Archive for the writing Category

Countdown to the Cosmo in V7

It’s Thursday, so my long-awaited piece on Cosmo, 90 days out, is out in Vegas Seven:

It hasn’t been easy for the Cosmopolitan. When ground was broken in October 2005, it was one of a crop of planned casinos that were going to re-make Las Vegas. The Palazzo, Encore and Aria opened, but Boyd Gaming pulled the plug on Echelon in 2008, and the Fontainebleau’s post-bankruptcy owner, Carl Icahn, has no announced plans to resume construction on the partially built casino.Then there’s the Cosmopolitan. After the project’s original owners defaulted on a Deutsche Bank loan, the bank bought the hotel and decided to finish construction and run the casino itself, via its own management team.

via Countdown to the Cosmo | Vegas Seven.

I’ll give the folks at Cosmo credit for making the best of a bad situation and bringing something new to town. Whether that’s going to be enough to make the casino a success naturally remains to be seen but I think they’ve got as good a shot as anyone.

As I briefly mentioned on Two Way Hard Three, I think their current airport billboard ads leave something to be desired, but the casino seems to be making an effort to establish a real identity for itself in a way that I haven’t seen before. Usually, it’s just, “We’re the newest and the best!” or, “I’m Steve Wynn, and this is my new casino.” You didn’t really need to do much else to guarantee plenty of traffic for the first year or so.

In the current environment, however, it’s a different story. Aria, which was also pitched as the “Vegas for people who don’t currently go to Vegas” hasn’t, as yet, succeeded in drawing large numbers of people who wouldn’t otherwise come to town. Can Cosmo do it, or just be different enough to get a few hundred people a week to take a gamble on a Vegas trip? Or to convince people with deep attachments to (and accumulated points at) other properties to give it a try? It’s certainly possible.

I really look forward to getting a look inside the property and doing a sit-down interview with John Unwin sometime in the next few weeks.

Wire Act article in GLRE

I’ve got a new article in the latest issue of Gaming Law Review and Economics, about the Wire Act:

For a Camelot-era piece of legislation, the Wire Act has a long and unintended shadow. Used haltingly in the 1960s, when the Wire Act failed to deliver the death blow to organized crime, 1970’s Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) became a far better weapon against the mob. Yet starting in the 1990s, the Wire Act enjoyed a second life, when the Justice Department used to it prosecute operators on online betting websites that, headquartered in jurisdictions where such businesses were legal, took bets from American citizens. The legislative history and early applications of the Wire Act, however, suggest that it was intended for much more selective application, and the uses of the Act to penalize those who provide cross-border betting services to Americans, while perhaps faithful to the broad letter of the Act, are a departure from its spirit.

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. – Gaming Law Review and Economics – 147:533.

If you don’t have access to the journal online (i.e., you’re logging in from a school that subscribes), you’ll only be able to read the first page. For the whole story, either subscribe or check out my book-length discussion of the Wire Act, Cutting the Wire.

Tots in lots in Vegas Seven

Is it Thursday already? Then I’ve got something for you to read from Vegas Seven. This week, I talk about people leaving their kids in casino parking lots, which has reached crisis proportions in Pennsylvania:

Take, for example, the recent flap in Bensalem, Pa. A whopping seven times this summer, parents or grandparents left minors unattended in cars at the aptly named Parx casino north of Philadelphia. A public outcry ensued, with legislation that would make leaving a child unattended in a car a third-degree felony proposed to provide a disincentive for this behavior

via Making sure the kids are all right | Vegas Seven.

I like the headline.

And everyone who I talked to agreed, it’s a really bad idea to leave your children unattended in a casino parking lot. Or any parking lot, for that matter.

G2E on the move in V7

It’s a busy week, but I still had time for a Vegas Seven column about G2E moving:

Over the course of a week, Las Vegas hosts conventions and trade expos for industries from baking to sheet metal. So it’s not surprising that the world’s premier casino industry trade show, the Global Gaming Expo, is held here each fall. A recently announced change of venue for the convention highlights the important role the meeting plays in the national casino landscape.

via Gaming show finds a new home | Vegas Seven.

It’s a huge show, and I agree that the move will reinvigorate it. For now I’m going to enjoy G2E’s swansong at the LV Convention Center. Look for me to cover this in greater depth as we get there. I’m planning to pick out one, and perhaps two, stories to focus on, which will trade clarity on a single subject for a more comprehensive view. I figure that since the dailies will be doing the big picture stories, I can use my column to zero in on a single subject that might otherwise be neglected.

Look at quarterlies in LVBP

I’ve got another LVBP column up, in which I discuss whether looking at Nevada’s gaming numbers by quarters can yield any insights:

The financial quarter is a handy time measure for evaluating the Nevada gaming industry’s recessionary progress. Three months is long enough to absorb monthly volatilities, but not as long as a year. Looking at how different areas of the state have fared over the past three years may be the best way to forecast what will happen over the next three years.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Strip offers hope for recession-weary Nevada.

No matter which way you slice it, Las Vegas just isn’t looking very good right now. As much as I pooh-poohed analysts who offered sunnier outlooks earlier in the year, they might have been right in the short term, though it’s possible that we’re headed back down.

It’s really hard to use history to handicap the near future, but looking at these quarterly results really demonstrates the magnitude of the recession.

Recession luxe in Vegas Seven

This week’s Green Felt Journal is out–I talk a bit about marketing luxury properties during a recession. From Vegas Seven, as usual:

The laws of supply and demand aren’t sentimental, particularly when it comes to hotel rooms. No matter what kind of rate a suite might have gotten in the past, when there are more beds than bodies to fill them, the room rate will go down. But when running a luxury property, there are concerns beyond just filling rooms tonight: Long-term position of the hotel’s “brand” can make price-cutting a double-edged sword.

via Selling luxury in the Great Recession | Vegas Seven.

It’s been a busy week around here, which explains the fewer blog posts. I wanted to talk a bit about Bill Zender’s bacc protection seminar, which was profiled in the LV Sun. Some positive news is that instead of just doing a blog post about the kids unattended in cars thing, I’m writing a Vegas Seven article about it. I’ve already talked to Jerry Markling with the Gaming Control Board and look forward to talking with a few other people.

I also am working on a few work projects that I might talk about here, time permitting.

Casino Facebook games in Vegas Seven

At last I’m able to update my blog–it’s been a very busy day. I wanted to do a win/slot analysis to address the “fewer slot machines, but they have more games so it’s OK” idea, but that’s going to have to wait. Instead, read about my latest Vegas Seven column, which covers casinos breaking into the social games market:

Casinos in Las Vegas have been marketing through social media for some time now, mostly via Facebook and Twitter. Recently, however, two Las Vegas-based casino companies have taken their investment in social media to another level with Facebook applications.Facebook allows third-party developers to create applications, or apps, that users can access through their Facebook pages. Social games are some of the most popular apps available. Unlike sites that offer play-for-free or play-for-cash, these games require no download and can be played in a standard Web browser. By definition, they allow players to invite friends to join games and compete in friendly competitions.

via Casinos now playing Facebook games | Vegas Seven.

I played both games, and found the casino-builder to definitely require more attention as you play–no replying to emails in another tab while you play it.

This is probably going to be a big growth area, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see casinos big and small partnering with game developers.

Not a happy June in the LVBP

My latest Las Vegas Business Press column is out, in which I dissect the June Nevada numbers:

The June results are in, and whatever the national economic picture, one thing is certain: Nevada gaming remains moribund. The figures released by the Gaming Control Board aren’t much cause for optimism, though things look a little better for Southern Nevada than for the north.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Latest data provide little optimism for gaming.

Basically, even without the incredibly low bacc hold on the Strip, it wasn’t a good month for the state, as slot handle continues to fall and table handle is mostly kept afloat by high levels of bacc play, play which happens in maybe a dozen casinos. But even if the bacc hold percentage had been more in the house’s favor, it still probably would have been a flat month.

Also, an interesting article in the LV Sun about the decreasing number of slots in Nevada, something I’ve written about. I’ve got one question: if it’s just a matter of having more games on each slot, why has the statewide win per slot only inched up slightly ($108.76 vs. $110.04) since 2004? The total win is declining in addition to the total number of slots, so each slot is doing about the same about of “work” it was six years ago, multiple games or not. Sure, the counter-argument is that revenues would have declined more without the game menus, but still, there hasn’t been a real increase in per-machine revenue generation yet.

Creative El Cortez in Vegas Seven

It’s Thursday, so you’ve got more Vegas Seven goodness to read. This week, my contribution is a look into the El Cortez’s Design-a-Suite-Downtown competition:

Most casino executives view renovating hotel rooms as a necessary but disagreeable process. Room remodels are doubly expensive—they pull rooms out of the rental pool and incur labor and materials costs. It’s easy to see why few property owners look forward to them.The El Cortez, however, has found a way to use the renovation process to put the spotlight on itself and four Nevada design teams via its Design-a-Suite Downtown competition, showing again how it’s carving its own niche on Sixth and Fremont streets.

via El Cortez gets creative with design competition | Vegas Seven.

I think that what the El Cortez is going deserves notice. Between Emergency Arts, the Cabana Suites, and this, they’ve really done a lot of interesting things. It’s ironic that one of the most “old school” casinos–with coin-pay slots, no less–is also one of the most innovative. Or perhaps it’s not…

LLAP in V7

It’s Thursday, so the new Green Felt Journal is up at last:my weekend at the Star Trek convention, condensed to about 760 words, for Vegas Seven:

Anthony and Deidre Flood Jenkins are about to have the moment of a lifetime. Pavilion Room 4 at the Las Vegas Hilton might seem a funny place for this, but that’s where George Takei and Walter Koenig—who played Sulu and Chekov, respectively, in the original Star Trek—are taking pictures with fans. Anthony, who watched the show in its original run, is a bookseller; Deidre is a schoolteacher. Takei’s unmistakable baritone carries all the way through the line. The Jenkinses are about to meet their heroes.

via Trekkies teach Vegas how to live long and prosper | Vegas Seven.

Please click through and read it–this one was a lot of fun to research and very difficult to write. There were at least a dozen stories that I could have told, but this one–what we can learn from what goes on at the convention–seemed the most appropriate to the audience. Talking to Scott MacDonald and Randy Oglesby, the underlying truth of what they were saying dawned on me: this isn’t what we planned for, but this is great. It seemed that was an attitude we could use more of in Las Vegas today.

I’d like to thank everyone who talked with me over the weekend for sharing their insights and experiences. Even if they didn’t make it into the final cut, those thoughts helped me understand the convention much better.

Trying to edit this down, it occurred to me that this would make a great chapter in a book about Las Vegas–it would take five to seven thousand words to do it justice and really get into what’s going on.

I’m going to look at another facet of the convention for the Las Vegas Business Press in next-next week’s column, so keep your hailing frequencies open.