Station hiring in Vegas Seven

It’s Thursday, which means another Green Felt Journal is available for your reading pleasure in Vegas Seven. This one is a look behind Station Casino’s recent hiring push:

The local employment picture has been a dire one. In the past five years, the unemployment rate has more than tripled. That’s why a local company hiring 1,000 new employees is pretty good news.

Of course, even 1,000 jobs hardly puts a dent in the unemployment picture. With more than 140,000 Las Vegans out of work, even if every casino in town added 1,000 workers—and that’s just not going to happen—we’d still have an unemployment rate higher than it was four years ago.

More significant is what these hires say about the near-future of the Valley—and the nature of casino work.

via Station’s math: More employees mean more business | Vegas Seven.

The jobs themselves mean a lot, particularly to the people who got hired, but I think that long-term the more significant thing we can parse from this development is that we might be seeing a reverse of the trend towards fewer employees per position.

With 140,000 people out of work, though, even that’s not going to help really “put Las Vegas back to work.” All of the casinos in Clark County employ about 147,000 people. They’d each have to double their payrolls to solve the unemployment problem, and that’s clearly never going to happen. Moderately higher staffing levels across the industry will create a few thousand more jobs, but clearly Las Vegas is going to have to diversify.


Kyle Markman profile in Vegas Seven

This Thursday, there’s no local news section in Vegas Seven since it’s a special People issue. Instead, I wrote a brief profile of Kyle Markman, who’s been doing some very interesting things at Station Casinos:

Kyle Markman knows how to throw a party. In June 2008, it was his job to set up a celebration for the release of Nelly’s Brass Knuckles at Red Rock Resort. Nelly was so taken by Markman’s personal tour of the resort’s suites, pools and lounges—and the way Markman juggled arrangements and handled VIPs during the bash—that he filmed the entire video for “Body on Me” at the casino.

The 27-year-old has since been promoted to Station Casinos’ director of nightlife, and it’s a job that goes a lot deeper than making stars happy. “It’s not all about bottle service and oontz-oontz-oontz music,” he says. “It’s about giving locals someplace to have fun and a great value.”

via Kyle Markman | Vegas Seven.

Kyle was not only interesting to meet, but also a legitimately nice guy who’s got a good grasp of both the casino nightlife and locals entertainment. That summer concert series should be a real game-changer.


Gaming insider talks in Vegas Seven

The latest Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven is out. In it, I profile long-time Gaming Control Board inspector Patrick Wynn:

Many Nevadans have transitioned into new jobs and even careers. Patrick Wynn is one of them. The former Nevada Gaming Control Board deputy chief of investigations, who recently retired after more than 31 years of service, sees his new role as more of a shift in position than in mission.

Wynn, no relation to the casino operator, started his career with the Gaming Control Board after getting tired of living in Los Angeles. Looking to expand beyond his job—he was an accounts payable manager with Union Oil—Wynn got a position as an investigator. The division remained his home for the next three decades, minus a yearlong “sidestep” into enforcement.

via Gaming insider moves to the outside | Vegas Seven.

I had a ball listening to Wynn talk about his career. Naturally, he couldn’t share names or details with me, but it’s clear that he knows as much about the gaming industry–and particularly the financial side–as anyone else in the state.

It’s really fun getting to do these profile pieces. I don’t get to look at their hard drives or bank statements, but, like Wynn, I get to learn a little bit about what makes the subjects tick.


Casino cyber security in Vegas Seven

This week in Vegas Seven‘s Green Felt Journal, I take look at an interesting letter Randall Sayre sent last month that, I think, we’d all do well to read:

According to the letter from then-Gaming Control Board member Randall Sayre on Dec. 15, the board has investigated “numerous incidents” where databases containing personal and/or financial information had been compromised. Further, the board acknowledged that as the amount of information in those databases increased, they would become an even more inviting target.

While most players wouldn’t be happy if the world discovered just how much time they spent on Kitty Glitter, there is much more at stake: The personal and financial information sitting in casino databases represents a potential gold mine for cyber criminals.

via Serious about cyber security | Vegas Seven.

This is a really, really serious issue that deserves further investigation. Casinos are entrusted with an enormous amount of sensitive information, and the security of that information is of paramount importance.

I remember hearing about the Cisco incident last summer, but this is the first I heard about the Desert Rose breach.

Hopefully we don’t have to see a major breach of a casino database before everyone in the industry takes this as seriously as Sayre is suggesting.


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.


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.


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.


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.