4
Jan

Tony Grant, Star Maker in Casino Connection AC

This month, I have a milestone Atlantic City history column in Casino Connection that celebrates one of the real personalities of Atlantic City, Tony “Mr. Wonderful” Grant:

Today, most of the entertainment in Atlantic City comes courtesy of seasoned veterans and nationally known recording artists. Once, however, the city was a mecca for amateur performers seeking applause—all courtesy of one man, whose name became synonymous with young talent. A staple on Steel Pier for 32 years, Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow show gave thousands of children their first taste of the performing arts.

via Star Maker | Star Maker | Casino Connection Atlantic City.

Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow was one of the real institutions of post-war Atlantic City. Generations of children performed in his shows. This was a fun column to research; I found the Stars of Tomorrow Facebook page, which is a real treasure trove, and got to interview Tony’s grand-daughter Roxann.

It’s a milestone column because this is the last print edition of Casino Connection, so this is the final Atlantic City history column I’ll be writing for them. It’s been a great run–more than seven years of monthly columns–that gave me a chance to explore the history of my hometown and share some neat things with readers. I’d like to thank Roger Gros for giving me a great opportunity to write about a topic I’m passionate about for so long, Rob Rossiello for pairing my words with some fine images, Boo Pergament for sharing his photos with us, and the entire staff of the Atlantic City Free Public Library–particularly Pat Rothenberg (reference) and Heather Halpin Perez (Heston Collection). And of course everyone who read the column–thanks.

28
Dec

October & the future in LVBP

This week in the Las Vegas Business Press, I finally get a chance to discuss the October Nevada gaming numbers:

For both the state and the Strip, it was the third consecutive month of positive year-over-year revenue growth — as good a sign as any that, for now at least, the bleeding has stopped. At the very least, the data suggest that revenues for Nevada casinos have stabilized.

Yet October was very different from previous months, particularly on the Strip.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : October numbers may point way to future.

It’s definitely shaping up to be a more varied year than 2008 and 2009 as far as the gaming revenue numbers go. I predict more volatility in the near future.

17
Dec

Silverton goes off-beat in Vegas 7

I missed this yesterday, but my latest Green Felt Journal column is out in Vegas Seven. It’s about some of the unusual events taking place at the Silverton:

Santa is floating inside the 117,000-gallon aquarium at the Silverton Casino and Lodge, his white beard billowing as the parrot fish and stingrays glide by. He’s taking orders for Xbox Lives and bikes via an assistant standing outside with a microphone.

“This is very unusual,” says one Summerlin resident who is here with her three toddlers to see Santa. “But it’s great. I love it.”

Once known for its bargain buffets, a 2004 renovation gave the property a more upscale look and higher-end amenities such as the Twin Creeks steak house. The recession shelved plans for a larger expansion, and in the current economic climate, the casino is finding it as hard to compete as anyone else.So, snorkeling Santa to the rescue.

via Not your father’s casino marketing strategy | Vegas Seven.

The underwater Santa was really quite unusual. With the microphone picking up his scuba breathing, it really sounded like he was about to ask HAL to open the pod bay doors. Very surreal.

14
Dec

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.

13
Dec

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.

9
Dec

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.

2
Dec

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.

30
Nov

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.

25
Nov

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: http://www.numbersplay.com/kabala6/.

18
Nov

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.