Archive for the writing Category

Harrah’s Twitter Team in Vegas 7

Thursday means another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I discuss the team behind Harrah’s tweets:

Social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook have been invaluable tools for casinos. They can foster a sense of familiarity with guests, but they are anything but casual. Plenty of work goes into manning the new-media ramparts for Las Vegas casinos.

Harrah’s Entertainment took its embrace of new media to the next level by launching its New Media team in February. The group, directed by David Koloski, includes Eric Petersen, the manager of social media strategy, who takes the company’s interactive Tweeting and Facebooking very seriously.

via New Media team keeps Harrah’s up to speed | Vegas Seven.

I’ve just finished my pilot study of casino Twitter, which is available here. If I have time today in between a few other updates and other work stuff, I’ll try to post some of my thoughts on the study.

Numbers tell the story

It’s Thursday, which means a new Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I tackle long-range planning, a topic I started thinking about after the euro’s decline two weeks ago:

Tourism is a fraught industry. There’s always something that can keep visitors away—from health scares to economic malaise—out of the control of managers trying to operate resorts. Trying to adjust to meet new challenges can frustrate even the best-prepared Las Vegas executive.

Take, for example, the value of the euro. Since 2003, the dollar has been relatively weak against the euro. This is bad news if you’ve taken a European vacation; your dollars don’t go very far. But for American cities that host European travelers, it’s been a bonanza. Western Europeans have flooded Las Vegas in recent years, spending freely, even when domestic visitation has dropped.

via Many numbers help paint European tourism picture | Vegas Seven.

There is really an amazing amount of forecasting that goes on up and down the Strip. And it’s interesting to be reminded that events far away have very real impacts here in Las Vegas.

Gambling fact and gambling fiction

My latest Las Vegas Business Press column is an extended take on the issue of accuracy in gaming stats, brought on by the Andy Rooney commentary of a few weeks ago:

The gambling business is all about numbers. Whether it’;s a roulette table, a lottery or a low-stakes bingo game, it’s impossible to run without knowing exactly what’s coming in and what’s going out. Because states share gaming revenues through taxes, it’s in their interests to keep well informed about these numbers. For that reason, legal gambling is well documented.

So it’s disappointing, at the very least, when people talking about gambling insist on ignoring — or worse, making up — facts that are in the public domain.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Without numerical facts, gaming talk spreads fiction.

I don’t think that this is going away any time soon, but we can always hope.

Brito’s Gambet

It’s Thursday, which means a new Green Felt Jungle piece in Vegas Seven. This week, I talk about one of the more interesting game inventors I’ve met, Jose Brito:

There’s never any shortage of new table games in Nevada. Right now, there are 557 table games approved for the state’s casinos, though you rarely see more than a dozen or so at any casino. But Jose Brito’s quest to find a niche shows that an Old Vegas attitude doesn’t have to mean more of the same old games.

Brito is a genuine casino old-timer who broke into the business at age 23 dealing blackjack, baccarat and roulette in Havana in the 1950s. The Tropicana Night Club Casino and El Casino at the famous Havana Hilton were excellent training grounds, and Brito learned the nuts and bolts of gambling there.

via Casino old-timer getting back in game with Gambet | Vegas Seven.

Brito has a really interesting story, and his game makes a lot of sense. I hope it gets a shot on the Strip.

UPDATE: I’ve been told that Brito has a few demonstrations scheduled, and is very interested in talking to casino executives about his game. Brito is working with Reggie Burton Communications to market the game to casinos. If you are a gaming executive interested in a demonstration, please contact Reggie Burton at 702-558-9202 or email to

Trop tale in Vegas Seven

My latest Green Felt Journal piece is out, in Vegas Seven. I get to name-drop Heraclitus to sound sophisticated before talking about the redo of the Trop:

That’s because the only thing that doesn’t change around this town is change. There are few other places where anyone would even consider spending $150 million to “relaunch” a resort that cost $1.4 billion to build a mere seven years after its opening. But when that happened at the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood in 2007, few were surprised.

A similar change is taking place at the Tropicana, and not a moment too soon. One of the oldest resorts remaining on the Strip (it opened in 1957), the Tropicana, after an increasingly parsimonious corporate stewardship over the past few years, is enjoying a renaissance under the leadership of Alex Yemenidjian, chairman and CEO of Tropicana Las Vegas, and new president Tom McCartney.

The current economy dictates nothing too ambitious—certainly nothing like the 10,000-room mega-expansion previous owners Columbia Sussex mooted back in 2006. With a recent Tropicana financial filing admitting there is an “imbalance” in room inventory, it’s not a question of trying to add capacity, it’s about competing with bargain rates at younger properties.

via Transforming the Tropicana | Vegas Seven.

Interesting to see what’s going on there–and if you’re in town, enjoy the opportunity of seeing the casino in mid-change.

Texting Terribles in Vegas Seven

It’s Thursday, which means the latest Green Felt Jungle in Vegas Seven is out. This week I talk about the Primm casinos texting promotion that you probably know about if you’ve driven along I-15 in either direction in the past few weeks:

The company is just coming out of bankruptcy, and its Primm properties might be the best route back to solvency.

That’s because those casinos are in position to exploit a rare bright spot: While most tourism indicators are down, traffic on Interstate 15 is actually up. Every day, about 35,000 vehicles whiz past Primm on their way north. Capturing just a slice of that traffic has been Job No. 1 at Primm since the first casino opened there in 1977. But today, the area’s casinos are using new technologies to improve their technique.

Even before there was an interstate running from California to Las Vegas, billboard advertising was one of the ways that value-oriented casinos tried to reach customers. As traffic moved from Highway 91 to I-15, the billboards got bigger, but the messages remained the same.But since March, the New Member Millionaire Mania promotion has used cell phones to move those ads into the 21st century.

via Texting promotion driving traffic to Primm casinos | Vegas Seven.

Good article to research–I tried to find the earliest example of highway advertising I could, but the furthest back I got was a few shots from the Binion’s collection of 1960s-era billboards. I think the most important thing here is that Richey hits the nail on the head: it’s not enough to just use technology, there’s got to be a good promotion under it. And it doesn’t get much better than free money.

ABSCAM in Casino Connection

It’s not the proudest moment in Atlantic City history, but it’s an important one nonetheless. This month in Casino Connection, I take a look at ABSCAM:

There aren’t any commemorative parties, but this year marks the 30th anniversary of a major Atlantic City news story-the Abscam investigation.

The investigation—in which FBI agents posed as the henchman of a fictitious Arab sheik, Kambir Abdul Rahman, to uncover a corrupt congressman—took its name from Abdul Enterprises, the sheik’s alleged company. Though Atlantic City wasn’t a primary target of the sting, repercussions here led to big changes in the way New Jersey regulates casinos.

News of the investigation broke like a thunderbolt on February 2, 1980. The FBI announced it had snared numerous public officials, including New Jersey Senator Harrison Williams and seven members of Congress, in a two-year undercover investigation. The probe also included a member of the Casino Control Commission.

via The Sting | The Sting | Casino Connection Atlantic City.

Interesting story that forced some changes in the regulatory structure.

TI talk in Vegas Seven

The latest Vegas Seven is out, and in it I talk a little about Treasure Island, post-MGM Mirage:

Treasure Island sits next to The Mirage, the casino that changed the Strip when it opened in 1989, and across the street from the Venetian/Palazzo and Wynn/Encore megaplexes, representing billions of dollars in casino capital. It’s not part of a national powerhouse such as Harrah’s Entertainment, and it doesn’t have an outpost in Macau. Owner Phil Ruffin is the only beneficiary of last year’s great deconsolidation trend that was supposed to see fire sales dismember the Strip’s big owners. Instead, MGM Mirage sold Ruffin Treasure Island, which today is an island unto itself on the Strip.

The Kansas billionaire bought a unique challenge: making a go of a Strip casino without a large convention center to lure profitable midweek business travelers or a national loyalty program feeder. It’s been more than a year since Ruffin closed on the casino, and what he’s done since then says a great deal about what works in Las Vegas today.

via Treasure Island finds niche with diversity under Ruffin | Vegas Seven.

The casino’s headed in an interesting direction that I think people should take note of. If nothing else, it’s proving that singly-owned casinos can still compete.

Green cuisine at Bellagio

In honor of Earth Day, I gave this week’s Green Felt Jungle an environmental twist:

The casino resorts of the Las Vegas Strip do not spring to mind as environmentally sound institutions. From their blazing marquees to their overflowing buffets, they seem to be studies in excess. With the current mindset conflating any sort of personal indulgence with environmental degradation, casinos seem a lost cause.But many casinos have made great strides in delivering a little slice of decadence to their patrons in ways that use fewer resources and are more cost-effective. If protecting the environment is important to patrons, it stands to reason that they will sooner spend their money at a vacation resort that works to minimize its environmental impact than one that doesn’t.

via Bellagio offers fine example of embracing green, cuisine | Vegas Seven.

Fun story to research. The sheer scale of everything at Bellagio was amazing, and there’s nothing I like more than walking the back of the house to see how everything gets put together. I had another interesting factoid about slot machines that I didn’t use because I couldn’t fit it into the column, but I think it’s interesting anyway. I’ll see if I can find it and append it here later on.

Old-school at the eC

This week’s Green Felt Journal is about the El Cortez:

In many ways, the El Cortez is the anti-CityCenter. Built in 1941, it’s the oldest continuously operating hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Its most prominent feature—the “new” neon sign—was installed in 1946. It has only 364 guest rooms, and, for better or worse, it’s in the middle of a real urban neighborhood.

Yet there are some similarities to CityCenter. The El Cortez has a swanky nongaming hotel a few steps from the casino. The old Ogden House, massively renovated in 2009 and reopened as the Cabana Suites, might not have the Mandarin Oriental’s cache, but its art-deco-meets-mid-century modern stylings and contemporary fittings (plasma screens and iPod docks) are a fraction of the price. And, thanks to the renovation, natural light spills through the hallways.

via Old-school El Cortez wins by staying relevant | Vegas Seven.

I had a lot of fun researching this story, much of which was talking with Mike Nolan. As I referenced in the article, he’s been around for a while and really knows a lot about the business.

There were really two separate things I wanted to get across–that it’s still “old school” gambling at the eC, but that there’s a lot of new stuff, and that the casino’s connecting with the arts in a different way. The first is pretty obvious if you walk around the place. Hearing the plinking of coin-in slot machines really brought me back–you don’t miss it until you hear it again. The El Cortez is just a cool, unpretentious place.

The second point, about the arts, needs a little more explaining. This isn’t a contrived attempt at being hip or artsy, it’s just a response to what’s happening downtown. Opening the former Fremont Medical Center as Emergency Arts is a brilliant move, and really the logical way to bring the arts into the neighborhood. It’s the kind of thing that CityCenter could have done, but didn’t. Sure, there’s galleries there, but if they’d have converted some of their condos into artists’ lofts and recruited artists from all around the country to move in, they might have had something unique. They wouldn’t have made much money renting the spaces–I’d practically give them away–but you’d at least create an attraction, and maybe start drawing serious art patrons, a group that would probably be comfortable with the luxury, non-trad-Vegas approach at CityCenter. That’s what got me thinking about the “anti-CityCenter” idea.

The El Cortez has done this on a downtown budget, and I’m eager to see how it turns out.

One stat I didn’t get to include: the El Cortez’s casino has about 70% local patrons, 30% visitor. With that many repeat locals, you know that they’re doing something right as far as the gambling goes. I don’t think many locals would drive down there for 6/5 blackjack.

So if you haven’t seen the El Cortez for a while, give it a chance.