Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

All Articles Published: March 2009

March 30, 2009

Vegas Gang #30 - Submit Your Questions

Posted by Hunter

Working on a couple of ways to tweak the VG show to make it a tad more interesting and here's the first thing I'm experimenting with...

Ask a question here - submit text questions in the comments or record an audio question and send it to The best/most interesting handful will be put to the panel on the next show, #30. Please make sure to include your name and if you record some audio, speak slowly.

You can pretty much ask anything, though of course we want to stay somewhat on topic (gaming, Las Vegas, gaming industry).

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.

This is also being covered by the WSJ:

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:

And the LVSUN:

March 22, 2009

Casino Photography - Punishable By Law?

Posted by Hunter

Casinos have discouraged photography inside for ages - it's nothing new. This is usually under the guise of protecting their customers privacy.

Recently though, some have reported casino security taking a much harder line and in one case, a photographer was even detained.

VegasRex has been beating the drum on this issue for some time - if I recall, he even had a run-in himself. Some of his commentary is here:

The RJ is now looking at the issue as well, contacting Rex, the detained customer and a few security officials:

As someone who has taken literally thousands of photos of these places, inside and out, I have strong feelings on this. Now, I understand a private business can prohibit photography - I've been asked not to take photos - but the idea that this is some kind of security threat and that it could even possibly be a real offense is ludicrous.

March 18, 2009

LVSUN: Station to Seek Bankruptcy Protection

Posted by Hunter

Not much of a surprise given all that's gone on with the company - it seems they are going to use the bankruptcy laws to attempt to re-organize.

Not much else to say - just the latest step for Station as it attempts to survive a dramatic fall off of its Las Vegas business combined with the staggering debt load accumulated by going private.

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:

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:

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.

(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

Vegas Gang #28 - March 13th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

This time around we discuss:

* Macau Update with George (report after the jump)
* Bill Weidner Leaves Las Vegas Sands
* Economic Update: Cannery+Crown, M Resort

Feel free to leave your comments below.

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.

March 12, 2009

Cannery Kingless? Crown May Be Going Home

Posted by Hunter

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Australia's Crown Resorts is canceling their purchase of Las Vegas based Cannery Resorts:

The article references licensing requirements in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a potential source of trouble.

Now, the deal isn't 100% dead - Crown has the option to consummate a deal with Cannery down the line, though it's far from certain now.

[Thanks to reader Mark D. for catching this one so quickly.]

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:

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:

March 10, 2009

Steve and Elaine Wynn to Divorce

Posted by Hunter

According to CBS Channel 8 in Las Vegas, Steve and Elaine Wynn are divorcing.

The couple are heavily involved in their company, Wynn Resorts. Both are on the board of directors and their decision making is visible throughout their projects. Elaine is often credited with many of the concepts that have evolved into major resort features, from 'Mt. Wynn' all the way down to the uniforms on the restaurant and cocktail servers.

Steve has often indicated that much of the design, be it guest rooms or public spaces, is heavily influenced by a female point of view. There's a much repeated story about picking glass based on how the color would make female customers look, an example of how important they consider these things. I'd argue that this has been a very big part of the successes they've seen in their resorts.

It's not clear if Mrs. Wynn will remain active in the company, though in the past she has indicated her intention to do just that. I've met her only in passing but from what I have read about her, she just seems like an incredible woman and I personally hope she remains involved.

March 9, 2009

Bill Weidner Leaves Las Vegas Sands

Posted by Hunter

Bill Weidner resigned as president of Las Vegas Sands today.

Not much more information is available at this time, though this seems unexpected and sudden. Las Vegas Sands has been hit especially hard by the economic downturn.

Is the Hard Rock looking through people's bags to enforce a 'no outside booze' policy? Seems crazy, right? Well I received an email from a reliable reader saying that they are doing just that, at least this past weekend.

This sort of policy is just as common as people ignoring it - most Las Vegas hotels frown on the practice and if you're walking around with a cooler or carrying a six-pack, you might see a raised eyebrow or even be questioned about it. From what I'm hearing though, the Hard Rock is going a step beyond this with security guards actually having customers open their backpacks, purses, and other bags to ensure that no outside alcohol is coming into the hotel. From what I am told, these searches are being applied unevenly - sometimes they're allowing folks to pass right through and other times stopping everyone.

After taking an informal survey on Twitter, no one had ever even heard of it being taken this far at other properties though HRH patrons confirmed that the hotel has been having guests sign a paper indicating an understanding of the policy for years.

Now, I am not a lawyer but this just seems totally upside down. Being private property, maybe there's nothing at all illegal about asking to go through people's stuff but what happens if you refuse? Do they throw you out? Does grandma have to let security rifle through her underwear?

I have a line into the hotel to see if this is official policy or just an overzealous shift of rent-a-cops. I'll update this post when/if I hear back - so far nothing.

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.

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.

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!):

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

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:



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:

Boyd Gaming, who shut down their Strip project Echelon last year, is making a bid for a chunk of troubled Las Vegas locals operator Station Casinos.

For $950 million they would purchase Green Valley Ranch, Aliante Station, Texas Station, Wild Wild West and both Fiestas. Boyd has a large locals operation already that could potentially meld well with Station's offerings.

Update: There's some discrepancy over exactly which assets are included in the proposal. This LV Sun blurb doesn't mention GVR:

Updated March 3rd: As of today, Station has rejected this offer from Boyd:

March 2, 2009

UPDATED: M Resort Opening - Day Two

Posted by Hunter

As most readers know, I was at the M Resort opening party last night... not as an invited guest but as a media person - I basically forced myself on the PR folks and they were gracious enough to give me the green light.

After spending three or so hours there on Sunday night and then another hour again today, I wish I could say it was awesome and that I was blown away. Generally speaking, I wasn't. There are some cool touches like the wine cellar, the pool deck and the pharmacy but other than that, I could have been inside Aliante Station (which also cost $400 million less to build) or GVR and not known the difference.

I don't mean to say there's anything 'wrong' with the place but by that same token, I did not see anything that would make it a recommended must-stop. In the boom times of years past, this would be another strong locals contender, easily in the same bracket as Green Valley Ranch or maybe even Red Rock but those times are long gone. It's certainly a lot nicer than South Point so the folks that live in the area should be pleased, though I think the only people living in the immediate neighborhood are lizards and coyotes - there is nothing but empty desert across the street.

I timed the trip from MGM Grand to the M - 22 minutes by car in moderate traffic on Las Vegas Blvd. It would no doubt be faster on the 15 but the point is that it is quite a ways from the resort corridor of The Strip. If they are trying to poach anyone from that zone, I wish them luck.

In the run-up to the opening, owner Anthony Marnell III has been making a big deal about recognizing the new economic reality. His implication is that the days of expensive hotel rooms and high end meals are waning. My inspection of his restaurant menus didn't give me much faith this philosophy has been implemented - $42 steaks with $7 baked potatoes sounds more like Bellagio prices than Value Central.

When I came back today, Marnell himself was walking the floor, fixing problems and attending to customers - that's great. With Strip casinos being run by large corporations and even the bigger locals operators filled with bureaucracy, it's refreshing to see an owner/operator involved at that level. The Las Vegas Strip is such big business that nothing happens that isn't PR approved and focus group tested - that means little to no innovation and lots of 'me too' copying (see nightclubs, ultra lounges, gourmet burger places, etc...) A directly involved manager like Marnell has an opportunity to innovate and I hope he does. Putting the pharmacy in the casino is a promising first step and his background in technology, a sector known for innovation, gives me hope we'll see them trying new and interesting things out there. The family did that at The Rio and I hope that trend continues at 'M'.

I ended up doing the rounds with Steve Friess and I'm glad I did because it made the entire thing far more fun. His write-up is here and I recommend checking it out if you're curious about the resort. Steve's a much better writer than I am (duh).

So - should you check out the 'M'? If you're in the neighborhood, sure. I think of Red Rock Resort as enough of a spectacle to be worth visiting from other parts of the Valley. Not sure if I would put 'M' in that category, at least not yet. The VP pay tables didn't look all that hot (lots of 8/5). Some of the restaurants looked interesting and the wine cellar joint is pretty cool.

Some new photos:

Update: David McKee has chipped in with more thoughts including from others that were there last night. Seems like opinions are all over the place for 'M'.

March 2, 2009

M Resort Opening Photos

Posted by Hunter

I took some photos at the VIP opening party for M Resort, located on Las Vegas Blvd. at St. Rose Parkway.

The party was a lively affair with most all of the restaurants open for tastings. The wine cellar was also open downstairs, one of the cooler parts of the property.

I'm going to go back to the casino again today to spend some more time there before I render an option. First impressions - some interesting restaurants and nice pool deck but a fairly unimaginative casino design. I still think some aspects like including an on-site pharmacy are brilliant.

The photos: