Archive for the writing Category

Cosmopolitan will start an era in LVBP

In my latest Las Vegas Business Press column, I talk about how the Cosmopolitan marks the beginning of an era on the Strip:

With the opening of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, some observers believe we';re seeing the end of an era. Unless the economy improves remarkably, it';s likely the last new hotel-casino that will open on the Strip for quite some time.But there’s a lot to suggest that The Cosmopolitan marks the beginning of the next phase of Las Vegas.

For one, The Cosmopolitan is the first bank-owned casino to open on the Strip. As such, it’s a sign of the new economic realities of Las Vegas. Developers are no longer getting blank checks from lenders or investors. The recent fizzled initial public stock offering by Harrah’s Entertainment now Caesars Entertainment Corp. is a less visible reminder, but The Cosmopolitan, opening after a Deutsche Bank affiliate bought the project out of foreclosure, is a skyscraping reminder that there’s life after default.

Las Vegans whose neighborhoods are dotted with foreclosed homes and who are underwater in their own mortgages, might take some solace in that.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Cosmopolitan debut will start, not end, new era.

This is the final piece in my pre-opening Cosmopolitan media trifecta. You can get the other two-thirds, which appeared in Vegas Seven magazine last week, right here.

I know this might be at odds with what most other people are saying–probably even what’s been said in some stories I’ve been quoted in–but I think it gives a different perspective on what’s going on with the Strip today.

Remember that we had about 5 years–2000 to 2005–without a major opening on the Strip, so this isn’t unprecedented. The longest drought was the 1973-1989 wait between MGM Grand and the Mirage, even though there were plenty of expansions and smaller properties (Barbary Coast is one) opening during that time.

Instead of looking backward, I thought it might be good to try to look forward and see what we can read into the future, based on how the Cosmopolitan’s shown itself to be different. Interesting thought exercise that I hope gets people thinking.

History of White House Subs in Casino Connection AC

The latest Casino Connection Atlantic City is out, and my AC History piece is about a real Atlantic City institution, White House Subs:

Mention the White House to longtime Atlantic City residents, and their first thought isn’t the building with the Oval Office, but the local landmark at Arctic and Mississippi avenues.

Now part of the city’s gastronomical DNA, The White House Sub Shop dates back to October 1946, when Anthony Basile, a 20-year old Atlantic City native, home from serving his country in the Philippines, decided to open his own eatery.

via In the Neighborhood: The History of White House Subs | In the Neighborhood: The History of White House Subs | Casino Connection Atlantic City.

I really enjoyed writing this one. Now I’ve got a hankering for a White House cheese steak that just won’t go away.

Cosmopolitan coverage in Vegas Seven

I’m thrilled that two-thirds of my Cosmopolitan pre-opening trifecta are out. In today’s Vegas Seven, I’ve got two pieces about the soon-to-open casino.

The first is a profile of John Unwin, the Cosmopolitan’s CEO:

John Unwin’s not quite moved into his new office—the artwork’s still waiting to be hung and the shelves are mostly bare—but he’s right at home as the Cosmopolitan hurtles toward its Dec. 15 opening. As of this writing, it’s 14 days, three hours, 47 minutes and eight seconds until the curtain officially rises, according to the Strip-front clock. For the CEO, life and work will be controlled chaos until then, and probably for some time afterward.“The last two weeks are always nuts,” he says with a smile that belies the oncoming storm. “Even if we pushed the opening back four months, the last two weeks would still be just as crazy. That’s just how it is.”His crisp white shirt and dark purple tie, framed by a well-tailored gray suit, match the color palette of the Cosmopolitan’s logo. At this point, it’s hard to tell where the hotel ends and the man begins.

via A Shot at the Brass Ring | Vegas Seven.

I really liked talking to John. He’s an extremely interesting guy, and extremely engaging. Fantastic story-teller, too.

My second piece is in the Green Felt Journal. It focuses on what the “curious class” is, isn’t, and might be:

“It’s not a demographic,” Cosmopolitan chief strategy officer Sherry Harris says. “It’s a mindset.” Yet Harris has a strong image of who is in the curious class.

“She defines herself in terms of wanting something new and different, but it has to be meaningful and relevant. The new luxury is less about status and more about purpose. It’s defined as seeking experience over services, and it requires emotional connection that is worth returning to.”

Lisa Marchese, senior vice president of brand marketing, offers an explanation of the brand that will draw this adventure-seeking guest.

“Basically, it’s ‘polish without pretense.’ That’s our guardrail for every decision we make, from what amenities we have in the rooms to the artists on our marquee. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is about creating stories that are worth telling.”

Catering to the ‘curious class’

As always, the proof is in the pudding, and we’ll learn a great deal about the efficacy of catering to the curious class once the Cosmopolitan has been open.

Five diamond party in Vegas Seven

Went looking for my Green Felt Journal column in the Local section of Vegas Seven’s newsroom this morning. I didn’t find it. “Well that’s not a good sign,” I thought.

Then I took another look at the mouseover menu for News and saw that the Green Felt Journal now has its own dedicated section. Cool.

This week, I share some of the vibe from the Bellagio Five Diamond celebration:

The fun started at 10 p.m. with a DJ spinning hits in the M Life headquarters across from Mangia, Bellagio’s employee cafeteria, which retooled its menu for the occasion. Employees dined on dishes inspired by the creations served at Bellagio’s gourmet restaurants, such as Sensi’s cedar plank salmon, Picasso’s paella and Le Cirque’s lobster salad.

The crown jewel, however, might have been the five-tier, five-diamond cake crafted by Bellagio executive pastry chef Jean-Marie Auboine, with five sugar diamonds representing the prestigious award.

via Five stars and one big party | Vegas Seven.

Full disclosure: I was induced into eating an unbelievably tasty macaroon at the party, but wasn’t otherwise plied with free stuff. Even so, the giddiness was infectious: hopefully I can communicate everyone’s excitement and pride.

On another note, I was walking through the Spa tower yesterday en route to Cosmopolitan (right now, Bellagio self-park seems to be the best option for the under-construction resort). Got to thinking about the Bellagio’s soundtrack, which segued from a Phil Collins “Two Hearts” (tell me that doesn’t put a spring in your step) to Bruce Springsteen “Dancing in the Dark.” Great songs, but nothing you wouldn’t hear on the radio.

Contrast that to Wynn/Encore, where you get Wynnified versions of songs that you’ve heard before. It’s hard to describe, but they feature a breathy-voiced female vocalist singing over a trip-hoppy beat. Last time I was there, I heard a Wynnified “I Know It’s Only Rock and Roll But I Like It.”

Definitely a different vibe. I wonder how the select the songs to be Wynnified. There’s so songs I’d really like to hear that way.

G2E evolves in the Las Vegas Business Press

In this week’s Las Vegas Business Press, I offer a long view of the Global Gaming Expo:

The conference panels are finished though they have been recorded for posterity, and the last of the exhibit booths have been disassembled at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It is an appropriate time to consider how the industry has changed since the first G2E — and how the conference has adapted to suit it.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Expo keeping pace as gaming evolves globally.

When you look back it, there really have been a lot of changes over the past decade. Many of them didn’t seem that game-changing at the time, but together they’ve made for a vastly different casino landscape.

Tales from G2E in Vegas Seven

It may be Thanksgiving, but it’s still Thursday, so a new Vegas Seven has hit the streets with its usual Green Felt Journal adorning the local news section. This week, I look at the mayhem that was the Global Gaming Expo, with a focus on a smaller exhibitor:

The exhibitors are a diverse lot, as casino suppliers and potential casino suppliers go. For every heavyweight such as Global Cash Access or International Game Technology with a massive spread on the expo floor and private areas for salespeople and buyers to work out deals, there are smaller, almost mom-and-pop operations. The developer of Die Rich Craps, Ken Coleman, is one of them, demoing the game himself in his booth.The big exhibitors might be the heart of G2E, but the one- and two-person setups valiantly selling everything from chip-cleaning machines to name badges might be its soul.

via Tales from the Global Gaming Expo | Vegas Seven.

This was a fun story to write. I didn’t want to just rehash the usual reportage about the slot giants or echo what was going on in the conference sessions, so I decided to look for a small booth that exemplified what the show is all about. After ten G2Es, I’ve got a good feel for that.

Just think about the hope and courage it takes to cram a booth into your luggage somewhere in Budapest and fly out to Las Vegas, with no guarantee of making a single sale. To me, that’s what the conference is all about.

And if you want a neat flash-based intro to Kabala 6 (which didn’t work so well on my laptop, but YMMV), check this out:

M Resort reshuffle in Vegas Seven

Even though I’m having a phenomenally busy week, I can still post a link to my latest piece for Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. It’s about the reaction at the M Resort to Penn National’s recent debt acquisition:

On a recent Saturday afternoon, there was no sign that any change was imminent on the M’s casino floor. Gamblers were playing more than half of the resort’s 1,900 or so slot machines—good business for an average weekend—and the tables were doing a similar business, with an energetic crowd circled around a $5 craps table, and the blackjack and pai gow poker tables similarly jumping.

via Reshuffling at M Resort not hurting business | Vegas Seven.

It was a fun story to research. I got to spend some time hanging out at the M’s casino, and got to talk to Anthony Marnell. Reading between the lines of what he said and what he didn’t say, I might guess that we’ll hear some bigger news about his future soon, but this is all just speculation on my part.

Casino employment in LVBP

This week in the Las Vegas Business Press, I take a deeper look at the recent employment study I did over at UNLV:

By the same token, examining the numbers isn’t just a dry exercise in statistics. It helps us understand what’s going on when people gain and lose jobs in the casino industry. And it can give everyone in the state an insight into what to expect in the near future from the state’s highest-profile employer. As of last year, about 177,000 Nevadans worked in hotel-casinos, dealing cards, making beds, serving drinks and doing countless other jobs. That’s an impressive total — just less than 7 percent of the state’s total population. But in the long view, it’s not that large a number.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Expect high productivity, fewer workers in casinos.

I’m continuing to work on the study, with in-depth looks at the Las Vegas Strip, Boulder Strip, and Washoe County. It definitely helps but our current economic situation into perspective.

Talking Vegas debt in Vegas Seven

Another Thursday, another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week, I tackle casino debt with the help of Eugene Christiansen:

It’s no secret that casino companies are more debt-encumbered now than they’ve ever been. In 1990, the average big Las Vegas Strip casino (those earning more than $72 million a year in gaming revenue), had $7.8 million in long-term debt attached to it. By 1999, that number had soared to $171.5 million. And as of 2009, the total stood at $860 million. That’s a lot of borrowing.

And yet casinos continue to borrow money—last month MGM Resorts International sold nearly $500 million in bonds that it plans to use to pay loans that are coming due in 2011. And Boyd Gaming is preparing a similarly sized bond offering for much the same purpose.

Gambling on debt | Vegas Seven

It’s almost hard to wrap your head around how much debt casinos have these days. This is definitely a concern for the financial health of the industry, and therefore the state, in the future.

I’ll probably be writing more about casino debt in the coming months, though it will likely be in a more academic channel.

Vegas convention tech in Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal I look at how technology is changing the convention biz in Vegas:

Getting conventions to come back isn’t going to be easy, though both the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority and several casinos are reporting more robust bookings next year. The challenge will be keeping these guests happy in Las Vegas, and increasingly, technology is helping to do that.

via Vegas convention biz heads for cutting edge | Vegas Seven.

This is definitely a topic I’d like to return to. I think that getting feedback from customers on the ground level would be a great way to determine how casinos can use the right technical applications to get a competitive advantage over other convention destinations.