Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

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...)

There I was, window seat near the front of a Southwest 737 when a cute girl asks me if the aisle seat is taken. I say no and she sits down. With no one in the center, she breaks the ice and says, �Are you going on business? I don�t know anyone who wears a suit on Saturdays.� What can I say? I love dressing up for Vegas.

We hit it off and as it turns out, she lives on the other side of the same city I do. She tells me her and her girlfriends want to hit Tryst tonight and I give her Jesse Waits� number (the manager there). Having never flown into town, she was a little lost at the airport and I also help her find her way around.

Since I was staying at Wynn (last minute change from my original Mirage reservations) and it�s somewhat on the way to Bally�s where she was staying, I suggested we share a cab and she was totally cool with the idea. The cabbie pulls up to the Bally�s port-cochere and I insist to my newfound friend that she put her money away; I�d be happy to cover the entire fare when it�s my turn to get dropped off. She was very appreciative, gave me a hug and her number, and told me to call her when we�re both back home. Damn, I felt like a freakin� stud for a moment having scored a number after only 20 minutes in town.

I�m dropped off at Wynn Tower Suites, gave the cabbie $25 for his efforts, and hand my luggage over to the bell desk where I won�t see it until the next morning when I check in.

It�s right back to another cab and straight to THEhotel to meet my friend Eric along with his friends Jennie and Ashley for drinks at MIX. The balcony was closed for a private function, but as always, MIX was a blast. Eric continually insisted that we charge everything to his account as his host would take care of the expenses.

After drinks, some other friends join us and we head to Red Square. Having never dined here before, I was really looking forward to trying it out. Again, Eric insists we order anything we like. I had my eyes on modest selections, but he orders caviar samplers and vodka flights to go around. The samplers included salmon roe (delicious, but not true caviar), sevruga (don�t remember the country [Russia?], but nothing too remarkable in my opinion), and American sturgeon (the best and most flavorful in the selection).

After a taste of the high life, I choose the Grilled Caesar Salad ($14) to start, the Chicken Kiev ($29) as my entr�e, and the Red Square martini ($12). I�m only listing prices for the sake of review as Eric �Don�t Thank Me, Thank My Host� took care of everything. The salad was fantastic as was the chicken�a breast stuffed with various cheeses over risotto. The martini might have been the best I�ve ever had and while I don�t give much weight to superlatives, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a connoisseur in that area giving me license to throw out a claim like that. Sweet and clean without a hint of bite, I might have to call the restaurant and ask them the name of the vodka and sweet vermouth they used. Service was superb, but my only gripe: when you serve bread that good, please don�t torture us with one piece at a time.

Afterwards, our party grows to eight and Eric gets us all into Foundation Room with comped drinks to go around. I don�t remember much, but it was an awesome time. Eric, I know you�re reading this and I know you�re probably sick of me saying it, but thanks again!

At around 2am or so, someone gets the brilliant idea to go downtown. In keeping with the high life tradition, we take a limo up to the Golden Nugget. Wow. The Nugget has come a long way and has lost any hint of seediness typically common to its neighbors. In fact, downtown as a whole has improved quite a bit. Maybe I notice it more since I only make my way up about once a year or so. In any case, I look forward to spending a night at the Nugget and visiting downtown more often.

We make our way over to Hogs 'n Heifers Saloon. My gawd. This might have been the worst dive bar I�ve ever set foot in� and I loved it! It took a while to get myself acquainted as I was totally and completely surrounded by bikers and overdressed for the occasion. You can actually see a visible layer of smoke as you enter and a wall of bras hanging in front of you, each being a sacrifice by the many women who have danced on the bartop.

The female bartenders continually scream out over megaphones, �We�re f***ing thirsty!� and expect the men to buy them shots. After a few they get on the bar and start dancing, their steel-toed cowboy boots literally inches from your face. I enjoyed it, nervous as I was to not get a heel through the teeth by a drunken bartender.

Later into the early morning, several of us head over to El Cortez. I�d never been, but again, this was another one of those joints that I fell in love with. Don�t get me wrong, the high-end strip will always be my home, but there�s a place in my heart for charming casinos where you can get your kicks on the cheap.

Several of us take a seat at a $5 blackjack table. I lose $60 immediately and sit out cheering the others on and milking drinks because at the El Co, cocktail waitresses won�t say a word as long as the tips keep flowing.

My friend Sin and I then make our way over to a $5 pai gow table. She�d never played so I explain the rules and hype the game as the slowest in the casino with lots of pushes. I play a hand and make her observe the three minutes it takes to complete. She then sits down and puts her bet in when suddenly the shuffle machine goes berserk and starts spitting out cards randomly and all bent out of shape.

The game is halted as they try to fix the machine. Meanwhile, the cocktail waitress is still making her rounds and we�re ordering drinks. Half an hour later and we�re only on our second hand.

�See Sin, I told you pai gow�s a slow game.�

We just about laughed our asses off.

Sin gives me the grand tour of El Cortez including �hell hall�, the most random hallway in the back of the casino. Clearly, much thought went into the masterplanning of this joint. There are a few vending machines there and while I�m used to seeing sodas and snacks among the selections, I�d never seen a freakin� comb next to a Snickers bar. Giddy and drunk as hell, I found this so funny that the security guard sitting in the tiny office on the other side of the vending machines looked most insulted. The tour ended with the grand finale: the most awkwardly out-of-place Subway in existence. I can never walk into the El Co without a serious case of the giggles anymore.

It�s about 6am now and most the gang heads over to a strip club. I had $1000 in my wallet that I�d saved strictly for a little baccarat action and with no intention on hitting any ATMs this trip, a strip club was out of the question for me.

I cab it back to Wynn and go up to the Tower Suites front desk. My friend Matt who used to hook me up all the time left his position there, is moving back to Philadelphia where he�s originally from to accelerate his degree, and then returning to a hosting position at CityCenter. I�ve got to admire his motivation and wish him the best. Little did I know I was gonna� have one last hurrah with him later on that night before he moves away.

There I was speaking to Monirah, a young and gorgeous receptionist, asking her when the earliest time is that I can check in. She said she could check me in now if there are rooms available. As expected on a Sunday morning at 6:30am after a sold out Saturday night, nothing was. I gave her $20 with a big smile and asked her to call me when a room was ready.

I walk into the high limit room and lo and behold, I actually saw the rumored $100 big table baccarat game at Wynn (it only took 10 stays out of me to finally see it). I buy in with the $1000 I had saved. I knew this wouldn�t last me long, but it was money that I wasn�t concerned with and that I had saved just for the game.

Nothing too remarkable to talk about on the action as I was sitting by myself. No natural eights beaten by natural nines, no tie bets won or anything of that nature, no superstitious whales demanding that the faucets keep flowing in the private bathrooms for good luck. I just slowly and inevitably watched my stack decline.

The cocktail waitress comes around and I ask for the oldest glass of The Macallan they can comp me. She says she�ll see what she can do. Seconds later, she comes back and says I�ve got a choice of 30, 18, or 12-year. My heart starts to race and I think I get a little pale. Will this be my chance to taste the sweet honey of 30-year-old, $1000 a bottle scotch? I ask if she can do the 30-year and hold a green chip in my hand waiting to tip.

The glass is set in front of me, my smile ear to ear, and she says, �That�s 12-year! Hope you enjoy it!�


I get wiped out and walk over to a $25 pai gow table where I buy in for $200. I hit a little bit of a winning streak when Monirah calls me to let me know my room is ready. A $20 tip goes a long way as this was only 7:30am. Since I was doing pretty well at pai gow, I ask her to hold it for me and she does without a problem. I come around 8am, check-in, close the drapes to my room, and pass out completely.

I wake up around noon, shower, and head down to Tableau for some brunch. I sit outside near the pool area and order the Tableau Breakfast�two eggs, bacon, two English muffins (from a selection I can�t exactly recall), and �Tableau potatoes� (little, bite-sized hash browns) with coffee and your choice of fruit juice. You also get a selection of small muffins brought to you as you wait for your entr�es. I won�t really bother reviewing in detail standard comfort food fare, although I can say it�s impeccably presented with wonderful service in a fantastic setting. Outdoor dining at Tableau is a must when the weather is cooperative and at only $26 for enough food that can hold you well into dinner, it�s one splurge I know I�ll be doing again and again.

After brunch, I head over to the roof of Wynn�s self-park garage to watch Encore�s construction. It takes a very special kind of nerd to find this stuff entertaining and actually trek over to the top of an empty parking garage to appreciate it, but I�m proud to say that nerd is me (and keep reading as it gets worse the next day). Encore seemed to have been coming along at blazing speeds up to floor 19 now, but I think it has slowed down a bit with focus going on putting up the glass and other phases. Sorry, no pictures for the fellow nerds.

On my walk back, I decide to call Tim and Michele of Five Hundy by Midnight�s voicemail line and leave a message. With $1000 down in the baccarat hole, I left a voicemail playing off the �Keno is bad� messages made famous on there. I don�t think it�ll be on for a while though as Tim and Michele don�t have a show this week.

Suddenly, I remembered Five Hundy talking about Gem�s Wild-Tiles when I immediately started getting withdrawals (I got slightly addicted to the free internet version of the game). So then I went in search for a machine. I looked through Wynn high and low to no avail. Then across the street at Treasure Island, I found one at last. The nickel machine was sitting there calling my name. I put in my $20 and there I sat for three hours often times �pressing� my slot winnings playing 20 lines at 15 cents a pop occasionally. This is one of those slots where you�ll inevitably lose, but it takes forever and so long as I�m getting drinks and the comps are coming, that makes me happy.

I cashed out up $20 and headed over to TI�s coffee shop to meet Mike_ch. I was still a little bloated from the huge breakfast at Tableau so I was only able to eat about half of my open-faced turkey sandwich. Mike shared some really neat tidbits on slot testing and quality control. Service at the coffee shop was terrible, but for $31 total, it was forgivable.

I make my way back over to Wynn and get a call from Matt. I'd left a message earlier telling him that I really wanted to see him before he moves back to Philly. He says he�s partied out and wants to do something mellow tonight. I�m all for something mellow and said I�d call him after I get out of Spamalot.

It was back up to the room for me to get ready for the show. I head down to the theater and walking through the hallway is a hoot in and of itself in what looks to be a medieval garage sale. For those of you who have been, you know what I mean. They�ve really done some incredible renovations to this theater since Avenue Q. It was previously much more minimal and elegant, but now the colors are bold, cartoonish, and every corner has something to make you laugh.

My seats are among the cheapest and towards the rear of the balcony. I was afraid my views would be obstructed, but with maybe an exception to the very end where the audience participates, I would still recommend them. The theater was packed completely and a little cramped�they actually added more seats during the renovation and I could sense that.

Overall, I enjoyed the show, though unlike Avenue Q where I was chuckling from beginning to end, this had some slow moments mixed in with musical numbers that had me laughing so hard I was literally wiping tears from my eyes. Some of the English accents aren�t as articulate as others and you have to listen closely during the dialogue to catch most the jokes. It didn�t help that I had a noisy, drunken idiot sitting next to me. Everyone around him made it so awkward and clear that his presence wasn�t wanted that he excused himself halfway through the show, fortunately.

Overall, I liked �Q� more, but Spamalot is definitely akin to a suitable Vegas show and will be more successful in the long run. I wouldn�t see it again, but I�m glad I saw it once.

After relaxing for a bit, I get a call from Matt. Don�t know what he meant by being �partied out� and wanting to do something mellow, but he said he had a comped bottle at Light and to meet him outside of there at 11pm. Can�t turn down free bottle service so off I went.

Partying tourists have nothing on the locals when it comes to industry nights. It�s a big networking thing and the rewards are obviously awesome. I recommend Light and your name to the VIPs at Wynn, you comp me bottles once a week. It works beautifully. The perks are so good in fact that I�m almost considering flying in once a week to mooch off my friends.

There we were, five in total, in our own little corner of the club not once stepping foot on the dance floor, but creating our own little party and dancing on the cushions surrounding the table. We had security, a waiter, and waitress constantly checking up on us and making sure we were okay.

As a courtesy, I offered our waiter and waitress shots with us. At most places I hear the typical, �Oh, my manager would kill me,� but at Light, they brought out seven shot glasses, looked around to make sure the coast was clear, and downed the liquor hard with us. It was awesome.

Two tables over, we see a guy by himself asleep! Security comes up and starts tapping his shoulder to wake him up and kick him out. His bottle wasn�t even half way finished and we tell our waitress that we�ll take the bottle. She assures us that we�d get first dibs.

The guy wasn�t budging so the bouncer tries to carry him out, but he must have been at least 6�3�, 230 pounds or so and the bouncer calls for help. With two huge guys under each arm, they manage to lift him up, but the guy literally drops on the floor and stays there. He was breathing, but had absolutely no control of his muscles. One bouncer forced his eyelids open with his fingers and shined a flashlight into each eye. No movement. It became obvious considering his size and behavior that he hadn�t just had too much to drink�he must have overdosed on something.

Suddenly, we didn�t want his bottle anymore as it could be possible he had something slipped in there. EMTs and the Clark County fire department were on the scene, a stretcher came through, and the guy was carried out. Our waiter said to me jokingly, �Maybe he roofied himself,� which caused vodka to shoot up through my nose in laugher.

In retrospect, I felt kinda� bad joking around. I really hope the guy was okay, but it was an experience for all of us. Even our waitress said that in her three years at Light, she�d never seen something like that.

To make it up to us for our �inconvenience�, (You kidding? That was entertaining as hell!), each VIP table near our end got free champagne on ice. We all toast with the other tables to good health and before we know it, both bottles are done by 2am. We�re out of Light and I part ways with my friends.

As I�m walking through the shops at Bellagio, I pass a couple walking slowly in the same direction as me. The boyfriend was on a cell phone crying his eyes out. I mean seriously soaking wet from tears and sobbing. The girlfriend taps me on the shoulder and says, �You�re probably thinking, �What the f***, right?'� Sure enough I was and I asked her what was wrong. Before she could speak, the boyfriend speaks between sobs, �I�m talking to her momma and I love her man! I love her!� and I told him he should as she�s quite the catch and then I told her that she�s very lucky to have a man who so deeply cares for her. The guy says, �Hey, you�re just one of those guys around here looking for a tip, aren�t you?� and I say, �No man, I�m just here having fun like you. Be safe, alright?� and literally the guy hugs me while crying on my shoulder. Let it all out man, but easy with the snot--that's Hugo Boss you're crying on.

I make my way through Caesars to see the Pussy Cat Dolls casino. Stupidest idea ever but this little pit will probably generate millions in revenue each month from little idiots standing in line at PURE. Can you imagine if one of those club-goers actually wins big? It�s straight to a doorman requesting bottle service and right back to the casino�s pocket. Gotta� admire Harrahs' business sense.

I grab an Arturo Fuente Exquisito (love those little stogies) at The Mirage and walk my way back up to Wynn. I don�t remember much at this point, but I think I just went straight to bed.

Morning comes around and I head over to Terrace Pointe for the usual lobster benedict and then on to the pool. Here�s where the nerdy side of me comes in again. The Tower Suites pool is never crowded and there were all these open seats on one side and a couple spots open on the other. In true awkward fashion, much like taking the urinal right next to someone in the men�s room, I chose the one open lounger between two guys only because it afforded a view of Encore�s construction. I think the guys realized that with my mojito in hand and my attention strictly to the building being built north, that it wasn�t anything to worry about.

I get freshened up after the pool and make my way over to The Mirage again to meet some fellow LVTalk members at Japonais Lounge. While I do have a nostalgia for the old Mirage, this place is way better than the Ava bar it replaced. The lounge during the day is drenched in sunlight and each seating area is provided a sense of intimacy and privacy thanks to sheer curtains on each side.

Time flew by before I knew it and then it was back to Wynn for me to pack my things up and check out. I took a cab to the airport and made my way to the Southwest gate, slept for most of the flight, and it was back home to reality.

A few final thoughts:

I think Wynn Tower Suites was taken by surprise with the award of the Mobil Five Star. The ratings are so stringent that I actually had some doubts myself whether or not they�d get it. Now that they�ve achieved the most prestigious award in the hotel industry, they�ve really stepped up their game to keep from the embarrassment of losing it. While I�ve never had a bad experience, I can always find things to nitpick. This time around though, everything was truly perfect. As far as I�m concerned, and sorry if this is a bold statement, but all the hype and attention of this hotel went into this side and they go through extra steps to show it. Eating at Tableau isn�t enough. Spend the extra dough or it�s impossible to grasp Steve Wynn�s true vision for the hotel.

Mirage is finally beginning to address their bare ceilings since the canopies are gone. They�re installing modern, more geometric fixtures on the ceiling, but still with a South Seas vibe (and fortunately not a Beatles one). Revolution Lounge looked nice, but I didn�t go inside. The bar just before the entrance seems a bit awkward to me. Sorry fans, but there�s just too much Beatles at this hotel. If I were a first-timer unknowing of its previous state, I�d think the Mirage was a Beatles themed resort.

Ask the cabbies about NBA All Star weekend. They love to tell you all about it.

This was the first trip I�ve taken where I wasn�t burnt out by the end. Don�t know what made it so different, but I wish I could have stayed an entire week.

The smoking ban looked to be in full force. It�ll take a while before patrons get a clue where you can and can�t smoke as it seemed some people still lit up where they�re not supposed to, but nevertheless, the difference in air quality is totally noticeable.

American Express Platinum pulled through again. $30 less than Wynn�s rate direct, $60 in food and beverage credit, and 4pm check out. I could have gotten a room upgrade too if I opted to wait longer, but after being awake for 24-hours, I�d take anything with a bed. Those freebies along with a few comps made me a happy man.

Thanks for reading!


Read archived comments (52 so far)
March 28, 2007 4:15 AM Posted by mike_ch

* Going from Foundation Room to Hogs & Heiffers is akin to falling from the top of the world all the way down to the underbelly in one fell swoop. That may be the fastest downgrade in Vegas history.

* You ALMOST made me want to add the El Cortez to my Dump Tour agenda, but I kind of get the feeling I wouldn't understand what's so funny.

* If you want Gems, go stay at GVR (or Red Rock, but puh-leaze not with that distance.) The Stations group can't seem to get enough of them.

* Service at the Coffee Shop is always depressing, I always have to hope it's not so bad that it negates my menu favorites. Thanks for buying dinner, and I'm glad that your next few experiences involved drunks since it makes me seem less weird (if perhaps a bit boring.)

* The PCD Casino is actually dumber than the Party Pit at Bally's, if you ask me. For those who don't know, they brought the Party Pit low-minimum (comparatively) fun-time vibe from Harrah's to Bally's, and with it comes a lot of noise, hollering, and "party music" playing over speakers that are trying to drown out the sound of the casino's regular muzak and maybe any nearby lounge act that gets too close. It takes a lot to top that, but by slutting up Ceasars even further they've pulled it off.

* It seems that Tower Suites is actually where they've been pulling off a lot of the service revolution that Wynn promised and seemingly never delivered on. "Eating at Tableau isn't enough"? Is that a subtle jab I detect? Maybe one day, I'll give that ol' $300 room I talked about a whirl.

* I've already drilled my opinions about Wynn and design philosophy into your head but if all the quality is in Tower Suites, that would explain why so many critics are underwhelmed. It takes time just to find that part of the hotel if you aren't registered there. I think it's a good start to a great concept and I want to see where Encore and others take it.

March 28, 2007 4:24 AM Posted by Mike E

No jabs intended, Mike. I've just read one too many reports that seem to think they understand the concept after one breakfast at Tableau. Hey, I've eaten and had drinks at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara several times, but it doesn't mean I can fairly review the place until I spend a night there.

March 28, 2007 4:27 AM Posted by mike_ch

And I guess this summer I'll throw some cabbage at those Spamalot cheap seats, since I'm not really as wild about seeing the production as I am about hearing it. I enjoyed the album.

I can't say that my inevitable review will be that funny, though. Besides, I used up all of my lifetime quota of medieval-era jokes writing my Excalibur buffet review. Any more and there'd be heavy taxes and penalties.

March 28, 2007 4:33 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike E, your report was a great way to start my day at 7 AM. Excellent! Thanks. There's no way I could keep up with you except for another excellent breakfast at Tableu. What the heck are Gem Wild-Tiles???
I see two new comments. Thanks Mike_ch as well. What are you guys doing, posting at 4:30 AM your time?

March 28, 2007 11:00 AM Posted by Hunter

A couple of things...

First off, thanks for the *great* report. The thing I love about reading your reports is that in a lot of ways I feel like I'm re-living some of my past trips. Man - I SO want to get on a plane right now.

Regarding the Mirage ceiling, for those interested, here's a pic from a few weeks ago:

Also, we have loads of Encore pics:

Regarding the smoking thing, I forgot to mention in my brief update last time that it certainly is in place in a big way. Anytime you leave the casino floor, smokers are told to put out their cigarettes. The guy at Mandalay Bay seemed ready to flip out if you dared non-compliance. As a non-smoker, I appreciate the lack of smoke in the restaurants but I think the public spaces are a little silly.

Anyway, great stuff. Thanks!

March 28, 2007 1:14 PM Posted by BrianFey

Sounds like a short, but grand trip. I don't want to start a war, but I just don't understand how certain people can't "get" the greatness of Wynn. It's just home, its that plain and simple for me. I walk in there, I feel so at home, and I don't feel that way anyplace else. You have to give me an update on this "girl from the plane" who knows where that could lead? :) Time really does fly, in just a few months, Encore will already have be under construction for one year, and it seemed so far away. Its amazing though, now we can say, we'll be staying there next year! I can't wait. Mike, I might drop you an email, as I'll be in your area in Oct. and I would like some thoughts on a few things.

March 28, 2007 6:34 PM Posted by mike_ch

Brian, if you wanted, I could give you the dissertation about Wynn I gave Mike, but I'm not sure this is the right place. To summarize it, though, each of the parts of Wynn is as good as, if not better, than the nearest competitor. But I feel that the sum of those parts is overall missing something that puts it over the top.

I could go more into detail, I have very specific issues, but again, I don't know if you (or anyone else) wants to hear them. Here's a comparison though: There's thought that some of the best directors and producers in Hollywood have a "one for them, one for me" approach. Which is to say, for every time they make a box-office smash with mass appeal (one for them), they make a more niche movie that allows them to indulge in their creativity and create something that they are personally satisfied with even if the critics aren't (one for me.)

S. Wynn is the director.
Bellagio is "one for them."
Wynn is "ne for me."

See where I'm going?

March 28, 2007 8:03 PM Posted by Brian Fey

Actually I would love for you to give me all your thoughts and comments, on Wynn & Company, including Encore, etc. If this isn't the place, have Hunter send you my email.

March 28, 2007 10:59 PM Posted by mike_ch

Brian, I have your email and will write you my thoughts. This is one of those subjects where I could probably expand into a full blown punditry/editorial piece here, except I'd like to remain fairly impartial update guy for now.

March 29, 2007 1:19 AM Posted by Mike E

Detroit, I was just about to go to bed (yes, I'm a *major* night owl trying to kick the habit) as Mike_ch was probably just starting his day. Gem's Wild-Tiles is a relatively new slot machine I've found myself addicted to. Five Hundy's 106th show discusses it a bit:

Brian, in all honesty, I think it takes a few trips and a lot of money spent to "get" Wynn. It doesn't surprise me to hear a bad review when the only place a guest has tried is the buffet.

How many high limit rooms overlook the swimming pools? How many casinos have museum quality art hanging around? I didn't even know Tableau had that gem of a terrace until my fifth stay and I'll bet less than 1% of the people who walk through Wynn's doors know that there's literally another world outside the doors of the Country Club. That's why some people don't "get" Wynn. Otherwise, yeah, it's just another resort like any other.

March 29, 2007 1:26 AM Posted by mike_ch

That's... Actually only of my issues design-wise with Wynn. There's so much of the experience that few people are getting. Exclusivity has always been accomplished with high prices in this town, but nobody quite flaunts it the way Wynn does.

I'm writing a thing to Brian but I won't send it until tomorrow when I can read it with a clear head and make sure it doesn't sound stupid.

March 29, 2007 4:08 AM Posted by detroit1051

Mike E, thanks for the information. Actually, I used my question on Gem's Wild-Tiles as an excuse to go to one of South Florida's new racinos yesterday. I played a nickel version of it, and I can see why people could sit there for some time. This is OT for Vegas, but some friends asked me to take some construction-status photos of Isle of Capri's new racino at Pompano Park and the Seminoles' expansion to their Coconut Creek casino. The last few photos are of Coconut Creek. The exterior looks very good, and it's nice not to see neon all over:

March 29, 2007 9:50 AM Posted by Christian

Sounds fun.

Yea NBA all-star weekend gauruntees a fantastic story from anyone....just ask the bouncers at Rain...their's are the best I've heard

March 29, 2007 11:35 AM Posted by Christian

mike_ch do you mind sending me what uyou're sending brian. i'd love to read it.

March 29, 2007 2:13 PM Posted by Hunter

Honestly Mike, feel free to post it here if you'd like.

March 29, 2007 2:41 PM Posted by mike_ch

Unrelated: Hunter, did you get my Bellagio buffet review? I sent it around Monday or so, never was posted.

My Wynn rant: Okay, I'll go ahead and post it publicly. I'll have to re-edit and clean up a lot of it though. As an email hammered out late in the evening it works, but as something everybody's going to read, I've got to do more proofreading.

March 29, 2007 3:28 PM Posted by Hunter

Hey Mike,

I just published your buffet review - I had missed the email notification that I had stuff pending so thanks for the heads up!


March 29, 2007 5:01 PM Posted by mike_ch

Okay, here's the WLV rant. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to rehearse it a little with Mike so I know I'm not just spouting gibberish.

This is a whole list of issues, so I�ll begin with the issue that�s easiest to explain. I suspect Wynn is taking over TOO much control of the resort. The most convenient example to point out was their promotion of the beds. I read one of the Wynn magazines during one of my stays and, if you believe the way they tell it, they had the still-unfinished casino filled with mattresses while trying to figure out which one to use for the resort. Eventually, Steve would lie down on a bunch of them and picked the one he thought was best, and that mattress went into the rooms.

Now, I'm not going to say Steve is a total idiot. If I were trying to make a design for a building and he suggested I go with a particular design because it's better/more beautiful/more likely to succeed/etc, I'd listen to his advice because (outside of some circles) he's respected for his intuition on such matters. And before a certain someone speaks up, I�ll say that Wynn�s definitely no Frank Lloyd Wright or I.M. Pei. I would hold those kinds of legendary people in an even higher regard in such matters, but my point still stands. Likewise, if I was looking at buying a piece of fine art and Wynn told me I should buy a certain piece I'd respect his point of view (not necessarily go with it. Art is subjective, after all) because the man also knows what he's talking about in that field.

But what does Wynn know about beds? Aside from an executive position and his name on the side of the tower, what makes him a qualified expert on a mattress to pick the best for a resort that, he's hoping, combines the best of everything? Why not find someone who knows as much about a quality mattress as Wynn knows a quality resort? Someone who has full understanding of the ergonomics, comfort, and other issues involved? I'm sure those people exist. They might be as far away as Sweden or something, but if you wanted the best mattress you�d find the people who know that subject, not a resort/casino developer.

The same tale appears in the shows. What did we hear about Ave Q? Something to the effect of "I went to New York and saw this wonderful show, and thought it would be a great addition to our resort." We all saw how accurately Steve was able to gauge his audience. The premise occurred again with Spamalot ("I went to New York and saw this wonderful show, and I told Eric Idle that I wanted to bring it to our resort") and we'll see if he manages to pull it off with that show or not. The Spamalot deal was made before Q fell through the floor, but if this one flops too then hopefully Steve would hire someone who has a greater knowledge of what Vegas visitors want to see than he does.

At this point Mike E jumped a step ahead of me and brought up the nightclubs, which is another example of the same situation. La Bete was a big failure, so Steve called in Vic Drai who actually does run some of the most successful nightclubs in town, and now WLV has an uncontested hit with Tryst.

Why this scenario keeps playing out again and again at WLV, which is striving to be the best of everything, is something I don't quite understand. A lot of it's been written off to opening year kinks and honest misjudgments. But the tale they like to tell is that Steve likes to call the shots on just about every element, and if that's actually the case (and there's enough proof to suggest it is) then I can't figure out why. Has he been reading too much of his own press? If he wants to have the best resort he needs to call in the people who actually do understand the various facets and can tell the best from the simply great. I can't imagine if he tried to build his own water show that it would be spectacle Bellagio Fountains are, because he got a firm who knew what they were doing and gave them as much money as they wanted while concerning himself mostly with the building. What WLV needs is people who can spot the best, or create the best and be given the funds to do so ala Tryst.

Finally, there's taste in design. I didn't talk about this part at all with Mike because it deals with concepts that are hard to put into words. So if I elaborate a bit too much, I apologize. The subject kind of demands it.

I feel there's a lack of details outside WLV, certainly compared to Bellagio. I've mentioned before on the blog what a great job they did building the exterior of that hotel. The freeway facing back of the house buildings have elegant touches that keep it from looking like an ugly back of house, and when coming in from the street I always notice all the little details everywhere. For instance, take the ramp underground for the taxis. The tunnel entrance is framed, the walls are detailed to look like stones were laid there, there are some plants around to make it look more natural, etc.

These are just some of the examples of touches that are little, probably not noticed by quite a few people, but mean a lot to the people who notice them because it makes them feel that people who built the hotel are paying as much or more attention to the property than they are. The absence of these sorts of details at Wynn doesn't hurt the performance of the property, but are noticed regardless. So in a way these little details have done their job, because they've made another hotel (a more expensive one intended to be it's successor, in fact) seem like less a property to the visitor for not having such attention to detail. When you get around the mountain, Wynn�s exteriors are nowhere near as carefully designed as Bellagio�s. They have a cluster of buildings that are all wearing mostly the same shades of paint. The same is true for the back of house, which faces a golf course, Sands Ave, and eventually whatever will be built on the golf course.

Moving inside, you have less public attractions than any previous Wynn resort. All of his previous works had elements that could be enjoyed by essentially anyone. This always included some big, iconic element like the fountains or what have you. Wynn has the Lake of Dreams, which even if it was it was the best show in town, cannot appeal to everyone because it has been built deliberately to be exclusive. Unless you're at one of the bars or restaurants surrounding the water, you have to just about fight for some space that seems almost accidentally placed adjacent to a window looking out to the spectacle. If you're not missing out on the experience, at most you're simply getting a taste to egg you on to pay for the full show. It's a far cry from the fountains and the conservatory, which I've enjoyed many times without feeling hustled for money.

I'm not going to fight Tower Suites, because Vegas resorts have always had exclusive upper-tiers. You can have just about anything you want here, you just have to have enough money to get what you need. However part of that equation was that the exclusive elements were usually kept low-key, to make it seem, well, exclusive. And, just as importantly, to make sure that the normal folk won't feel that they're getting second-rate treatment after the big boys. WLV seems to adopt a motto that intimacy is the new definition of classy on the Strip, but those concepts can only be achieved by using price as a barrier to entry. And so the end result is WLV revels in high-priced exclusivity and promotes it at a far greater volume than the others. All that said, Tower Suites elegantly integrates into the rest of the resort and I want to see where that idea goes.

Both Bellagio and Wynn are designed to attract well-heeled clientele, but Bellagio does a better job of being designed to be approachable to all who visit it. I've actually felt more elitism from Bellagio's employees than Wynn's, but the actual layout and master plan of the place does not make sport of denying quality to people in the name of exclusivity.

I was cautious about writing the above because I�m not sure exactly how accurate it is. Despite all the time spent at Wynn, I�ve only seen the Lake of Dreams show once from that balcony and only braved eating there a few times at the deli/buffet/caf� level, and only seen a few standard rooms. Basically, the price even for Wynn�s basic stuff is enough to make us cringe, so I don�t know exactly how accurate all of the above was. However, last night Mike said something about how one has to really invest some money to get the full Wynn experience, and so I feel that validates my point. There�s just not as much natural excitement as provided by Wynn�s last properties.

But, to paraphrase Mike, if breakfast at whatever restaurant doesn't allow you to "get it", and if a standard room doesn't allow you to "get it", and if eating at the casual restaurant doesn't allow you to "get it", when do you get it? I've been there countless times and I still don't get it. Do I have to spend a thousand dollars there just to understand why I would want to spend a thousand dollars there? It makes no sense.

And finally, the choices in interior d�cor at WLV decorate are, uh, acquired taste. By comparison, Bellagio seemed to be trying to strive to be inoffensive, except for that Chihuly thing in the lobby. I have never stayed in Tower Suites, which is supposedly where the more revolutionary elements of Wynn are. I've wandered around the lobby there and have to admit that style was more the kind of atmosphere I was expecting to see throughout the entire resort before it opened.

The style of everywhere else in the place turns me off. I know he thinks it's the most gorgeous thing anywhere. I just can't agree. I know I�m not alone. There was a very deliberate attempt to create a sense of atmosphere. I�ve heard that the audio loop is only four hours long, and on my two stays I�ve heard the same songs repeated enough to believe it. There�s no reason to limit your playlist to something that small unless you�re intentionally going for a unique sound. And I think they�re also going for a very unique look. It's very possible Wynn built while listening to his own tastes instead of the market.

Overall, I think creating a place that can be appreciated by everyone works on some human sense. I appreciate Steve Wynn (even with his flaws) and I'm not the biggest MGM Mirage fan in the world, but Bellagio hooks me every time. I still dig Mirage and can spend hours in the parts of Treasure Island that MGM didn�t strip out too much of. And for as much as I've accused myself of being a tightwad, I've always been very willing to effectively burn money at Bellagio. Even when my experiences there are akin to a kick in the gut, I'll proverbially get off the floor and ask them if I may please have another. Multiple times I've left the place swearing under my breath about the tight slots, the snooty people working the floor, etc. And yet the next time I'm at the Flamingo intersection I find myself taken with how gorgeous the place is and go in again. I've rarely felt such anger when leaving Wynn, and I actually like their slot odds, which seem to have the highest level of payback for a high-end resort property that I know of.

But because I feel excluded by the design, and find the decorating a bit offensive, I won't walk in there as often except out of sheer convenience. I don't hate the place. I just won't walk in as often.

I hope all of that makes sense, and doesn't come off too pretentious or like a guy whining about not being able to afford the finer things. I feel that all the elements of Wynn are better (rooms, gambling odds, tower suites, buffet) than Bellagio or at least a tie (restaurants, staff, entertainment.) For some reason, though, it lacks that special sumthin'-sumthin' that really puts it over the top. It's simply an equal with different strengths and weaknesses. And I feel that's probably more that it was designed to please Steve Wynn, than please his audience. Mike suggested that if Wynn could have avoided the IPO and kept the company privately owned, he'd outright shut it down to the public on some days so he could enjoy it all privately. I don't think that's far from the truth.

There�s always a second chance. Maybe now that he�s built to satisfy his own tastes, perhaps Encore will be where Steve finally builds the section for the rest of us. Or he won�t; in which case, the next time I choose to spend $40 a head on a meal I�ll still be doing it down by Flamingo Rd. I'll still come back for the gambling conditions, though.

*exhales, steps off soapbox, zips up pants*

March 30, 2007 3:26 AM Posted by Mike E

Mike, very well-written piece.

I have my doubts about Steve Wynn personally trying the mattresses and deciding on the perfect one after testing hundreds. I mean, really, would the opinion of one guy about a mattress yield all the rave reviews the beds get? I'm sure more experienced research was done.

Sure, he called some shots, but something tells me all the talk about him "personally" choosing much of what's in the resort is just what he'd like the public to think. It certainly makes him come off as a more down-to-earth, approachable, and hands-on CEO.

March 30, 2007 8:38 AM Posted by BrianFey

I guess my first question would be, How many nights have you stayed at Wynn? In 2000, when Wynn lost Mirage, I was speechless and crushed to say the least. All I could think about for the next five years day and night, was his next project. On April 28th, I was there at 10:30 PM to take my place in line, the hotel was set to open at midnight. And I will be the first to admit, when those doors opened up and I walked thru that hotel that for the first time, I was not blown away. Then, the next morning I left Mirage, and went to check-in at Wynn, it was the first night they would be open for guest checking-in. My stay was for three nights. As my stay went on, so did my enjoyment of the property. In fact the most time I spent there, the more I "got it". The more I "got it", the more I wanted. I have stayed at Wynn roughly a half a dozen times now, and I can truly say, the more time I spend there, the more I love it. I don't think that everyone that enters this hotel will love it. Many people many not "get it", and that's ok. We don't all love black, we dont' all love red, but some people do. Wynn is not Bellagio, he had gone a different direction, away from themeing, but also a direction that is working. Wynn's numbers speak for themselves. I am not trying to sell you on Wynn. Everyone isn't going to like everything. That does not make it right or wrong. Wynn's room rates keep going up, his hotel occupancy rates are rising, as is the casino revenue, and the entire hotel revenue. So the direction he choose is working. Wynn has had some issues, and I totally agree with that. My number one complaint is the quality and efficiency with housekeeping. On a number of occasions, it has not met my expectations. There are some other issues, but all hotels have issues, including Bellagio. I find it amazing how empty Wynn feels, yet how much business they are doing. I can only imagine how my business they would do, if they had Bellagio's traffic. We can wait for Encore, but at the end of the day, I expect more of the same. I don't look for Wynn to be anything much different, but maybe a slight departure from Wynn. Being an addition, rather than a full stand alone hotel, I think the will keep the a very similar look and feel, to keep the flow. Perhaps you'll have to wait until the golf course, and see if Wynn's next project "does if for you". Not everyone will love them all! Thanks for your great write.

March 30, 2007 9:35 AM Posted by Hunter


Thanks for posting this. No matter if folks agree or disagree, you laid you thoughts out in an intelligent way that fosters discussion and that's what this site is here for! Gold star!

Some of these points are items we talked about when we had breakfast in November (if toast is breakfast, damn Tableau mini-menu - I still owe you a proper breakfast when I'm less rushed).

On the mattress thing, I've seen reference in several spots that he tried them all, though I had heard that many of them went home with him and Elaine for testing. That's clearly something that could be farmed out, you're right... Sure, test the underlings choice but to test them all? At some point he needs to be accountable for his time to his shareholders.

I don't know if I totally agree on the 'Ave. Q' premise though. Wonderful shows (and TV shows/movies/books) can flop. I had a deeply wonderful reaction to 'Q' - I loved it and I honestly have a hard time understanding why it didn't do well, which I ultimately think is more a function of marketing vs. show content.

Did Steve know that Cirque would take over the Strip when he was courting them for Mystere? My guess is that he had no clue and just got lucky. If a failure invalidates his entertainment opinion, does past success validate it?

At the end of the day when I see someone do something that I think makes little sense, I try to put myself in their place to understand their motivations, fears and the pressure on them to go in certain directions... Honestly, my type A personality would probably mean I'd be sticking my finger in everything too. I just couldn't help myself, it'd be too much fun!

Now, that doesn't mean I think this is the right way to do things. The highest level of success will come through proper delegation to able lieutenants. The guy can't do it all and no one is infallible.

Regarding '360 degree design', a term I've used in the past for Bellagio's elements that you mention, I agree with you 100%. Bellagio excels in this arena and I never fail to notice that when I'm looking at the building. This is an area that disappoints me at Wynn Las Vegas, especially when viewing the low-rise structures from my hotel room.

On exclusivity, that was clearly one of the design goals. Is that a good strategy in business terms or perhaps a more interesting question - would the hotel be doing just as well if they had spectacle level attractions more open to the public, a la Fountains/volcano/pirates? We'll never know...

As far as 'getting it', I think my stance is that the guest experience is a more complete one than as a visitor. For me, it's the sense of comfort - once I check in, get settled and start to stroll around, I relax. For me (and I speak only for myself), there's a special feeling of ease that the place really brings on. It makes me not want to leave and feel very much at home. To be fair, I get a similar feeling from Bellagio, though less so.

On the interiors, they are surely polarizing and I can see why some think they are garish. I personally like most of them (not all) but I would use only a scant few of those details to decorate my own house. For me it works in the resort environment but it certainly can be an assault on the senses.

Thanks again for the thoughtful write up. As much as I like Wynn Las Vegas, you'll never catch me saying it's perfect and I certainly understand and can see why some folks may dislike it.

March 30, 2007 9:43 AM Posted by Mike P.

Hmm, mike_ch's self described "rant" makes a lot of the same points as Leonard's rants, minus the venom.

In 2006 I spent, by rough reckoning, about 40 nights at Wynn -- all of them on the Tower suites side, none of them comped. I think I "get" the place. I've also been very, very lucky in my adult life to have stayed at some of the best hotels and resorts in the world, so I know what it's like to be a guest at a top tier property. I was a little surprised they got 5 stars from Mobil, but I guess they stepped up the service a notch so good for them. The only place on the strip I've stayed that provides clearly superior service is the Skylofts, and you pay a considerable premium for it.

A couple specific comments:

I've never seen anything more than faint praise for Wynn's water show, so I must not be the only person to think it's not worth the extra effort required to see it. I saw a couple of the projected music videos during an interminable wait for a reserved table at SW the first time we stayed there, and haven't done more than look out our room window at it since. Are they still doing the cartoon with the disembodied eyeballs and flying snakes?

There's nothing particularly revolutionary about the Tower Suites side. Having semi-VIP check-in for paying customers is a nice touch for Vegas. The true suites are extravagantly oversized, but the room categories are exactly the same as at Bellagio and (I think) Mirage. There are a couple $K worth of consumer electronics gadgets, but nothing special enough to keep you in your room. Cheap fine art prints on the walls do not impress. The furniture, and yes the beds, are comfortable and not ugly.

Despite having a profitable year in the casino (really!) I agree with mike about the minor irritants there being a bit off-putting. I'll add the clouds of cigar smoke as another irritant -- I'm snorting up black tinged, bloody snot within 24 hours every time I stay there.

Anyway, we've decided it's just insane to give Steve Wynn as much money as we did in 2006, so we're making other arrangements for the long term.

Mike P.

March 30, 2007 11:23 AM Posted by BrianFey

I'll second hating the smoke, but this new law had made it better, and smoking in casino's is just part of Vegas. It won't go away, at Wynn or any others. I look forward to Encore, but I look more forward to the next one, because as I stated earlier, Encore will be nice, but not a entirly new idea.

We have three Mike's ? Confusing! :)

MikeP. Does this mean you won't be staying at Wynn again, or are you just going to spread it around a bit?

March 30, 2007 12:27 PM Posted by detroit1051

Mike_ch, very interesting discussion. Thanks. My perspective, which I've shared in previous posts on the blog, is that Wynn just "feels right" for me. Like many others, when I first walked in, I thought, "Where did almost $3 Billion go? For what?" I still wonder that when I make understandable comparisons with Bellagio. You're right on with your comments about the taxi tunnel entrance and back of house. Wynn's architectural detail is lacking, the mosaic flooring is certainly not of the same quality, the layout is quirky, etc.
My favorable impressions have been as a guest, in all visits except the first, in the Tower Suites. I was disappointed in the Resort Tower, and for some reason, it irritated me having to walk from Resort registration to the back of the casino to find the elevators. I never had that thought at Bellagio even though the walk was longer to the main elevator lobby. Wynn's Resort elevator lobby seemed congested and poorly laid-out, along with my first impression that the elevator doors didn't belong in a Steve Wynn property.
On my second and subsequent visits, when I walked into the Suite Tower registration area and lobby, it made me think I was back in a newer, more deluxe Bellagio lobby, much more intimate and peaceful. Add to that Tableau's location for breakfast, drinks at the bar with the staff originally from Aqua/Michael Mina, and I felt at home.
Wynn's Water Feature on the Lake of Dreams is not worth a second viewing. When I had dinner with friends at SW last November, we found it distracting to have the restaurant's music interrupted by much louder music from the water show. That noise, plus people getting up to see the cartoonish displays Mike P alluded to, took away from an otherwise excellent evening. SW is superb with its new chef who came from CC Grill. On the contrary, the Bellagio fountains have always added to our dining experiences at Picasso, Circo and other restaurants facing the lake.
I alternated between Bellagio and Wynn last year. Bellagio is still very nice, but as I previously stated, the room decor has declined under MGM's leadership in both the main and Spa Tower. (I believe Mike P and I disagree on this.)

I agree that Wynn needs to be appreciated as a hotel guest. There is an enjoyable "feeling" coming down from the Suite Tower elevators and being just a few steps from the pool area, Tableau, high limit rooms, Red 8, Wing Lei, etc. It's a hike to CC Grill, but what a pleasure to have lunch on a sunny day and look out at the golf course. How much longer will we be able to do that?
I expect Encore to be another Tower Suites. I'm looking forward to seeing how everything ties together.

March 30, 2007 12:34 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

mike_ch: What can I say, other than the fact, that I am "totally speechless" regarding your extremely detailed post in connection with all that is Wynn. It certainly sounds to me like you have done a 180 on Steve. Is it possible that you guys actually realize what I have been espousing here for months upon months might actually be credible? Not only is Steve a 'luxury mattress expert', but now he apparently considers himself the equal to Andrew Lloyd Webber by personally taking over production of the failed "Le Reve". The Martha Stewart case should serve to be an indicator to us all of what to expect when a single individual is at the helm of a multi-billion company which will totally fail, when faced with negative press, legal problems, etc. UNLESS there are proactive attempts to disassocite or REMOVE their founders from the daily operation of these public companies. Mike, you forgot to mention the "Wynn branded" bottled water they sell at WLV which was actually recalled a while back for contamination. Now, would you like to know how many legitimate Ferrari sales have been torpedoed/lost by Wynn/Penske's $10 entry policy forcing actual Buyers to have to stand in line so as to "allow" visitors who couldn't even afford a single Ferrari wheel center cap ($80) in order for them to view the latest Ferrari/Maserati models. Oh, well, at least they got a free Ferrari T-shirt or baseball cap for the entrance fee. Ferrari had actually "donated" a brand spanking new black Ferrari Enzo (of which only 400 were produced) to Steve when the dealership deal with the factory was finalized @ WLV. He promptly put it on display in the lobby of the (former Desert Inn) WLV executive offices while the project was under construction. I heard that he ended up selling the Enzo for a record price since it was NEVER actually driven on the street.

March 30, 2007 2:25 PM Posted by John

Mike: Nice piece
Hunter: Nice piece
Detroit: I couldn't agree with you more on the differences between Tower Suites and the Resort Tower. I'm going to be in town next week and I've changed my reservation and moved over to Tower Suites. Everything, from the secluded entrance to the private elevators, was designed for people with quite a bit of money to enjoy, if not the finer things, then the more expensive items that "luxury" can afford an individual. The resort tower on the other hand feels like a rather ugly resort, especially the garrish orange hallways that are just beyond words. However, that doesn't mean to say that looking out over the golf course from CCG isn't an incredible feeling, when dining on a fantastic meal. It also doesn't mean that charging ten dollars to enter a dealership is a good thing. I'll be the first to say that that policy is outrageous. In fact, it reminds me of the other auto collection that one needs to pay to see, and isn't as beneficial for WLV as it is for the IP.

Through all of this, though, does anyone here honestly think we all won't be arguing over the same things when CityCenter's resort makes its debut? As a group, each and every one of us is extremely critical over the various design aspects that are associated with a new resort. Therefore, we'll be arguing over the location of the multiple elevator cores at the resort, or the imminent lack of canopies of the blackjack pits, etc., etc...

Getting back to the point, there will always be a problem with each new resort that is opened, whether or not the public can see it...

March 30, 2007 3:13 PM Posted by DavidF

Mike_ch, that was a very good, level headed informed piece, I want to also respond but tme constraints, they say its better to have too much to do than not enough, sometimes I do wonder.

Leonard - unless they have changed policy again in the last few months, Ferrari owners and genuine prospective customers can visit the Penske/Wynn Dealership without charge or wait to get in. Put it this way I have not had to do either on the both occasions I have visited the place.

March 30, 2007 3:44 PM Posted by mike_ch

I guess I'll go over the responses one by one. Just pick your name from the list :)

Mike E: I too don't really think that's the truth. I just like the mattress story because it's so absurd (reminds me of the "water connoisseur" story I was telling you) plus I've never been able to get more than a few hours sleep on a bed at Wynn. Don't know why, I find them uncomfortable compared to my Beautyrest, which is essentially the Heavenly bed with more foam and other upgrades since Simmons originally made that model bed for the Westin group some time ago.

"I guess my first question would be, How many nights have you stayed at Wynn?"

Four nights total across two visits, one in '05 and one last December.

Keep in mind that as a local I don't really get that whole resort "wowza" anymore. And paying $7 for snacks I know are $3 at Target means I don't willingly pay too much money to indulge myself on the Strip as say, an out of town visitor would. I still enjoy casinos, I enjoy Strip casinos much more than the neighborhood ones, I never was much of a customer to the high-end, five-star places though. Before I moved, they were still out of budget.

Just want to get those biases out of the way. I fully admit to them, and try not to let them cloud my judgment.

I too agree that I enjoyed Wynn more after I stayed there because the rooms were very nicely appointed and the service as good as the best of the other megaresorts. It felt less like Bizarro-Bellagio and more like it's own place. I still find the aura of the place jarring, however, and it seems almost designed to be too exclusive.

The definition of exclusive of course, is something that excludes. And I feel Wynn does a lot of that in it's design. However there's certainly lessons to be learned by the other guys in regards to traffic flow, space between banks of machines, etc.

Wynn's occupancy rates are rising, but I got two free nights last December mailed to my address here in northwest Vegas. I play slots between the penny and dollar level, so I can't see why that happened other than to keep their occupancy high.

Does Steve credit himself for Mystere? The one time in recent years I've heard him talk about Treasure Island (to The Strip podcast) he kind of shied away from it and claimed he had very little direct control over what was going on there.

He does have to be given some credit for the elaborate (and for 80s standards very expensive) Siegfried & Roy show, if nothing else. Although those guys had some Vegas presence (Stardust and wherever else) before The Mirage really put them on the map, he could see that there was an audience for them in this town. So I don't think he can't spot a good show, but he might not be able to pick a good fit for Las Vegas unless he has some indication beforehand.

And Hunter, Wynn's interiors usually combine elements that are pretty garish to make something that, surprisingly, seems quite comfortable. In July '05 I went to that Used Casino Furniture warehouse on Highland behind the Stardust and they had just gotten a ton of Bellagio furniture, chandeliers, and even the mass-produced paintings of villas and the like. Most of this stuff is probably still there for as much as they were charging. The chairs and furniture from Bellagio were immediately recognizable. "Oh hey, that's a chair from the Cafe, I bet." However, outside of their complete setting, they looked very ugly.

For a while I wondered how Wynn does it, then later I figured it out. (Remember that warehouse?)

Mike P: Thanks for the gravity re: Tower Suites. I can understand what you mean about circulation in the Wynn casino. For some reason, smoke actually travels sideways in there.

detroit: You share my feelings regarding the regular tower side. I only started checking out the Tower Suites section when I had that Mini-Breakfast with Hunter. Like I said in the big post, it's more in line with what I imagined WLV was going to be like all through the resort. Towre Suites may be required to actually fully experience the place at it's best. However, I probably never will and neither will a majority of WLV's guests.

I don't really agree with the majority of your attacks on Steve, which have been very personal and often IMO unwarranted. I have always thought, however, that he was a better builder than he was a businessman (and you, I know, believe that he's rubbish on both matters.) I have a casual interest in architecture and I realize that none of Steve's places are the Chrysler Building when it comes to architectural beauty. Although from everything I've seen that was given to the general public I'm not sure CityCenter is the Miss America of the building beauty queen circuit, either.

And yes, I'm morbidly amused to see what "Le R�ve � la Steve" is going to look like.

And I've never gotten into the Ferarri line, but if buyers or owners have to wait in line behind tourists, that's just stupid. I imagine, though, like all other lines, it can be skipped for a price. Did you really expect Steve to drive the Ferarri? Hasn't he said in interviews he stopped driving due to the eye condition? Or maybe it was that he stopped driving at night, I can't remember. But if he took that Enzo out for a spin the result probably would have Eddie Griffin look less like an idiot for wrecking one last week.

March 31, 2007 6:04 AM Posted by detroit1051

In Business Las Vegas has stories on Steve's Marketing philosophy and Encore's planned rooftop "Sky Casino":

March 31, 2007 9:32 AM Posted by Mike P.

Brian -

We're sleeping around these days, but we'll stay at Wynn again.

My wife usually takes continuing medical education courses when we're here, and we usually stay where the course is being offered. Wynn took a lot of that business away from Bellagio and Venetian last year. The Venetian seems to have gotten some of it back again this year, probably because they have extra meeting space to fill now. No doubt they'll take even more of the CME business in 2008 after Palazzo opens.

What I was calling insane was spending 6 weeks or more a year in the same place and paying increasingly outrageous room rates for the privilege. I don't resent Steve getting our money any more than any other casino mogul, but for our own financial health we're looking at other long term arrangements.

Heh. Right now I'm looking at the top of a fake Eiffel tower that's partially blocking a fake New York skyline, with some Disneyesque castle turrets and a glass pyramid in the near background. What a place!

Mike P.

March 31, 2007 11:01 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

DavidF: I am a former Ferrari owner myself + they [Penske-Wynn] actually enforce a "policy" for entrance to the dealership, without having to wait in line or pay an entrance fee, whereby you must present your 'actual keys' to your car or prove otherwise that you are a Ferrari owner! This is no B.S., fortunately I still kept a second set of keys from my Ferrari after I sold it many years ago which allowed me instant admission. This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard in my entire life, but at least I didn't have to wait in line of pay an entrance fee to what is essentially nothing but a factory-sanctioned FERRARI/MASERATI DEALERSHIP! I recall an absolutely true + confirmed incident that occurred with a high-roller that was refused admission after having won over $500K at WLV. (If I recall correctly I think he was an Australian). I can't remember exactly when this was, but I believe is was within the first six months or so after WLV first opened + the Penske-Wynn dealership was charging an admisssion fee creating long lines + serious congestion as a result. At any rate, this gentlemen, sans having been accompanied by a Wynn casino host or any official Wynn manager, decided he wanted to use his winnings to purchase/order a new Ferrari on the spot. This happened fairly early in the day when the dealership just opened for business. He went to the front of the line + told the dealership assistant manager that he wanted to buy/order a new Ferrari to be paid for in cash today. He was promptly told that he had to go to the back of the line + wait to get in like everybody else. What did the guy do, he flew directly to Phoenix, AZ that very day + placed an order from the factory dealership there for a new Ferrari F430 at a substantial premium, due to pre-order demand for this car, resulting in a all-cash puchase of around $350K. He then returned to WLV later that same day + presented the actual paperwork/sales receipt to the manager of Penske-Wynn who promptly shit his pants! Wynn Resorts senior management then interceded + offered him comps up the kazoo as a result of this terrible "mistake"! The customer made it clear that he would NEVER return to any Wynn property again as a result his mistreatment! Now, how stupid is Wynn's entire operation, especially the Penske-Wynn "circus-like" venue they call a Ferrari dealership? They claim that they are selling a Ferrari per day since it opened. Not true! I know for an actual fact that the only way they can stay open is to charge admisssion for the thousands who pay admission to "gawk" at the cars. The majority of their sales are pre-owned vehicles located downstairs. Penske-Wynn is limited, under their contract with the factory, to selling new vehicles to Nevada residents only. The Penske-Wynn Ferrari/Maserati dealership is just another of Steve's blunders. I know dozens of Ferrari enthusiasts who wouldn't even consider setting foot in that place!!!

March 31, 2007 11:15 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

mike_ch: Actually Steve is currently so blind right now that he couldn't even figure out how to even open the scissor doors on an Enzo, much less drive it. Eddie Griffin + Stephan Erickson before him (who totalled one of his two Enzo's last year in Malibu) had no business driving such mechanical "masterpieces" in the first place where only 400 were produced. However, considering Steve Wynn's irresponsible + negligent past behavior by damaging one of the most priceless Picasso's on the planet, it would certainly be within character for him to have taken that Enzo of his "out for a spin" + promptly crash it directly into a concrete wall!!! LOL

March 31, 2007 1:29 PM Posted by mike_ch

"Wynn told a group of industry professionals at THE Conference on Marketing at the Venetian"

I'm not sure if I should be more amused about Steve going to the Venetian, or THE Conference happening there instead of Mandalay. :P

What he says about cabs is sad but true. I always tell visitors I'm helping trip-plan to take a dose of skepticism when receiving advice in a cab. Even if the driver means well, it's one of the greediest industries in town and so it attracts greedy people.

"And he's proud of the fact that he owns one of only three five star hotels in the United States that also has a five star restaurant."

Alex is in Tower Suites? I didn't know. The letter I got from them asking me to give my email address to the slot club also told me that "there's no better time to visit, since we've just been awarded..." It's a nice confusion trick, but Tower Suites got the award, not the whole hotel.

Yeah, any other operator would do the same thing, but since the article is about trust and truth in marketing...

SkyCasino: Nice idea, but isn't the view of all the good attractions blocked by the WLV tower? Looking north would be the condos.

March 31, 2007 6:48 PM Posted by detroit1051

"Alex is in Tower Suites? I didn't know."

Mike, you're right. I wouldn't call that area part of the Tower Suites. As far as I'm concerned, once you walk past the registration area toward Wing Lei and around the corner to Alex, you're in the main hotel, convention/meeting area. Calling it part of the Tower Suites is a stretch. Regardless, Alex is excellent for an over-the-top dining experience. Once was enough, however.

March 31, 2007 7:13 PM Posted by Mike E

To qualify for Mobil's ratings, a hotel needs at least two restaurants. It was Mobil that allowed Alex to be "annexed" into the Tower Suites. Wing Lei was also added for good measure.

While not necessarily in the lobby itself, it was assumed by Wynn that Wing Lei and Alex were restaurants catering heavily for the Tower Suites guests. Their placement is no coincidence. A person who spends $400 on one tasting menu without much thought isn't going to blink at a $600 suite. Plus, the heavy Asian clientele that frequent the south tower feel welcome at Wing Lei (when I dined there I was the only one of two non-Asians in sight).

Leonard, off-topic, but what model Ferrari did you own?

March 31, 2007 7:31 PM Posted by Chris

In regards to the Penske-Wynn dealership - when the property first opened, there was no admission fee, it was open to anyone like any other retail outlet. Unfortunately the result was that gawkers were filling up the showroom every day (many of whom were not even Wynn hotel guests, let alone potential Ferrari buyers) to such an extent that it turned off the real buyers from visiting. Imagine trying to seriously examine a potential $200,000 purchase while surrounded by people in shorts and fanny packs, taking pictures of you and shouting to each other that "this free car show is a wayy better deal than that Umperial Palace one!".

The admission fee policy was implemented with the intent of keeping the riff-raff down to a more manageable level in order to make the dealership MORE welcoming for the serious buyers.

Unfortunately, if the public insists on treating something like an attraction, it is going to turn into one eventually. Exotic Cars at Caesars Palace has similar problems, but is much larger and generally keeps the gawking area and the serious shopping area separate.

March 31, 2007 8:02 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Mike E: I owned an extremely rare, 'black on black' 1988 328 GTB Quattrovalve (Berlinetta) coupe, which was much more desirable than the common GTS model. I only wish I had kept that car since I modified the engine to produce over 100 bhp more than stock + it also had custom-made body modifications as well. I have pictures if you want me to post them. What a totally sweet car that was!!!

March 31, 2007 8:51 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Mike E: off-topic response to your question, photos of Pininfarina's best designed classic Ferrari ever, my own previous driver:¤t=FerrariGTB0004.jpg

March 31, 2007 9:03 PM Posted by KY

"Penske-Wynn is limited, under their contract with the factory, to selling new vehicles to Nevada residents only."

So, wouldn't that Australian guy have had to go elsewhere even if he was let in?

April 1, 2007 2:41 AM Posted by mike_ch

On topic:
Chris, I don't think the car dealership wasn't expected to be a tourist attraction. They wouldn't have built a Ferrari store and planned a Ferrari Cafe (now Corsa) if that wasn't the case. You're right on the account of gawkers, but that has less to do with tourists being bad people and the whole concept of a dealership in the middle of the Strip as a bad (well, to some people) idea.

Leonard, the sad fact is that a great majority of very fast cars will wind up in the hands of people who are rich and want status, not a race car. It hurts me to see a rapper hanging half-way out the passenger window of a Bugatti Veyron throwing his hands at the camera in a very homemade looking rap video (search built like dat on YouTube if you want the awful details,) but the fact is there's more supercars sold to the wealthy person seeking simple satisfaction than there is to the person who will take them out on the track.

Any dolt who falls into a pile of money can buy an exotic, and many of them do.

I'm mixed on the Enzo because I don't find it attractive no matter how fast it goes, but if you feel these people shouldn't be driving them, then didn't Steve do a good thing by sticking it in a showroom? I don't understand what you're saying when you mock Steve for letting the Enzo sit there but then say that celebrities shouldn't be touching such works of art.

April 1, 2007 3:30 AM Posted by Mike E

Leonard, nice shots. She's a beaut. I drove an old Mondial once several years ago. That's about as close as I've gotten to owning a Ferrari (maybe one day...).

Any dolt can't buy an Enzo either (at least not directly through Ferrari). In the same manner as its F50 predecessor, Ferrari wants more than the extravagantly rich to purchase them. These models probably represent a status symbol for the company moreso than they do for their buyers. Potential buyers are surveyed to have clean driving records, be previous Ferrari owners, and be outstanding citizens (ie, CEOs, doctors, etc), among other things. Rappers and rock stars driving them pay huge premiums to get their hands on a slightly used model through third parties. Ferrari doesn't like selling to people who would otherwise demean the brand.

For Steve Wynn to have an Enzo *donated* to him really shows how highly he's thought of. Despite his RP, Ferrari obviously respects him as a CEO and casino operator.

April 1, 2007 4:46 AM Posted by mike_ch

Still off-topic:

Mike, I'd say Ferarri tries harder than the other marques, but these kind of things are bound to happen. That same travesty of a video I mentioned before also features an Enzo, most likely through the means you mentioned since the guy is a rap producer. I had heard that Enzos were only sold to previous F40/F50 owners, but don't know if that's the case.

I sometimes feel bad for the people who design exotics because they obviously put so much more of their soul into it than the widespread marques and seeing some guy show off your hard work as a status symbol is the most common customer satisfaction they'll get to experience. It's not like you see people driving them every day.

Then I remember they get to drive the things around about as much as they want to on a track and the pity melts away.

April 1, 2007 7:45 AM Posted by BrianFey

Actually the WLV tower should not block all of the south view of Encore at all. Over to the west side, it will somwhat. But WLV sits back off the Strip quite a bit. Encore on the other hand, sits very close to the Strip. The South view on the west side (Strip Side) of Encore should hold one of the single best views of the LV Strip.

As for the story about the high roller being left out in the cold...Well, Its true, but it happens. Was it a bad mistake my management, sure. However, every single hotel in this town has upset a whale, and lost them forever at one point or another. This includes, The Mansion, Bellagio, CP and V. When you employee thousands of people, its simply impossible to get each of them on the same page as the next one.

April 1, 2007 10:36 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

KY: Not necessarily true. This customer was pre-ordering a highly desirable new model with an 18 month or more waiting list, the F430 that can ONLY be purchased through a factory-sanctioned Ferrari dealership. Penske-Wynn is a factory sanctioned dealership, the only one in Nevada. They are restricted to selling brand new vehicles in their inventory to Nevada residents for sales + use tax reasons. This applies to Ferrari dealerships in most all states including California. Technically the customer could take delivery of the car from the factory in Maranello while the profits for the sale, + a substantial premium for this vehicle, go to the dealership. This case represents the fact that the Penske-Wynn dealership is more of an "attraction" rather than a true dealership. You NEVER turn away a viable CASH customer who decides to buy a $350K car on impulse. Most exotic car enthusiasts like myself are impulse buyers. As far as Steve having been "given" a brand new Black Enzo, I understand it was part of the deal with the factory when Wynn decided to include a dealership in WLV + was more promotional than anything else. Frankly, every die-hard Ferrari enthusiast I know who has been [there] thinks the place is a total joke. mike_ch, you are correct that the original Enzos were sold to "selected" long-term loyal previous Ferrari owners only. Many were former F40 + F50 owners but not all. However, the factory has no way of controlling resales on the private market + that is why we are seeing these irreplaceable masterpieces being negligently destroyed.

April 1, 2007 3:42 PM Posted by Devon

still off topic...but...

Leonard I disagree on just about every Las Vegas topic, but...

...your choice in cars is impeccible.

Great shots.

April 2, 2007 10:39 AM Posted by Leonard Stern

Devon: I added a few more cars to my album since you apparently approve of my taste in vehicles.:-)¤t=LamborghiniJalpa5.jpg

April 2, 2007 4:25 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Hunter: I didn't know exactly where to post this Breaking News as just reported in the Business PRESS today. Ruffin unofficially + allegedly turned down the previous $1.2B offer from El-Ad Development (almost a done deal) as a result of Steve Wynn NOW "supposedly" offering $51.6M per acre to purchase the remaining New Frontier property. I have been informed by reliable inside sources with 100% certaintly that this is total B.S. + NEVER will happen in a million years since Steve already owns an additional 125 acres of undeveloped property right across the street (i.e the D.I golf course) that he paid $325M for!) If Wynn were that stupid to actually pay over $51M/acre for the remaining New Frontier property (twice the going rate for prime center-Strip per acre property) than [he] is definately INSANE + needs to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution for evaluation! Trust me on this one, Ruffin is just trying to get a better deal, but I guarantee you with my life, Steve Wynn will NEVER purchase the existing New Frontier property for $51.6M/acre. GMAB. Steve has been living in his own universe for almost two decades now + he is completely out of touch with reality, but [Wynn] is not THAT stupid!

April 2, 2007 5:25 PM Posted by Hunter

Wait a sec... There was a joke on yesterday saying Steve bought the NF... Are you saying that somewhere this was an actual rumor?

April 2, 2007 5:45 PM Posted by detroit1051

I was posting the link to McKee's column when Leonard's comment was published. Leonard, you and I are in 100% aqreement on this. It can't be true, and $51.6M an acre makes no sense.

April 2, 2007 6:06 PM Posted by Devon

Leonard: Great Shots, I'm sure you've never taken any of those over the speed limit ..; )

I've always thought about buying a classic Ferrari or Aston, but considering I live in Wisconsin, it wouldn't be the most practical buy I could make.

But, my all time favorite has to be the Bugatti Atlantic:
I managed to get NEAR one of the two in existence at the Elkhart Lake car show.

April 2, 2007 7:01 PM Posted by Leonard Stern

Devon: The second Bugatti 1938 Type 57 Atlantic known to exist is owned by Ralph Lauren which was at Pebbble Beach last year. These cars are absolutlely PRICELESS when restored to their original condition for millions + millions of dollars. However, I would take a brand new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 any day! It is not only the most expensive production car ever produced in history, but also the most powerful engine offered in a passenger car @ 1,001 bhp. VW has a FIVE year waiting list for these cars, even though they increased next year's production to over 175+ units, they [VW] claim that they could easily sell 5,000 cars per year @ $1.25M if it were possible to build them. Every car is ENTIRELY built by hand, including its incredible 16 cylinder engine. Even Lamborghini, since Audi bought the factory, has automated or subcontracted 90% of their production. The MSRP for the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 is $1.25M, however, they are currently selling for as much as $1.8M (new) and will soon exceed $2M by the end of the year. (Hunter - sorry this is off-topic but I just wanted to continue this thread). In order to stay on-topic, let me reiterate my personal opinion that Steve Wynn's properties suck + he is a f*cking idiot...just to make sure you don't shut this thread down. :-)

April 4, 2007 1:55 AM Posted by Mike E

Leonard, while I'd always consult with Hunter first, I have moderating abilities on this thread as I am the one who posted this report. Your last quote is grounds to shut this thread down more than any exotic car or off-topic chatter. Why must you, if only for a day, make yourself seem like an amiable and likable contributor and then go ruin it with such a childish remark?

On a funny and somewhat ironic note I forgot to mention in my report, I was flipping through the winter issue of Wynn magazine in my room (although now they'd probably have the spring issue in heavy circulation) when I noticed an ad on the last page displaying an awfully familiar looking estate for sale: a $28 million home with lap pool and only one of two on Shadow Creek. Hmm, in Wynn magazine...? Of course, no mention that it was previously owned by Wynn himself. How bad would that have looked?