with Chuck from VegasTripping.com who just recently has gotten back from Macau.

We went over everything from specific hotel talk on topics like Wynn Macau, Venetian Macau, Galaxy Starworld, MGM Grand Macau, Casino Lisboa and more. We also talked about the business - folks like Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, SJM, Melco and others.

Cotai, gaming industry topics, casino design and more. It was a great discussion and I'm hoping we can do another segment soon.


September 20, 2007

Quickies: Wynn on The Strip, Leach on Nightclubs

Posted by Hunter

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.


September 18, 2007

Bobby Baldwin Interview

Posted by detroit1051

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."

Q+A: Bobby Baldwin


September 16, 2007

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #17 - September 15th, 2007

Posted by Hunter

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


September 16, 2007

Call-In Podcast: This SUNDAY 7pm PT

Posted by Hunter

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.


September 14, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: September 14, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

These wraps are visual pollution, imo.

"They are hard to miss, but that's the point.
A 40-story-high Jim Beam bottle ad on the side of the Rio, which was finished this week, is visible to commuters and tourists traveling north on Interstate 15.
An image of an Absolut Vodka bottle appears on the east side of the Luxor towers above the Strip.
Both advertisements are also visible from planes landing and taking off at McCarran International Airport."
Hotel-draping banner ads become latest clutter cutter for enterprising merchants


September 13, 2007

StripWalk: September 2007

Posted by Hunter

Here's the latest Strip Walk, this time hitting Wynn Las Vegas, Trump Las Vegas, New Frontier, Palazzo, Treasure Island, New York New York, Excalibur, Luxor and more...

As always, the photos are here: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk

Commentary after the jump... Take it away Mike!


September 9, 2007

The Mirage: AAA Diamond Rating Inspection

Posted by detroit1051

Past posts on AAA Diamond Ratings and Mobil Star Ratings generated so many comments, that we might as well start a new topic. The 9/9/07 RJ follows the AAA inspector as he checks out The Mirage on its regular review.

"Unwilling to name competitors by name, Vincent said the association is the only company sending inspectors to all the properties it rates"
You'll recall in posts last year, we talked about Mobil's erroneous comments about Wynn Las Vegas, including reference to a "5th floor swimming pool", which showed that an inspector had not actually visited Wynn. Mobil subsequently corrected its errors.
MGM Mirage management should be happy with this story.
HOTEL CONFIDENTIAL: Diamond Quest


September 2, 2007

Strip Walk: August 2007

Posted by Hunter

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...


August 22, 2007

Harrah's To Build 20,000 Seat Arena

Posted by detroit1051

Here's Harrah's press release on plans to build an arena behind Paris/Bally's. Jason and Billy alerted us to it earlier today.
"Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: HET - News) and AEG today unveiled plans for of an approximately 20,000-seat, privately financed, state-of-the-art arena. This arena is envisioned to be Las Vegas' new home for the most popular and important sports and entertainment events. The site of the venue will be one block east of the world famous Las Vegas Strip on approximately 10 acres of land that is part of the current Harrah's land holdings."


Harrah's Entertainment and AEG Agree to Develop World Class Sports & Entertainment Arena on the Las Vegas Strip


August 22, 2007

Dubai To Buy 9.5% of MGM Mirage and Half of CityCenter

Posted by detroit1051

"Dubai agreed to pay $5 billion for a 9.5 percent stake in MGM Mirage and half of the Las Vegas casino owner's biggest development, bringing billionaire shareholder Kirk Kerkorian his biggest investment in the company."

This is huge news. There is a more in-depth report in the 8/22 Wall Street Journal for subscribers. The news troubles me, but Lanni and Murren haven't disappointed yet,

Dubai World To Buy 9.5% of MGM Mirage


August 21, 2007

MGM Mirage Shuffles Upper Management

Posted by Hunter

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.

The press release is here:

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=irol-newsArticle&t=Regular&id=1042568&

Unrelated, Harrah's has scheduled an announcement for tomorrow regarding entertainment changes at their resorts in Las Vegas.


August 20, 2007

New Frontier To Be Imploded November 13th

Posted by Hunter

According to our friend Steve Friess of The Strip Podcast, the New Frontier is set to be imploded on November 13th, probably at some ungodly hour of the morning.

It's not public yet (well, I guess it is now) but it sounds like he checked his sources, showing off yet again that he is a real reporter. Come on, Steve - bloggers don't need to FACT CHECK. Heh.

Anyway, discuss below...


August 20, 2007

ANOTHER Strip Shooting

Posted by Hunter

Well, early Sunday there was ANOTHER shooting on the Strip - for those keeping track, we've had three in the past few weeks and a gun scare just last week that turned out to be false.

Here's the story on Sunday's action: http://www.lvrj.com/news/9255111.html

What's going on here? One of the great things about the Las Vegas Strip is that it is considered safe - enough so that many just take it for granted.

How will this impact tourism? Will it?


August 16, 2007

Strip Walk: August 2007

Posted by Hunter

Welcome to a new semi-regular feature, 'Strip Walk'. These photo updates from the Las Vegas Strip (and other parts of the Valley) have previously been presented by our man in the field, mike_ch. Well, now he's an official part of the crew and we're aiming to get these two you about every other work, time and schedule permitting.

His notes follow after the jump and the photos for this and future walks are here:

http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stripwalk

Enjoy!


August 16, 2007

Las Vegas and the Tightening Credit Market

Posted by Hunter

You can't pick up a newspaper these days without seeing stories about the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market and the potential trickle into other areas of the economy, including the tightening of credit.

No doubt the availability of cheap money has helped to fuel the building boom we are seeing on the Las Vegas Strip and elsewhere. As credit markets do tighten, how will that impact building in Las Vegas? Any impact? Visitors spending less in the casinos?


August 15, 2007

Book Review: 'Gay Vegas' by Steve Friess

Posted by Hunter

Steve Friess is an award winning Las Vegas-based journalist that regularly writes for the New York Times, USA Today and other national publications... You probably know him as the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, The Strip. Steve's a great guy and Vegas is lucky to have him.

His new Las Vegas guidebook, 'Gay Vegas' covers Sin City with an emphasis on gay and lesbian travelers, though the tips in here are applicable to anyone visiting Southern Nevada.

Keep reading after the jump for my take on the book and if you want to pick up a copy, this Amazon link is a way to say thanks to us as well:

"Gay Vegas: A Guide To The Other Side of Sin City" (Steve Friess)


August 13, 2007

Wynn Talks Cotai, Encore and More in Interview

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to VegasTripping.com for pointing us to this interesting interview with Steve Wynn.

He talks about their upcoming Cotai property - he wants to make it the best in the world it seems... Also, some talk on Encore (the casino will look like Macau's, which is pretty much what we all expected) and Las Vegas Sands.

Great interview: http://macaubusiness.com/index.php?id=881

Update: I thought I had a photo of the Wynn Macau casino in my gallery but I looked and couldn't find one. I know I've seen it though - I remember really liking it with the columns and drapes - much more low-key than WLV. Anyone have a link?


August 10, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: 8/10/2007 - Wynn AC?

Posted by Hunter

A fresh new discussion zone for y'all.


A second construction accident in about a week at Fontainebleau, though this time no one was killed, unlike last week. It appears a major collapse in the parking garage area that is under construction has taken place.

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=6892276

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August 6, 2007

UPDATED: WYNN Earnings 2nd Quarter '07 & New Blush Club

Posted by detroit1051

WYNN will release its Q2 earnings shortly, so we'll start a new topic now. In the meantime, Wynn has issed a press release announcing the opening of Blush on Labor Day weekend:
"Blush offers a unique option to the Las Vegas scene as the club seamlessly transforms from elegant lounge to high-energy nightclub."
Formerly the location of Lure, the venue will undergo a complete remodel under the direction of Wynn's Executive Vice President of Design Roger Thomas. The 4,500 square-foot club will feature a lit onyx dance floor and cr�me lantern ceiling sculpture. This central art focal piece will create various hues and images that enhance the vibe and atmosphere as the display literally comes alive nightly."

Las Vegas Nightlife Redefined with Blush

Updated: The earnings are in and they are pretty impressive. Check here.


As noted in the RJ and the LVS thread, Palazzo is scheduled to open December 20th, 2007. We'll see if that's a soft opening or what - I have my doubts.

Also, according to the Movable Buffet, Tangerine at Treasure Island will be closing and will be replaced with a new nightlife venue by the end of the year. Tangerine is managed by the Pure Management Group.

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August 2, 2007

MGM Mirage Quarterly Profit Up On Property Sales

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage had a big quarter but a large portion of the ground they gained were from one time events - property sales in Primm and elsewhere.

Still, income from continuing operations was also up - the company is healthy and I still consider it to be one of the best run in gaming - a model for the industry in that regard.

Revenues hit $2.11 billion and earnings were at $360 million with those property sales factored in. Incoming from continuing operations was $182 million, up from about $140 million in the year ago quarter.

REVPar on the Strip jumped 7%. I hope to have property specific info soon.

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/070802/earns_mgm_mirage.html?.v=2
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=1035817&

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August 1, 2007

Las Vegas Sands Profit Falls in Q2 ; Revenues Up

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas Sands reported their second quarter results today and the story is that net income is down this quarter, mostly due to higher costs.

Net income was $34.4 million from $109.3 million a year ago. Big drop... Well, they are about to open the Venetian Macau so they clearly have a reason to be spending money this quarter. Revenues were up to $612.9 million from $517 million so unless they get spend happy next time around, this is likely no huge deal.

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUKN0143840020070801?rpc=44

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/070801/earns_las_vegas_sands.html?.v=1

Update: Looking at some of the numbers, at The Venetian in Las Vegas the ADR (average daily rate) was up $266, almost 10%. Other metrics like the drop were also up - fundamentals look solid.

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/070801/law176.html?.v=3

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July 31, 2007

Open Topic: 8/01/07

Posted by detroit1051

"Exclusive Resorts today announced that it will develop and own 30 luxury condominiums at MGM MIRAGE's (NYSE: MGM - News) highly anticipated Vdara at CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip. Vdara Condo Hotel, one of the $7.4 billion project's four residential towers, is set to open in late 2009."

I had never heard of Exclusive Resorts, but I sure fall short of its demographics. This is not your father's timeshare. MGM Mirage and Exclusive issued a press release on Exclusive's purchase of 30 units at Vdara. Membership fees run from $239,000-$459,000 with annual dues of $14,000-39,000.

Here's the release with a link to Exclusive Resorts site:
Exclusive Resorts Buys 30 Units At Vdara


July 30, 2007

Conrad Project on Hold

Posted by detroit1051

LV Business Press reports the Conrad Majestic project planned for the Strip and Convention Center Drive is on hold with an announcement to be made in October. Doesn't look good. If you're not CityCenter, Echelon, Fontainebleau, Cosmopolitan or Elad Group, it's tough to build new projects.

Conrad-brand hotel project faces another delay, developer says


July 27, 2007

The SkyLOFTS Party: July 22-24, 2007

Posted by Mike E

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)


July 24, 2007

Elvis Themed Resort for Center Strip?

Posted by Hunter

This land is way too valuable for its current use so this was bound to happen... But an Elvis theme? Puke.

We'll see how much this project changes before it actually hits the drawing board, let alone the concrete machine.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/8677342.html

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According to industry sources, Tao Las Vegas at The Venetian is the highest grossing restaurant in the US, passing No. 2 Tavern on the Green in NYC by a huge margin.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/us/22vegas.html?_r=1&ex=1342756800&oref=slogin

Now, Tao is a nightclub too so it has an advantage but the numbers it is putting up are HUGE nonetheless.

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July 19, 2007

Caesars Palace Adds New Tower: Octavius

Posted by Hunter

We've reported on this in the past so it's not new news, but Harrah's is unveiling the plans for the new tower coming in at Caesars Palace - the Octavius Tower.

The LV Sun has more info:
http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2007/jul/19/566655783.html

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July 17, 2007

Wynn Trivia Quiz

Posted by detroit1051

As part of an invitational weekend offer I received from Wynn, 25 trivia questions were included just for fun. The questions appear after the jump. Correct answers will be given in a few days. Everyone here should know them all except for maybe the pineapple and Starbucks questions. First Prize is the satisfaction of being a Las Vegas expert.


July 12, 2007

50 Things You Didn't Know About Las Vegas Clubs

Posted by Hunter

Thanks for Steve and Miles from The Strip Podcast for bringing this to my attention.

Great article from Las Vegas Weekly on '50 Things You Don't Know About Las Vegas Nightclubs'. Some of these I did know and others I did not but either way a great read.

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July 12, 2007

Las Vegas: "An Environmental Pileup in the Making,"

Posted by detroit1051

"Fast Company" magazine writes that Las Vegas is growing too fast, has low quality of life, low quality employees and faces major water and environmental issues:
"The talent base in Las Vegas is not college-educated, it's not young and it's stuck in low-income jobs," Hammonds said. "That is not a recipe for economic sustainability. At the same time, you're getting remarkable population growth and a building boom. We worry about the quality of that growth if it's not supported by expansion of the talent base."

Las Vegas bashing is becoming a more frequent focus of media. In a tourism-driven economy with 130,000+ hotel rooms, you're going to attract great numbers of workers to provide support at all the hotels, casinos, nightclubs and other entertainment businesses. I think the story is a little unfair, but there is no question Las Vegas is going through major growing pains which affect quality of life. Water will continue to be an issue in the entire southwest U.S. and Las Vegas must come to grips with its infrastructure and traffic/mass transit challenges.

Report Says LV Growing Too Fast

Fast Company Magazine



Luxor's transformation, which has included the ripping out of the old club, 'Ra' as well as most of the restaurants, continues to bear fruit.

This time the latest is the opening of the new club, 'LAX' on Labor Day weekend.

http://www.laxthenightclub.com/

Update: The Las Vegas Advisor is reporting that the de-themeing of Luxor is going ahead, with the Egypt theme going out the window.

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July 6, 2007

Shooting at New York New York

Posted by Hunter

Thankfully this doesn't happen often but it appears we have a crazy guy that opened fire inside the casino early this morning, injuring several people.

More info:

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/global/story.asp?s=6752982

Chance of a backlash against Las Vegas? MGM Mirage taking security seriously enough? Can you even stop someone like this in advance?

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July 6, 2007

Weekly Open Topic-July 6

Posted by Mike E

We're a little early in our post of a new weekly open topic, but for good reason: today is Hunter's birthday!

I personally wanted to say how much we appreciate all the hard work you've done both here and on RateVegas.com, Hunter. Cheers to another great year!


June 30, 2007

Weekly Open Topic-June 30

Posted by detroit1051

Last week's topic had 64 replies, so let's start a new one.

Kerkorian's initial interest in acquiring Bellagio and CityCenter certainly helped MGM during the month of June. The RJ summarizes share price changes in June for operators and slot manufacturers. MGM leads the pack.
Kerkorian's bid boosts MGM Mirage


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.

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June 20, 2007

Bellagio Closes Fontana Lounge

Posted by Hunter

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

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June 20, 2007

Kerkorian Withdrawing from CityCenter, Bellagio?

Posted by detroit1051

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


June 19, 2007

Boyd Breaks Ground on Echelon Place

Posted by Hunter

Boyd Gaming broke ground on Echelon Place, the complex that will sit where the Stardust did for 50 years.

David's got some good coverage and it's also been all over the 'Net today.

You guys excited about Echelon? After seeing Borgata in AC, I can say that Boyd has it in 'em. Could be great.

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June 14, 2007

Planning Meeting Agendas: Hard Rock, Caesars

Posted by detroit1051

Expansions at Hard Rock and Caesars Palace are on the agendas for next week's Planning Meetings.
Hard Rock: The plans indicate that the proposed expansion involves the
construction of 6 new high-rise towers to accommodate the additional
2,671 hotel rooms, with 4 of the towers located on the northwest side
of the site.
Hard Rock Expansion

Caesars: This is a request to modify the height of a previously approved high-
rise tower in conjunction with a resort hotel (Caesars Palace). The
tower was originally approved at a height of 295 feet with 1,017
guestrooms with a Tuscan villa design. The new elevations depict a
350 foot high tower with a design that is similar to the existing
Augustus Tower located just east of the proposed towers site.
Caesars Palace Hotel Tower

Station requests time extension on plans for resort at Tropicana and Industrial (Dean Martin Drive):
Station Resort


June 11, 2007

Roger Thomas Among Architectural Digest's 100

Posted by Mike E

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.


June 7, 2007

June 2007 Las Vegas Strip Development Update

Posted by Hunter

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!

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I was in town in May for a few days and I got another peak at the plans for Encore, the addition to Wynn Las Vegas currently being constructed just North of the existing tower.

I've written about this in the past but I wanted to see how things had progressed since the last set of plans. Well, not much has changed since the last round, honestly. Since at this point we've already been privy to the high-rise setup - multi-story suites, a new 'tower suites', the service configuration, the most interesting thing is probably the specifics of the casino and garden area. Unfortunately, this is an area still in flux and provided in least detail.

A couple of notes:

* The 'standard' Encore rooms have a similar configuration to those at Wynn Las Vegas, though they are larger.
* The sub-basement level includes another employee dining area, room service kitchen and other back of house facilities. Fortunately they won't have to run room service from the main WLV room service kitchens which would have had potential for cold food and bad service.
* There is additional valet parking under the new garden/casino space.
* There is a lot of cooking capacity, suggesting maybe ~6 new full size dining outlets and a handful of other smaller facilities (i.e. 6 restaurants and maybe 3-4 places like Sugar and Ice or the coffee shop).

I've also got some new documents to review, such as utilities layouts for the new building and if they shed any new light, I'll update this post.

I posted some photos previously but here they are again: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/encore. My main camera was busted so I had to use the point and shoot. Hopefully next time I can send some photos from my new iPhone (yes, I'll be in line 6/29 - I love Apple more than I love WLV!)

Update: I have been contacted since this ran by multiple sources that indicate the 'garden' plan, as previously reported, is basically out, with the majority of that space being used for gaming and some dining. There is still some floral areas but more along the lines of what we have at WLV now, nothing grand in scope. This is of course, always developing but I've now got this from two sources, people that have proven credible in the past... We'll see!

Also, on the self-parking, we're hearing that a large portion of the new garage will be new self-park.

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May 30, 2007

Las Vegas Construction Update - May 2007

Posted by Hunter

Here's some more info on upcoming Las Vegas construction, based off of filings with the county.

THEPlace - The condo development to sit between Mandalay Bay and Luxor is still on track, despite there not being a peep from them since the initial announcement. Some details on the project stats, which will include a rather large 256 square foot water features.

Hard Rock Condos - Nothing really here - just a request for an extension for the new owner to figure out what they want to do.

Cogent? - Anyone know what this is?

New York New York Nightclub - This is finally coming together, with an indoor/outdoor setup.

Fontainebleau - Work continues as they are asking for a batch plant.

Casino Royale - They want to expand the casino in the back with all sorts of new space.

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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.

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May 21, 2007

Luxor May 2007 - I'd Rather Stay in a Tent

Posted by Hunter

I'm at Luxor for a convention for a few days - it's been awhile since I've stayed here and I've never been that impressed. Stlll, this place has fallen off even more than how I last remember it. My room smells bad, a bed that looks like it came from a military barracks and not even an in-room safe. Wow - the parking lot is probably more hospitable.

MGM Mirage has a TON of work to do if they want to make this place into any sort of a worthwhile endeavor. Honestly, I'm blown away with how bad this room is. Wow.


May 18, 2007

"Condo Craze Cools"

Posted by detroit1051

In Business Las Vegas has a story on the slowdown of new condo development in Vegas. The big exception is CityCenter which is still going strong with condo sales and is actually benefitting from the cancellation of "W" on Harmon. Buyers want the Strip!
"That success is evident by MGM Mirage reporting there are more than $1.1 billion in sales out of $2.7 billion in units it has on the market. Some 205 of the 227 residences at Mandarin Oriental have been sold. The Vdara condo hotel has sold 452 of its 1,543 residences and the two Veer Towers have written deals for more than 220 of its 670 condos, said Tony Dennis, executive director of CityCenter's residential division."
Condo Craze Cools



May 16, 2007

New Frontier Sold ; Plaza Going In

Posted by Hunter

Sorry guys, I'm sick and haven't gotten this posted until now.

Here's the low-down:

Frontier has sold and it is likely a Plaza hotel is going in its place.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/7530232.html


May 13, 2007

Wynn Las Vegas Dealers Vote to Unionize

Posted by Hunter

In a final vote of 444 to 149, Wynn Las Vegas dealers have voted to unionize. This is the first step in a process that will take some time to be finalized, if it does ever even move past this step.

Either way, it's a big story. We'll see what happens next.

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In a meeting last week between Steve Wynn and his Wynn Las Vegas dealers, the Wynn Resorts chairman and CEO apologized for what he called a 'big mistake' - his changes to the casino tip policy that were enacted last September at the Las Vegas Strip resort and the resulting brouhaha.

Wynn spoke about being tired and worn out by the opening of Wynn Macau as he was making the original decision. He laments the loss of the feeling of family at the company and acknowledges that many there feel betrayed. Calling it the 'wrong solution to the right problem', Wynn then urged the dealers to vote 'No' on the election this weekend that would have their casino dealers join the union.

As we get word of the Wynn vote, we'll keep you updated. Even if the dealers vote yes in a majority, the company still would need to negotiate a contract, which the union has failed to do in the past at other resorts where elections have gone their way.

Update: We have posted the audio of the story, provided by reader Leonard Stern:
http://media.ratevegas.com/wynn_union_apology.mp3

Also, Steve Friess posted a story on this topic: http://thestrippodcast.blogspot.com/

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May 11, 2007

Builder of Cosmopolitan Makes Riviera Bid

Posted by Hunter

Another bid for the Riviera, this time from the folks that are building the Cosmopolitan next to Project City Center.

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2007/05/11/news/news_update/doc4644d9909365c741747470.txt

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Okay, all sorts of updates for today.

First off, some new construction photos from Brian Fey - Encore, Palazzo, etc.. - these are really coming together!
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/brianfey - Thanks Brian!!

One photo that got special mention is this Encore shot:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/show/4703?gallery_id=115

People have been asking what this is.... Well, the plans I saw put the garden area right in that space - this looks to me like an advanced watering system. My guess is that these gardens are special - some kind of 'hook' or feature built into this attraction to make this more interesting than plants in the (fake) ground.

[Ed: Looks like this was even more basic than what we thought. Since we posted this I've been asking around and it sounds like this is based off the data network for the slot machines in the casino portion. Apparently the added casino space has encroached on the garden area and that explains the location... So - more casino, less garden = no story.]

[Ed (again): Looks like VT&T confirms this.]

MGM Grand wants to build another convention center adjacent to their existing facility.
http://dsnet.co.clark.nv.us/dsnetapps/agendaweb/Data/P0212157.htm

Trump Las Vegas wants to change their floor numbering. This one is funny since it shows how these numbers are totally manipulated for marketing purposes.
http://dsnet.co.clark.nv.us/dsnetapps/agendaweb/Data/P0212199.htm

Fun with parking at the Cosmo site.
http://dsnet.co.clark.nv.us/dsnetapps/agendaweb/Data/P0212232.htm

Las Vegas Sands wants to add a pedestrian bridge to the back side of the Sands Expo Center.
http://dsnet.co.clark.nv.us/dsnetapps/agendaweb/Data/P0212674.htm

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May 9, 2007

Wynn Las Vegas' Spamalot in Trouble?

Posted by Hunter

Well, if this continues, Spamalot at Wynn Las Vegas is probably in trouble.

Of course, many speculated the show might run into the same sort of trouble that 'Avenue Q.' had in the same space.

This is not good news for the show or Wynn Las Vegas, which has struggled with their entertainment offerings from day one.

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May 9, 2007

Harrah's Reports Q12007 Results

Posted by Hunter

It's funny, Harrah's is the largest gaming company in the world and I'm just totally not interested in their quarterlies. Maybe it's because they are so spread out and derive revenue from so many locales - I'm not sure.

Anyway, here's an RJ report on Harrah's luck for Q1, which it seems wasn't so awesome due to Atlantic City.

Harrah's is in the process of going private so pretty soon I won't have to write these stories any more.

http://www.lvrj.com/business/7414636.html

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May 7, 2007

Wynn Resorts Swings to Profit for Q12007

Posted by Hunter

Well, they finally got out of the red... Wynn Resorts announced Q1 2007 net income of $58.4 million, compared to a loss of $11.4 million for 2006. Adjusted net income was $72.6 million, on strong results from Wynn Macau and Wynn Las Vegas.

Revenue for the quarter was $635.3 million, up from $277.2 million from a year ago.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=996673&highlight=

The conference call starts in 20 minutes and I will be updating based on anything from that call.

The press release covers all of the interesting details - I will break them down shortly.

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May 7, 2007

Backpack Bomb Explodes at Luxor - 1 Dead

Posted by Hunter

Early this morning an employee removed a backpack that was sitting on their car when it then exploded, killing the owner of the vehicle and injuring another employee.

http://www.lvrj.com/
http://www.fox5vegas.com/news/13268708/detail.html
http://www.klas-tv.com/Global/story.asp?S=6478863

Was this a bomb? I hate to use the 't-word' but what does this mean?

Update: Sounds like the police think this was directed at this specific person.


Well, construction is on going at the Fontainebleau site, even though they have yet to really announce anything.

This
site plan shows some of the features of the new casino, including a zen garden - no doubt Schaeffer's contribution as he is into that stuff pretty heavily.

This project will be one to watch, no doubt.

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May 5, 2007

Tropicana Brand

Posted by detroit1051

David McKee has his edge back. He discusses Columbia Sussex's adoption of the Tropicana brand for its casino properties. There is a link to VegasTodayAndTomorrow.com's rendering of the proposed Tropicana expansion on the Strip. It's dated April, but I must have missed it.
"Columbia Sussex Does Something Right"


May 4, 2007

Reader Report: Bellagio April 2007

Posted by Hunter

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.

http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/april2007

Thanks Aaron!!

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.

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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.

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Well, this isn't something I would normally report but it's getting a ton of coverage so here's one for the record...

Steve Friess, of the Strip Podcast and his new blog was the one that broke the story - Harrah's clearly should have embargoed some more bloggers because they just lost control of their story (don't get me started on how these PR departments treat most bloggers - we have more traffic than many of the print magazines covering the industry but often I'm treated like we are of no consequence here - big mistake guys - I can give you a HUGE number of readers a month that all *want* to hear your message and yet I often have a hard time getting phone calls returned. I digress).

Anyway, Bette Midler will replace Celine Dion in 2008 when her Caesars Palace show closes. This will likely be a smashing success - the appetite for Celine was ravenous.

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Las Vegas Sands reported their Q1 2007 results today and while net revenues were up, net income was down due to expenses on upcoming resort properties.

This is getting kinda repetitive - LVS seems to post solid numbers every quarter. They're like Microsoft - making tons of money and totally boring at the same time.

Revenue: $628.2 million
Net Income: $114.60 million
EPS: $0.32

The ADR at the Venetian was up and occupancy was over 98%. Not too shabby.

Macau casino revenue was up. They don't really have any room product to report in Macau yet.

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/070502/law087.html?.v=101

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UNLV's Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies has released a report which says, "The marketing of sin that helps draws tourists to Las Vegas is an impediment in luring corporate headquarters to Southern Nevada....paints a pessimistic picture of Las Vegas' ability to recruit companies to Southern Nevada and diversify its economy beyond gaming."
The report is critical of some of the issues we've discussed here before, namely higher costs, unaffordable housing, poorly educated workforce, school system problems, lack of "cultural amenities", etc.
In Business Las Vegas summarized the report, but I've been unable to find a link to Lied's report itself. I'd like to read it in its entirety. I find the headline of the story a little over the top, using words like, "...image repels corporate relocation."

Do those here who either live in Las Vegas or frequently do business in Southern Nevada agree with the findings?

To read the article:
Report: Sin City Image Repels Corporate Relocation


April 26, 2007

MGM Mirage Makes Investment in Marnell's 'M Resort'

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage announced today that they will be investing $160MM in Anthony Marnell's South Strip (far South) project, the 'M Resort'.

Marnell previously built and operated the Rio and his company, Marnell Corrao, built The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas for Steve Wynn.

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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?

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Looks like billionaire Carl Ichan is selling off his casino assets, including the Stratosphere Tower, Arizona Charlie's (East and West) and a property in Laughlin.

Bloomberg has more on the deal, which is worth $1.3 billion. The buyer is a Goldman Sachs real estate investment subsidiary.

Update: More info here.

Thanks to VegasTripping.com for catching this one first.

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April 20, 2007

MGM Mirage's Project City Center Steaming Ahead

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage put out a press release today updating folks on City Center's progress.

I've heard a lot of chatter from insiders about the project and from all accounts it is coming along quite nicely - MGM Mirage executives are very pleased with their progress. Of course, recent photos show the main hotel is really taking shape.

There's also news on some budget changes to the project - nothing significant and entirely expected for a development in this stage and of this scope. MGM Mirage is also putting pressure on sub-contractors to reduce some project costs and budgets and without that, the price would have gone up more than they are indicating here.

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April 19, 2007

MGM Purchases North Strip Land Near Circus Circus

Posted by Hunter

So, that story we posted the other day from VT&T was true! MGM Mirage has indeed purchased the land surrounding Circus Circus to assemble a jumbo parcel that will certainly see re-development sometime in the future.

http://www.lvrj.com/news/7096416.html

We previously discussed this here: http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2007/04/rumor_mgm_mirag.html

Unfortunately I don't have the facility to merge the topics in any sensible way.

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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

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Well, after years of transition, the failed 'new' Aladdin will be gone for good this week as OpBiz representatives welcome a converted Planet Hollywood to the world's most famous resort corridor.

VegasTripping.com have taken to calling the place 'Planet Ho!' or 'P-Ho!', both of which I find quite appropriate, given the very high 'lameness quotient' of the property.

Will the place pull it off this time around? I can at least say that the changes they have made have improved their chances that things will be different this time around. The Strip frontage access has been improved and the huge video screens could be kind of interesting, depending on how they are used.

For years the Aladdin was a cheap room - a Center Strip room with below market prices as it struggled to keep its head above water. The rates are rising and that means that the casino and other amenities are going to have to carry the weight of those increased rates.

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A short set of quick updates.

The Silverton, Ed Roski's joint on the I-15 on the way into town, is plotting a massive (by Silverton standards) expansion with new, high-end hotel rooms along with shopping, casino and entertainment space. They hope to compete with Red Rock and Green Valley Ranch.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Apr-13-Fri-2007/business/13715709.html

Next up is the Imperial Palace. A non-union shop for years, the Culinary is considering trying to organize there as it seems Harrah's may keep the place open longer than everyone expected:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/consumer/2007/apr/13/566676183.html

Lastly, a story on an association of small, independent casino owners. I just thought this story was kinda interesting.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sun/2007/apr/13/566655716.html

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April 12, 2007

Rumor: MGM Mirage Buying North Strip Land

Posted by Hunter

I haven't been able to confirm this story despite making several queries but Vegas Today and Tomorrow is reporting that MGM Mirage may be buying the Bennett-owned parcel across from the Sahara.

Since Nazarian purchased The Sahara, this parcel is available - they were previously trying to sell the hotel along with this parcel.

Of course, as we learn more, we'll keep you updated.

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From the agenda of Clark County planners, we have some insight into future projects. Here goes:

City Center - Not much, just a slight increase in the height of the towers from 543 feet to 580 feet. The FAA signed off and MGM is stating that they need the space for stuff like elevators and if residents want to put stuff on the roof (I assume satellite dishes, etc...). Also, the retail component is being increased from 650,000 square feet to 666,870 square feet. One interesting note is that Bellagio's holding company, Bellagio LLC, is the applicant - surely they have new holding companies for City Center - I would assume at least one per development for legal and financial reasons.

Wynn Las Vegas - Again, nothing major. They want to build a walkway from their Sands Ave. parking to the back of house area of the hotel, just for employees. The walkway does intersect with the monorail and the request states they will install a 'protective roof plate' to prevent falling debris hitting anyone. Ha.

Fontainebleau - Some details on the project, which is in review. The tower will be 735 feet high with 2,880 hotel rooms and 1,020 condos with kitchens. The tower sites on a low-rise podium with heights that vary from 81 feet (LVB side) to 175 feet on the convention center side on the back. Other than that, the details are few. They do have a batch plant on site at this time.

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A few quick sound-bites:

A Gaming Today story on the upgrades at the Golden Nugget details the recent changes. I've seen some of this stuff and it is pretty nice. They did a good job down there.

MGM Mirage's sale of their Primm, NV assets to Herbst Gaming is complete.

Lastly, it looks like the NBA All Star Weekend was a bust from a gaming perspective. Thankfully, baccarat action from Chinese New Year saved the day.

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April 10, 2007

Cosmopolitan Rises Above Ground

Posted by Hunter

After what seemed like an endless amount of excavation, the Cosmopolitan has risen above ground!

The resort/condo/casino is going up between Bellagio and City Center on the Las Vegas Strip.

A piece in the RJ:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Apr-10-Tue-2007/business/13666275.html

Also, I had these renderings sent to me a few months ago but was forbidden from sharing... Well, now they are on a public site so here goes:

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=461548 (thanks Mike).

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April 7, 2007

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #15 - April 6, 2007

Posted by Hunter

We're back after a few weeks off and this time I'm joined in the studio by two friends, Carter and Kevin.

Discussion includes Harrah's buyout, Macau updates, CityCenter and more, plus some oh so witty banter and a call from Mike E.

Enjoy!

Here's the link to all the most recent photos: 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.

iTunes: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=197984456
Direct RSS: http://www.ratevegas.com/feed/podcast

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April 5, 2007

Harrah's Shareholders Approve Privatization Plan

Posted by Hunter

Today Harrah's Entertainment shareholders approved the casino company's privatization plan, moving forward on the 7th largest leveraged buy out in US history.

I don't think this vote was ever really much of a question but it's the latest step in the process:

http://www.lasvegasnow.com/global/story.asp?s=6332701

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April 4, 2007

City Center: Visiting the Sales Pavilion

Posted by Hunter

We all know the base genetics of MGM Mirage's City Center development - a mixed use project across 76 acres on a prime piece of Las Vegas Strip real estate. Multiple hotels, gaming, restaurants, retail and condos all coming together in an effort to master plan an miniature city.

The construction cranes are crawling over the property and the 4,000 room hotel/casino that will anchor site is up beyond the 11th floor. A live Web cam of the construction is on the official Web site. Also, MGM MIRAGE provided me with some photos and renderings of the project. Some may be familiar and others new.

I was able to tour the sales pavilion that has been a key tool in allowing MGM Mirage to almost completely sell out one of their condo developments (The Residences at Mandarin Oriental). Along with the tour some questions were answered about some of the other components of the project.

Keep reading after the jump for some more thoughts on what I saw.

online casino games

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April 3, 2007

Milam's Las Vegas Tower on Life Support?

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to 'Redneck' for sending this info in. The 1,888 foot 'Las Vegas Tower' project, proposed for construction on the former 'Wet N' Wild' site near the Sahara may be dead. The developer, Christopher Milam, missed a $40 million payment to the landowner, Archon Corp., this past weekend.

For a developer working on a $4.8 billion project to miss a $40 million payment isn't a good sign for the project. For the property owner not to boot them and find someone else isn't a good sign for the demand for that land (at least at the prices they want). The $40 million payment has had it's due date extended to May 31, 2007 - this is the third time the date has been moved and each time LVTI pays about $250,000 for the option so they actually are putting some cash in but things still look shaky at best.

Anyone have any more info on this? I know the debate has raged on the particulars of the building but that's moot if no cash is devoted to continue development.

The section from the 8-K filed with the SEC appears after the jump...

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Anyone that runs a Web site tracks all of their statistics such as how many people visited, where did they come from, how long did they stay and what did they look at. We have quite a few more metrics and the amount of data is amazing - except of course I can't really identify the individual (no cause for alarm) - I just see User A, User B, User C, etc...

Anyway, in the spirit of Google's Zeitgeist, here are some of the most popular search terms that lead people to RateVegas.com from major search engines since the start of the year. Some are interesting, some funny.

The list after the jump...

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Some quick updates this afternoon...

First off, Mandalay Bay announced upgrades to their pool complex. They spent $30 million to expand the area with the cornerstone of the upgrade being an outdoor-yet-climate-controlled, three story casino featuring glass walls. The casino will feature blackjack, craps and roulette. Beach attire is encouraged - no dressing up required.

To top it off, the third story will include 'Villa Soleil', a set of top of the line villa-like beach cabanas designed for up to 16 guests and 500 square feet. These will cost as much as a whopping $2,000 per day! Mandalay also claims to have doubled the number of available chairs at the pool.

Regarding Monte Carlo, we already knew they were building Diablo’s Cantina to offer dining on the Strip. What's interesting about the official announcement is that MGM MIRAGE alludes to future upgrades coming to Monte Carlo. Looks like that they are going to be spending some money there, at least in the short term. According to the press release, the restaurant is described as follows:

"The first floor will incorporate the main dining area with a hip bar and lounge. Guests will be able to enter from a Strip-front entrance that will feature a walk-up frozen/specialty drink bar, or through the casino. The second floor will include an open-air center bar area and stage for live music, rotating entertainment acts and weekend DJs. The patio will be a perfect setting for carefree fun in the sun or under the desert moon."

In other news, Fontainebleau applied with the county to increase the number of condos on the site from about 950 to just over 1,000. The space will come from a reduced number of hotel rooms - 2,880. The total number of units between the two types will be about 3,900.

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The Riviera rejected a $336 million offer for the company, the latest in a long string of offers for the valuable Las Vegas Strip hotel.

Sure, the Riv is long in the tooth but if the New Frontier down the street does sell for $1.5 billion, the land is worth even more than anyone could have imagined even only one year ago. The Riv will sell, it's just a matter of time.

With Encore, Echelon Place, Fontainebleau, Sahara, the Wet and Wild site and whatever happens with the New Frontier, the Riv site will be re-developed, no question. Just a matter of time and the right buyer.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Mar-29-Thu-2007/business/13463626.html

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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...)


I recently spent a weekend in Las Vegas. My stated purpose was a friend's wedding but I managed to get in a few other activities for the benefit of you fine people.

Here you will read about Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Palazzo, The Mirage, Spamalot, Luxor and more.

Also, I uploaded a couple hundred new photos: http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent

Some more info after the jump...


March 19, 2007

New Frontier Sold for $1.5 BILLION?

Posted by Hunter

Has the New Frontier been sold? According to a tip submitted in one of our comments by regular poster LStern, it seems as if this may be the case.

According to this article, the purchase price could have been as high as $1.5 billion - $40 million an acre!

This hopefully means the end of the Montreaux project that was slated for the site - it was a horrific take on Bellagio's design with all sorts of bizarre design choices.

Anyway, we'll update you as we learn more.

Update: Whoops. Forgot to post the link (thanks Tim).
http://www.theslatinreport.com/story.jsp?StoryName=0319frontier.txt

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Ok, so this isn't really a surprise. This has been rumored and semi-confirmed for months.

After the fall of 'Hairspray', Luxor officials were looking for something to fill their theater and they tapped their friends from Canada to help.

This show will feature the 'magic' tricks of illusionist Cris Angel. I've never seen him perform but I've heard he is quite good and far less annoying than David Blane.

Expect more details from MGM Mirage soon and a show to open early 2008. Production cost is supposedly about $100 million.

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March 14, 2007

mike_ch Construction Update: March 2007

Posted by Hunter

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).


March 8, 2007

Las Vegas Sands Upgrades The Venetian Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

Well, we knew this was coming but finally a press release... Las Vegas Sands is spending $100 million to upgrade the rooms in The Venetian to the standard they are setting with their new Palazzo resort being constructed next door.

The upgraded rooms will retain the existing sunken living configuration but include automatic drapes and other amenities.

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/070308/venetian_renovations.html?.v=1

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According to filings with Clark County zoning, Boyd Gaming has updated their master plan for Echelon Place to include 1,000 more rooms than previously approved. In addition, the 1,000 condo/hotel rooms in the original plan have been jettisoned.

The plan now includes 5,280 rooms with some featuring kitchens. The site is still split into multiple towers, housing the various hotel components they have planned.

For development geeks, the filing is here:
http://dsnet.co.clark.nv.us/dsnetapps/agendaweb/Data/P0205590.htm

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March 3, 2007

Sahara Sold to CA Businessman

Posted by Hunter

The Sahara on the Las Vegas Strip, which has been up for sale and looking for the right buyer, has finally been sold.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Mar-03-Sat-2007/news/12940462.html

The Bennett family, now former owners, had been shopping it along with two other land parcels adjacent and across the Strip. They decided to sell the property and hold on to that land.

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According to David McKee, there's some word of possible major problems at Wynn Las Vegas, from 20 boxmen being sacked to both chips and tips missing.

It's not clear if these allegations are true or accurate.

http://www.valleyblogs.com/mckee/2007-03-02/id_2130

I don't know if these things are true but it's starting to sound like things are going off the rails over there. If anyone has any inside on this, I'd love to hear about it.

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March 2, 2007

Stardust To Be Imploded March 13th - 2:30am

Posted by Hunter

Boyd Gaming will implode on of the Strip's oldest hotels, the Stardust, on March 13th at 2:30am.

The building is being cleared to make way for Echelon Place, a large casino/retail/hotel development. Workers have been gutting it for the best several months - you can barely recognize the shell of the hotel tower and the distinctive neon sign is long gone, to be preserved at the Neon Museum.

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This time around I spent most of the episode talking about Wynn Resorts, Ltd., 4th Quarter earnings report. There's also some stuff on MGM Mirage and others.

Update: For some reason that I can't explain, this episode sounds somewhat tinny. Sorry about that.

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.

iTunes: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=197984456
Direct RSS: http://www.ratevegas.com/feed/podcast

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February 27, 2007

UNLV Historian Hal Rothman Dies

Posted by Hunter

I didn't know Hal Rothman but I read a lot of what he wrote and I got the impression that he was a fascinating guy.

Unfortunately he died yesterday of Lou Gherig's disease at a tragically young 48 years old.

David Schwartz, my friend and his colleague, wrote some impressions of Hal.


February 27, 2007

Wynn Resorts: 4th Quarter 2006 Loss

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Resorts announced their numbers today for Q4 2006 (and FY2006).

Despite opening Wynn Macau, the supposed cash generator for the company, they had a loss for the quarter of $55 million.

What does this mean for the company if they can't make a profit with Macau open? How serious is this and what will the company do to stop the bleeding? It is important to note that a large portion of the loss was related to debenture holders.

Despite operating at a loss, some of the numbers look good, including holds and net revenues.

The extensive press release is here:
http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=967991&highlight=

Also interesting is the occupancy rate for Wynn Macau, which was just north of 80%. I watch the occupancy rates as a very interesting indicator of how the Macau market is rising to the challenge of conversion to a 'resort destination' city away from a day trip market.

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February 27, 2007

Mike_ch's February Las Vegas Strip Construction Update

Posted by Hunter

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.

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February 25, 2007

Will Transportation Issues Slow Las Vegas Growth?

Posted by Hunter

This is a topic that Detroit1051 has mentioned several times - Las Vegas infrastructure and how it impacts tourism.

Today's LV Sun has an article on that very topic. Jeff Simpson talks about the impact and some potential solutions.

What do you guys think? How bad is it now and will these problems make you re-consider your vacation?

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February 21, 2007

Wynn Las Vegas Restyles 'Le Reve' Theater

Posted by Hunter

'Le Reve' is the Franco Dragone show that opened Wynn Las Vegas. It stumbled a bit out of the gate but seems to have found its footing as tickets are now selling at a normal pace.

Wynn Resorts purchased the remaining 'Le Reve' assets from Dragone last year with the intent of making some changes. Today they announced the theater itself is being remade a bit.

In a press release on their Web site, Wynn Resorts detail some of the changes, including warmer colors.

The show will be dark in March while these changes are implemented.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=132059&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=965782&highlight=

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February 21, 2007

Boyd Gaming Posts Larger Than Expected Profit

Posted by Hunter

Boyd Gaming posted some nice results yesterday:

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Feb-21-Wed-2007/business/12696493.html

Boyd is building Echelon Place in Las Vegas on the site of the Stardust, which is set to come down in mid-March. Their joint venture in Atlantic City with MGM MIRAGE, Borgata, has many folks believing that Echelon is a project to watch and their Las Vegas opening will be a bigger splash than some have predicted.

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February 20, 2007

Is Las Vegas Losing Its Luster?

Posted by detroit1051

Has Las Vegas become too big to continue to be an attractive destination for middle Americans? Negative publicity from the NBA weekend and today's story in the Review Journal on the mess at McCarran make me wonder when, or if, typical visitors will decided to try other casino/entertainment venues closer to home. In my opinion, the infrastructure in Vegas is so inadequate, it will take years, if it is possible at all, to fix traffic and airport issues. The weekend shootings at a strip club and MGM Grand parking structure and reported problems at Wynn add to the problem. Surely, MGM must be concerned with so much at stake with its properties and CityCenter. What are they doing to at least help correct infrastructure problems? Here are some recent articles:
Weekend shootings and fights at Tryst:
Weekend Violence
Local TV Coverage
McCarran:
Massive Lines at McCarran
I recogniize much of the violence came from LA gang members, but it sure doesn't help Las Vegas' image.
What do you locals think?


February 17, 2007

Planet Hollywood

Posted by detroit1051

The Review Journal provides additional detail on Aladdin's transformation into Planet Hollywood. Planet Hollywood may very well succeed.

"We've spent considerably more than we thought we would on the project," said Earl, who added that $1 billion is being invested into all aspects of upgrading and redefining the Strip property."
"By the middle of this year, you'll never know the Aladdin existed," said Earl, adding that the dome that sat above the Aladdin sign was removed Thursday.
"A new front entrance on the Strip property's northern end has already opened while construction on the front continues. Retail tenants and restaurants are being added along Las Vegas Boulevard."
"He said he hopes the property will be on par with MGM Grand, The Mirage and Mandalay Bay."
"The remodeling of all the rooms is scheduled to begin in April with the first 600 rooms expected to be ready in six months."

Going Hollywood: Aladdin's Change To Planet Hollywood


February 15, 2007

What's The Deal With Chinese New Year?

Posted by Hunter

Those that follow Las Vegas and the gaming industry know that Chinese New Year is a huge holiday that brings a lot of action to town.

Most American's aren't familiar with the holiday or the associated customs.

The Las Vegas Sun has an interesting article that covers some of the above.

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February 14, 2007

MGM MIRAGE Reports 4th Quarter Profit Doubles

Posted by Hunter

MGM MIRAGE reported another blowout quarter, with Q4 profits doubling from last year. Quarterly revenues are up to $2.02 billion with almost $90 million coming from insurance recovery against Katrina losses.

These numbers were way above what analysts had predicted.

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101502&p=IROL-NewsText&t=Regular&id=963023&

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8N9IGVO0.htm

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February 13, 2007

Wynn Las Vegas to Add Additional 'Atrium' Villas

Posted by Hunter

Wynn Las Vegas will add four new villas to the South side of the hotel, near the existing atrium villas on the pool side of the building.

Two of the villas have four bedrooms and the other two have three. All have media rooms, massage areas, spas and outdoor space with gardens and pools. They will be very similar to the existing atrium villas.

Adding these villas will require some of the landscaping in the South Tower area to be removed and reconfigured. Plans show another entrance from the street level as well.

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February 13, 2007

BREAKING: Stardust Site on Fire

Posted by Hunter

Looks like something at the Stardust site is on fire. Thanks to Christian for the updated photos!

http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/gallery/stardust

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MGM Mirage added a few press releases over the past couple of days detailing some upcoming plans.

First off is a new community in Jean, NV - just outside of Las Vegas. Currently they operate the Gold Strike and Nevada Landing. The latter will close and operations will be consolidated into the Gold Strike as a new casino hotel is developed, along with residential, retail and other mixed uses. What makes Jean interesting is the possibility of a new airport there at Ivanpah, serving Las Vegas's freight needs in the near term and international travel over the next ten years or so. With a monorail extension, this area could start to really hum.

Second on MGM Mirage's plate is brief announcement that their Macau partnership with Pansy Ho will build a resort on Cotai in that region. They don't specify the parcel other than to refer to it as a 'prime identified site'.

The other story of the day I thought was interesting is coming out of the Harrah's LBO. It's been revealed that part of the financing will come from Harrah's own assets. I find this fascinating and I am considering taking Wynn Resorts private by borrowing against their properties - can I do that? :-)

More on the Harrah's setup from the always excellent Business Press.

Lastly, a quick mention that high end condos aren't selling quite as fast as some thought.

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Here's the latest podcast and it's a good one. This episode features an interview with Tim and Michelle from Five Hundy By Midnight as well as spots on Las Vegas Sands and the new Tropicana.

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.

iTunes: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=197984456
Direct RSS: http://www.ratevegas.com/feed/podcast

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The Nevada Gaming Control Board approved the deal that swaps the Barbary Coast hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip for 24 acres of land located near Boyd Gaming's 'Echelon Place' site.

Harrah's had been trying to grab the site for years and Boyd finally relented last year. Harrah's is expected to include the Barbary site in any Strip re-development master plan, though that may have been slowed down due to the company being taken private.

Along with the sale, the Barbary Coast will be changing its name to 'Bill's Gambling Hall and Saloon'. The award winning restaurant 'Michael's' will be moving to the South Point down the road.

More info:
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Feb-08-Thu-2007/business/12456754.html

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Interesting article in the LVBP talking about Las Vegas Sands recent lawsuit from the AAEC. Apparently they saw this one coming as early as 2002 and it finally landed in their lap.

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2007/02/07/news/news_update/doc45ca4d195434a849903230.txt

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February 5, 2007

Las Vegas Sands 2006 Results = Big Profits

Posted by Hunter

Las Vegas Sands (LVS), operators of The Venetian, Sands Macau and constructing the Venetian Macau, Marina Bay Sands and the Palazzo, reported huge numbers for the fourth quarter of 2006 and the year as a whole:

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/070205/lam094.html?.v=67

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The Palazzo is rising between Wynn Las Vegas and The Venetian and despite being a $1.5 billion project, it's not been getting a lot of press.

Well, the VegasEye has some new info on Palazzo in today's edition.

They report that TV chef Mario Batali is set to open TWO eateries in the new complex and it will feature a dress-down nightclub/lounge called 'Rocket'.

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I was listening to a caller on Five Hundy By Midnight talking about 'hitting the buffet' and it got me to thinking that my travel habits for my Vegas trips sure have changed over the years. For those of us that go often, sometimes upwards of ten times a year, I can only assume I'm not alone in this.

Continue after the jump...

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January 29, 2007

Wynn Las Vegas Dealers Unionize?

Posted by Hunter

I can't tell if this post is just him mis-reading the WynnDealers.com Web site or if he is reporting a new turn of events.

The Poker Prof is saying that the dealers at Wynn Las Vegas have voted to unionize.

http://www.lasvegasvegas.com/pokerblog/archives/004120.php

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I just got word from my friends Steve and Miles over at The Strip Podcast that their upcoming Thursday night episode will feature some new words from Steve Wynn and based on what Steve told me in a follow-up email, we're going to hear a few things that we've never heard before.

Also, The Strip has announced their first (I think so, right?) live event. This coming Sunday, January 28th, they will be co-hosting a live discussion at the Ghostbar at the Palms. The discussion features the top celebrity journalists, Perez Hilton, Robin Leach, Norm Clarke and Carlos Dias from ExtraTV. More details are available at http://www.partyatthepalmswithperez.com. There's a $10 cover and the show gets going at 8pm so make sure to get there with plenty of time to get in and upstairs. If you've never been to the Ghostbar, this is a good time to check it out, when it's not full of drunken fools all competing to fall off the balcony. The proceeds from the event go to the NLGJA.

So, some hot activity on The Strip Podcast this week. The show is recorded on Thursdays at 7pm and you can participate in a live chat while they do the show. I'm planning on joining in this week - looking forward to it. The chat room is located at: LVRocks.com and there should also be links from the Strip Podcast site. See you on Thursday!

Update: A little preview of tonight's Steve Wynn/Spamalot stuff is here.

Updated Thursday: This episode is now available. Wynn talks a bit about the golf course, indicating the zoning was more to do with the way the mortgage is collateralized than anything else but the course will indeed be re-developed in a few years. He also said that he will never do a dense development like City Center, citing his lower cost of land as one reason he doesn't need to. I recommend you listen to the podcast.

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January 23, 2007

MGM Grand's $20,000 Newlywed Skyloft Package

Posted by Hunter

I wouldn't normally post this as I get these press releases all the time but I thought this one was interesting.

It's a $20,000 package for a trip to the MGM Grand's Skylofts, designed for newlyweds.

It includes a meal at Robuchon, Ka, Tabu, the spa, Rolex watches (!), two nights in a one bedroom Skyloft and more. The complete description from the press release is after the jump.

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This is a WSJ article so it requires a subscription or you'll have to find some other way to read it but it's recommended - interesting stuff.

Casinos Divide to Conquer

Basically the concept is that operators could sell their real estate holdings and then sign long term management deals with the new owners of the real estate. This lets them monetize these assets and many of these companies like Harrah's or MGM MIRAGE are sitting on billions in real estate.

From the article by Peter Sanders:

"Blackjack players who are dealt a pair of aces often "split" the cards into separate hands, giving them two shots at hitting the jackpot. Now, some casino companies are considering a split of their own: effectively dividing their real-estate assets from the operating companies that run the casinos."

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January 23, 2007

Macau Overtakes Las Vegas as World Gambling Capital

Posted by Hunter

Ok, well, we all knew this was coming.

Macau, the former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong, has overtaken Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world, at least in terms of gambling revenue.

For 2006, Las Vegas took in $6.5 billion while Macau saw $6.95 billion flow into their coffers.

MarketWatch Story on Macau 2006 Gambling Revenues

Update: Looks like this is a 'probably' vs a certainty at this point. The $6.5B for LV is estimated and is the Las Vegas Strip, not the entire city. We'll see when those numbers are published. Still, if not this year, it will be basically a draw and next year I would say it is certain and will be clear.

Update (Wed): More on this from the RJ, along with some comments from Steve Wynn.

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January 21, 2007

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #12 - Finally, Another Podcast

Posted by Hunter

I'm finally back with another podcast. Sorry - it's been busy. This one's only about 40 minutes long so you should have plenty of time to listen.

In this episode I talk about the the Trippies, Wynn labor dispute, City Center progress, Wynn's golf course, and more. Hopefully the next podcast won't be another month away!

The link to the Las Vegas Photo Quiz is here: http://quiz.ratevegas.com - Enjoy!

Update: Our good friends at VegasTripping.com have posted a little shout out to our shout out to their awards in which they gave us a shout out. Awesome.

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.

iTunes: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=197984456
Direct RSS: http://www.ratevegas.com/feed/podcast

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Today's newspapers have some interesting stories.

First off is the Sun with an article on Bobby Baldwin and the CityCenter plan. Some of the water and special features are alluded to here. A very interesting article. From this piece I can't help but think that pretty soon there will be way too many interesting resorts to really see Las Vegas in a single weekend anymore... if you can even do that still today.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/consumer/2007/jan/21/566630061.html

Second is an article on implosion prep for the Stardust:

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2007/Jan-21-Sun-2007/business/12010899.html

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January 20, 2007

Play The RateVegas.com Strip Photo Quiz!

Posted by Hunter

We've just launched the RateVegas.com Las Vegas Strip Photo Quiz. You can reach the quiz here:

http://quiz.ratevegas.com/

It is a simple but fun photo matching game that you can use to test your knowledge of Las Vegas Strip architecture and geography. The highest scorers will be displayed on a special page.

Over time we will be swapping the photos out, so this will remain fresh.

This thing was put together very quickly but I think it's a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy it. Don't worry if you have a hard time with some of them - it is supposed to be a challenge!

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January 20, 2007

Wynn Resorts Mulls Las Vegas Golf Course Plans

Posted by Hunter

We've discussed this in other threads but I thought it would be worthwhile to extract it out and focus the attention on 'The Vegas'.

The LV Biz Press has a blog entry on Wynn Resorts' activity in combining the parcels that make up the golf course into a set of properly zoned properties.

Is the golf course going to be re-developed sooner rather than later?

http://www.valleyblogs.com/mckee/2007-01-19/id_2011

Update: In a recent interview on the Strip Podcast, Steve Wynn explains that this move was partially done due to the golf course being released from the mortgage collateral for the hotel.

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January 20, 2007

Smoking Gun Posts Steve Wynn's 'Le Reve' Lawsuit

Posted by Hunter

The Smoking Gun, obtainers of mug shots the world over, has posted the legal documents that make up the Wynn vs. Lloyds of London lawsuit regarding paying lost value in the Picasso masterpiece, 'Le Reve'. Wynn asserts that he is owed the difference between a never-consumated sale price and the newly appraised value given that the painting has been restored.

This is a good spot for ongoing discussion on 'Le Reve' and the various damage issues.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0111072wynn10.html

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January 19, 2007

Project CityCenter Sales Pavilion

Posted by Hunter

** I was originally scheduled to do a tour of the City Center Sales Pavilion this weekend. Unfortunately something has come up and I will be in California instead. Anyway, here's some info I got on PCC from MGM MIRAGE and I will re-schedule my tour. **

MGM MIRAGE opened the Project CityCenter Sales Pavilion in early January to showcase the various features of their $7 billion project. The center features models of several of the condo units, incorporating state-of-the-art technology to give prospective buyers an immersive experience.

The Pavilion is open daily, 10am - 7pm. Appointments are preferred but according to MGM MIRAGE staffers serious prospects can often be squeezed in. More info, direct from MGM MIRAGE, on the various units follows.

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January 13, 2007

Luxor To Change Name? 'The Pyramid'?

Posted by Hunter

Saw this one on Robin Leach's 'blog' on Vegas celebrity gossip topics and it's interesting.

The idea is that Luxor's name would change to 'The Pyramid' about halfway through the year when they open their new nightlife operations.

Robin's take on the Luxor name is here.

I know MGM MIRAGE is eager to re-make Luxor in the public's eye as it is seen as having languished under previous management. Still, this would be a big move. I'd be more inclined to see a marketing campaign around 'Luxor: The Pyramid' rather than dropping the former moniker altogether.

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This Wynn Las Vegas press release was issued today to remind people that the popular Broadway musical 'Spamalot' is opening in March in the theater that was formerly home to 'Avenue Q'.

The previews start early March with the actual opening on March 31st. This version of the production will feature John O'Hurly, known for his recurring role on 'Seinfeld' as J. Peterman.

While they were once heralded as bringing in a new wave of entertainment to Las Vegas, shows such as 'Avenue Q', 'Hairspray', and 'We Will Rock You' all faltered. At the same time, 'Mamma Mia' has had a very successful run that is scheduled to end in 2008 and the version of 'Phantom' at The Venetian has seen some success. 'The Producers', another Broadway hit, opens in February at Paris Las Vegas.

I haven't seen 'Spamalot' but I've heard the show is 'wacky' and might be a good fit for Vegas audiences. These shows always suffer from having to be cut down to a running length no longer than 90 minutes, as well as the language barrier with foreign visitors that doesn't exist at non-verbal shows, like those from Cirque du Soleil.

I personally hope that this show works. I really liked 'Avenue Q' and was sad to see it go. I usually really enjoy myself when we spend a night on Broadway in NYC, though I rarely catch touring shows when they come to LA.

Wynn Las Vegas Press Release on 'Spamalot' Coming to Las Vegas

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Howdy folks! As a quick aside, I meant to do a podcast tonight but it didn't happen - sorry!! I'm shooting for the weekend and from then on, probably every 7-10 days. Thank you for being patient. There's clearly a lot to about.

I am planning on being in Las Vegas at the end the month, just for a weekend, to tour and document the progress at CityCenter's preview center - thanks to MGM MIRAGE for any access. From what I'm told, the preview center is amazing - I look forward to sharing with everyone... Expect photos to follow.

Regarding Wynn Macau, their 'Diamond Suites' project, located on the property edge near the future MGM Grand (with its neat/original curtain wall design), is a new hotel tower with the aim to up their room inventory as the company also looks into possibilities on Cotai Originally, Wynn Macau had something akin to a phase '1b', which was supposed to expand the casino floor, add a showroom and a new 'front feature', all to open in early 2007. This front feature is some kind of special effects room that Wynn says will 'blow us all away'.

Given that the public spaces are now going to be more aligned with the 'Diamond Suites' areas, they have been delayed until later this year. The 'Diamond Suites' tower is still 18 to 25 months out, though no specific dates have been announced. Some of the new tables and slots will open for the celebration of Chinese New Year, which is also coming to Las Vegas in a few weeks.

Ok, and last, MGM MIRAGE has new renderings of both CityCenter and MGM Grand Macau in their latest financial presentation. Very interesting shots that really show how the new buildings will interact with each and specifically "NOT" interact with neighbors.

MGM Mirage Financial Presentation 1/2007

I realize this was long winded - sorry. I hope everyone is doing well. Photos will follow in this space.

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January 1, 2007

Reader Trip Report: Bellagio December 2006

Posted by Hunter

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 editor@ratevegas.com. 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:
http://www.ratevegas.com/photo/most_recent

The report continues after the jump. Enjoy!

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December 31, 2006

Biggest Las Vegas / Gaming Stories of 2006?

Posted by Hunter

What did you think was the most interesting/biggest story of 2006 that related to Las Vegas and/or casino gambling?

Was it Harrah's being taken private? Wynn Resorts opening in Macau? The Stardust going dark? The insanity around the Tropicana bidding war? I'm interested to hear your take.

The RJ has a story on that topic today with a few examples but we don't have to limit the discussion to those options.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Dec-31-Sun-2006/business/11367452.html

And, for a little bit of history, these are the posts from December 2005. Funny to think of all that has happened this year.

http://www.ratevegas.com/blog/2005/12/

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December 26, 2006

Tropicana Las Vegas Plans Disclosed

Posted by Hunter

We've now got some more detail on what new owner Columbia Sussex plans to do with the Tropicana site in Las Vegas.

The two larger towers and the showroom will remain, though be re-worked. They will join several new towers that contain a boatload of new hotel rooms It's certainly going to be a large complex.

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2006/12/26/news/news_update/doc4591b8a81c595887019293.txt

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December 21, 2006

Fairway Villa Report, December 2006

Posted by Mike E

I just came back from another trip in a Wynn Fairway Villa. It was an amazing experience--far better than the first time I stayed in the villas. I've even thrown in some photos and videos of the trips events.

(More after the jump.)


December 19, 2006

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #11 - December 19th, 2006

Posted by Hunter

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.

iTunes: http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=197984456
Direct RSS: http://www.ratevegas.com/feed/podcast

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