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February 23, 2012

Vegas Gang #74 - February 23rd, 2012

Posted by Hunter

Episode #74 is up!

Listen here:

This time on the show:

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

** Sure Bets **

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

February 3, 2012

Monte Carlo iPad App Brings Panoramic 3D Tours

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

More of this kind of innovation, please.

[Thanks to Dave for pointing this out.]

October 6, 2011

MGM Meets Zynga?

Posted by Hunter

At this week's G2E conference in Las Vegas, birthday boy and MGM CEO Jim Murren gave a keynote that included some thoughts on the future of the company's gaming operations online (along with him openly wondering why the markets don't love his company).

Not a lot of groundbreaking news except for the fact that Murren alluded to new social programs or apps that he described as 'MGM meets Zynga'. Zynga is the popular publisher of Farmville, a Facebook powerhouse. This jives with what we've heard about former Wynn exec Andrew Pascal's new project, IncuBet.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - this is gonna be big time stuff for these gaming companies. My guess as a first foray is something that fits well within existing law - a way to push MGM brands and hmmmMlife through Facebook - some sort of game that lets you either build casinos or pretend to be a high roller. Not all that innovative (it's been done) but this time it will have real gaming brands behind it, which could make all the difference.

Expect more of this. A lot more.

Murren's slides are here. Also, don't miss this G2E related gem.

Thanks to Detroit1051 for the tip on the slides being up.

September 16, 2011

Former Wynn Boss Pascal Working on Social Gaming?

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 21, 2011

MGM Cotai Designs Complete ; Wynn Still Waits

Posted by Hunter

According to the Macau Daily Times, MGM Paradise have completed the designs for their Cotai property.

This property, along with the potential future development from Wynn Resorts await government approval.

As noted by David McKee, it's not clear that American developers would be so patient if their grand plans were being so slowly mulled by Clark County personnel.

As long as Macau prints money, expect no criticism from the 'so blessed' American participants. Remember: China good / Obama bad.

July 17, 2011

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #026: Remembering Lanni

Posted by Hunter

This time around, Jeff reflects on Terry Lanni's role in Las Vegas and his own interactions with him.

Lanni died Thursday.

Continue on after the jump.

July 15, 2011

The Quiet CEO

Posted by Hunter

Former MGM CEO Terry Lanni died Thursday night.

If you look at the last twenty years of gaming in Las Vegas, it's hard not to see Lanni as one of the most important, even if lesser popularly known, figures.

Mr. Lanni combined The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Golden Nugget, New York New York, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus into a single conglomerate. Those mergers more or less forced Harrah's to absorb Caesars and other nearby properties, transforming The Strip as we know it.

Lanni approved the project now known as CityCenter and sold off half of it to Dubai. He notoriously took over Steve Wynn's office at Bellagio after the merger and felt guilty working in a space that was so oppulent. He didn't want priceless artwork, owned by the shareholders, sitting over his desk. I guess in that sense, he was sort of the anti-Wynn.

Not flashy. Quiet and behind the scenes... As much as I love the spectacle and bombast of gaming's many flashy CEOs, I have a lot of respect for Lanni's subdued methods.

Lanni was one of those lucky guys that came up in gaming at the same time that it was still being legitimized in the eyes of American business. When he originally came on board in the seventies, it required at least a certain amount of faith for a young exec to take the plunge and go to Nevada versus perhaps NYC finance - the markets were not yet totally accepting of the wagering biz. That said, when your 'graduating class' includes people like Steve Wynn, Phil Satre, Frank Fertitta Jr. and others, you're not in bad company. What a time to be able to chart the course for a growing industry.

I lost my own father to cancer three years ago, almost to the week. I'd be lying if Lanni's passing didn't make me think of him again today. I don't know anything about Lanni's condition or his family situation but I remember like yesterday what it felt like to live through that myself: it was predictably awful and I truly feel for the Lanni family today and wish them the best.

Terry Lanni, RIP.

July 15, 2011

Former MGM Boss Terry Lanni Dies

Posted by Hunter

Sad news from Jon Ralston that Terry Lanni, the former MGM Mirage boss, has passed away. Lanni had been battling cancer for the past several years. Our thoughts are with his family.

Lanni helped to shepherd the company two through mega-mergers: first with Mirage Resorts and then later, Mandalay Resort Group, creating the most powerful company on The Strip.

His tenure at the head of MGM was not without controversy. A confusing situation regarding his college degrees and the approval of the now-troubled CityCenter project marked the later parts of his career.

I never met Lanni but we did have a mutual friend and the word on Terry was that he was a class act.

More on Lanni:

- Las Vegas Sun
- Las Vegas Review-Journal

- 2008 Interview w/ Steve Friess

July 14, 2011

Strip Safety and the Urban Experience: A Modest Proposal

Posted by daveschwartz

Or, Hamsterdam under the Mandarin Oriental

With the recent spasm of homicides on the Las Vegas Strip (3 in less than two weeks), public safety on the Boulevard has become a big issue. I wrote a little about it here last week, and several local news outlets have given the issue more scrutiny. Yesterday I did an interview with KLAS's I-Team for a week-long series on the subject that will air next week.

I'll continue after the jump:

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

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

A couple of great new choice Steve Wynn quotes in this RJ piece:

"They started CityCenter on all debt alone. It was luck they bumped into those guys from Dubai," he said. "They gave them $5.4 billion. It's gone. How could you lose $5.4 billion here, you've got to be an imbecile or a moron."

and also, on Cosmo:

"The place is worth $500 million," he said. "It will throw off $40 million to $50 million at nine times earnings. That's 10 percent of what it cost."

Oh, BTW - congrats Steve!

Read the whole piece here

April 18, 2011

From the archives: SW talks Mirage, 1989

Posted by daveschwartz

Working on my lecture for tomorrow about Las Vegas gaming in the 1980s and 1990s, I wanted to go back to some of the original sources. So I've been browsing through the archives quite a bit.

I found a press release issued on November 14, 1989 titled "MIRAGE RESORT SETS NEW DIRECTION FOR LAS VEGAS." For those keeping score at home, that's 8 days before the Mirage's grand opening.

Here's a few excerpts:

Already, many are saying The Mirage will create a new standard for resort hotels that will redefine Las Vegas as the resort destination of the future.

"We said when we first announced the project that it would be a property which would help set a new direction for Las Vegas, one which would appeal to the entire family audience," said Stephen A. Wynn, chairman of Golden Nugget, Inc., developer of the plush, new resort.

"We've created an alternative to the traditional style of the Las Vegas casino-hotel," said Wynn. "Everyone will recognize The Mirage as a special place: a resort hotel which includes a casino, not a casino which includes a hotel."

The Mirage will attract on audience which has largely passed up Las Vegas as a choice for vacation travel. Younger, affluent families have, in recent years, sought out Mexico, Hawaii, and Caribbean destinations when choosing vacation spots. Now, with the Mirage, Wynn expects to bring some of these consumers and their families to Las Vegas instead.

So was Wynn right or wrong?

Clearly, The Mirage changed Strip casinos. So from that angle he definitely was right. The casinos built in the 1990s, to one extent or another, either tried to emulate or tried to differentiate themselves from The Mirage. It's definitely the most influential casino since Caesars Palace. I'd say that it's even more influential than Caesars, since the things built after Caesars (Kirk's International and MGM) didn't really incorporate its biggest breakthrough, the theming. The Mirage, on the other hand, immediately impacted casino design.

But Wynn wanted to more than change the way casinos looked--he wanted to change their audience. And I don't think he was successful at that. The Mirage didn't really redefine Las Vegas as a family-oriented destination. Sure, families come here, but they always did. And I'm not sure how many of them choose to come here instead of going to the Caribbean or Orlando.

So it's an interesting look into the past, particularly when you consider what Wynn's done since--after Treasure Island, he gave up the idea of appealing to families entirely. And there's that whole no-stroller policy at his casinos, which would definitely leave some families out.

When I finally get the chance to put a lot of my lectures and other writings into book form, I want to really explore this thread, since I don't think the Vegas of 2011 is at all what people anticipated in 1989, and the difference says a lot about what Vegas really is.

April 14, 2011

Citizen Kirk

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

April 14, 2011

Kerkorian leaving marks end of era

Posted by daveschwartz

Kirk Kerkorian is stepping down from his position on the board of MGM Resorts International in June. It's a significant milestone for Las Vegas gaming, since he's one of the few remaining links with pre-corporate gaming.

Kerkorian owned a share of the Dunes in 1955, but really got involved with the industry in 1964, when he agreed to lease land he owned across from the Flamingo for the construction of Caesars Palace. For a while he was Caesars' landlord, and even had an office in Caesars after its 1966 opening, but he decided to sell the land to Caesars and focus on building his own casino hotel.

So in 1967 Kerkorian did two things: he hired architect Martin Stern, Jr. to begin building the International, whose tri-form hotel tower set the template for the next generation of Strip casinos, and he bought the Flamingo to train the staff who would run the International, which was slated to be the world's biggest hotel, and have the world's biggest casino floor.

It's worth noting that members of the group that Kerkorian bought from were later convicted of skimming money and hiding Meyer Lansky's stake in the property, so this represented a real changing of the guard. A few years ago I interviewed Alex Shoofey, who Kerkorian hired away from the Sahara to run the place, and he spoke about the challenges of making the transition from the old school to the new school--a process that would continue until the Boyd Group's purchase of the Stardust in 1985.

Kerkorian opened the International in 1969, and it was the first of the second generation casino resorts, which integrated every aspect of the resort into one large tower-and-podium structure. After selling it to Hilton in 1971/72, he built the first MGM Grand, which was at the time the world's largest hotel, selling it to Bally's in 1986. That same year he organized MGM Grand, Inc, and for the next few years owned a few casinos, including the Sands, Desert Inn, and Marina--the last of which was incorporated into the new MGM Grand that opened in 1993 as, again, the world's largest hotel.

From this point on, most people are familiar with the MGM Grand/MGM MIRAGE/MGM Resorts story, so I won't rehash it, but I thought it was important to point out Kerkorian's constant involvement with the industry since 1967. With him leaving it in June, Steve Wynn is the senior figure in the Strip game--he first got involved in 1967 at the Frontier, but really started making a mark on the business at the Golden Nugget in 1973.

Even though Kerkorian isn't the same public presence as Wynn, Adelson, or even Loveman, he's hardly an absentee owner, and his stepping down from an active role on the board of MGM Resorts really does signify the end of an era.

April 13, 2011

MGM Resorts Takes Majority Share of Macau Operation

Posted by Hunter

An IPO for MGM's Macau has been long rumored and we finally have details on how the deal will be structured - MGM's stake will actually increase by 1% to give them a 51% majority control position.

MGM's sometimes controversial partner, Ms. Pansy Ho, will have her stake reduced to 29% while the remaining 20% is sold to the public. In a related transaction, Ho will purchase $300 million in MGM notes.

Bloomberg has the details and MGM has their official press release.

I actually spent the morning reading the Wynn Macau annual report and while there are few zingers (Cotai still hasn't been approved by the government despite Steve basically saying 'any day now' during the last conference call), the one inescapable fact is how much money they are making over there. It's staggering.

MGM historically hasn't been as successful in Macau as Wynn but that's been on an uptick and being able consolidate the affiliated company on their books should help their financial picture.

Here's Jeff Simpson's take on the morning's news:

MGM Resorts made an important announcement about its Macau joint venture this morning, a deal that I think will be a big plus for the Strip's biggest operator. In a deal with partner Pansy Ho, the JV will sell 21 percent of its ownership shares in an initial public offering -- all supplied from Ho's current 50 percent stake in MGM China. 18 percent of MGM China's shares will be sold through the proposed IPO and another 3 percent will be made available as an over-allotment -- all 21 percent will come from Ho's half-stake in the JV. MGM Resorts will buy an additional one percent of MGM China shares, that coming from the over-allotment. The proceeds of the IPO and of MGM Resorts purchase of the additional 1 percent stake in MGM China go to Ho. Ho, in turn, has agreed to buy $300 million of MGM Resorts senior debt. The deal and the IPO, if approved by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, will result in:

* MGM Resorts upping its stake in the MGM China joint venture from a 50 percent stake to a 51 percent stake.

* Public shareholders will own 20 percent of the JV.

* Ho's stake in the JV will drop from 50 percent to 29 percent.

This is a great deal for MGM Resorts as it allows them to take control of their Macau JV without diluting its ownership stake because of the IPO. MGM Resorts also is spared having to dig deep to buy out the stake Ho is selling into the IPO. The deal also conveniently allows Ho, who now has a significantly increased stake in and probable operational control of her father's market-leading casino company, SJM, to dilute her MGM China stake and reduce conflict-of-interest concerns.

The challenge for MGM Resorts will be to continue its slow improvement in Macau operations, increasing its market share while Ho's allegiance and contacts will likely increasingly favor SJM.

In a separate deal, the Michael Jackson estate and Cirque du Soleil announced a long-rumored joint-venture to produce two Jackson-themed shows, one of which will tour and the other of which will take up residency in a Strip showroom of an MGM Resorts hotel [ed: most assume this will probably be Mandalay Bay or, less likely, Monte Carlo]. I imagine the Las Vegas show will be a success and will be a plus for all three entities (MGM, CdS and the Jackson estate), the glut of CdS shows notwithstanding.

This time on the show:

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

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

This is a 'don't miss' interview.

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

Check out the show:

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

December 4, 2010

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

Posted by Hunter

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2010

WSJ Covers Tough Calls Made at CityCenter

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2010

Let The Bummer Years Begin

Posted by Hunter

The Fontainebleau is about to open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you Saturday.

News this morning that Boyd Gaming will decline their opportunity to purchase the other half of Borgata, currently owned by MGM Resorts Intl. and held in trust. Boyd is the managing partner of Borgata.

Frankly I'm a little surprised - they only had to cough up $250MM and it's not even worth that to them? Clearly the macro trend of the city weights heavily on this decision.

This moves the process along a bit for MGM for whom the asset is tied up in a trust following action by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.

October 14, 2010

Vegas Gang #52 - October 14th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

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

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

* Vegas Gang 'Sure Bets'

Check out the show:

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

We're doing a Vegas Gang episode on Thursday so I guess I should just say thank you and leave it at that. This is great material.

Instead, I'm going to once again report on difficulty for MGM Resorts International - profits are still a Mirage - they just can't Wynn (get it?!? I'm so clever).

When a company does an early release of their financials and it includes several bullet points and a few paragraphs of figures, always read it in reverse. The most interesting stuff is always hidden behind a smokescreen of PR-speak.

The part of the company not infected with the virus that is CityCenter continues to deflate - down 13% for wholly owned operations (it was -16% last quarter). CityCenter may be a debacle but MGM needs the other places to keep the lights on.

As for Borgata, they did get an offer but it's below the amount they've been carrying on their books for the asset so they'll be taking a write-down this quarter to align their books with... well, reality. Will BOYD also have to do a write-down? I'd say probably.

When the Borgata thing is eventually settled, they'll not only get the cash from the sale but also their share of operations put into trust since the Pansy Ho debacle. That'll be one fat quarter when it hits but that's like when the drug dealer comes to your house and opens up his briefcase. He's not moving in, don't get too excited.

Say what you want about Borgata - and Atlantic City is certainly in trouble - but it is the top property there and has been helping to fill Jimbo's bank account every month. MGM may not have had much choice when it came to selling but that cash-flow is going to leave a hole of at least some size once the post-sale hangover wears off.

Interestingly enough, the day after we get news of improved Strip numbers (up 21%) for August, MGM reports taking an almost 10% hit in casino revenue for the quarter. How is that supposed to jive? This story cites baccarat as a bright spot but MGM's bac volume was down 6%. Does that mean that September cratered? Or were all these gains elsewhere? MGM still controls a huge percentage of the high-end bac play so this seems a bit odd.

As I previously wrote in my series on CityCenter, MGM is now going back to the markets for capital - they have loans of over a billion dollars due next year that they need to pay off. It will be interesting to see how much this influx of supply will impact prices on the open market. Much to the Swami's chagrin, stock was down 6% in after hours trading.

There is some good news, something else that I hinted at in my previous series - Aria is starting to swing over to the profitable side of the fence. It's had good volumes but this time around it got the hold percentages it needed to post a number in the black. ADR and REVPAR for Aria are both improving.

So I guess everything's fine...

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

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

I try not to link to RJ stories but it's the only place you can read all the details:

You can't make this stuff up.

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

September 12, 2010

Vegas Gang #51 - September 12th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

Podcast-a-palooza - Oct. 30th, 2010. Be there.

* CityCenter CityCenter CityCenter
* Vegas Gang 'Sure Bets'

Check out the show:

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

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

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

Part One
Part Two
Part Three - this post

Please leave your comments on this post.

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

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

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

Please leave your comments on this post.

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

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

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

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

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

August 9, 2010

SIMPSON ON VEGAS #005: Downtown Blues, Part Two

Posted by Hunter

Jeff is back with part two of his take on the Downtown Las Vegas scene and what might help it turn around.

Keep reading after the jump and if you missed part one, it's right here.

In a totally unrelated thought - don't forget that we're giving away an iPad.

Or something like that... Yes, the name change is now approved by shareholders:

MGM Mirage will now be known as MGM Resorts International. Do I change all my category URLs to match? I haven't decided yet but it's certainly annoying.

Lots of coverage of this elsewhere but I thought it was worth posting here as a bit of a benchmark - it's an important date in the history of the company and Las Vegas.

Of course, I'm already on the record as not being a fan of the new name, along with everyone else I've talked to about it. Whatever.

Read More:

May 31, 2010

Vegas Gang #47 - May 27th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

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

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

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

We visited Beau Rivage in 2006, right after it re-opened post Katrina. I really enjoyed the property - very much a mini-Bellagio. If you get a chance sometime, I'd recommend checking it out for sure.

This is part of the lobby which is under a large glass canopy.

May 25, 2010

MGM Mirage Launches Augmented Reality iPhone App

Posted by Hunter

This morning, I awoke to an MGM press release announcing their new iPhone app, featuring augmented reality. Of course, anything iPhone and Vegas related immediately gets me interested so I dug in.

For those unfamiliar, augmented reality (AR) is a technique by which a user sees a live video stream with computer graphics overlaid, based on their location. So for instance, you hold up your phone and on the screen you see what the camera lens sees but with information painted on top, typically points of interest, etc...

This app, Vegas Reality, is in the App Store now and I took it for a little spin. This will probably sound like sour grapes to some but honestly, I wasn't all that impressed. The app has several downsides in my mind. First, it only includes MGM Mirage stuff. Understandable I guess but that means that over half The Strip has no annotations at all.

Once you drill down on a resort, there's a little bit of high-level information, less than you'd find on a typical resort Web site. The augmented reality bit only shows you the names of the resorts around you, basically the same info you'd get from reading the marquee.

The app does integrate Twitter, a feature that's also in the forthcoming 2.6 version of Vegas Mate for the iPhone.

All that said, the app is free (search for 'mgm mirage' in the App Store) so there's no risk if you want to try it for yourself. If you're not in Vegas, it simulates your location as being at the corner of Tropicana and LVB. The app requires an iPhone 3GS or greater and does not work on the iPod touch at all.

One important question - AR requires the use of the video camera but that technology was recently banned at Luxor and Excalibur. Is this app not welcome there either?

I actually built about half of an AR feature for Vegas Mate 2.5 but I dropped it for an important reason - augmented reality isn't very useful in most real-world situations! Walking around with a phone in front of you isn't very desirable and due to the limitations of GPS technology, it doesn't work well inside, a place where something like this could be awesome if done right. Maybe someday, if we can get this kind of thing embedded into sunglasses...

I can imagine the pitch meeting for this app - AR looks fantastic in a demo but most users try it once and then put it back down. The AR revolution never took off. Trust me, we won't see people walking down The Strip, phones held aloft looking for these annotations anytime soon.

I expect more and more apps for all platforms from the resort companies. So far though, they're treating them more like they would Web sites. If they want to really knock people's socks off, they need to understand this is a new medium and adjust strategy accordingly.

This shows that sort of thinking but with a technology itself (AR) that's a bit half-baked.

May 20, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Treasure Island

Posted by Hunter

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

The exterior has been substantially modified since then.

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

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

Trust me, you want to read this...

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

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

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

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

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

After the jump for more.

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

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


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

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

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

May 2, 2010

Vegas Gang #46 - April 30th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

Win an iPad! Details here: There will be a live broadcast of some sort to award the prize on Thursday. Look for details here on the blog in the next few days.

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

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

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

NOTE: We recorded an updated segment on Wynn in Macau, plus Marina Bay Sands:

April 20, 2010

MGM Mirage to Become MGM Resorts Intl.

Posted by Hunter

Personally, not a fan.

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

April 15, 2010

Strip Walk - April 2010

Posted by Hunter

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

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

Complete photo gallery is here:

Today, MGM Mirage pre-announced their first quarter earnings, two weeks early. These are subject to change but let's be honest, they probably won't.

Why would a company pre-announce? Typically they have some information that is out of alignment with what the market knows and wants to give it some time to absorb. Often it's bad news...

Let's look at MGM's announcement - keep in mind that MGM Mirage only owns half of the CityCenter joint venture (the good half?)

MGM has always been very helpful in breaking out their results by property. Unfortunately, it appears that they are reporting their 50% of CityCenter's results as a single blob - no way to know Aria vs. Mandarin vs. Vdara vs. Crystals. Hopefully we'll get more detailed info in the real quarterly filing.

Compared to the year ago quarter, this time they don't have the benefit of the TI sale nor the insurance income from the Monte Carlo fire. Also, they had to write down the residential inventory at CityCenter, all of which hurt them compared to 2009Q1.

What is interesting - the CCJV netted $24 million from poor saps that abandoned their deposits on residential units. Probably can't count on that cash for 2011Q1.

CityCenter is reporting an operating loss of $255MM in the first quarter, though $171MM of that is a charge related to the write down of the residential inventory. Aria's loss is pegged at $66MM, though most of that is depreciation expense.

Did you spend time at Aria and wonder why you didn't hear your neighbor in the room next door? Chances are, you didn't have one:

"Occupancy percentage at Aria was 63% with an average daily rate of $194."

Ouch. That figure, 63%, is pretty darn low. That said though, the $194 isn't too bad - you wonder if they had lowered rates more if they could have boosted the occupancy.

As a comparison, in the first full quarter Wynn Las Vegas was open, it had an ADR of $264 and 93% occupancy... Granted, 2005 was a very different time for Las Vegas so even mention that here is probably grossly unfair.

Their non-CityCenter results aren't great either - Adjusted Property EBITDA for the wholly owned stuff is down almost 20%. Table games hold was down (it was at the high end of the range in 2009), though volume was up compared to 2009. REVPAR took another hit, to under $100 at $94.

Because of the charges and the prior year having the TI sale, they swung from $355MM operating profit to an $11MM loss. MGM Mirage has worked hard to pay down its debt and that's starting to show in the results as interest expense decreases.

So - tough quarter for MGM but they have some cash and borrowing available so they'll probably ride it out just fine. Hopefully in Q2 we'll see Aria firing on a few more cylinders - hard not to think that if this bleeding continues that they'll shed some additional service folks and degrade the experience for the guests.

Complete Release:

In other news, the company announced a private placement:

April 2, 2010

Vegas Gang #45 - April 2nd, 2010

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang is back!

Win an iPad! Details here:

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

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

March 29, 2010

CityCenter, Perini Begin to Slug It Out In Court

Posted by Hunter

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

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

As the Sun says - it could get ugly.

March 22, 2010

Strip Walk - March 2010

Posted by Hunter

Mike's adventures continue: Encore Las Vegas, Bellagio, Aria, The Crystals and a stop at Valentino Grill @ The Venetian.

Click through to read the complete text. Photo gallery is here:

March 12, 2010

MGM Mirage Outlines Borgata Sale Plan

Posted by Hunter

The process for MGM Mirage to divest itself of its 50% share in Atlantic City's Borgata is starting to become clear:

Boyd is the obvious buyer as they own the other half. Who else though? Have recent developments scared off Atlantic City investment? It will be an interesting barometer.

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

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

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

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

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

This thread will be updated as other companies report.

February 25, 2010

Vegas Gang #44 - February 25th, 2010

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

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

Check out the show:

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

February 23, 2010

Weekend at CityCenter's Arrghhhh-ia

Posted by Hunter

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

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

February 14, 2010

Strip Walk - February 2010

Posted by Hunter

Mike is back with another Strip Walk. This time we venture through TI, Bellagio, PH Towers, Palazzo, Aria, NYNY and more, including a mini-review of the Dal Toro restaurant at Palazzo.


February 8, 2010

MGM Picks China Over New Jersey

Posted by Hunter

Well, this seemed inevitable. MGM Mirage announced they are planning to divest themselves of the 50% stake they own in Atlantic City's Borgata.

The asset will remain in trust as they arrange a sale.

February 1, 2010

Open Topic Discussion - February 1st, 2010

Posted by Hunter

You know the drill - discuss whatever you desire. Welcome to February.

Is MGM Mirage gearing up to exit Atlantic City? Will they sell their Borgata share and if so, to whom?

January 14, 2010

Strip Walk - January 2010 - CityCenter Mega Edition

Posted by Hunter

Our own mike_ch is back with a 'mega' Strip Walk, including his first time at CityCenter.

As regular readers know, Mike is never short of opinions - you'll get his full take on the new MGM Mirage development as well as a boatload of photos.

This is a good one - you don't want to miss it. Enjoy.

Complete gallery:

December 31, 2009

Vegas Gang #42 - December 31st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

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

Have a Happy New Year. We love you.

December 31, 2009

Vdara General Manager Responds

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

Ms. Lester's response is after the jump.

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2009

Serrano Serrano Serrano

Posted by Hunter

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

Wow. I can't wait to go back.

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

The shots of what I tried:

any my personal fave:

December 22, 2009

Open Letter To Vdara General Manager

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

December 19, 2009

Mandarin Oriental - December 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

Here are some photos:

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

December 18, 2009

UPDATED (AGAIN): ARIA Opening Is In Full Swing

Posted by Hunter

The coverage is rolling -

Also, I just uploaded 190 photos from inside ARIA to Flickr:

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

Update: Photos of two rooms at Vdara (I was moved to a suite due to 'issues').

Update 2: More photos of ARIA and opening night festivities:

December 12, 2009

Vegas Gang #41 - December 11th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

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

December 11, 2009 - Just Like Being There!

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

December 9, 2009

Vdara Mini-Review: December 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

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

December 7, 2009

UPDATED: No Push For Locals as ARIA Customers?

Posted by Hunter

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

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

Update: It gets even better!

December 2, 2009

LA Weekly: CityCenter - Vegas 4.0

Posted by Hunter

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

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

December 2, 2009

ARIA Opening Week Meetup Schedule

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2009

UPDATED: Vdara: Some Photos and Opinions

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2009

CityCenter: First Component, Vdara Opens

Posted by Hunter

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

Some info on Vdara and the Silk Road restaurant:

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

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

November 29, 2009

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

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

Update: A related update - the LA Times has some interior photos, though mostly specific textures and related design elements including some stuff I saw and some I haven't yet seen.,0,853232.photogallery,0,37081.photogallery

November 25, 2009

ARIA Fountain Test ; Crystals Walkway Opens

Posted by Hunter

Some interesting CityCenter related photos and videos today.

First a tourist video of a test of ARIA's porte-cochere fountain:

Also, the overhead walkway and sidewalk in front of Crystals is now open:


I love big cities. I'd much rather ride a subway than sit on a beach. I love museums and cultural events, great restaurants and urban activity.

New York is one of my favorites. If I had to live outside the US, I'd probably settle in London. I've been lucky enough to see Cairo, Jerusalem, Rome, Paris, Chicago, Istanbul and much of the rest of the world. Great cities are complicated, charming, messy, crowded, contradictory... and wonderful.

MGM Mirage is trying to replicate the best bits of those experiences in a new project opening soon on the Las Vegas Strip - CityCenter.

This past week, your humble host was given the opportunity to tour part of this new hospitality complex - 67 acres at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, located between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

My experiences on that tour are after the jump - enjoy. CityCenter will be a hot topic of discussion for months if not years. I can't wait until you all can share your own thoughts.

Update: We're not allowed to publish the actual map but Chuckmonster traced a copy and posted it on VT. This is the casino level and includes much of the stuff I saw on this tour. His version looks identical to the 'real' one. Enjoy.

November 20, 2009

Vegas Gang #40 - November 20, 2009

Posted by Hunter

This time on the show:

* Hunter Tours CityCenter
* Fontainebleau
* Global Gaming Expo 2009

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

October 21, 2009

Vegas Gang #38 - October 21st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

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

Feel free to add your comments below...

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

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

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

Continue after the jump...

Update: Not to pimp this too much but this offer for Aria came across from MGM Mirage - $160 for some nights. 26584&m=0

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

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

October 1, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - October 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

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

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

September 26, 2009

Vegas Gang #37 - September 24th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

New episode is up:

We discuss:

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

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

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

Here's the complete photo gallery:

Read on for more...

September 14, 2009

City Center Wins Some Green

Posted by Hunter

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

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

August 20, 2009

MGM Grand's 'Prima' Program

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2009

Exploring ARIA's Public Areas and Casino Floor

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

The photos are located here:

Continue after the jump for all the juicy details.

August 3, 2009

MGM Mirage Reports Second Quarter 2009 Results

Posted by Hunter

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

A loss of $212 million for the quarter, along with lower revenues as well. Despite taking a big hit this quarter, some analysts believe MGM Mirage has turned their balance sheet around and should start to see some upside in the coming quarters. They miraculously were able to navigate a very difficult set of conditions this Spring without resorting to an asset fire sale.

Their massive City Center project opens in phases starting in October.

July 10, 2009

Vegas Gang #34 - July 9th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Episode #34 of the Vegas Gang is up:

Rich Moriarty from Union Gaming is our guest.

We discuss:

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

and more...

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

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

July 1, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - July 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

The Las Vegas Review Journal and Las Vegas Sun both have lead stories on Harmon's construction defects. The Sun is more informative and includes photos of the rebar in question as well as a link to the County complaints. What an appalling saga.

Harmon inspector lacked experience
At hearing, he said he read building plans in prior jobs only with help

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

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

June 21, 2009

City Center: Rescued From The Brink

Posted by Hunter

A story today in the RJ about how MGM Mirage saved City Center.

Despite painting a rosy outlook at the time, things were very close to catastrophe.

This is a topic we touched on during a Vegas Gang show - I speculated that Murren and Co really pulled off a near-miracle in keeping the project intact. Knowing now that they did it without having to sell any additional Strip properties is even more amazing.

June 20, 2009

Oh Ye of Modest Means, Cometh to the Casino

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

Here's what mine looked like:


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

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

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

June 16, 2009

MGM Mirage Expanding to Egypt

Posted by Hunter

I guess the Luxor was just practice - MGM Mirage is going to put an MGM Grand branded hotel into Giza, the Cairo suburb home to the Great Pyramid.

I've been to see the pyramids and while they are impressive. I don't know if I can imagine an MGM Grand logo blinking in neighborhood.

June 12, 2009

Strip Walk - June 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

As always, the photo gallery is here:

Click through to read more.

June 10, 2009

Genting Takes Stake in MGM Mirage

Posted by Hunter

There have been rumblings about this relationship for the past few weeks, some in the context of MGM perhaps unloading Macau assets.

It was announced that Malaysian company Genting has taken a 3.2 percent stake in Las Vegas based MGM Mirage.

Genting is building a casino resort in Singapore.

May 21, 2009

Vegas Gang #32 - May 21st, 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

We discuss:

* MGM Mirage Pulls a Rabbit Out of its Hat
* Fontainebleau May Not Be Totally Screwed (we'll see)
* UNLV Center for Gaming Research Trends
* MGM Mirage Selling Properties

Feel free to leave your comments below. If it's a question that you want asked on the show, please make that clear in your post. You can also send those to

The results of the long-running New Jersey investigation into the suitability of Pansy Ho as a business partner for MGM Mirage has resulted in the department of enforcement recommending against.

MGM Mirage partnered with Ho on MGM Grand Macau and owns a 50% interest of one New Jersey property, the Borgata.

What happens next is unclear - maybe nothing. The Sun has more:

May 13, 2009

MGM Mirage Plans Offering to Reduce Debt

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage has proposed issuing some new debt and equity to raise up to $2.5 billion. Proceeds would be used to pay off other debts.

Part of the package would includes liens against Bellagio and The Mirage which translates into MGM not selling those places anytime soon.

May 8, 2009

Monte Carlo to Introduce Hotel 32

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

May 4, 2009

MGM Mirage Reports First Quarter 2009 Results

Posted by Hunter

A very tough quarter for the Las Vegas based operator - 20% reduction in net revenue. To their credit, they don't sugar coat it - things are tough in gaming and these results reflect that.

If they hadn't had some of the TI sale figures in this quarter, things would have looked even worse.

REVPAR took a big hit - looks like they had to significantly drop rates to stabilize occupancy.

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

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

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

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


Las Vegas Sun:

Update: Richard Abowitz has the Wynn statement:

Update: Steve Friess spoke with Gans manager Chip Lightman:

April 29, 2009

CityCenter Funding Plan Approved

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

More as it develops.

Update: WSJ link.

April 10, 2009

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

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

Also, a different story from the RJ about MGM Mirage about the banks letting them continue to go along alone, without DW:

April 10, 2009

Steve Wynn on Ralston / Sunday w/ Charlie Rose

Posted by Hunter

Many of you have already seen the two part interview with Steve Wynn that Jon Ralston did. If not, watch here:

Part One (LV Sun)

Part Two (LV Sun)

Now, along with giving insight into his political beliefs, one of the more interesting bits is the talk about Wynn shopping for assets on The Strip. We also discussed this on yesterday's Vegas Gang. Would Wynn buy Bellagio? I think the consensus is that he meant what he said - if the price is right, Wynn Resorts may be game. This should not surprise anyone.

Wynn says Las Vegas is better off with multiple operators duking it out. I totally agree and hope that one of the positive outcomes of this downturn is that we have better, more vibrant bare-knuckled competition on The Strip. That would certainly make my job more interesting.

Can't get enough of The Steve? He'll be on 60 Minutes this Sunday with a piece by my favorite interviewer, Charlie Rose.

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 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 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.

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:

February 23, 2009

MGM Mirage and Cosmo in Deutsche Wedding?

Posted by Hunter

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

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

February 23, 2009

City Center Starts Taking Reservations for ARIA

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

February 17, 2009

Strip Walk - February 2009

Posted by Hunter

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

Continue after the jump to get your Vegas fix.

February 8, 2009

UPDATED: City Center Structures to be Re-checked

Posted by Hunter

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

This article in the Sun:

and another piece in the RJ:

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

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

January 22, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - January 22nd, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Throwing open another open topic but I got this little nugget to kick around from reader Jeff in OKC:

"Is Bellagio cursed? I don't know of any curse, or any Indian burial grounds, etc., but, I think there's some bad mojo at the Southwest corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Boulevard. Since the Dunes was built there in the 50's, all kinds of unusual problems have plagued the property. Design and construction problems abounded there in the 60's and 70's. But ownership seems to be the biggest victim of strange things there. From legendary mob control, to the Japanese financial collapse that led to Steve Wynn getting the land. Spectacularly, for our purposes, Steve Wynn built palatial offices for Mirage Resorts, which he had to give up when he got in a cash bind and had to sell out in 2000. I understand MGM moved their HQ to Bellagio after the buyout, and Terry Lanni took over the same office. Lanni, as well, suffered an equally amazing fall from grace in just a few days during November, 2008. If I were Jim Murren, I think I'd move HQ back to the MGM Grand. Any thoughts?"

January 16, 2009

Vegas Gang #25 - January 16th, 2009

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #25 is online.

This week on the show:

* Harrah's Suspends Caesars Palace Tower
* Rumors Swirling Around The Mirage Sale
* Encore Media Week

Leave any comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more from the LV Sun:

January 1, 2009

Open Topic Discussion - January 1, 2009

Posted by detroit1051

The new year's ongoing lead story will likely be CityCenter as it moves toward either completion or modification in 2009. The speculation about Harmon is followed today by Norm in the RJ raising issues about Veer:
"There are rumblings that MGM Mirage is close to announcing the status of the beleagured City Center project, including whether several buildings will be completed. There's talk that The Harmon, the Light Group's boutique condo-tel, with 400 hotel rooms and suites and about 200 luxury condominiums, will be delayed. The bigger concern, I'm told, is the central iconic tower, which was designed to lean about 22 degrees but is now almost double that because of a cabling issue. ..."

December 31, 2008

Vegas Gang #24 - December 31st, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #24 is online.

This week on the show:

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

Leave any comments below.

December 31, 2008

Strip Walk - December 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike is back with the final Strip Walk of 2008.

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

Enjoy. Main text and photo links after the jump.

December 15, 2008

UPDATED: MGM Mirage Sells Treasure Island to Ruffin

Posted by Hunter

This morning the news broke that MGM Mirage is selling Treasure Island, one of the resorts it acquired as part of Mirage Resorts in 2000, to investor Phil Ruffin. Ruffin sold the New Frontier site a few years back and is a partner in the Trump International condo development.

Also, this story in the WSJ:

Be sure to read the comments as many readers and some journalists have chimed in. Jeff Simpson from the LV Sun and Vegas Gang spoke with Ruffin this morning.

This post was updated to flesh it out with more info.

Treasure Island holds a special place for me - I stayed there many times before it was 'upgraded', at which point I lost my case. I think it's a great asset that Ruffin will probably do well with. It has a hard time shining compared to The Mirage and Mandalay Bay as the lower end of MGM Mirage's middle tier.

December 11, 2008

Vegas Gang #23 - December 11th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #23 is online:

This time around we cover:

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

Feel free to leave any comments below.

December 9, 2008

The Mirage Volcano Reborn

Posted by Hunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 3, 2008

Strip Walk - November 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike_ch is back with his latest Strip Walk. This one is more in 'trip report' style as he was slummin' it down on The Strip for a few nights at The Grand.

It's a long one so grab a cup of coffee and sit back.

December 1, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - December 1, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

It IS a difficult balancing act, cost control vs customer service. If the holiday season ends with a slow New Year's, the Strip's strategy of superior customer service may have to be rethought, but what is the tipping point at which customers rebel?

"In recent months, the profits of several big casino operators have fallen faster than revenue, or total sales before expenses. It's a sign that the companies have not cut costs deeply enough to offset the decline in their business.
On the Strip in the third quarter, MGM Mirage's revenue fell 9 percent, and earnings declined more than 15 percent over the same period in 2007; Harrah's Entertainment's revenue declined 12 percent, and earnings fell 17 percent over the same year-ago period."

Cutting Costs vs Serving Customers

November 26, 2008

The Mirage Volcano Reborn - December 8th

Posted by Hunter

The Mirage volcano will be officially reborn on December 8th but they've been testing the new setup for the past few days.

If you want to see a video of what we're in for, click below:

I'll be in Las Vegas on the 8th to see it for myself and report back.

November 26, 2008

UPDATED: Jim Murren Takes Reigns at MGM Mirage

Posted by Hunter

It's official - Jim Murren has been moved into the CEO and Chairman slot at MGM Mirage.

No one needs to repeat that this is a very tough time for business on The Strip and Murren will not have an easy time of it.

Now, does this mean anyone ends up leaving MGM? Does Bobby Baldwin stay? Who gets the now-vacant COO job?

Update: Lanni has declined even a seat on the board. Odd.

November 20, 2008

Strip Walk - November 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike Ch is back with another Strip Walk. Click through to enjoy.

As usual, there are some photos included but this time around you'll see the debut of our new photo gallery. Gone (hopefully) are the days of duplicated photos, strange bugs and error messages. It's still being tweaked so let us know if you find problems but generally I think it's a nice improvement.

The new gallery is here: Photo Gallery

Lastly, if you read Mike's prose you will see he's soliciting photo and recon requests from you guys for his next trip. Please respond in the comments here.

November 18, 2008

An Inside Look at City Center Construction

Posted by Hunter

The Las Vegas Business Press sent a reporter in to City Center to work as a construction hire for three days. The write up is here:

November 13, 2008

Vegas Gang #21 - November 13th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #21 is online:

This time around we cover:

* Terry Lanni to Leave MGM Mirage
* Las Vegas Sands Financial Woes Continue
* Should the Nevada Gambling Age Be Lowered to 18?
* WSOP Changes This Year

Feel free to leave any comments below.

Also, please consider voting for us in the Trippies!

November 13, 2008

UPDATED: MGM Mirage CEO to Retire at Month End

Posted by Hunter

Terry Lanni, MGM Mirage's chairman and CEO, is planning to retire at the end of the month.

Jim Murren, COO, is being recommended for the job.

Whoa... Didn't see this coming. End of the month? That's not much time for a transition. Is he sick? Hopefully not [ED: a memo to employees says it is not health related].

I can't imagine majority shareholder Kerkorian would toss him during such a tumultuous time. They've worked together for ages... It must be something else... The timing is just so strange.

Update: MGM Mirage press release here:

We're discussing this on the Vegas Gang, which will be out later today.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal is reporting there are some questions about his MBA from USC as the school could not verify the degree.

November 13, 2008

Tweeting Las Vegas

Posted by Hunter

Over the past few months, many of the established Vegas voices you'll find on your favorite blogs have started to also communicate on Twitter - the popular 'micro-blogging' service. Messages on Twitter are limited to 140 characters, hence the 'micro' part and can be viewed on the Web, through desktop and iPhone software like Iconfactory's Twitterrific, or on your cell phone via SMS messaging.

The system is based on the concept of 'followers' - you sign up to receive someone's updates into your stream of new messages, though the messages are (typically) not private - they are shared for the world to see. This fosters a back and forth on interesting postings - a conversation of sorts.

Twitter has become a popular way for people to share information of current events, ask questions or just to share part of their day. We'll be using Twitter to help spread the details during Encore's opening in December. MGM Mirage has even started using Twitter to share info with customers.

If you decide to jump into to Twitter-land, here are some Vegas names you might want to follow:

* RateVegas (blog headlines, breaking news)
* Hunter (my personal feed, not just Vegas related stuff)
* VegasTripping (Chuckmonster's VT feed)
* TheStripPodcast (Steve Friess from
* FiveHundy (Tim from Five Hundy By Midnight)
* MGMGrand (MGM Grand Info)
* LuxorLV (Luxor Info)
* VegasConcierge (MGM Mirage hotel information)
* VegasCom (
* LasVegasWeekly (Las Vegas Weekly)
* ThisAintIowa (This Ain't Iowa Podcast)
* ReviewJournal (Las Vegas Review Journal Headlines)
* LasVegasSign (Casino News)
* CirqueLasVegas (Cirque Info)
* VegasRex (Vegas Rex)
* LasVegasSun (Las Vegas Sun)

Several of the regular readers and commenters are also active on Twitter. I'll leave it to them to post their Twitter names if they are so inclined in the comments.

November 8, 2008

Harrah's Earnings Drop ; Layoffs Hit Atlantic City

Posted by Hunter

Harrah's earnings took a hit, as expected.

From the Sun:

The RJ says they are going to work on cost cutting:

Also, from a newer blog that Dave Schwartz clued me in on, some info on AC layoffs:

Last night was the opening of the new Cirque du Soleil show 'CRISS ANGEL Believe' at Luxor. The show features illusionist Criss Angel's magic combined with the artistry that we know from Cirque.

Well, it seems that CDS' run of perfection may be over, at least if they don't end up completely re-working the show that premiered last night.

Many of the reviews are in and they're not great.

October 30, 2008

Vegas Gang #20 - October 30th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #20 is online:

This time around we cover:

* Trippies 2008
* Gaming Stocks Slide
* Bellagio Turns 10 To Little Fanfare
* How MGM Mirage and Harrah's Market

Feel free to leave any comments below.

October 29, 2008

MGM Mirage Reports Third Quarter Results

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage announced their 3rd quarter results for 2008:


Profits are way down from the year ago quarter. MGM Grand Macau is doing a bit better and Bellagio had an unexpected uptick but generally, they're feeling the pinch as you can see in the figures.

October 25, 2008

Strip Walk October 2008

Posted by Hunter

Mike Ch is back with another Strip Walk. This one covers Encore, Treasure Island, City Center, The Mirage, Palazzo and more.

Photos are here:

Thanks Mike! Enjoy!

October 23, 2008

Good Time For Kerkorian to Take MGM Mirage Private?

Posted by Hunter

With MGM Mirage stock a hair above $10 today, that puts it's current market cap at $2.79 billion.

Majority shareholder Kirk Kerkorian recently announced he was pulling out of Ford Motor Company, leaving him with some cash to burn (or bury in the backyard perhaps).

Long rumored, could Kirk be considering taking MGM private? Other deals of this type required private equity money and currently-scarce credit but given his resources, couldn't Kerkorian do this deal on his own if he was so inclined?

Clearly MGM Mirage is worth far more than $2.79 billion.

October 20, 2008

Atlantic City Update from Dave Schwartz

Posted by Hunter

Fellow Vegas Gang member Dave Schwartz has posted a photo essay bringing us up to date on what's going on in Atlantic City over on

October 15, 2008

Bellagio Turns 10

Posted by Hunter

Dave Schwartz reminds us that 10 years ago today, Bellagio opened:

Pretty amazing it has already been ten years - and the place still looks great and is always one of the top earners in town.

October 11, 2008

VegasTripping Covers City Center

Posted by Hunter

My good friend and fellow Vegas Gang-banger Chuck Monster from VegasTripping has been doing a bang up job covering what MGM Mirage has in store for us at City Center.

If you haven't seen these already, be sure to check out the following links:


City Center Tram:

ARIA Pool:

VDara Pool Deck:

October 4, 2008

Las Vegas Weekly - Buyer's Market for Nightlife?

Posted by Hunter

Interesting article in the LV Weekly talking about the economic situation and it's impact on Las Vegas nightlife - we may see a swing to a more customer hospitable Saturday night.

October 2, 2008

Circus Circus Clown Coming Down?

Posted by Hunter

Here's an item posted on LVA that talks about the possibility of the iconic Circus Circus Las Vegas marquee coming down to make room for some rides.

I get the fear just thinking about that thing.

September 30, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - October 1, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

Cirque's Criss Angel show has been taking some hits. Any reaction from Vegas locals?
Does Criss Angel's Cirque du Soleil Show at the Luxor Really Suck That Much?

LA Times Preview

September 30, 2008

Check Out Large Group of City Center Renderings

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to donnymac for pointing this out - a site with a bunch of renderings that I haven't seen, at least not all of them:

Once again, another StripWalk from MikeCh, this time covering South Strip properties (and a trip to the Hard Rock).

Continue after the jump to read the details, photos are here:

September 26, 2008

Macau Trip Report - September 2008

Posted by Hunter

George (Drambuieman) is back with another great report on Macau. Some info on CotaiJet, Ponte 16 and more.

Click through to read and be sure to check out the photos:

September 21, 2008

Vegas Gang #17 - September 18th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #17 is online here:

This time around we cover:

* Economic Update
* Kansas Update
* Strip Clubs in Strip Resorts?
* Mega-Resort Designs of the Future?
* ARIA Update

Feel free to leave your comments below.

September 18, 2008

ARIA Restaurants Announced

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage has started to leak the info on the restaurants that will be built inside ARIA, the main resort at City Center.

Two takes on the line-up, which is heavy on big names and maybe a couple of great restaurants:

September 15, 2008

UPDATED: City Center Room Photo - Tech at Aria

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Josh for pointing this out.

The LA Times has an article about tech at City Center's main hotel, Aria. The article includes a room mockup photo:

The full article:

Update: This MGM Mirage press release has more info on all the tech going into the room. Some of it sounds pretty cool, though I hope the Internet speed is a bit higher than 128kb that they indicate in the release.

September 10, 2008

The Mirage Details Re-Launch of Volcano

Posted by Hunter

The Mirage Volcano, a fixture on the Las Vegas Strip for almost 20 years, is being re-launched.

MGM Mirage teamed with WET Design (Fountains of Bellagio) to re-create the iconic front-feature.

WET brought in Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla sensation Zakir Hussain to create the audio for the new volcano.

More info here:

Scheduled to be unveiled later this year, we have a bunch of photos of the construction progress here:

Mike Ch is back with another Strip Walk.

This time he hits both ends of the Strip with Luxor, Echelon, Encore, City Center and more.

Photos are here:

The RJ posted a story in which they confirmed tips they had been sent regarding City Center construction workers having alcohol before they entered the job site.

Perini, the site's main contractor, has a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol and drugs.

Construction safety has been highlighted at City Center due to the number of construction deaths since the project began.

August 5, 2008

MGM Mirage Q2 Profit - Down 69%

Posted by Hunter

Here's a story from the Sun on today's reporting from MGM Mirage on their second quarter:

Some properties, such as Bellagio, didn't do as poorly as some might have guessed. Executives seemed bullish on the future.

Here's yet another report where I sample some amazing food, nightlife, and the new Palms Place. Enjoy!

August 2, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - August 2, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

The New York Times has a long story on Steve Wynn, Las Vegas and gaming in Sunday's paper. It doesn't break new ground for anyone familiar with Wynn or the industry, but it's interesting. The highlight for me was reading that Steve is irritated by the sound of rushing wind in the elevator shafts. The writer must not be familiar with the old DI. She makes it sound like Steve Wynn bought the homes around the property in order to build a golf course. Yes, he did, but the DI always had a golf course.
Read the story here:
The Chips Are Down in Vegas, but Steve Wynn Is Betting Big

July 29, 2008

Motoman's July 2008 Trip Report

Posted by Hunter

Regular reader motoman has been kind enough to share with us a report of a recent trip. Here's Moto:

"What follows is a fairly lengthy report about a fairly mundane trip (certainly not up to Mike E standards, but then, who could top that? ;-) It's roughly chronological but each paragraph has its own subject, so feel free to follow along, skip ahead, or skip completely as you prefer, after the jump."

Mike Ch is back again with his Strip Walk column. This time around, he shows us what's going on at The Mirage, Bellagio, City Center, Caesars and more.

Personally, I think that new entrance at The Mirage looks terrible - that sign is totally out of place.


July 12, 2008

Vegas Gang #12 - July 11th, 2008

Posted by Hunter

The show is up:

This time we feature:

* Wynn Hires Tim and Tim / Wynn Early Financials
* Nevada and Illinois Post Bad Numbers
* Tropicana E.Coli Outbreak
* Don Barden / Pittsburgh
* MGM Mirage / Wynn Resorts Market Cap

Comments welcome below.

Don't forget the Podcast-a-palooza:

July 11, 2008

UPDATED: Strange "Hack" Story

Posted by Hunter

My friend Steve Friess posted a story on his blog about a supposed "hack" at that supposedly offered illegitimate low rates to customers.

Based on the email that went out afterwords, MGM Grand handed this poorly.

Also, I agree with Steve - based on all I know from years of building Web applications for e-commerce, this sounds like BS to me... If it is true, they were likely penetrated extremely deeply, which would be even worse. Just own the mistake and honor the rates already!

Updated: Steve has more details - not a 'hack' - just a promotion that was used by those it was not intended to be offered to. Still, maybe not the best handling?

Mike's returning with a new Strip Walk. This time we see Fontainebleau, Encore, Echelon, City Center, Luxor and more.

Keep reading after the jump and check out his photos:

July 8, 2008

Treasure Island 2008 Review at

Posted by Hunter

My good friend and fellow Vegas Gang member, Chuck at has posted an updated review of Treasure Island.

I used to stay at TI all the time and I used to recommend it as a great value. That was before the hotel went through massive transformations a few years back... The rates have gone up so it's less affordable than it was but there are still some good things about TI. I really like Isla and I am interested to try Social House. Mystere is still a show I recommend all the time.

Anyway, check out Chuck's review:

June 27, 2008

VegasGang #11 Posted

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #11 is online here:

This time we feature:

* Encore at Wynn Las Vegas Opening
* Cosmopolitan Sued Over Its Name
* MGM Mirage Using Social Networking
* Harrah's Pays Debt With Debt
* Adelson Profiled in New Yorker

Feel free to add comments below...

Thanks again to George "Dram Man" Geddes for providing a trip report based around his recent trip to Macau.

The photos, previously published, are here:

Thanks George! Continue after the jump...

June 15, 2008

The Mirage, June 8-11.

Posted by Mike E

I took my parents for a three-night getaway at The Mirage as a combined Mother's and Father's Day gift. This trip was ultra-mellow by my standards but just as memorable as any other. Rather than the usual play-by-play, I've broken the report down in sections. Feel free to skip around to parts that interest you.

(More after the jump)

June 13, 2008

MGM Mirage Using Social Nets Twitter and Facebook

Posted by Hunter

Well, it was just a matter of when and who - Las Vegas casino operators using social networking technologies to promote their wares.

Actually, some of their affiliates, such as the Light Group, have been using these tools for some time... but now the big kahuna, MGM Mirage, is getting into the act through a new site called the Vegas Concierge.

The new Web presence uses Facebook and Twitter to push short bursts of info to users. I expect every other operator to follow at some point.

For those not already aware, we have a Twitter account for this site and I also have one of my own.

June 13, 2008

Vegas Gang #10 - Economic Woes to Bankrupt LVS?

Posted by Hunter

Vegas Gang #10 is up -

This episode focuses on the CityCenter walkout and the economy vs. Las Vegas. We cover a few stories on the specifics, including an entry suggesting that LVS is heading for Chapter 11. That may be an extreme outcome but its an interesting discussion point.

Also, a little bit on the iPhone and its impact on Las Vegas.

Enjoy the show and feel free to post your comments here.

UPDATE: Stiffs and George's has a story about Palazzo's underwhelming performance:

The Las Vegas Sun is reporting on a workers strike at City Center, MGM Mirage's large development on the Las Vegas Strip.

Due to a rash of construction deaths, the workers are demanding increased safety provisions be made before work will start again.

Update: It's possible that work will re-start again soon - it appears Perini and the trades had a positive meeting.

May 19, 2008

Details on "ARIA" - City Center's Anchor Hotel

Posted by Hunter

As speculated, the name 'ARIA' is official.

MGM Mirage's press release had a bit more info than I've seen published elsewhere. I don't usually just publish these things but I think this is of interest so continue reading after the jump.

Vegas Gang Podcast #8 has been posted:

Comments can be posted here on this site, below.

Our guest is Steve Friess and we cover his book, 'Gay Vegas' as well as Las Vegas marketing, MGM Mirage splitting up, casino cheating and more.

May 16, 2008

LV Sun: City Center Will Open in Stages

Posted by Hunter

Despite the original plan to open everything in November of 2009, it seems MGM Mirage is now planning to open the complex in stages, starting August 2009 with the first condo tower and going through December 15, 2009 when the main hotel opens.

NOTE: They refer to the main hotel as 'Aria'. It's my understanding this name was scrapped. Also, unrelated - new Vegas Gang going up tonight.

Update: People on the Internets seem to think this name is correct. We'll see I guess. I don't really like the name, FWIW.

May 14, 2008

Luxor : Lost In Transition -

Posted by Hunter

My good friend Chuck at is just back from Las Vegas and wrote up a little report about the transition at Luxor:

May 6, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - May 6, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

MGM's 1st Quarter Conference Call transcript is available:
MGM Transcript

Shadow Creek, MGM Mirage's fabulous golf course located in North Las Vegas, will close for a few months for an extensive renovation.

The press release is after the jump but basically it says that it will close until December while original architect Tom Fazio looks over the changes.

Mike_ch is back with the latest Strip Walk. This time we have a look at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Palace, New York New York and Luxor.

Notes after the jump, photos here:

The rumors are true! Gans will move to Encore when it opens, leaving The Mirage.

What's funny is that Wynn denied this point blank to Steve Friess in the last interview.

April 14, 2008

RJ: MGM Mirage Laying Off 400+ Managers

Posted by Hunter

The story says it all - at least some of the doom and gloom is true enough to scale back.

Thanks to Brian and Detroit for pointing this out.

April 8, 2008

Vegas Doom and Gloom From The UK

Posted by Hunter

A Las Vegas-is-gonna-go-bust doom and gloom article from the Times Online in the UK.

April 5, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - April 5, 2008

Posted by detroit1051

The Wall Street Journal follows up on the condo-hotel bubble, and focuses much of the story on Residences at MGM Grand and Trump's new tower. The story should be available without a subscription:

"It's been a very bad investment," said Moji Adekunbi, a 47-year-old engineer, who bought a $550,000 condo-hotel unit in the Signature at the MGM Grand in 2005 in Las Vegas, where one of every four hotel rooms being developed is a condo-hotel unit. Mr. Adekunbi counted on the cash flow from renting out his unit more than covering his $3,000-a-month mortgage payment, leaving him with a tidy profit.
He said the developer's sales staff led him to believe that the hotel would have 94% occupancy and $350-a-night rates, Turns out, he said he is netting only between $400 and $1,800 a month before his mortgage payment."
Condo-Hotel Buyers See Investments Sour As the Market Weakens

April 1, 2008

Las Vegas Sands: What's Going On?

Posted by detroit1051

Two important stories on LVS:

Why would Sheldon Adelson make such public comments about MGM, Pansy Ho and Atlantic City?
Sands Chief Questions MGM Mirage's Motives

What is the real story on CFO Rozek's departure from LVS?
Robert P. Rozek resigned from his position as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp

March 23, 2008

Open Topic Discussion - March 23rd, 2008

Posted by Hunter

Another open topic for discussion.

One thing of note - I got some photos from Mike_Ch which I published:

Thanks Mike!

We talk the concept of 'free' and casinos, lots of fresh details on Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Majestic's Vegas numbers, and more. This is a don't miss for Wynn fans.

The participants include:

Jeff Simpson - and

David McKee -

Dave Schwartz -

Chuck Monster -

Direct Download:

Dave Schwartz has an interesting article where the talks about a piece from Wired that is discussing the proliferation of free services in business, especially on the Internet. Dave spins that into a gaming business narrative and breaks it down for us.

We're back with roundtable #2 - this time around the topics include Crown investing in Harrah's/Station, MGM Grand Detroit, Pure being raided by the IRS, Cuba as the next Macau and more.

The participants include:

Jeff Simpson - and

David McKee -

Dave Schwartz -

Chuck Monster -

Direct Download:

February 21, 2008

MGM Mirage Project Jumps: CityCenter Sale, RevPAR Up

Posted by Hunter

Some info on MGM Mirage's quarterly results, announced today:

The first episode of what could become a new, semi-regular podcast has been posted.

It doesn't yet have a name but the working title is 'Vegas Roundtable'. It's a gaming industry related podcast in a discussion format. Today's participants include:

Jeff Simpson - and

David McKee -

Dave Schwartz -

Chuck Monster -

Thanks to all participants. The podcast is in my normal feed for 'The Worst Las Vegas Podcast' but it will probably move to a dedicated feed. Also, if anyone can think of a good name, drop them in the comments.

If you don't subscribe to the feed and want the direct URL, here it is:

Some new photos posted this afternoon:

The Encore shots give a really good look at the final layouts for the big parts of the project. You can see all the skylights in the low-rise for the new spa, plus I assume that lattice roof area will be filled with glass as well. Overall, looking good - can't wait to see more.

Thanks to Brian and Mark for sharing their photos.

Regarding the podcast, I have GarageBand open now - hopefully I'll get this finished shortly.

January 30, 2008

Monte Carlo Fire and EIFS

Posted by Hunter

Last week, most TV sets were tuned in to see the facade of a Las Vegas hotel, the Monte Carlo, engulfed in flames. I'm no expert in fire safety but I know what was going through my head, watching in real time: this fire is moving FAST and whatever is on the top of that building looks to be fueling it.

In the hours and days that followed, one term was repeated over and over: EIFS.

Instead of demonizing an easy target, I'm glad that I've had the chance to speak with several folks fluent in EIFS details, including some industry representatives. Keep reading after the jump and I'll share a couple of things I've learned.

Not sure how serious this is yet. Obvious now that it was pretty serious.

Update: I'm watching the live video on and it looks pretty bad. Lots of black smoke that actually looks like it is coming from two places.

Updated: The fire is extremely bad. Multiple floors on the South side - that side of the building at the top are basically destroyed. Major destruction. Wow, this is really bad. Clark County Firefighters are incredibly brave - they are up on the roof working to put this out. I guess guests are being moved to MGM Grand Garden Arena. Nice.

Diablo's Cantina indeed. I hope no one was hurt.

One interesting point - on the South side there, there is no low rise building at the base of the hotel tower. Hopefully that is making it easier to get crews closer from the ground.


Hats off to the amazing work of the Clark County Fire Department in getting this thing under control so quickly - and it does seem to be pretty much under their control now, despite the few flames still burning. Now the question is what does this mean for the property - how bad is the damage?

Update: Thanks to Mike_Ch, some more photos of the aftermath:

January 13, 2008

Trip Report January 2008: Bellagio Suites and Palazzo

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Aaron_B for sharing this trip report from CES 2008. I know several readers will be interested to hear about and see photos of the renovated suites at Bellagio.

The photos are here:


Well, the gaming win in the great state of Nevada declined a good bit last time 'round:

Not good for our favorite multi-national casino conglomerates. It's hard not to link this to the degrading confidence in the US economy overall. Gaming is often somewhat insulated - people love to wager no matter how screwed they are - but of course there would be some kind of a hit if things go down big time in the US of A.

December 30, 2007

THEhotel, December 26-29, 2007

Posted by Mike E

After a six-month hiatus, I headed back to town spending three nights at my old, favorite haunt before Wynn opened: THEhotel. My thoughts on the property, some gambling highlights, and general observations follow after the jump.

December 26, 2007

MGM Grand Macau Rings In $6.6M In First Two Days

Posted by Hunter

According to, the MGM Grand Macau opened to a smashing success - over $6.6 million in drop in the first few days of operations. This points to a very high volume of play in that time.

December 24, 2007

Caesars Palace Dealers Vote to Unionize

Posted by Hunter

Well, this could be the second shot across the bow in the industry as we see a second major Las Vegas casino's dealers vote to have union representation.

Following Wynn Las Vegas dealers before them, is this a reflection on management in these two organizations? Will we see dealers at an MGM Mirage property go this route?

December 21, 2007

Mirage Room Remodel to Start in February 2008

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Andy who spotted this on The Mirage's official Web site. It seems the rooms are getting a full on make over starting in February and based on the pictures, they are totally tossing the current room decor.

Wow, that's drastic. Now, I totally think the rooms need to be redone but honestly, I think this design goes a bit too far for my tastes. I love the amenities they are adding - that's great... and, I think generally the vibe is okay but this is like cranked too far. It's as if they had one or two many committees weigh in on this, each tweaking the design a bit to the point that there's no longer any cohesion.


December 18, 2007

MGM Grand Macau Opens

Posted by Hunter

Well, today is the big day for MGM Mirage with their first entry into Macau with the MGM Grand Macau. The property is a 50/50 joint venture with Pansy Ho, daughter of longtime operator Stanley Ho.

Personally, I think this property looks very interesting and it is certainly on my list of places to stay when I visit Macau sometime next year. I see the Wynn Macau/MGM Macau combo (they are right next door to each other) as the true epicenter of Macau luxury, despite Las Vegas Sands' grand Cotai experiment, at least for now.

Mike_ch is back with another Stripwalk. This time he visits Encore, City Center, TI, Palazzo, Luxor and more. Check it out after the jump plus don't forget to check out the new photos:


Here we are with a special Thanksgiving-eve 'Strip Walk' segment. This time around, mike_ch checks out the Frontier, Encore, City Center, Luxor, The Mirage and more. Text after the jump...


November 21, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: November 21, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

Bottle service at clubs is huge as reported in the LV Sun. The economy must be better than I thought!
"Consider that more than 2,000 people walked through the door at Mirage's Jet nightclub during a recent weekend - and that more than half sat at reserved tables where bottle service starts at $400 for a bottle shared by three people.
An average table check can reach about $800, said Kelley Jones, president of nightclub operator Light Group's restaurant division."
Revenue From Alcohol Growing Faster Than Slot Revenue

November 14, 2007

November 2007 LV Strip Construction Photos Posted

Posted by Hunter

I've posted my Las Vegas Strip construction photos: Most Recent Las Vegas Photos

All sorts of great stuff including Encore's high and low rise buildings, WLV's villa atrium, Palazzo, the white tiger pit at The Mirage, City Center, P-Ho, Bellagio, and more.

The link above should show them all but you can also visit the November 2007 tag. Also, based on some feedback I plan to add new searching and sorting capabilities to the photo database soon.

November 14, 2007

Open Topic Discussion - November 14, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

This will start Brian Fey's day off with a smile. Wynn Las Vegas has won recognition from The Michelin Guide.
NORM: Michelin makes Steve Wynn's year
Michelin's Highest Honor of Five Red Pavilions Awarded to Wynn Las Vegas

November 7, 2007

MGM Grand Abu Dhabi - $3 Billion Non Gaming Resort

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage announced today that they will build a $3 billion, non gaming resort in Abu Dhabi, part of the United Arab Emirates.

November 5, 2007

The Mirage Replaces White Tigers With Burgers

Posted by Hunter

I got a press release this morning from MGM Mirage regarding a new restaurant going in at The Mirage. BLT Burger will be replacing the Habitat at the resorts' Southern-most Strip entrance.

This is another nail in the coffin of Siegfried and Roy's tenure at The Mirage. As for the restaurant, the press release states:

"BLT Burger's diverse menu will offer quality ingredients including beef (sirloin, short rib, chuck and brisket cut), American and Japanese Kobe, lamb and Ahi tuna burgers along with soft, no-frills buns. Onion rings and a variety of French fry options, including waffle-cut, sweet potato and chili cheese, will complement the meal. An array of milkshakes in classic and spiked varieties will be available along with a selection of ice cream floats. Nostalgic glass-bottled sodas, innovative cocktails, as well as a focused selection of wine and beer will quench every guest's thirst."

October 30, 2007

MGM Mirage Blames OPERA Failure On Memory Leak

Posted by Hunter

On their earnings call today, MGM Mirage's Jim Murren discussed the recent problems with their guest reservations system, OPERA, that runs 7 properties for the company, mostly in Las Vegas.

Murren stated that the OPERA issue was due to a 'memory leak in the operating system'. He also stated that OPERA runs on an 'HP platform' and an 'Oracle database'. By 'HP platform', it's not clear if he means they are running on HP's PA-RISC UNIX operating system or HP hardware and something like Windows Server.

Murren claims the issue is resolved and they are fully operational but that they intend to have a backup system put into place for the future. He didn't break out the total cost of the problem for the company.

October 30, 2007

MGM Mirage Posts Third Quarter Results

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage posted their 2007 Q3 results - the company's net revenues are up 6% to $1.9 billion.

Details are here:

Some discussion on the call surrounded City Center and Dubai, Bellagio's baccarat room being closed, and the ongoing construction at former Mandalay properties.

Occupancy was up 1% to 97% and ADR hit $147, up from $140. REVPAR hit $143 from $135 a year ago.

An interesting item - gambling revenues, excluding Beau Rivage, are actually down 3% from a year ago.

October 28, 2007

Open Topic Discussion - Oct. 28, 2007

Posted by Hunter

Here's a new open topic thread for y'all. A couple of notes on this sunny Sunday:

Regarding the piece on VT&T regarding the Encore casino and a 'poker island', based on the plans I have seen and the people I have talked to, this is off the mark. Now, the plans I originally saw for the low rise stuff have substantially changed since then, as we have already discussed... My understanding is that there is no poker room planned for Encore, plus the walkway changes he talks about obliterate the retail that's planned along the WLV-Encore corridor and generally just sound like they waste space. I am very skeptical.

Second, thanks to reader MikeP for sending in a photo inside Palazzo's retail area, plus the new aquarium at The Mirage:

October 25, 2007

The Mirage Lobby Aquarium Is Re-Born

Posted by Hunter

According to a release I got today, the aquarium that is behind the desk at The Mirage, which has been shrouded in black for months, has been revealed.

It's a whole new affair with more animals, new artifical reef and a new filtration system.

Supposedly the aquarium features 1,000 marine life forms in 20,000 gallons of water.

October 23, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: October 23, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

MGM Mirage has been plagued with Reservation System computer problems for several days according to Steve Friess in the New York Times.
Computer Glitches Plague Casinos

October 21, 2007

The RJ Goes to Macau

Posted by Hunter

Looks like the RJ has a front page piece on Macau gaming, specifically US based operators there. It's an interesting piece and it comes with a fairly cheesy map and some photos. Worth checking out - even some photos of the analysts that get quoted in every gaming article in the paper.

October 18, 2007

Macau Quarterly Gaming Revenues Rise Again

Posted by Hunter

Sorry I'm only getting to post this now... Looks like Macau quarterlies are once again blowing through estimates:

A 46% increase? Nice. This quarter had a little bit of Venetian Macau action but we'll really get a feel for that next time around, plus of course in the LVS and WYNN quarterlies.

Thanks to Mike for another installment of 'Strip Walk', or semi-regular feature that focuses on Las Vegas Strip construction progress.

Lots of great new info here and of course, we've got photos:

October 10, 2007

Inside The MGM MIRAGE Brain Trust: Jim Murren

Posted by Hunter

In Business Las Vegas did a fascinating interview with MGM Mirage President and COO Jim Murren last week. It is a highly recommended read that gives great perspective into the thinking that has driven recent deals with Kerzner, Dubai World and others.

It's clear that Terry Lanni and Jim Murren 'get it' when it comes to the biz side of the gaming industry - they are re-defining the standard practices that have been common knowledge in the industry. Business as usual? Not anymore.

From partnering with interesting companies to big ambitious projects like City Center in Las Vegas, they are bringing techniques that have worked well in the general hospitality industry to gaming and it seems to be paying off in spades.

Personally, I'd love to do an interview with Murren but MGM MIRAGE sometimes looks down on Internet media, even those of us with larger numbers than some print publications. I'm hoping one of these days these companies will wake up to that. They're not as bad as some companies but they could do better in this department.

September 27, 2007

Strip Walk: September 2007

Posted by Hunter

Well, you know the drill at this point. Another episode featuring MGM Grand, Wynn Las Vegas, City Center and more.

Photos are here: RateVegas Photos

This time we get a bonus video: Diablo's Cantina

September 24, 2007

Open Topic Discussion: September 24, 2007

Posted by detroit1051

"USA Today" profiles Terry Lanni:
"Throughout its history, Las Vegas has seen its share of legendary tycoons, from Howard Hughes to Steve Wynn. The low-profile Lanni flies under the public's radar, but he's one of the most-respected and influential forces in the $90 billion gaming industry.
"I've dealt with a few CEOs, and I'd have to rate Terry up there at the top," says Kirk Kerkorian, the 90-year-old owner of Tracinda, which held 56% of MGM Mirage's stock as of June. "I've always liked this company. We've got a hell of a team there."

Executive Suite: You can bet on MGM Mirage's Lanni

Well, that was a great conversation... We had an in-depth talk with Chuck from who just recently has gotten back from Macau.

We went over everything from specific hotel talk on topics like Wynn Macau, Venetian Macau, Galaxy Starworld, MGM Grand Macau, Casino Lisboa and more. We also talked about the business - folks like Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, SJM, Melco and others.

Cotai, gaming industry topics, casino design and more. It was a great discussion and I'm hoping we can do another segment soon.

Fresh back from Macau, where he chronicled his trip, Charles from will be a guest for a special Q&A version of the podcast.

We'll be doing this on TalkShoe but here's how this will work - you guys submit some questions here on the site, I'll ask them in the first 30 minutes or so. The second half of the show will be open for general discussion. We'll see how that goes.

So... TONIGHT at 6pm PT

Update: Ok, the Talkshoe link is here:

If you're planning on joining us, I strongly recommend you go to the Web site ahead of time to sign up for an account and download the software. Strictly speaking, the software isn't required (only a telephone is really required) but having it gives you extra features.

If you really can't download the software, you can call in using this number: 724-444-7444 with the TalkCast ID of 44621. Without the software you might not be able to ask any questions as we won't be able to identify you in the system.

September 20, 2007

Quickies: Wynn on The Strip, Leach on Nightclubs

Posted by Hunter

A couple of quick hits today:

Steve Wynn is the guest on this week's, The Strip Podcast. He talks about Macau, nightclubs, and more. According to Wynn, Tryst is the top netting nightclub in town and Tao is fiddling with their numbers a bit. The interview is interesting and features a fun example of Wynn's office at work. Steve's thesis on why spending is up is sort of interesting.

Second up, thanks to Detroit, this link to an article from Robin Leach - will the nightclub boom continue.

September 18, 2007

Bobby Baldwin Interview

Posted by detroit1051

Liz Benston interviews Bobby Baldwin in the LV Sun. He answers some of the questions we asked during our recent call-in podcast.

"He typically shuns publicity but was keen to address rumors that he might be leaving MGM Mirage - perhaps to join his old boss - after a management reshuffle. Baldwin would have been a natural choice for operations chief at MGM Mirage, a job that went to finance chief and CityCenter's chief idea man Jim Murren. Baldwin says he is impressed by Wynn's growth in Las Vegas and Macau but he's satisfied and challenged at MGM Mirage, at least for now.
The poker whiz from Oklahoma will retain control of CityCenter and the two adjacent resorts, Bellagio and Monte Carlo, while becoming chief visionary in planning projects along the Strip and beyond."

Q+A: Bobby Baldwin

September 16, 2007

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #17 - September 15th, 2007

Posted by Hunter

Our second time using and it was a lot of fun. Regular readers like Detroit1051, Mike E, Brian Fey, mike_ch and BarbaryKevin were all in on the action.

We covered a broad range of issues, from Cotai, Harrah's, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Palazzo, Encore, IGT and a lot more.

During the show we talked about Chuck's Macau diary. That link is here:

September 13, 2007

StripWalk: September 2007

Posted by Hunter

Here's the latest Strip Walk, this time hitting Wynn Las Vegas, Trump Las Vegas, New Frontier, Palazzo, Treasure Island, New York New York, Excalibur, Luxor and more...

As always, the photos are here:

Commentary after the jump... Take it away Mike!

September 9, 2007

The Mirage: AAA Diamond Rating Inspection

Posted by detroit1051

Past posts on AAA Diamond Ratings and Mobil Star Ratings generated so many comments, that we might as well start a new topic. The 9/9/07 RJ follows the AAA inspector as he checks out The Mirage on its regular review.

"Unwilling to name competitors by name, Vincent said the association is the only company sending inspectors to all the properties it rates"
You'll recall in posts last year, we talked about Mobil's erroneous comments about Wynn Las Vegas, including reference to a "5th floor swimming pool", which showed that an inspector had not actually visited Wynn. Mobil subsequently corrected its errors.
MGM Mirage management should be happy with this story.

September 7, 2007

VegasTripping Goes to Macau And Trippies 2007!

Posted by Hunter

My good friend Chuck at is heading to Macau next week. Despite being very jealous, I'm happy to send you guys over to his site to get the regular updates he'll be posting - I know that I'm looking forward to some very thorough reporting from the field, HST style.

If you want to follow the mayhem as it unfolds, here's the best link for the action:

Second up, their annual 'Best Of' list, the Trippies, are now open for nominations. Feel free to nominate us - the parent Web site,, this blog and even our podcast, which we're bringing back into a more regular schedule with live call-in shows (next Sunday the 16th!).

September 2, 2007

Strip Walk: August 2007

Posted by Hunter

We're back with another Strip Walk! This was written almost a week ago and this time around you'll get Mike's comments but a few of my own sprinkled in - I was in Vegas for one night last week and took some of my own photos as well.

As always, the photos are here:

Commentary after the jump...

August 22, 2007

Dubai To Buy 9.5% of MGM Mirage and Half of CityCenter

Posted by detroit1051

"Dubai agreed to pay $5 billion for a 9.5 percent stake in MGM Mirage and half of the Las Vegas casino owner's biggest development, bringing billionaire shareholder Kirk Kerkorian his biggest investment in the company."

This is huge news. There is a more in-depth report in the 8/22 Wall Street Journal for subscribers. The news troubles me, but Lanni and Murren haven't disappointed yet,

Dubai World To Buy 9.5% of MGM Mirage

August 21, 2007

MGM Mirage Shuffles Upper Management

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage made a few changes in the executive suite which they announced today.

First off, the extremely capable Jim Murren has been promoted to President and COO of the company (from President, CFO, and Treasurer). Murren came from Wall Street and is probably the most responsible for MGM Mirage being a model for other gaming companies to follow, especially when talking about reporting. Murren will also oversee all properties except for those that are part of the 'City Center Campus'.

Bobby Baldwin has been moved into a new position - Chief Design and Construction Officer. He'll oversee all new construction and capital improvements in the US. He also will oversee the 'City Center Campus', which includes City Center, Monte Carlo and Bellagio.

Lastly, Dan D'Arrigo has been promoted to EVP and CFO.

All of these positions report to Terri Lanni, the company's Chairman and CEO. Additionally, John Redmond, who had been running the properties formerly in the MGM family, including MGM Grand and NYNY has resigned as planned.

The press release is here:

Unrelated, Harrah's has scheduled an announcement for tomorrow regarding entertainment changes at their resorts in Las Vegas.

August 16, 2007

Strip Walk: August 2007

Posted by Hunter

Welcome to a new semi-regular feature, 'Strip Walk'. These photo updates from the Las Vegas Strip (and other parts of the Valley) have previously been presented by our man in the field, mike_ch. Well, now he's an official part of the crew and we're aiming to get these two you about every other work, time and schedule permitting.

His notes follow after the jump and the photos for this and future walks are here:


August 15, 2007

Book Review: 'Gay Vegas' by Steve Friess

Posted by Hunter

Steve Friess is an award winning Las Vegas-based journalist that regularly writes for the New York Times, USA Today and other national publications... You probably know him as the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, The Strip. Steve's a great guy and Vegas is lucky to have him.

His new Las Vegas guidebook, 'Gay Vegas' covers Sin City with an emphasis on gay and lesbian travelers, though the tips in here are applicable to anyone visiting Southern Nevada.

Keep reading after the jump for my take on the book and if you want to pick up a copy, this Amazon link is a way to say thanks to us as well:

"Gay Vegas: A Guide To The Other Side of Sin City" (Steve Friess)

As noted in the RJ and the LVS thread, Palazzo is scheduled to open December 20th, 2007. We'll see if that's a soft opening or what - I have my doubts.

Also, according to the Movable Buffet, Tangerine at Treasure Island will be closing and will be replaced with a new nightlife venue by the end of the year. Tangerine is managed by the Pure Management Group.

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August 2, 2007

MGM Mirage Quarterly Profit Up On Property Sales

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage had a big quarter but a large portion of the ground they gained were from one time events - property sales in Primm and elsewhere.

Still, income from continuing operations was also up - the company is healthy and I still consider it to be one of the best run in gaming - a model for the industry in that regard.

Revenues hit $2.11 billion and earnings were at $360 million with those property sales factored in. Incoming from continuing operations was $182 million, up from about $140 million in the year ago quarter.

REVPar on the Strip jumped 7%. I hope to have property specific info soon.

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July 31, 2007

Open Topic: 8/01/07

Posted by detroit1051

"Exclusive Resorts today announced that it will develop and own 30 luxury condominiums at MGM MIRAGE's (NYSE: MGM - News) highly anticipated Vdara at CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip. Vdara Condo Hotel, one of the $7.4 billion project's four residential towers, is set to open in late 2009."

I had never heard of Exclusive Resorts, but I sure fall short of its demographics. This is not your father's timeshare. MGM Mirage and Exclusive issued a press release on Exclusive's purchase of 30 units at Vdara. Membership fees run from $239,000-$459,000 with annual dues of $14,000-39,000.

Here's the release with a link to Exclusive Resorts site:
Exclusive Resorts Buys 30 Units At Vdara

Luxor's transformation, which has included the ripping out of the old club, 'Ra' as well as most of the restaurants, continues to bear fruit.

This time the latest is the opening of the new club, 'LAX' on Labor Day weekend.

Update: The Las Vegas Advisor is reporting that the de-themeing of Luxor is going ahead, with the Egypt theme going out the window.

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July 6, 2007

Shooting at New York New York

Posted by Hunter

Thankfully this doesn't happen often but it appears we have a crazy guy that opened fire inside the casino early this morning, injuring several people.

More info:

Chance of a backlash against Las Vegas? MGM Mirage taking security seriously enough? Can you even stop someone like this in advance?

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June 30, 2007

Weekly Open Topic-June 30

Posted by detroit1051

Last week's topic had 64 replies, so let's start a new one.

Kerkorian's initial interest in acquiring Bellagio and CityCenter certainly helped MGM during the month of June. The RJ summarizes share price changes in June for operators and slot manufacturers. MGM leads the pack.
Kerkorian's bid boosts MGM Mirage

So, there's another story here on the site that was posted recently about Fontana closing... Well, we've learned that the closing is NOT for good, just for the balance of the year. It will be used for private gaming as other parts of the casino are remodeled... Look for Fontana to return in December 2007.

When it DOES re-open, there will no longer be food served due to the genius of the NV Clean Air Act.

I was just going to update the other story but a few other sites picked up on this and I wanted to make sure they got the updated info as well.

So - that's the story and I'm 100% confident in the sourcing on this one.

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June 20, 2007

Bellagio Closes Fontana Lounge

Posted by Hunter

I have confirmed reports that Bellagio is closing its Fontana Lounge, a small live music/dancing venue overlooking the lake that's been there since the hotel opened in 1998.

Casinos change amenities all the time but this closing is notable because it offered lounge music and a low-key dance environment for slightly older customers, important as most all nightlife is focused on younger patrons and loud, club music.

MGM Mirage hasn't finalized plans for the space, though previously there have been poker tournaments held there and clearly it could be a prime restaurant spot.

Does anyone know of any good alternatives?

Update: See this story for more:

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June 20, 2007

Kerkorian Withdrawing from CityCenter, Bellagio?

Posted by detroit1051

The 6/20/07 WSJ reports that Kerkorian will withdraw his plans to take over Bellagio and CityCenter. Since the original announcement, MGM's share price is up 37%.
Was this only a ploy by Kerkorian and MGM to get the stock moving? Regardless, imo, MGM is still in play to be taken private.

An announcement may also be made today regarding a joint-venture between MGM and Kerzner Inetrnational to develop a multi-billion dollar casino resort on the 40 acres at the Strip and Sahara.
Subscribers to the WSJ can read the story at:
Kerkorian's MGM Plans in Doubt

June 7, 2007

June 2007 Las Vegas Strip Development Update

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to mike_ch who is back with another Las Vegas Strip development/construction update.

The photos are here:

Keep reading after the jump!

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May 30, 2007

Las Vegas Construction Update - May 2007

Posted by Hunter

Here's some more info on upcoming Las Vegas construction, based off of filings with the county.

THEPlace - The condo development to sit between Mandalay Bay and Luxor is still on track, despite there not being a peep from them since the initial announcement. Some details on the project stats, which will include a rather large 256 square foot water features.

Hard Rock Condos - Nothing really here - just a request for an extension for the new owner to figure out what they want to do.

Cogent? - Anyone know what this is?

New York New York Nightclub - This is finally coming together, with an indoor/outdoor setup.

Fontainebleau - Work continues as they are asking for a batch plant.

Casino Royale - They want to expand the casino in the back with all sorts of new space.

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From Wall Street Journal

May 21, 2007 4:39 p.m. EDT
Tracinda to Enter Into Talks
With MGM to Acquire Bellagio
May 21, 2007 4:39 p.m.

Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. announced Monday that it intends to enter into negotiations with MGM Mirage to purchase MGM's Bellagio Hotel and Casino and City Center properties.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tracinda said it also wishes to pursue strategic alternatives with respect to its investment in the world's second-largest casino operator, which may include financial restructuring transactions involving all or a substantial portion of the remainder of the company.

Tracinda currently owns 158.8 million shares, or a 56% stake in the Las Vegas-based company, according to the SEC filing.

Tracinda said it has made no decision with respect to any such restructuring transactions and reserves the right not to engage in or approve any transaction.

Shares of the company closed Monday at $62.89.

Updated by Hunter / Tuesday Evening: In an interview with Steve Friess, Bill Weidner from Las Vegas Sands indicated that his company might be interested in The Mirage and Treasure Island if MGM Mirage's properties were to be sold off individually.

Ok - this is getting a bit out of hand. Now, Weidner has actually expressed interest in those two properties in the past. I don't have a link but when the MGM/Mandalay deal was going through, everyone wondered if the FTC would require an asset sale to complete the purchase (they did not in the end). It was at that time he mentioned that LVS would be interested in buying The Mirage and/or TI to include with their portfolio. We know how that story ended.

Of course LVS is interested in The Mirage and TI - and not just a close approximation - these are places that perform very well and have a long established record. I was at The Mirage earlier today for dinner and despite it being a Tuesday, it was quite busy and doing well with occupancy. LVS would do well to score either property but it is so extremely unlikely that there's no point discussing it. Kerkorian's motivations are unknown but it seems more likely that instead of trying to raise cash through selling properties, he's either making a first step toward an LBO for MGM Mirage or it is an attempt to impose a valuation on the company that is closer in line to what he can see as MGM Mirage's rightful place in the market. The latter would be a particularly shrewd move and U'I'm sure we we will discuss these motivations more as we learn more.

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May 21, 2007

Luxor May 2007 - I'd Rather Stay in a Tent

Posted by Hunter

I'm at Luxor for a convention for a few days - it's been awhile since I've stayed here and I've never been that impressed. Stlll, this place has fallen off even more than how I last remember it. My room smells bad, a bed that looks like it came from a military barracks and not even an in-room safe. Wow - the parking lot is probably more hospitable.

MGM Mirage has a TON of work to do if they want to make this place into any sort of a worthwhile endeavor. Honestly, I'm blown away with how bad this room is. Wow.

May 7, 2007

Backpack Bomb Explodes at Luxor - 1 Dead

Posted by Hunter

Early this morning an employee removed a backpack that was sitting on their car when it then exploded, killing the owner of the vehicle and injuring another employee.

Was this a bomb? I hate to use the 't-word' but what does this mean?

Update: Sounds like the police think this was directed at this specific person.

Wow, this is an interesting story.

Steve Friess has a note on his blog that says that MGM Mirage's company wide sports book network went down this afternoon, making it impossible to place bets at any MGM Mirage property - this includes Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Mandalay Bay, Treasure Island, Monte Carlo, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus.

This comes on the same day as a major boxing event and the Kentucky Derby - two MAJOR betting events.

Now, being in the technology field, I know that these things happen. I also know that these systems all have backup systems and that they train for these outages. I'd love to get some details on how this went down and what happened.

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May 5, 2007

Macau Casino Update: April 2007

Posted by Hunter

A big thank you to Drambuie Man for sending in a new report and photos from Macau.

I asked for some more photos of Wynn Macau and the Venetian and we got some good coverage. I can't wait to get out there and see this stuff myself.

The report is after the jump...

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May 4, 2007

Reader Report: Bellagio April 2007

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Aaron_B for providing this write up and photos from his recent trip to Bellagio.

His report follows after the jump and the photos, available at the link below, show off some of the recent construction work. You'll also see some comments on the new car rental facility at LAS.

Thanks Aaron!!

Quick note on the balustrade damage: I remember seeing some of that way back in May 1999, just after opening. I looked out my window and was surprised that it was already cracked.

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MGM Mirage reports Q12007 results this morning and despite posting some strong numbers that were solid gains, they didn't meet analyst consensus estimates for net income, mostly from lower than expected Las Vegas Strip gaming revenues.

Mississippi with Beau Rivage had a strong surge in activity as the property continues to come back from Katrina. Beyond that, Strip REVPAR jumped 9% and EBITDA was up as well.

I like to look at occupancy, ADR and REVPAR more than the revenue figures to get a feel for the real property performance and there was some growth there as well. The blended ADR for the Strip was $169 for the quarter and REVPAR at $162 with occupancy of 96%.

Here's the press release.

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April 30, 2007

New Macau Photos Available - Construction Updates!

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to Brian and everyone else that submitted this to me.

Just a quick post to direct people to some new photos posted at SkyScraper City that cover all the recent construction activity in Macau. Great to see these projects moving along, especially the hotel at the Sands - Sheldy quietly hedging his Cotai bet.

Also, Drambuie Man is back in Macau and will be sharing more photos when he returns - thanks again!

April 26, 2007

MGM Mirage Makes Investment in Marnell's 'M Resort'

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage announced today that they will be investing $160MM in Anthony Marnell's South Strip (far South) project, the 'M Resort'.

Marnell previously built and operated the Rio and his company, Marnell Corrao, built The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas for Steve Wynn.

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The New York Times has an interesting article that covers the upcoming growth spurt in Las Vegas. A lot of general info for a mass audience but I did think the quote from Wynn indicating that this was the 'most over the top' expansion so far was interesting.

Is this a bigger game changer than milestones like the International, MGM Grand #1, The Mirage, and then Bellagio?

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April 20, 2007

MGM Mirage's Project City Center Steaming Ahead

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage put out a press release today updating folks on City Center's progress.

I've heard a lot of chatter from insiders about the project and from all accounts it is coming along quite nicely - MGM Mirage executives are very pleased with their progress. Of course, recent photos show the main hotel is really taking shape.

There's also news on some budget changes to the project - nothing significant and entirely expected for a development in this stage and of this scope. MGM Mirage is also putting pressure on sub-contractors to reduce some project costs and budgets and without that, the price would have gone up more than they are indicating here.

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April 19, 2007

MGM Purchases North Strip Land Near Circus Circus

Posted by Hunter

So, that story we posted the other day from VT&T was true! MGM Mirage has indeed purchased the land surrounding Circus Circus to assemble a jumbo parcel that will certainly see re-development sometime in the future.

We previously discussed this here:

Unfortunately I don't have the facility to merge the topics in any sensible way.

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Here comes mike_ch's Las Vegas construction update April 2007. This one covers Paris, Planet Hollywood/Aladdin, Bellagio, City Center, NYNY, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay and Luxor.

Thanks again to him for providing this stuff.

Photos are located here:

There are also some new videos, located here:

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April 12, 2007

Rumor: MGM Mirage Buying North Strip Land

Posted by Hunter

I haven't been able to confirm this story despite making several queries but Vegas Today and Tomorrow is reporting that MGM Mirage may be buying the Bennett-owned parcel across from the Sahara.

Since Nazarian purchased The Sahara, this parcel is available - they were previously trying to sell the hotel along with this parcel.

Of course, as we learn more, we'll keep you updated.

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From the agenda of Clark County planners, we have some insight into future projects. Here goes:

City Center - Not much, just a slight increase in the height of the towers from 543 feet to 580 feet. The FAA signed off and MGM is stating that they need the space for stuff like elevators and if residents want to put stuff on the roof (I assume satellite dishes, etc...). Also, the retail component is being increased from 650,000 square feet to 666,870 square feet. One interesting note is that Bellagio's holding company, Bellagio LLC, is the applicant - surely they have new holding companies for City Center - I would assume at least one per development for legal and financial reasons.

Wynn Las Vegas - Again, nothing major. They want to build a walkway from their Sands Ave. parking to the back of house area of the hotel, just for employees. The walkway does intersect with the monorail and the request states they will install a 'protective roof plate' to prevent falling debris hitting anyone. Ha.

Fontainebleau - Some details on the project, which is in review. The tower will be 735 feet high with 2,880 hotel rooms and 1,020 condos with kitchens. The tower sites on a low-rise podium with heights that vary from 81 feet (LVB side) to 175 feet on the convention center side on the back. Other than that, the details are few. They do have a batch plant on site at this time.

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A few quick sound-bites:

A Gaming Today story on the upgrades at the Golden Nugget details the recent changes. I've seen some of this stuff and it is pretty nice. They did a good job down there.

MGM Mirage's sale of their Primm, NV assets to Herbst Gaming is complete.

Lastly, it looks like the NBA All Star Weekend was a bust from a gaming perspective. Thankfully, baccarat action from Chinese New Year saved the day.

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April 4, 2007

City Center: Visiting the Sales Pavilion

Posted by Hunter

We all know the base genetics of MGM Mirage's City Center development - a mixed use project across 76 acres on a prime piece of Las Vegas Strip real estate. Multiple hotels, gaming, restaurants, retail and condos all coming together in an effort to master plan an miniature city.

The construction cranes are crawling over the property and the 4,000 room hotel/casino that will anchor site is up beyond the 11th floor. A live Web cam of the construction is on the official Web site. Also, MGM MIRAGE provided me with some photos and renderings of the project. Some may be familiar and others new.

I was able to tour the sales pavilion that has been a key tool in allowing MGM Mirage to almost completely sell out one of their condo developments (The Residences at Mandarin Oriental). Along with the tour some questions were answered about some of the other components of the project.

Keep reading after the jump for some more thoughts on what I saw.

online casino games

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Some quick updates this afternoon...

First off, Mandalay Bay announced upgrades to their pool complex. They spent $30 million to expand the area with the cornerstone of the upgrade being an outdoor-yet-climate-controlled, three story casino featuring glass walls. The casino will feature blackjack, craps and roulette. Beach attire is encouraged - no dressing up required.

To top it off, the third story will include 'Villa Soleil', a set of top of the line villa-like beach cabanas designed for up to 16 guests and 500 square feet. These will cost as much as a whopping $2,000 per day! Mandalay also claims to have doubled the number of available chairs at the pool.

Regarding Monte Carlo, we already knew they were building Diablo’s Cantina to offer dining on the Strip. What's interesting about the official announcement is that MGM MIRAGE alludes to future upgrades coming to Monte Carlo. Looks like that they are going to be spending some money there, at least in the short term. According to the press release, the restaurant is described as follows:

"The first floor will incorporate the main dining area with a hip bar and lounge. Guests will be able to enter from a Strip-front entrance that will feature a walk-up frozen/specialty drink bar, or through the casino. The second floor will include an open-air center bar area and stage for live music, rotating entertainment acts and weekend DJs. The patio will be a perfect setting for carefree fun in the sun or under the desert moon."

In other news, Fontainebleau applied with the county to increase the number of condos on the site from about 950 to just over 1,000. The space will come from a reduced number of hotel rooms - 2,880. The total number of units between the two types will be about 3,900.

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Thanks to Drambuie_Man, we have a major set of new Macau photos that highlight the construction of the MGM Grand Macau, Venetian Macau and others. He was also kind enough to write up his report, which you will find after the jump.

The photos are located here:

Huge thanks go out to Drambuie_Man for taking and sharing these photos with us. He attached some notes to the photos which I have distilled and included here after the jump. I highly suggest that you give these a read along with the photos to get a better sense of context.

Here goes...

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Work got out a little early and I was on my way taking my sweet time to the airport. I had gotten a full eight hours of rest the night before and hardly any butterflies were flapping in my stomach.

Why was I not suffering the usual symptoms of pre-Vegas? Maybe because I knew it would be nearly impossible to top my last trip where I spent time in one of Wynn�s Fairway Villas with friends of nearly 20 years. What I did come to realize during this quick getaway, however, is that a solo trip where you meet others in town at your own leisure is something special in and of itself and a different kind of fun.

(More after the jump...)

I recently spent a weekend in Las Vegas. My stated purpose was a friend's wedding but I managed to get in a few other activities for the benefit of you fine people.

Here you will read about Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Palazzo, The Mirage, Spamalot, Luxor and more.

Also, I uploaded a couple hundred new photos:

Some more info after the jump...

Ok, so this isn't really a surprise. This has been rumored and semi-confirmed for months.

After the fall of 'Hairspray', Luxor officials were looking for something to fill their theater and they tapped their friends from Canada to help.

This show will feature the 'magic' tricks of illusionist Cris Angel. I've never seen him perform but I've heard he is quite good and far less annoying than David Blane.

Expect more details from MGM Mirage soon and a show to open early 2008. Production cost is supposedly about $100 million.

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March 14, 2007

mike_ch Construction Update: March 2007

Posted by Hunter

Another construction update from mike_ch. This one covers Paris, Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon, The Venetian, Encore, Palazzo, Stardust (RIP), Frontier, Bellagio, Planet Aladdin, and Luxor.

Thanks again to him for providing this stuff.

Photos are located here:

Also, we've got new VIDEOS! You can watch them here (goes from most recent to older):

I'll be in Vegas this weekend to see Spamalot, take some photos, tour the CityCenter sales pavilion and attend wedding (not in that order).

March 14, 2007

MGM Grand Detroit

Posted by detroit1051

MGM Grand Detroit will be the first of the three "permanent" casinos to open. It's interim casino has been operating since 1999 in an old IRS processing center building. The permanent facility will be one block away in an ideal location to get traffic off the freeways and fairly close to the convention center.

The website has been updated to include hotel and meeting information. The "Image Gallery" shows photos and floorplans for the rooms. I was pleasantly surprised by how upscale the rooms will be. Although the hotel will only have 400 rooms, it will be a welcome addition to my long-depressed home town. The rooms put those at MGM Grand Las Vegas to shame, MGM Detroit's casino has been very profitable for MGM Mirage, and I'm glad MGM invested $700+ Million into the new facility and the city. Well done, MGM!

MGM Grand Detroit

Drambuie_Man is heading to Macau and has offered to take questions in advance for those of us that haven't been or can't get to the other side of the world on a regular basis. I'm lucky to have several folks in the area that have been very generous with their time and this is another example of that.

His comments are after the jump and feel free to litter the comments with requests. Also, if you are in Macau or nearby and want to hang out, email me at and I'll make mutual contact.

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This time around I spent most of the episode talking about Wynn Resorts, Ltd., 4th Quarter earnings report. There's also some stuff on MGM Mirage and others.

Update: For some reason that I can't explain, this episode sounds somewhat tinny. Sorry about that.

A reminder - feel free to call in and leave us a message about anything Las Vegas or Web site related. The call in number is: 702-508-4232.

Direct RSS:

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February 27, 2007

Mike_ch's February Las Vegas Strip Construction Update

Posted by Hunter

Thanks again to Mike_ch who is kind enough to share his updates and thoughts on what's going on down on the Las Vegas Strip.

This one covers the Stardust, Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, The Venetian, Palazzo, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, New York New York, Planet Aladdin, and more.

Photos are located here:

Keep reading after the jump for the report.

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February 21, 2007

Boyd Gaming Posts Larger Than Expected Profit

Posted by Hunter

Boyd Gaming posted some nice results yesterday:

Boyd is building Echelon Place in Las Vegas on the site of the Stardust, which is set to come down in mid-March. Their joint venture in Atlantic City with MGM MIRAGE, Borgata, has many folks believing that Echelon is a project to watch and their Las Vegas opening will be a bigger splash than some have predicted.

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February 14, 2007

MGM MIRAGE Reports 4th Quarter Profit Doubles

Posted by Hunter

MGM MIRAGE reported another blowout quarter, with Q4 profits doubling from last year. Quarterly revenues are up to $2.02 billion with almost $90 million coming from insurance recovery against Katrina losses.

These numbers were way above what analysts had predicted.

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MGM Mirage added a few press releases over the past couple of days detailing some upcoming plans.

First off is a new community in Jean, NV - just outside of Las Vegas. Currently they operate the Gold Strike and Nevada Landing. The latter will close and operations will be consolidated into the Gold Strike as a new casino hotel is developed, along with residential, retail and other mixed uses. What makes Jean interesting is the possibility of a new airport there at Ivanpah, serving Las Vegas's freight needs in the near term and international travel over the next ten years or so. With a monorail extension, this area could start to really hum.

Second on MGM Mirage's plate is brief announcement that their Macau partnership with Pansy Ho will build a resort on Cotai in that region. They don't specify the parcel other than to refer to it as a 'prime identified site'.

The other story of the day I thought was interesting is coming out of the Harrah's LBO. It's been revealed that part of the financing will come from Harrah's own assets. I find this fascinating and I am considering taking Wynn Resorts private by borrowing against their properties - can I do that? :-)

More on the Harrah's setup from the always excellent Business Press.

Lastly, a quick mention that high end condos aren't selling quite as fast as some thought.

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Well, we all know that MGM Mirage is planning to enter the Macau market with the under-construction MGM Grand Macau. Since MGM is not a concessionaire in Macau, they have to partner with someone that is or has a sub-concession... Well, they hooked up Pansy Ho, daughter of Macau old-timer Stanley Ho.

Stanley's well known to be a least a little on the sketchy side (some would say totally on the sketchy side). The question that's come up is if partnering with Pansy would allow Stanley any undue influence into her operations.

The Nevada gaming regulatory bodies are investigating Pansy's suitability as MGM Mirage is a multiple license holder in the Silver State. Will this be a problem? The licensing is taking longer than many expected - does that mean they've found some items they're not too happy with?

A couple of articles discussing related issues:

and related to Pansy, brother Lawrence and Packer's media conglomerate:,23636,21170997-462,00.html

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January 23, 2007

MGM Grand's $20,000 Newlywed Skyloft Package

Posted by Hunter

I wouldn't normally post this as I get these press releases all the time but I thought this one was interesting.

It's a $20,000 package for a trip to the MGM Grand's Skylofts, designed for newlyweds.

It includes a meal at Robuchon, Ka, Tabu, the spa, Rolex watches (!), two nights in a one bedroom Skyloft and more. The complete description from the press release is after the jump.

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This is a WSJ article so it requires a subscription or you'll have to find some other way to read it but it's recommended - interesting stuff.

Casinos Divide to Conquer

Basically the concept is that operators could sell their real estate holdings and then sign long term management deals with the new owners of the real estate. This lets them monetize these assets and many of these companies like Harrah's or MGM MIRAGE are sitting on billions in real estate.

From the article by Peter Sanders:

"Blackjack players who are dealt a pair of aces often "split" the cards into separate hands, giving them two shots at hitting the jackpot. Now, some casino companies are considering a split of their own: effectively dividing their real-estate assets from the operating companies that run the casinos."

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Today's newspapers have some interesting stories.

First off is the Sun with an article on Bobby Baldwin and the CityCenter plan. Some of the water and special features are alluded to here. A very interesting article. From this piece I can't help but think that pretty soon there will be way too many interesting resorts to really see Las Vegas in a single weekend anymore... if you can even do that still today.

Second is an article on implosion prep for the Stardust:

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January 19, 2007

Project CityCenter Sales Pavilion

Posted by Hunter

** I was originally scheduled to do a tour of the City Center Sales Pavilion this weekend. Unfortunately something has come up and I will be in California instead. Anyway, here's some info I got on PCC from MGM MIRAGE and I will re-schedule my tour. **

MGM MIRAGE opened the Project CityCenter Sales Pavilion in early January to showcase the various features of their $7 billion project. The center features models of several of the condo units, incorporating state-of-the-art technology to give prospective buyers an immersive experience.

The Pavilion is open daily, 10am - 7pm. Appointments are preferred but according to MGM MIRAGE staffers serious prospects can often be squeezed in. More info, direct from MGM MIRAGE, on the various units follows.

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January 13, 2007

Luxor To Change Name? 'The Pyramid'?

Posted by Hunter

Saw this one on Robin Leach's 'blog' on Vegas celebrity gossip topics and it's interesting.

The idea is that Luxor's name would change to 'The Pyramid' about halfway through the year when they open their new nightlife operations.

Robin's take on the Luxor name is here.

I know MGM MIRAGE is eager to re-make Luxor in the public's eye as it is seen as having languished under previous management. Still, this would be a big move. I'd be more inclined to see a marketing campaign around 'Luxor: The Pyramid' rather than dropping the former moniker altogether.

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Howdy folks! As a quick aside, I meant to do a podcast tonight but it didn't happen - sorry!! I'm shooting for the weekend and from then on, probably every 7-10 days. Thank you for being patient. There's clearly a lot to about.

I am planning on being in Las Vegas at the end the month, just for a weekend, to tour and document the progress at CityCenter's preview center - thanks to MGM MIRAGE for any access. From what I'm told, the preview center is amazing - I look forward to sharing with everyone... Expect photos to follow.

Regarding Wynn Macau, their 'Diamond Suites' project, located on the property edge near the future MGM Grand (with its neat/original curtain wall design), is a new hotel tower with the aim to up their room inventory as the company also looks into possibilities on Cotai Originally, Wynn Macau had something akin to a phase '1b', which was supposed to expand the casino floor, add a showroom and a new 'front feature', all to open in early 2007. This front feature is some kind of special effects room that Wynn says will 'blow us all away'.

Given that the public spaces are now going to be more aligned with the 'Diamond Suites' areas, they have been delayed until later this year. The 'Diamond Suites' tower is still 18 to 25 months out, though no specific dates have been announced. Some of the new tables and slots will open for the celebration of Chinese New Year, which is also coming to Las Vegas in a few weeks.

Ok, and last, MGM MIRAGE has new renderings of both CityCenter and MGM Grand Macau in their latest financial presentation. Very interesting shots that really show how the new buildings will interact with each and specifically "NOT" interact with neighbors.

MGM Mirage Financial Presentation 1/2007

I realize this was long winded - sorry. I hope everyone is doing well. Photos will follow in this space.

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January 1, 2007

Reader Trip Report: Bellagio December 2006

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader Aaron_B for this well written trip report from Bellagio. This is his first contribution so let's give him a warm welcome.

Also, if there's anyone else out there that would like to share a report, please feel free to send them to I cannot guarantee that it will be published but I will guarantee to read it and get back to you. I'm especially interested in reports from hotels that we don't cover as often (i.e. not Wynn Las Vegas, The Mirage, Bellagio, etc...) but that doesn't mean you cannot submit one from the above.

Some photos are also posted:

The report continues after the jump. Enjoy!

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December 31, 2006

Biggest Las Vegas / Gaming Stories of 2006?

Posted by Hunter

What did you think was the most interesting/biggest story of 2006 that related to Las Vegas and/or casino gambling?

Was it Harrah's being taken private? Wynn Resorts opening in Macau? The Stardust going dark? The insanity around the Tropicana bidding war? I'm interested to hear your take.

The RJ has a story on that topic today with a few examples but we don't have to limit the discussion to those options.

And, for a little bit of history, these are the posts from December 2005. Funny to think of all that has happened this year.

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Thanks to my friend Chris in Hong Kong, we have a few new shots of development progress for several Macau projects.


Wynn Macau / MGM Grand Macau
Venetian Macau
Grand Lisboa

Thanks Chris! Looks like some of these projects are really coming together and by this time next year, all of the above should be operating (and hopefully I will have reported my personal experience in at least a few of them!)

Happy New Year to all. Another great year of growth on this blog and I hope that 2007 will be even bigger.

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December 19, 2006

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #11 - December 19th, 2006

Posted by Hunter

I'm finally back with another podcast! This time around I'm talking about my recent trip to Bellagio (which includes meeting up with several readers/listeners and author Dave Schwartz) as well as the big news of the day - Harrah's going private! On top of that I catch up with a few news stories from the last two weeks. Enjoy!!

Here is the link to the photos mentioned in the podcast:

A reminder - feel free to call in and leave us a message about anything Las Vegas or Web site related. The call in number is: 702-508-4232.

Direct RSS:

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December 15, 2006

Bellagio: December 2006

Posted by Hunter

We checked into Bellagio earlier today after an almost three year lapse since my last stay. While a full trip report and a podcast will follow, I can say right now that I have been very impressed with the personalized, attentive service that I've seen since we arrived.

Not only did I get a call from the concierge before we arrived but since then they have been able to accommodate several requests thrown their way. Everyone has been extremely pleasant and our Spa Tower room is very nicely decorated and includes a great view.

Generally, I am very, very impressed so far. Coming in, my wife was saying that she wished we were at Wynn Las Vegas but after a few hours here, she's lost all sense of regret.

We've got some friends coming in later tonight (they are at the Barbary Coast) and I've got a few meetings setup over the next few days which I am looking forward to, even if there were a few folks that weren't able to make it. This is shaping up to be a fun weekend. I'm certainly enjoying myself... Signing off from Bellagio - Hunter.

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December 7, 2006

MGM Mirage Partners With UAE Firm

Posted by Hunter

MGM Mirage is planning a partnership with Mubadala Development, a firm headquartered in Abu Dhabi and owned by the royal family there.

There is talk of luxury hotel projects in several parts of the world including Las Vegas.

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November 30, 2006

Bellagio & Wynn, November '06

Posted by detroit1051

I checked out of a Bellagio Suite in the main tower this morning and have just unpacked in a Wynn Parlor Suite. I tried to start a report early this morning, but Bellagio's internet service was down all night and still wasn't up at 9 AM. I'll offer a few opinions now and then add comments later. After all, I want to enjoy Wynn.

This will not be a trip report, but random thoughts start after the jump.

November 30, 2006

Video Round Up: Hilton Sky Villas / MGM Grand Mansion

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to David at Die Is Cast for the link to this video of the Hilton Sky Villas:

They were once the nicest digs in town and they still ain't too shabby.

And, thanks to Mike E., here's the link to some video of the Mansion at MGM Grand, arguably the current 'nicest' spot on the Strip:

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November 28, 2006

Reader Trip Report: Skylofts at MGM Grand

Posted by Hunter

This trip report comes from reader Dave F., and focuses on a trip to the Skylofts at MGM Grand in November 2006.


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November 26, 2006

Roll The Bones by David Schwartz - Book Review

Posted by Hunter

Roll The Bones is a new book by Dr. David Schwartz, the director of the Center for Gambling Studies at UNLV. His blog, is a great source for gambling information and news along with the ever-popular casino carpet gallery.

Dave has written several gambling related books in the past, including Suburban Xanadu, a study of the casino resort's evolution (this book features an in-depth look at Martin Stern, Jr., who's work we have mentioned several times in the past here on this site) and Cutting The Wire, a look at the Wire Act and Internet gambling.

You can buy this book here (and it supports this site in a small way): Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling

Keep reading after the jump...

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This podcast includes some audio clips from my recent trip to Las Vegas. I talk about construction on Encore, CityCenter, Palazzo, Aladdin and more. Also, some special guests including Tim and Michelle from Five Hundy By Midnight and loyal contributor Mike E. We listen to a few messages from listeners (thanks for the theme song!) and even find some time to talk Vegas news.

Here is the link to the photos mentioned in the podcast:

A reminder - feel free to call in and leave us a message about anything Las Vegas or Web site related. The call in number is: 702-508-4232.

Direct RSS:

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November 22, 2006

Bellagio, November 19-21

Posted by Mike E

I had a nice two-night trip with the parents recently. Rather than give a full play-by-play as I usually do, I just thought I�d throw out some thoughts, highlights, and even some not-so-pleasant times.

I was over at Bellagio this trip. After eight stays at Wynn and having not stayed at Bellagio in six years, I was definitely due to give Wynn�s closest competitor another shot. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I�ll be making natural comparisons to Wynn LV here and there. In short, Bellagio impressed me in ways I had forgotten, but Wynn will remain my home.

(more after the jump)

November 22, 2006

Kerkorian Boosts MGM Mirage Stake

Posted by Hunter

This has been all over the financial news sites today. Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who already owns 56% of MGM Mirage, is planning on boosting that stake to almost 62%.

MGM Mirage is doing better than it ever has and has a very bright future with City Center coming online in a few years.

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I spent some time in Las Vegas this weekend (actually, a little more time than I had planned) and I wanted to report on my trip.

First off, I have posted construction photos of Encore, City Center, Bellagio renovations, Aladdin/Planet Hollywood, The Mirage (Japonais and Revolution), The Palazzo, and the pit that will become the Cosmopolitan.

I got to meet with a few readers/listeners, fellow podcasters and friends. I had a short chat with Elaine Wynn who is a real class act.

The photos are posted at this link, plus they are also in their respective categories:

More after the jump...

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November 13, 2006

Mike's Construction (Mini) Update

Posted by Hunter

Another update from Mike on the construction situation. No photos this time but still some good info on Mandalay, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Wynn and Stardust.

Keep reading after the jump for the details.

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November 9, 2006

Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas Achieves Mobil 5-Star

Posted by Hunter

This was mentioned in the comments but this is a big deal so I'm doing a full story.

There are no other Mobil 5-Star hotels in Las Vegas and only two restaurants (Alex and Robuchon).

Since this is sure to be controversial with our readers, let the arguing begin! It should be noted that there were several 4-star ratings, including Bellagio, the remainder of Wynn Las Vegas, the Four Seasons, The Venetian, and the Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas.

The R-J Chimes In:

The Sun's Take:

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In this latest edition of the podcast, we cover a lot of ground, literally!

First up, here's a warning - this podcast is AN HOUR long. Sorry it is so long but there's a lot in here and I looked at cutting something but I decided that I simply didn't want to and thus here we are.

The notes are after the jump. As always, recent photos are here:

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My friend Matt had called me about two weeks ago asking what my plans were on Halloween night. Matt�s one of the coolest people I know. He works at Wynn and we naturally hit it off because I loved picking his brain about the hotel business, the nitty-gritty of the hotels he�s worked in, etc. Good stuff.

As it has always been throughout my teenage years and into adult-hood, I was expecting a mighty fun Halloween filled with studying, sleep, and downright depression thinking I was the only one at home without an invitation to a party. Well, maybe the invitation Matt gave me was make-up for those years and years of crappy Halloweens. His plans: costume party in NTS Limo�s �Goliath� (the largest limo in Vegas) that would later spill into a two-bedroom, 3200 square foot Skyloft. Booze, girls, the works...

(more after the jump)

November 2, 2006

MGM Mirage Beats Expectations

Posted by detroit1051

MGM earned $.54 in Q3. Analysts had forecast $.41.
Revenues were up 5% to a new record of $1.9 Billion
A Winning Hand at MGM Mirage
A few notes from the conference call follow the jump.

Thanks to mike_ch for another set of construction updates from the field!

This time around we get info on Encore, Aladdin/Planet Hollywood, Palazzo, Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Treasure Island and the last day of the Stardust!

Thanks again to Mike for providing this stuff.

The photos are up in their respective categories but to see all recent photos:

Regarding his question below about The Mirage, they have partnered with the Los Angeles Lakers to be their official Las Vegas hotel. Oh, and by the way Mike, that picture of Bellagio's front desk office - I've always thought that was a great space. Nice shot.

Okay, Mike's update is after the jump.

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This Wall Street Journal article (presented via Yahoo! - I hope that means you can read it w/o a subscription!) talks about how construction costs in the Valley have been rising and how that impacts costs for the big gaming operators, both those with projects going and those with stuff on the drawing board.

Wall Street Journal via Yahoo! (free!)

If that doesn't work, here's the original WSJ link (subscription required):

Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

October 31, 2006

AAA Five-Diamond Hotels/Restaurants

Posted by detroit1051

AAA announced its Five-Diamond awards for Nevada. I'm sure there will be differing reactions here to the addition of the 5th hotel to the list!

1. The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas, Henderson (fourth year)
2. Bellagio, Las Vegas (sixth year)
3. Four Seasons Hotel, Las Vegas (eighth year)
4. Skylofts at the MGM Grand (first year)
5. Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas (first year)
1. Alex, Wynn Las Vegas (second year)
2. Jo�l Robuchon at The Mansion, MGM Grand (first year)
3. Le Cirque, Bellagio (fourth year)
4. Picasso, Bellagio (sixth year)
AAA Five-Diamond Awards for 2007

October 27, 2006

Las Vegas Construction Update: 10/27/2006

Posted by Hunter

You guys have probably seen Mike's construction updates in the past. Well, we're turning them into a front page story as they are available... Thanks to Mike from all of us for providing this info and taking time out of his day to do this.

The body is after the jump but he's covering the following:

Wynn Las Vegas and Encore

Photos are linked and are posted to the galleries. The most recent RV photos can always be found here:

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October 24, 2006

Q3 Earnings

Posted by detroit1051

Third Quarter earnings are coming out. The RJ gave a preview:
Big Six Earnings Preview

For conference call junkies, a schedule follows the jump.

October 22, 2006

BOOK: Roll The Bones: The History of Gambling

Posted by Hunter

I got my review copy of Dave Schwartz's new book, "Roll The Bones" today and I've started to read it. Dave is a friend of mine and I feel lucky to call him that. He's the number one gambling historian and author of several books. He works at UNLV as the Director of the Center for Gaming Research. His Web site is located here, which we are now proudly hosting for him:

A full review will follow when I'm done but so far, it's great. Anyone that's seriously interested in gambling should buy this book right now.

The link below is from and not only do you get the book for a great price, but we get a small cut of the proceeds, so you are supporting the site and getting what so far seems like a great book.

Ok, here goes: Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling


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October 16, 2006

MGM MIRAGE Out of Laughlin

Posted by Hunter

I'm surprised it took this long but the deal is done... MGM MIRAGE is selling its Laughlin assets, acquired through the Mandalay acquisition. They had previously owned the Golden Nugget Laughlin but sold that in 2004.

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October 15, 2006

Beau Rivage, Biloxi

Posted by detroit1051

Beau Rivage is MGM Mirage's flagship property in Biloxi. It sustained significant damage from Hurricane Katrina on August 29th, 2005. MGM re-opened it less than two months ago on the first anniversary of Katrina. Notes and photos of my recent trip to Beau Rivage follow the jump.

October 10, 2006

LA Times on Macau and a New Rendering of City Center

Posted by Hunter

First up, I tracked down this image that is a rendering of CityCenter - looks more recent than most:

City Center Rendering - Oct. 2006

On an unrelated topic, the LA Times ran a story on Macau that is interesting, though not a lot of new ground:,0,319698,full.story?coll=la-home-travel

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Yes, that's two podcasts in a week... I have posted the fourth RateVegas podcast and this episode has an international bent.

I discuss the basics of Macau along with the info about Wynn Macau opening in early September. I also talk about Harrah's pulling out of competition for the second casino site in Singapore as well as our potential nomination for a "Trippie" award.

On top of all of that, we now have a listener line where you guys can call in to get a message read on the air. The number is: 702-508-4232. Go ahead and call us anytime, from the field in Las Vegas or otherwise.

To listen to the podcast, we have a few options:

Direct RSS:

Click on after the jump to listen to the podcast right here on the Web site.

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October 6, 2006

Worst Las Vegas Podcast #3 Posted

Posted by Hunter

I posted a new podcast that I recorded last night.

In this episode I talk more about Harrah's and the Barbary Coast, dig into Sheldon Adelson, and look back at the changes at The Mirage.

You can get the podcast a few ways:

If you use iTunes:

If you don't, the direct feed link is:

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September 21, 2006

Regulation 6A History

Posted by Hunter

I got this from Dave over at his 'Die Is Cast' blog (which we are now hosting for him by the way). It appears that Nevada regulators are getting close to ditching 6A, one of the anti-money laundering rules on the books.

Some might remember The Mirage being hit with the largest fine in Nevada history for forgetting to file thousands of 6As.

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September 18, 2006

Bellagio, CityCenter, Japonais

Posted by detroit1051

I attended a casino function at Bellagio last week. A few notes I made appear after the break.

Thanks for Sean for this trip report, featuring an extensive breakdown of his activities while at The Mirage recently.

This report made me feel like I was right there - I think you'll like it too.


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September 2, 2006

Reader Report: Bellagio and Wynn

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to reader John Hall for contributing another piece, this time the focus on Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. I can't say how much I appreciate contributions from you guys, the loyal readers. If you want to send something in, send it to:

Ok, what do we have here? Well, as regular readers know, we have spent an awful lot of time looking at Steve Wynn properties, and Wynn Las Vegas over all of them. Well, before there was WLV there was Bellagio and it is still a literal cash factory on the Strip. After touring the back of house facilities, I have a renewed appreciation for the property - it's really a work of art in its own way.

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August 29, 2006

Beau Rivage Back Open for Business

Posted by Hunter

One year after Katrina struck, the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS is back open for business putting 3,800 folks back to work.

The casino has been substantially rebuilt since the hurricane destroyed the facility. Beau Rivage is the largest single contributor to state gaming tax coffers.

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Thanks to one of my readers who, for now, will remain anonymous, I was able to take a tour of the back of house areas at Bellagio.

This includes service kitchens for the restaurants, lake pump equipment, soda and liquor distribution, uniform cleaning and control, security, IT and much, much more.

I even saw the room where they put the bad people before Metro grabs 'em!

All that plus the VIP elevators and villa areas (sadly not the villas themselves) and other guest areas.

I left with am impression that Bellagio is a one of a kind masterpiece. If you want to read this very long entry, continue on after the jump.

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August 17, 2006

Bare at The Mirage Opens for Business

Posted by Hunter

The new 'European Bathing' area at The Mirage, Bare, is now open.

They are advertising it as 'Pool - Bar - Beds'. That made me laugh for some reason.

For those interested, the Web site has some info, though there are still no pictures. I will try to get some this weekend as I have a friend slumming it at The Mirage.

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MGM MIRAGE issued a press release today regarding a project with Cirque du Soleil based on Elvis Presley to be performed at the upcoming Project CityCenter. The entire text of the press release follows after the jump.

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August 16, 2006

MGM MIRAGE Players Club Update: Monte Carlo Online

Posted by Hunter

Monte Carlo has completed their transition to the MGM MIRAGE 'Players Club' from Mandalay's former 'One Club' system.

The system is already live at Mandalay Bay, Bellagio, The Mirage, MGM Grand, Treasure Island, and NYNY.

Luxor comes this Fall, then Excalibur toward the end of the year with Circus Circus converting early next year.

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Two bits of MGM Mirage news this morning.

First off, MGM has created a realty company to sell condos in City Center. The unique move will enable buyers to purchase direct from the developer.

More in the LV Biz Press:

And on David's Blog:

Next up, a press release talking about upcoming evening pool parties at TI. Honestly, the pools at all these hotels seems like a very underutilized nighttime asset.

The TI event is called 'Whisper' and runs Thursdays in August and Labor Day Monday, 6pm-11pm.

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This article, submitted by motoman (thanks!), details the concrete and foundation procedures for constructing Wynn Las Vegas (then called Le Reve) and THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. It makes for an interesting comparison of techniques for sure.

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August 3, 2006

MGM MIRAGE Reports: Not All Analysts Thrilled

Posted by Hunter

MGM MIRAGE reported their financials today.

The company's press release is all roses:

Not everyone is buying that though:


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August 1, 2006

MGM MIRAGE To Build Mandalay Bay-esque Condos

Posted by Hunter

Real quick as I am jumping on an airplane (not to Vegas), but today's RJ has a story on MGM MIRAGE starting to get approvals for a condo-tel complex on Luxor property that will look like Mandalay Bay style architecture:

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July 30, 2006

CityCenter Architecture

Posted by detroit1051

Liz Benston, Las Vegas Sun, describes the dramatic towers which will serve as the gateway to MGM Mirage's CityCenter. I'm slowly becoming enthused with the project.

Read the article here:
Gateway to CityCenter

Another trip report featuring some high end accommodations, specifically MGM Grand's Skylofts, this time from reader David.

Thanks to David and Mike for passing this along!

July 6, 2006

MGM Grand's Aziz

Posted by detroit1051

CNN's online business site, "Business 2.0", has an interesting profile of Gamil Aziz, president of MGM Grand. He is in large part responsible for leading the transformation of MGM Grand from a "dormitory" to one of the hottest, most profitable properties on the Strip.

He talks about his philosophy of working backward:
"Aziz's secret is a counterintuitive management practice - nicknamed "working backward" - that he invented on his arrival at the Grand. The strategy calculates the maximum revenue that each business or space could generate in a perfect world - that is, if every customer spent the most the market could bear and if traffic reached its physical limits.
Aziz then subtracts actual sales from that hypothetical number and calls the difference a loss, even if the venue is making money. His formula for closing the gap usually starts with a jackhammer."

In my opinion, MGM Grand is now a property which appeals to all market segments, from the value conscious to the high end customers of Skylofts and The Mansion. However, I would like to see MGM Grand update the "Grand Tower" rooms in terms of syle and furnishings.

To read the article:
Gamil Aziz Has Reinvented MGM Grand

June 26, 2006

Project CityCenter Starts Cooking

Posted by Hunter

If you've been following the Vegas news over the past day or so, you will have noticed some new details on MGM MIRAGE's 'Project CityCenter' development, to be located between Monte Carlo and Bellagio.

We got the skinny from MGM MIRAGE and will summarize what we know after the jump.

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June 26, 2006

Reader Trip Report: The Mirage

Posted by Hunter

Got a nice reader trip report from John Hall, one of our regulars. It's always good to get a recent perspective. Enjoy!

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Mandalay Bay is first, followed by the other Las Vegas properties, then expanding out.

Here's some more info and point conversion information:

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I went to see one of the *preview* performances of LOVE, the new Cirque show based on music of The Beatles. It is playing at The Mirage, in the theater that used to be the home of Siegfried and Roy until the incident that left Roy fighting for his life.

LOVE is in previews, which means that Cirque is not issuing press tickets and they would rather I didn't publish this at all. To be fair, I fully understand that this is not the final version of the show and that subject matter may change. That's fine. Keep reading after the jump...

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June 13, 2006

Weekend Research Trip: Encore, Mirage and More

Posted by Hunter

This Thursday - Saturday will be on a research trip at Wynn Las Vegas (yes, life is tough), working on a detailed story on Encore's development, 'bare' at The Mirage and more. New for this time around - I'll be recording audio as well as writing details. We'll see how that goes. I might go to see 'LOVE', still not sure. Any requests for information, leave them in the comments.

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June 5, 2006

Hairspray at Luxor to Close in 6 Days

Posted by Hunter

According to Steve and Miles from 'The Strip Podcast' (who often break entertainment news on their podcast), MGM MIRAGE is killing off 'Hairspray' which is running at Luxor.

It's only been open four months but from what I have heard, attendance was poor from the get-go.

Steve and Miles briefly dissect the reasons behind the closure, taking a look at the idea that 'Hairspray' and 'Avenue Q' are a bit too off the beaten path for the average Las Vegas visitor. How will Phantom of the Opera (Venetian), The Producers (Paris Las Vegas) and Spamalot (Wynn Las Vegas) fare?

Listen to their 6 minute blast:

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Looks like the already excellent pool scene at The Mirage is heating up. Following the trend around town, they are adding a 'European Bathing' pool, tentatively called 'Bare' in a previously under-used area between the pool and dolphin habitat. Few additional details are available but according to MGM MIRAGE officials, it opens this Summer.

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According to multiple sources, including the The Strip Podcast and the Las Vegas Review Journal, the next Cirque de Soleil show will be at Project CityCenter and be based on the music/imagery of Elvis.

Ok... Another CDS show on the Strip? So far we have Mystere, O, Zumanity, Ka and now Love, not to mention Cirque-esque shows such as Le Reve and even Celine Dion's show. How far will this go? Can they keep filling theaters with new shows? Personally I think that moving to shows that are more grounded in a central theme/identity such as Love and whatever this Elvis show will be is a smart(er) move. I'm not an Elvis fan (though I'm a big Beatles fan) so I'm not that excited for an Elvis based show.

What do you guys think? Are CDS impenetrable?

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An article in the Las Vegas Sun talks about how some bartenders and cocktail waitresses are peeved that as new food and beverage outlets open, they are being 'passed over' for younger recruits.

Personally, while it might be an ugly part of the business, I see this as just that - part of the business. As the article states, the clubs and bars are just as much looking for models/entertainers as servers.

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May 10, 2006

MGM Mirage Shareholder Meeting

Posted by detroit1051

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports on MGM Mirage's Annual Meeting. Terry Lanni made it sound almost certain that MGM will develop a CityCenter East in Atlantic City.

The most interesting comment was probably meant to be a joke, but if I were Steve Wynn, I'd be watching my back. Here is his quote:

"Lanni conceded Wynn has been ahead of MGM Mirage in Macau, but he said the time advantage will be short-lived.
"And who knows, next year we might even have the annual meeting at Wynn," he said."

To read the RJ's article:

MGM Annual Shareholders Meeting

The RJ also has photos of Boardwalk's implosion:

Boardwalk Razed

May 7, 2006

Trip Report: Third and Last Part: MGM Grand

Posted by detroit1051

The final chapter of this trip report, MGM Grand and food poisoning, follows the jump.

May 7, 2006

The Mirage: Trip Report

Posted by detroit1051

The second stop on this longest-ever Las Vegas trip was The Mirage.

The report follows the jump.

Yes, I am in Las Vegas. This post is a bit stream of consciousness, just random things I noticed so far:

* Wynn Las Vegas have changed the advertising graphics for Le Reve to include actual performance shots. I assume this is to drive home the CDS connection.

* Corsa Cucina, the Wynn restaurant that had to be remodeled right after opening, is now doing brisk business.

* The Sands/LVB entrance for the Wynn Esplanade is being re-done with an outer door and new glass. It is mid-construction but fully open.

* At The Mirage, Ava is gone, Onda is being renovated and Love will include lots of red (if you go behind the curtain as I did, expect to be yelled at).

* The new poker room at The Venetian is really big, not bad looking and totally empty. Maybe 20% full.

* Bellagio is cruising along, seemingly indifferent and impenetrable to competition.The Prada store still has no mens clothes (the staff dutifully described a belt as 'mens clothes' but I disagree). The new employee parking garage is HUGE... Literally almost dwarfing the large signs that straddle Frank Sinatra Drive.

* Planet Aladdin - If anyone was wondering, Desert Passage is being redone. The whole facade is under scaffold.

* Planet Aladdin Interior - Man. So much work to do. These guys can't pull it off. If they aren't dropping the 40ft ceiling, they got nothing. The place feels empty and it always will. By the way, the signs look like they were designed by prisoners.

* Caesars - the 'E' is out on the new Augustus Tower. To me this is the kind of thing that should last a day at most. It is the FREAKING SIGN ON THE STRIP AND THE LIGHT IS BURNED OUT. Fire somebody.

* Paris - The signs of Harrah's taking over are everywhere and since it was a mediocre place to begin with... BTW, I have never been 'hard sold' on a suite upgrade before. I didn't even want one. The check in clerk had a whole sheet with prices AND justifications, FAQ style. Harrah's central. Wow.

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April 28, 2006

Las Vegas Photos, April '06

Posted by detroit1051

I added some photos to my Webshots account. They include, Wynn, Palazzo, Red Rock, Golden Nugget and the Residences at MGM Grand.

Las Vegas Photos

April 27, 2006

Long Delayed MGM Grand Tower Project to Start?

Posted by Hunter

Next month MGM MIRAGE will ask the Clark County Planning Commission to extend a plan to add another hotel tower at MGM Grand. The original application was submitted in 1998 and would include a 49 story hotel/casino with 1,700 guestrooms, connecting to the convention center.

The project had previously been delayed due to a shift in 'corporate priorities' (read: merge with Mirage Resorts and Mandalay, build City Center, etc...). Will this ever get off the ground?

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April 27, 2006

MGM MIRAGE Reports Quarterly Results: Profit Up 30%

Posted by Hunter

Today is a quarterly reporting day for MGM MIRAGE and report they did... Profits up 30%. They claim $135 million in savings from the combined MGM/Mandalay properties. I'll be listening to the conference call and updating this story as soon as I can - Windows Media Player is not cooperating at all.

Net revenues for the quarter were $1.9B and 'same-store' revenues were $1.2B, up 4% (they did 4% better even without the MBG acquisition). Occupancy stands at 97% (!) and the ADR (average daily rate, key indicator in hotel/leisure reporting) was $181 (up $5 from last year). REVPAR (revenue per available room - another key metric) was also up $5 to $175.

Quickly reading some of the detail, it looks like they wrote off about $24 million related to the Bellagio/Monte Carlo tram. This sounds like the tram is back out of service to accommodate CityCenter development. Eventually CityCenter will link the properties.

$380 million was spent on capital improvements, including CityCenter, The Mirage, Beau Rivage, and MGM Grand Detroit.


The Mirage will be the site of a new ultra lounge called 'Revolution', based on the Beatles and opening in the fourth quarter.

Supposedly the new Mirage restaurants are doing great and Japonais is scheduled to open in August.

CityCenter design for the main hotel is complete and excavation is underway. Foundations will be poured in about a month.

The Boardwalk demolition will take place on May 9th.

The new Bellagio parking garage (employees) is going to open in July.

CityCenter will have a sales center between Monte Carlo and NYNY and also 'discovery centers' in the lobbies of Bellagio and The Mirage.

Beau Rivage construction is progressing. Apparently the restaurants will be completely new, none of the old concepts are being rebuilt.

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April 25, 2006

MGM MIRAGE Partners With Foxwoods

Posted by Hunter

This has been all over the news today but I am just getting a chance to post it.

Looks like MGM MIRAGE is setting up a partnership with Foxwoods on Connecticut to brand their expansion project as an 'MGM Grand' hotel, despite the fact it will be operated by Foxwoods.

More details:

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It started with a call a few months ago from my cousin: �What are you doing April 19th through the 22nd?� I was thinking to myself how busy I was and that I�d have to miss work for the weekend. Before I could reply he says, �Because we�re planning on heading to V��

�It�s on!� I reply without even letting him finish his sentence...

Here's my latest report out of Vegas. Click on the link for more. Enjoy!

April 23, 2006 Photo Gallery Macau Photos Updated

Posted by Hunter

Thanks again to Chris from Hong Kong for providing updated photos of construction in Macau for our gallery.

The link is here:

You'll see Wynn Macau, basically completed, along with the MGM Grand and Galaxy Starworld. Enjoy.

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April 19, 2006

LOVE: The Beatles + Cirque de Soleil at The Mirage

Posted by Hunter

Looks like Cirque went ahead and released a bunch of information about the new show at The Mirage on their Web site, without all the fanfare of a press release, etc...

Tickets are now available for 'LOVE', which is the title of the show.

There are rehearsal photos, a brief background on the show, and more at the Web site.

Previews start in June and the show opens July 2nd. Tickets run from $69 to $150.

Update: Complete press release included below.

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April 9, 2006

MacauCasinoWorld Publishes New Photos

Posted by Hunter

Thank to, we have some new photos of the progress of various properties in Macau.

These photos show various resorts such as Wynn Macau, MGM Grand and The Venetian Macau, all of which are showing fantastic progress.

Check 'em out: Macau Photos

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For years and years, many travelers equated cheap rooms, shrimp cocktails and showgirls with Las Vegas. Hotel rooms under $100 per night were available all up and down the Strip - not just from the Northern cluster of older hotels. As recently as 1999 it wasn't uncommon to be able to book at room at Bellagio for $140/night on weekends.

No longer.

These days, rates for standard rooms have increased and former mid-level properties have been renovated and re-branded in an attempt to convert them to the higher end. Forget about Strip rates under $100 on weekends and don't be freaked out if your sub-par room at the Luxor costs $249.

What happened? Is this bad for the city? Is Las Vegas still a deal? More after the jump.

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March 7, 2006

Wynn, Bellagio, The Mirage

Posted by detroit1051

I spent three nights at Wynn the last week of February, followed by three nights at Bellagio. It was interesting to stay in comparable accommodations at both properties and compare them.

February 23, 2006

MGM MIRAGE: Record 4th Quarter and Year End Results

Posted by Hunter

Profit was up 31% on increased revenue for fourth quarter. Earnings were at $97.8 million and revenue to $1.75 billion. Annual profits were $444.3 million on revenues of $6.48 billion.

Since this includes the acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group, MGM MIRAGE breaks out same store numbers for more accurate comparison.

More information here:

Update: A few things from the conference call:

  • Continued restaurant changes at Mandalay Bay. rumjungle and 3950 are being changed around.
  • Luxor - a new nightclub is replacing Ra and the race and sports book will be moved to make way for a new restaurant.
  • Mirage - Japonois should open in August and the Cirque show in May.

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February 19, 2006

MGM MIRAGE May Develop Three Sites in Macau

Posted by Hunter

According to this article, MGM MIRAGE may develop up to three sites in Macau. The first site, the MGM Grand Macau, is under construction now. Who knows, we may see a 'Mirage Macau' or 'Bellagio Macau'.

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Interview Completed: Posted here.

Update: I picked the questions and they are being sent to Wynn Resorts to be answered. I tried to pick questions that represented a range of topics. In some places I was able to combine questions and still retain what I believed was the questions true intent. Hopefully I maintained that for you guys. Anyway, as soon as we have a response, it will of course be posted on the blog as a new article.

We're starting a new semi-regular feature on the blog - an interview series. This series is different than other interviews for an important reason - you, the readers, submit the questions! It works like this: you add potential questions as comments on this story. In about a week, I will then pick the ten best/most interesting questions and send them to the interview subject. The responses will be printed in a follow-up story. Feel free to submit more than once but please make sure one comment = one question.

I've started to line up some interesting gaming industry heavyweights to participate. I'm personally very excited about the person we're kicking off with. DeRuyter Butler has been involved in designing some of the Strip's most iconic casinos. Working with Steve Wynn since 1982 he was involved with projects at the Golden Nugget, The Mirage and Treasure Island and was the primary design architect for Beau Rivage, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. Recently, Mr. Butler has been overseeing the finalization of Wynn Macau and the development of Encore, Wynn Las Vegas' sister resort. Butler's creations are one of the major inspirations that inspired this site in the first place, we are honored to have him. Please submit your questions, one per comment, below.

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February 9, 2006

MGM MIRAGE Development Update

Posted by Hunter

This morning brings a press release from our friends at MGM MIRAGE discussing, among other things, progress on planning for Project City Center.

Some good info in there, give it a read:

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February 6, 2006

MGM Grand Taking Reservations For Condo-Hotel

Posted by Hunter

According to a press release from this AM, MGM Grand is now taking reservations for 'The Signature at MGM Grand', the condo-hotel (cotel) portion of the Residences at MGM Grand, opening in May.

The press release is included after the jump and details the accommodations' amenities.

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February 5, 2006

The Las Vegas Buffet

Posted by Hunter

A neat article on today's RJ talking about Vegas hotel buffets including a bit about their history.

Love 'em or hate 'em, they are part of the Vegas 'experience'.

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January 27, 2006

Dolphin Training at The Mirage

Posted by Hunter

I got an interesting press release from The Mirage recently about a new program they are offering at their dolphin habitat.

For $500 you can spend the entire day with the dolphins and their training crew, learning about how these magnificent animals are cared for. The day includes a photo and a lunch.

Anyway, I'm sure there are some folks out there who are interested in looking into something like this so for them, I've attached the press after the jump. Enjoy!

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I spent the weekend in Las Vegas at The Mirage. This was my first time as a guest there since Wynn Las Vegas opened this past April. I am happy to report that despite the fact that I'll probably stay at Wynn whenever I can, The Mirage will fill in when Steveland is full or overpriced. The stated purpose of this trip was for a friend's birthday but fortunately for me, I had some time to catch up on all of the changes since my last trip six weeks ago.

My main focus was to see how The Mirage looked and felt after having a facelift. I also made it over to WLV to see Corsa after its re-design.

The photos from this trip are detailed here in this entry. To read the rest of this post, click the link and keep reading.

January 23, 2006

Photos: Macau, Wynn Changes, The Mirage and More!

Posted by Hunter

Howdy folks, back from Las Vegas with a photo update. I'll follow this with a written opinion piece as soon as I can.

Before we get to Vegas though, let's look at Macau. Our man on the scene Chris has written in with some fresh photos of Wynn Macau, The Venetian, Galaxy Starworld, Grand Emperor and more. Thanks again to Chris for keeping us westerners up to date.

The Macau photos are located here, the new ones are on that second page and the third as well. Enjoy.

On the Vegas side of things, the pictures include the updated Corsa Cucina at Wynn Las Vegas, Kokomo's, STACK and Fin at The Mirage, and some great shots from MIX at the top of THEHotel. Some of the shots, especially of STACK, didn't come out very well. I included them because unfortunately that was the best I have and I know you guys wanted to see what it looks like.

Generally, some really exciting changes at The Mirage and even Wynn. I'll save the bulk of this for my other post but we did eat at STACK and loved it, plus we spent an evening at Tryst, Wynn's re-born nightclub, formerly known as La Bete. The changes at The Mirage have dramatically altered the customer profile, even in this short amount of time. Anyway, more on that when I write my report. For now, enjoy the photos:

Update (Monday Eve.): I've been working on my other article but I found that I'm writing more than I thought so it's going a bit slow. Looking like it will be published tomorrow morning instead of tonight. Enjoy the pictures in the meantime.

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January 23, 2006

Photos: Macau, Wynn Changes, The Mirage and More!

Posted by Hunter

Howdy folks, back from Las Vegas with a photo update. I'll follow this with a written opinion piece as soon as I can.

Before we get to Vegas though, let's look at Macau. Our man on the scene Chris has written in with some fresh photos of Wynn Macau, The Venetian, Galaxy Starworld, Grand Emperor and more. Thanks again to Chris for keeping us westerners up to date.

The Macau photos are located here, the new ones are on that second page and the third as well. Enjoy.

On the Vegas side of things, the pictures include the updated Corsa Cucina at Wynn Las Vegas, Kokomo's, STACK and Fin at The Mirage, and some great shots from MIX at the top of THEHotel. Some of the shots, especially of STACK, didn't come out very well. I included them because unfortunately that was the best I have and I know you guys wanted to see what it looks like.

Generally, some really exciting changes at The Mirage and even Wynn. I'll save the bulk of this for my other post but we did eat at STACK and loved it, plus we spent an evening at Tryst, Wynn's re-born nightclub, formerly known as La Bete. The changes at The Mirage have dramatically altered the customer profile, even in this short amount of time. Anyway, more on that when I write my report. For now, enjoy the photos:

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I love my readers. Fortunately for me, I live relatively close to Las Vegas. It's easy to get there, even by car. Still, a town that moves this fast, there's bound to be some changes that I can't report in real-time.

That's where you guys come in... Mike E. has reported back with the latest from Wynn Las Vegas (Corsa changes, high limit stuff, etc...) and The Mirage (new nightclub, restaurants, paint). Not only are you getting the boots on the ground updates, it's a great read.

Follow along after the jump to check out Mike's excellent contribution. I also have a couple of comments at the end...

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A quick hit on a couple of stories from the past few days:

Castaways History

Boardwalk Closes

Cosmopolitan Gets Financing

January 2, 2006

Las Vegas Condo-Hotels

Posted by detroit1051

The Las Vegas Sun reports that the first condo-hotels near the Strip will open in the first half of this year. The Residences at MGM Grand and The Platinum on Flamingo at Koval Lane are nearing completion. The MGM development has sold out two of its three towers and the third is 75% sold. The Platinum sold its 255 units in 39 days.

I looked at The Residences at MGM Grand when the sales office and mock-up units opened several years ago on MGM Grand's Studio Walk. The units were furnished very nicely, but they were basically large hotel rooms with small kitchens. Units were combined to create larger apartments. I may have misjudged the potential for condo-hotels because I couldn't understand paying $600,000-$1,000,000 to live in what amounts to an extension of MGM Grand. Does anyone here have experience with condo-hotels?

Developers Offering a New Kind of Suite Deal with Condo-hotels

December 28, 2005 Gets a New Look and Wynn Opens Tryst

Posted by Hunter

As part of the new look inside the casino, The Mirage has updated their Web site, The new site features a much cleaner look, lots of white space and simple navigation. A great casino Web site and much better than many of its siblings.

Also, with Tryst set to replace La Bete at Wynn in a few days, the press release has been making the rounds (after the jump).

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December 26, 2005

Casino Patron/Developer Packer Dies

Posted by Hunter

Kerry Packer, Australia's richest man and a frequent customer of Las Vegas casinos has died. Famous for supposedly paying off a cocktail waitress' mortgage with a tip, Packer was also developing Macau casinos with partners in the SAR.

Details: Australia's Packer Dies

This could have an impact on MGM MIRAGE's cash flow. Packer was a consistent contributor to their bottom line at Bellagio.

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December 11, 2005

Updated Macau Photos Posted

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to Chris from Hong Kong, we have updated the Macau photos on our photo site. Those shots are located here:

Thanks again to Chris for these great shots.

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December 4, 2005

Reader Review: Wynn, The Mirage, Bellagio: Part II

Posted by detroit1051

Part II: The Mirage and Green Valley Ranch

On Sunday, November 20th, I moved across the street to The Mirage. Some of these rambling comments will be redundant because Hunter gave us all fair warning recently about the construction at The Mirage and provided detail on other changes.

November 23, 2005

Mirage Update

Posted by Hunter

I was on property at The Mirage on Monday, taking a look at construction progress around the building.

Until construction is more complete, I can't recommend staying at The Mirage.

Wow, I can't believe I said that. I love The Mirage but right now it is a construction site. While many casinos embark on remodel projects, they are doing about 8 at the same time at The Mirage and it is disrupting the guest experience. Fortunately, I don't think this will last much longer, but if you're looking for the next few weeks leading up to NYE, I would maybe think twice (unless you get a great rate).

FIN, the new chinese restaurant, opens today and I got a peek inside. The room looks great and I'm sure will be a nice addition.

The Baccarat Bar, a long standing hangout in the middle of the casino is simply GONE. Without a trace. This really bums me out. Not only does it open up sight lines in the casino and make the place look like a warehouse, this was a great place to get a drink and relax. What a shame. Now, it is full of slots. In my opinion, it looks bad. Apparently a new bar/lounge will be stuck where the high limit slots used to be, now that they are located where the baccarat pit was.

The Jet nightclub is coming together, with the sundries store near the North entrance gone and moved to where the Shadow Creek golf store used to be. There's also a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf there.

I have some pictures but they aren't totally ready to be posted. I'll update this thread when I have them up.

Also, look for a trip report from member Mike, direct from a Wynn Fairway Villa. I was lucky enough to get a tour - what a great room!

UPDATE: Photos are here. A full explanation/article on the villa will be coming soon.

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November 17, 2005

Golden Nugget Sale Details; MGM MIRAGE Bits

Posted by Hunter

A couple of different stories here.

First off, some more detail on the Landry's deal to buy the Nugget. We find out that Poster and Breitling made off like bandits:

Second, some tidbits from MGM MIRAGE:

  • The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art now features advisory services if you are interested in buying art and need some expert help. Contact the gallery for an appointment.
  • MIX (THEHotel) was awarded the Mobil 4-star award.
  • Bellagio was again awarded AAA's five diamond award.
  • The bridge linking TI and the Fashion Show Mall is now open.

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November 8, 2005

The Bellagio We Never Knew

Posted by Hunter

About a year ago I was contacted by the Jerde Partnership, one of the architects that worked on Bellagio for Steve Wynn. They had seen some photos that I had online and were looking for permission to re-print them. In return I asked to see the sketches, pictures and other materials they developed for Mirage Resorts.

Keep Reading For More...

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October 27, 2005

New York Times on Las Vegas Restaurants

Posted by Hunter

An nice article (registration required) from the New York Times on the current restaurant scene in Las Vegas:

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October 26, 2005

Despite Beau Rivage, MGM MIRAGE Posts Record Results

Posted by Hunter

Net revenues increased 74% from the same quarter last year. Even same-store net (not including Mandalay's properties) was up 10%.

The closing of Beau Rivage cost them $13M compared to the previous year.

Full details on the results: here.

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October 23, 2005

Macau Update

Posted by Hunter

We've got some more information on developments in Macau, the former Portuguese colony that allows Las Vegas style gambling in China near Hong Kong.

Thanks to reader Chris, we have some great first hand info as well as pictures. For those that missed them last time, we posted a bunch of his shots here: Some great shots!

This time around we have a couple more photos from Chris and they will be in the Macau group on the above site very soon.

Below, find some more comments from Chris regarding Macau developments (after the jump)...

Thanks again to Chris - he's providing us with a unique insight into Macau development that otherwise we just wouldn't have. Thank you Chris and keep it coming!

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October 19, 2005

Boardwalk to Close Jan 9th to Make Way for CityCenter

Posted by Hunter

The Boardwalk, located between Monte Carlo and Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip, will close January 9th, 2006 to make way for MGM MIRAGE's upcoming Project CityCenter

LVRJ: Boardwalk to Close
LV Sun: Boardwalk to Close

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October 11, 2005

Mirage: Volcano and Japonais

Posted by Hunter

Some new renderings from MGM MIRAGE on the changes coming up - check out that volcano!

Japonais Outside
Japonais Inside
Mirage Volcano

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October 9, 2005

Macau Construction Photos

Posted by Hunter

Courtesy of reader Chris, we have a bunch of construction photos from Macau to share.

The photos are located here: Macau Photos on


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October 6, 2005

Mirage Makeover: Jet, Mink, Stack and More!

Posted by Hunter

We've covered the massive changes that are coming to The Mirage over the course of the next year before. I've gathered up a few renderings of what the changes should look like for y'all.

Click on these links to see the renderings:

Mirage Map (pardon my lack of skill with Photoshop). The red parts are changes.

Jet Vegas

Stack Restaurant

Mink Lounge


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We went for a last minute trip to Las Vegas this past weekend and I decided to go out and take some photos to keep my friendly readers up to date.

The good stuff - October 2005 Photos - The Mirage, Wynn, Bellagio and More (My RateVegas photo gallery still has some issues - Flickr for now)...

Read more after the jump...

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October 3, 2005

MS Casinos On Land - Yes!

Posted by Hunter

Our friends at are reporting that MS Governor Barbour has agreed to drop the restriction that requires casinos in the state to be built over water, which resulted in massive damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Development is still restricted to be near water, but this will allow the developments to be much more secure in the face of any future disaster.

MS Governnor Signs On To Land Based Casinos

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September 30, 2005

Bellagio is Favorite In Poll

Posted by Hunter

According to a new poll, Bellagio is the favorite resort of many Las Vegas visitors.

Bellagio Gets Top Nod

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September 21, 2005

CityCenter and Macau Graphics

Posted by Hunter

Due to a request from MGM MIRAGE, we have removed the images. Sorry guys.

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September 15, 2005

MGM MIRAGE Attempts To Reshape the Strip With CityCenter

Posted by Hunter

MGM MIRAGE will release more details on their ambitious CityCenter project today.

UPDATE: Official Press Release: here.

Some information is offered up in the RJ:
Project CityCenter Details

More here:
CNN on CityCenter

Marketwatch on CityCenter

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September 14, 2005

Beau Rivage Will Take A Year To Repair

Posted by Hunter

MGM MIRAGE's Terri Lani says that it will take about a year to repair Beau Rivage in Biloxi, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The casino will be rebuilt as it was, as a barge floating on water.

Lani Talks Beau Rivage

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September 5, 2005

Reader Review: THEHotel

Posted by Hunter

I'd like to present a new category, 'Reader Reviews'. This is where we take reader submissions of long-form reviews. This gives you guys a chance to share your thoughts with our readers, which at this point is a pretty large number of folks.

Please feel free to submit your reviews here: Submissions to the Editor

Our first entry is from Sean Simpson and the property in question is THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. Regular readers know that this is an option that I highlight frequently as a bright spot on the usually dim South Strip.

I hope you guys enjoy it and thanks to Sean who was nice enough to spend the time to write this up for us.

Update: For those that want photos, we have a bunch of THEHotel at Flickr: here.

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September 2, 2005

Vegas Today and Tomorrow

Posted by Hunter

We always like to let folks know about other Las Vegas sites that we're into.

Vegas Today and Tomorrow

This site shows current and upcoming construction, along with some educated guesses about stuff like Encore at Wynn and Project City Center.

Anyone interested in Las Vegas construction should be checking this site on a regular basis.

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We're following Hurricane Katrina that pummeled the Gulf Coast through Monday.

For the most up to date info, check the Sun Herald.

Our hearts go out to the families in the affected communities.

As of now, MGM MIRAGE does not have information on the state of Beau Rivage. Building designs incorporated features to deal with massive onslaughts of water. It's not clear if these were helpful.

Reports indicate that the recently completed Hard Rock casino has been substantially damaged and will have to be rebuilt.

UPDATED: Beau Rivage still stands, though it has been significantly damaged. Many other Gulf Coast casinos were completely destroyed.

More after the jump...

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August 29, 2005

MGM CityCenter

Posted by detroit1051

Construction continues on MGM Mirage's new CityCenter being developed between Bellagio and Monte Carlo. Can Las Vegas support Wynn's proposed development on the golf course property in addition to this, especially when MGM has at least a three year lead on Wynn?

RJ on MGM CityCenter

August 19, 2005

MGM MIRAGE Macau Deal Likely to Be Approved

Posted by Hunter

According to this Las Vegas Sun article, the deal between MGM MIRAGE and Pansy Ho to build a MGM Grand in Macau, China is likely to be approved by Nevada gaming regulators.

MGM Macau Likely To Be Approved (LV Sun)

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August 18, 2005

Management Shakeup at Beau Rivage

Posted by Hunter

Looks like MGM MIRAGE is making some changes at their Biloxi, MI property.

Changes at Beau Rivage

This is a property I've never visited. Anyone been there? What is it like?

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August 18, 2005

Mirage Poker Room: A Review

Posted by Hunter

The Las Vegas and Poker Blog fires off an interesting review of the poker room at The Mirage, long considered one of the best in Las Vegas.

Review of The Mirage Poker Room

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August 17, 2005

More Details on Changes at The Mirage

Posted by Hunter

Back from a short vacation (not Las Vegas), some more Vegas news:

I have more information on the changes coming to The Mirage.

  • STACK Restaurant and Bar - this new restaurant will feature American cuisine and replace the current Chinese room, Moongate.
  • Fin - A new contemporary Chinese restaurant that replaces Renoir. The room will contain a 'spectacular water feature'.
  • Kokomo's - the update to the popular steakhouse will include making it more visible to the lobby area. I'm not sure how much of the rainforest/atrium will have to be reconfigured but the restaurant will no longer be 'hidden' as it is today.
  • Mink - This new lounge is a reconfiguration/reimagining of the Baccarat Bar lounge.
  • Japonais - A restaurant featuring Japanese cuisine with a European flair, it replaces Mikado AND the Ava lounge - a major design change on that side of the hotel.
  • Jet Nightclub - Looking at the property map at, it is not clear how guests will enter the club from inside the hotel - it may be as simple as an entrance along the North corridor past the lobby.

So, some specific details about what goes and what stays. We're keeping a close eye on this one.

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It's been awhile but our faithful readers will remember that the last time we met we covered Caesars Palace, Harrah's, The Flamingo and the Imperial Palace.

Sorry for the delay loyal readers. Since we last me the blog has been redesigned and another blog author, detroit1051, has been added to help fill your need for Vegas dirt. In this installment we take a look at The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas - three of which were built by Steve Wynn.

Disclaimer: I own some stock in both Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands (but not MGM MIRAGE)... I think that you'll find my reviews 'fair and balanced' but in the spirit of full disclosure...

STRIPPING continues after the jump...

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Profit at the casino operator is up 34% post its merger with Mandalay Resort Group. Developing...

Profits Up at MGM MIRAGE

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July 27, 2005

An Indictment of Las Vegas Journalism

Posted by Hunter

I stumbled across this interesting story that skewers both the Las Vegas Sun and Review Journal for their year 2000 coverage of the 'merger' between MGM Grand and Mirage Resorts.

Interesting perspective on this stuff that you don't usually get to see.

Columbia Journalism Review: Big Deal in Vegas

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July 27, 2005

Gaming's Billionaires

Posted by Hunter

A quick look at some of the billionaires involved in gaming. From Steve Wynn to Sheldon Adelson to Kirk Kerkorian, a quick rundown.

Gaming's Billionaires

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July 24, 2005

Kirk Kerkorian - 'The Simple Gambler'

Posted by Hunter

The Observer has a nice little profile on Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire investor that owns a majority of shares in the Strip's largest casino conglomerate, MGM MIRAGE.

The Simple Gambler

"Few investors have the capacity to confound convention and get away with it like Kirk Kerkorian. Last week, the legendary 88-year-old investor, said to be America's fourth richest man, was reported to have made $100 million in a little over a month on a highly counter-intuitive bet on General Motors shares."

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July 18, 2005

David Schwartz Interviewed at

Posted by Hunter

I checked my feed reader this evening to see that one of my favorite Las Vegas Web sites,, had done an interview with one of my favorite Vegas bloggers and authors, David Schwartz.

Dave is a historian at UNLV, fantastic author, and keeper of the infamous casino carpet gallery. If you don't know his work, be sure to read the linked interview and buy his book(s).

David Schwartz at

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July 18, 2005 Best Of Reader Questions

Posted by Hunter

Some readers may know that part of our parent site,, is a 'Reader Question' area where our guests can write in and ask their vacation questions for me to answer.

Over the course of the last five years we've answered thousands of these important queries, on topics from luxury to Luxor and hot dogs to hot streaks. Some questions are bizarre, others seem to be repeated weekly. All are a good read.

In this post I'll chronicle some of the more interesting items. If you want to read all of the questions completely uncensored, you can also head over to Reader Questions and get the goods for yourself (or submit your own). I will probably make this a semi-regular column here on the blog.

The answers posted are the one I originally wrote when the question was asked. Keep reading after the jump.

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July 17, 2005

MGM MIRAGE To Extend Mandalay People Mover?

Posted by Hunter

According to an article in today's LVRJ, MGM MIRAGE is looking at the possibility of extending the Mandalay Bay-Excalibur people mover all the way to Treasure Island, with a stop at Harrah's owned Caesars Palace.

Plans to have a Mirage Resorts tram that ran from Bellagio to TI were discussed several times under the 'Wynn Administration' but never got off the ground.

This would be a direct blow to the floundering Las Vegas Monorail.

People Mover to Eclipse Monorail?

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I sometimes forget that new readers may not be aware of all of the thousands of photos that we have cataloged...

So, as a reminder, please be sure to visit our Las Vegas photo gallery at

Wynn Las Vegas Photos
All Las Vegas Photos


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July 11, 2005

Macau Gaming Update: Wynn Macau and More

Posted by Hunter

This was previously posted in the comments but deserves front page status.

An article from the Las Vegas Sun on the progress of new casino construction in Macau, China.

Will Macau be the next Las Vegas? Wynn and Las Vegas Sands shareholders sure hope so!

Macau: The Next Vegas?

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For all the talk about Wynn Las Vegas, let's not forget what some folks regard as Steve Wynn's true masterpiece: Bellagio.

Fortunately, the LA Times hasn't as they compare it to Wynn's namesake. Read it: Bellagio Revisited

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July 6, 2005

Project City Center Hotel Info Emerges

Posted by Hunter

According to the Las Vegas Sun, one of the operators of the three 'boutique' hotels included in MGM MIRAGE's 'Project CityCenter' will be the famed Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

Mandarin currently has no presence in Las Vegas but they are known for their high end accommodations around the World.

Project CityCenter will be built on land between Bellagio and Monte Carlo that is currently occupied by the Boardwalk Hotel. CityCenter is scheduled to open in 2009.

Las Vegas Sun

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That's not my title, that was the name of the session at the Casino Design 2005 conference at Wynn Las Vegas.

While there were a lot of sessions that focused on general design themes and trends, this kick-off panel was looking directly at the recently completed $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas complex.

More after the jump...

This is a trip report from reader detroit1051. What I've done is to throw my new comments on Wynn into the mix as he discusses certain aspects of the resort. It's fairly long so you have to click through to read the contents. Enjoy.

June 22, 2005

Gaming Executive Pay Scale

Posted by Hunter

VegasTripping compiled a nice little table of industry pay: Industry Pay Scales

Wynn's doing pretty well for not having a resort in operation until 2 months ago!

June 15, 2005

Duck Family Tries The $20 Trick?

Posted by Hunter

Many of you that have walked past The Mirage have surely seen the ducks that live in the lagoon.

Well, according to the LVRJ, some of those little guys have moved across the street, perhaps to see the self proclaimed 'world's largest standard hotel rooms' for themselves:

Ducks Move to Venetian (LVRJ)

No word on if The Venetian expects them to increase their bottom line or if they plan a similar installation in Macao. :-)

Seriously though, the ducks seem to be without food so I hope that this story has a happy ending.

June 14, 2005

Mirage Changes Continue

Posted by Hunter

The Mirage recently opened its new baccarat and high limit room, just across the way from the old facility (where the semi-private gaming used to be). The old baccarat area and Baccarat Bar lounge is closed for renovation as well.

According to some Wall St. research published recently in the LVRJ, analysts believe that Wynn Resorts will have the third largest annual revenues in the industry by 2006.

Still, their $2.8B is dwarfed by the $9B and $7.5B that are expected to be generated by Harrah's and MGM MIRAGE.

For the full article, check out this link (LVRJ).

June 10, 2005

More On Yemenidjian's Exit From MGM MIRAGE Board

Posted by Hunter

The Sun has more info on Alex Yemenidjian's exit from the board of MGM MIRAGE and what he might be up to next.

Las Vegas Sun

June 8, 2005

Mirage Nightclub, 'Jet Vegas', to Open Late 2005

Posted by Hunter

According to Norm in the LVRJ, the new nightclub going in at The Mirage will open in 2005 and be called 'Jet Vegas'.

It is being operated by the folks that run Light at Bellagio.

May 9, 2005

Great Stuff Coming

Posted by Hunter

I'm expecting a whole series of great new posts coming in the coming weeks and months, including:

  • What's Wrong With Wynn Las Vegas - Our letter to Steve.
  • MGM MIRAGE + Mandalay = What's next?
  • An Introduction to Sports Betting - this is the first article by a guest author, soon to be named.
  • Project CityCenter - Will it Really Change Las Vegas?
  • High Rise Condo Buying Guide
  • Stripping: Caesars Palace, The Flamingo, O'Shea's, Imperial Palace and Harrah's
  • The Best Las Vegas Hotel Web Sites
  • What Casino Offers The Highest Return on Investment in Las Vegas?

Plus a lot more. I'm having a great time writing this stuff and this is just the beginning.

Love writing? Love Las Vegas? We're looking for contributors. Feel free to contact us at:

May 7, 2005

Bellagio Porte Cochere Changes

Posted by Hunter

Originally uploaded by VegasMediaGroup.

Bellagio has been working on its main entrance and porte cochere recently. This is how the finished product looks.

April 26, 2005

New Project City Center Rendering

Posted by Hunter

Thanks to the 2004 MGM MIRAGE annual report, we have a new rendering of their CityCenter project, going up between Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

Project CityCenter (large)

April 25, 2005

MGM MIRAGE Acquires Mandalay Resort Group (Updated)

Posted by Hunter

MGM MIRAGE announced today the completion of their acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group for $7.9 Billion.

Expect additional announcements regarding specific property heads soon.

MGM MIRAGE now owns the following Las Vegas properties:

Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand
Monte Carlo
The Mirage
Treasure Island
Circus Circus

There are also some non-Vegas properties (like everything on the way in on the 15) and non-Nevada properties as well. Yikes!

Update: Many people keep asking me when the slot clubs will be integrated. I fully expect this to happen but it will take some time. While I am sure that both companies have been working on possible synergies for the past few months as it was obvious the merger was a done deal. Even then, the slot clubs are complicated, mission critical applications. To integrate them properly will take careful planning and some time and that could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months to complete.

Second Update: MGM MIRAGE has announced several management changes:

  • Bill Hornbuckle becomes president of Mandalay Bay.
  • Felix Rappaport becomes president of Luxor.
  • Renee West becomes president of Excalibur.
  • Mike Puggi becomes president of the Primm Valley Resorts.
  • Randy Morton becomes president of Monte Carlo.
  • Bill McBeath continues as president of Bellagio.
  • Scott Sibella continues as president of The Mirage.
  • Tom Mikulich becomes president of Treasure Island.

April 23, 2005

Scott Sibella President of The Mirage?

Posted by Hunter

We were pretty sure that this would happen... According to today's Norm! column, Sibella is quoted as the head honcho at The Mirage... When Bill McBeath moved to Bellagio it seemed natural that MGM MIRAGE would reward Sibella's profits at TI by moving him up the ladder. It seems like we were right...

Note to Scott: The Mirage is a very special place. I witnessed the blandification of TI and while I realize TI's profits have never been higher, I hear dissatisfaction with the changes again and again from hard core regulars. I hope that the same kind of changes aren't planned for The Mirage... If you want to chat about what we think makes The Mirage such a special place, let me know.

Also, any MGM MIRAGE employees that have any inside info, shoot us a line:

March 6, 2005

Changes at Bellagio - How Are They Doing?

Posted by Hunter

California here we come... right back where we started from... I�m on the runway heading back home from Philadelphia. Man, it was cold. I can�t wait to get home. Did you know that you can unlock the restroom on an Airbus A320 by adjusting a latch that is located behind the �Lavatory� sign on the bathroom door? At least on this United Airbus. The flight crew told me not to tell anybody... Whoops...

Bellagio was Steve Wynn�s ultimate design for a mega-luxury supercasino. It was built as Mirage++, clearly based on the same design principles but with higher quality everything and the benefit of lessons learned.

Up until he left the company in 2000, his fingerprints were all over the hotel. The in-house video and announcements were recorded by a woman that spoke with an Italian accent, replaced soon after he left with a native English speaker... I kinda liked �Bellaccio� as the pronunciation on the video tour! His meticulous attention to detail was unmistakable.

After Steve left, the hotel continued under the stewardship of his right hand man, Bobby Baldwin (at least until recently - Bill McBeath of The Mirage is the new president of Bellagio while Baldwin is his boss as the head of Mirage Resorts). Baldwin recognized a good operation and didn�t stir things up too much. Until December�s Spa Tower opening, the biggest changes were the addition of a nightclub (Light), replacing the Allegro Lounge with Caramel and swapping out the Sam�s/Nectar/FIX restaurant space to come up with something that worked.

Anyway, since Las Vegas� (currently) most high-profile casino has undergone some changes, we want to take a look and see if Bellagio is still Bellagio.

What�s Good

Dining: FIX and Sensi - If you compare Bellagio circa 2000 to today, we have two new restaurants on the scene. Forget that there have been intermediaries, those joints failed miserably. Finally, the hotel has winners with two new spots and since I�ve tried both, I feel qualified to comment. Each has tasty food and attentive service. Neither is inexpensive, so don�t look for these restaurants to fill that void at this hotel. Since most of the customers at Bellagio are less worried about the tab, I think both joints are a good fit. When dining at FIX, try the Bobby Baldwin Sliders, at Sensi, the corn soup and the lamb are both �don�t miss� items.

Guestroom Renovations - Turn the clock back to late 2003/early 2004. Management saw the upcoming Spa Tower looming and were worried that guests would feel that one set of rooms were preferable to the other, based on amenities and the age of the furnishings, etc... So the decision was made to renovate the Bellagio Tower rooms (also notice that Mirage Resorts guestrooms are almost all on a five year refurb schedule: 1998-2003 at Bellagio, 1992-1997 at TI and 1998-2003 at Mirage). The plan was to use the new designs for the Spa Tower rooms as the new standard in the Bellagio Tower. This meant a bit more marble in the entryways, mechanical curtains in all guestrooms (formerly restricted to suites), along with new furniture and color schemes. Along with these timely upgrades was a change we don�t love - room key cards instead of metal keys. We�ll discuss this below...

Good? Bad?

Casino Color and Design Choices - If you take a close look at the casino carpet and wall coverings, you�ll notice there are several test patterns being checked in the casino. It is most noticeable in the area near the restaurant Jasmine. The new patterns feature a lot less color and we�re just not sure if we like them. They are also featured heavily in the Spa Tower public areas. There is a chance they won�t be rolled out on the floor but they�ve been in place for months. I�ve heard rumors that Donna Baldwin, Bobby�s wife, is responsible for these changes. I don�t have evidence to back that up but that�s my guess based on a few stories I�ve heard.

Casino Floor With Massive Signage - Under the Wynn Doctrine, Bellagio�s slot machines generally didn�t have large attached signage with flashing lights, at least not many that were breaking from the customized style that IGT and Bally Gaming designed for the hotel. These days the slots are done up just like they are in any other casino and while there isn�t anything particularly �wrong� with that, it is certainly worth mentioning as this changes sight lines in the casino.

Porte Cochere Changes - So far I haven�t gotten the details confirmed by the hotel but I do know that the outside bell desk and main entrance are currently being refurbished. Rumor claims this includes a small waterfall and other improvements. We�ll share updated information as we have it. I can�t imagine this being too �bad� but we�ll see.

What�s Bad?

Brain Drain (Is Everyone Heading Back to Wynn?) - It�s no mystery that Wynn Las Vegas has �poached� many key employees from Mirage Resorts. Let�s get serious. There are only so many capable managers and line workers and they want to work for Steve - that�s where the true loyalty is. Also, based on my conversations with employees at MGM MIRAGE properties, some are a bit dismayed at the changes that have occurred and are looking for a new start. There is no denying that some top MGM MIRAGE folks, many that work at Bellagio, are heading for Wynn Las Vegas when employee training starts this month.

What Happened to the Keys? - When Wynn built The Mirage, he decided to use magnetic metal keys instead of the plastic key cards that are used in most large hotels. When Bellagio opened, it too used the metal magnetic keys. It is a nice touch that differentiates the hotel and makes an impression on the guest. Well, with the new Spa Tower and the Bellagio Tower remodel, the guestrooms now use traditional plastic key cards while the suites still use the metal keys. I think that�s a shame and I�m not sure why management decided to make the change.

The bottom line is that Bellagio is still very much the hotel that Steve built. While some changes have been made, the spirit of service remains. It�s a nearly 4,000 room hotel that is run like a boutique and quality remains high. Clearly they are concerned about their high end business and employees being poached by Wynn Las Vegas but that�s only natural. Not everyone will jump ship and both hotels will thrive. The competition from Wynn will push Bellagio to keep quality high.

Thoughts? Share your comments below.

Visit our Bellagio photos at Flickr:

March 1, 2005

Bill McBeath Named President/COO of Bellagio

Posted by Hunter

As anticipated, Bill McBeath moves from The Mirage to Bellagio as MGM MIRAGE management shakes up the team with the Mandalay acquisition. We expect Scott Sibella to move from TI to The Mirage, but that is not yet confirmed.

February 22, 2005

MGM MIRAGE Outlines Structure of Combined Company

Posted by Hunter

In their first Nevada Gaming Control Board meeting on the proposed merger with Mandalay Resort Group, MGM MIRAGE outlined to regulators how the new company would be structured.

Since the acquisition of Mirage Resorts in 2000, each company owned resort has been owned and operated by LLCs that are in turn owned by one of two operating divisions, MGM Grand Resorts and Mirage Resorts.

As of today, MGM Grand Resorts consists of the resorts in Primm, NV, MGM Grand, New York New York and MGM Grand Detroit while Mirage Resorts includes Bellagio, The Mirage, Treasure Island, 50% of Monte Carlo and Beau Rivage in Mississippi.

Once the merger is complete, the company plans to structure management as follows:

MGM Grand Resorts: MGM Grand, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Excalibur, Primm Valley, Jean resorts, MRG's Laughlin properties, and whichever Detroit casino isn't sold.

Mirage Resorts will include Bellagio, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Circus Circus, Circus Circus Reno, Monte Carlo, New York New York and the announced Project CityCenter.

John Redmond is the president and CEO of MGM Grand Resorts and Bobby Baldwin is at the head at Mirage, both reporting to MGM MIRAGE Chairman and CEO Terri Lanni.

Still to come are the rumors about shifts at individual properties, especially Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage and Treasure Island.

February 16, 2005

MGM MIRAGE/Mandalay Resort Group Merger Approved By FTC

Posted by Hunter

[Disclosure: I own MGM MIRAGE stock.]

This afternoon we got word that the FTC unanimously approved the merger between Strip heavyweights MGM MIRAGE and Mandalay. More info from the LV Sun: here.

How do I feel about it? Unlike many other Las Vegas visitors, I welcome the merger.

When MGM Grand bought Mirage Resorts I was a bit sad, mostly because the four Las Vegas Mirage properties really had a special feel to them and Wynn is clearly a top notch operator. Looking back on it now, the Mirage properties have changed. Some of the changes are good (Bellagio Spa Tower) and some are a bit scary (Treasure Island). Word is more changes are coming, specifically for The Mirage.

I see this one differently. MGM MIRAGE and Mandalay are both companies that are exceptionally well run. I see a lot of opportunity to get a lot of out the relationship that will be created between say, The Mirage and Mandalay Bay. Getting comp credits for my stay and play at The Mirage to head to Mandalay restaurants sounds good.

Am I worried about decreased competition? Not really. There will always be independent operators like Wynn and Adelson (Venetian) to offer a balance. I don't play at the low end of the market so I am less worried about the 'little guy' player. I see a real benefit for the mid-level and high end player here. I like the additional choices this merger will bring me as a customer.

As a shareholder I love it. Mandalay has been making more money in the last year than they ever have before. It's almost amazing. The combined company will have a hell of a lot of debt but also a lot of cash flow...

The most important aspect of the deal? Real estate. By buying Mandalay they get access to some of the best development and redevelopment sites left on the Strip. Between empty lots near Mandalay Bay, across from Luxor, behind NYNY and the concept of redeveloping Excalibur and/or Circus Circus in the next 10 years, they are setting themselves up to succeed financially.

So, the last thing they have to do is get clearance from the Nevada gaming authorities, the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada State Gaming Control Board. I can't see regulators standing in their way, this is great for the State.

Oh, and they have to sign the check.

January 30, 2005

Lunch at Sensi at Bellagio

Posted by Hunter

Lunch at Sensi at Bellagio

So far, it is looking quite good.

We'll add a review to in the next couple of days.

January 16, 2005

Don't Mess With The Mirage

Posted by Hunter

According to Clark County building records, MGM MIRAGE plans to 'update' The Mirage with a nightclub, a larger marquee and a bridge across the lagoon. While we've known about the nightclub for a long time, the other two are new... We'll see how this plays out and I don't have a lot to say right now other than this: IF YOU RUIN THE MIRAGE LIKE TI HAS BEEN MANGLED, I WILL MAKE YOU SORRY. I'm only half kidding.