31
Mar

Find DT’s hidden casino in Vegas Seven

Here’s a Vegas Seven story I had a lot of fun writing, about Downtown’s analog to the Cosmopolitan’s “hidden” pizzeria: a hidden casino:

By now, everyone’s heard about the Cosmopolitan’s secret pizzeria. There’s no sign, and it’s down a hallway decorated with LPs, but they do serve a tasty slice. Apparently, a lot of people have discovered something similar downtown—a “secret casino” with no hotel rooms, no entertainment, no restaurants, no loyalty program and no marketing offers.

via Open Secret | Vegas Seven.

I came up with the idea while I was interviewing people for the Loosening up Downtown story and noticed that, despite having significant barriers to entry, the Plaza’s casino was drawing players.

31
Mar

The Big Finish in Vegas Seven

It’s Thursday, so there’s a new Vegas Seven out. I’ve got two pieces in this one. Here’s the first, about betting on the Final Four:

March might be mad, but it’s also pretty lucrative for Las Vegas sports books. Most of the big casinos make betting on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament the centerpiece of a gambling vacation for the guys (and about 95 percent of them are guys—there’s still a heavy masculine slant to the party). The first extended weekend, in which 48 games are played over four days, is the busiest for most Nevada sports books. But Final Four weekend’s no slouch, either.

via The Big Finish | Vegas Seven.

Very frenetic stuff.

28
Mar

Riviera & North Strip’s plight in Two Way Hard Three

I’ve got a new piece up on Two Way Hard Three, about the Riviera’s recently-released annual report and what it says about the North Strip:

Riviera Holdings Corp, the company that owns the bankrupt Riviera casino hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, recently released its annual report. The company had a rough year, and a look at the financial reports from the last few years sheds some light on why the casino’s in such trouble, and why the Sahara is closing.

via Riviera financials show North Strip’s plight | Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog | from ratevegas.com.

The trend you’ll see in the chart I put together is certainly a disturbing one.

25
Mar

Pondering life after football in Vegas Seven

My final bit of writing for this week’s Vegas Seven is a Green Felt Journal column about the impact of a potential NFL work stoppage, exclusive of any lost gaming revenue. Here, I’m looking at how the locals would be impacted:

That a work stoppage will hurt the casinos of Las Vegas—particularly on the Strip—is hardly mysterious. Even though football betting doesn’t generate a ton of revenue for casinos (less than $26 million for the Strip in 2010 for both college and pro football), it’s an amenity that draws a relatively free-spending crowd. The casinos will be just as sad to see the sportsbook big screens tuned into bowling on Sunday as anyone.

via Tavern owners ponder life after football | Vegas Seven.

So this week you got about 3,000 words of mine to read in Vegas Seven, should you choose to do so. Add a few Two Way Hard Three pieces and the Las Vegas Business Press column, and that’s a respectable chunk of reading.

And I’m not taking the weekend off, so expect more next week. And the week after that. The sad thing is, if I had more time, I’d have even more to write about–there’s so much going on.

25
Mar

Vegas Mob Scrubbed Clean in Vegas Seven

A few weeks ago, I visited the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana. I shared some of my thoughts here, and then thought about it some more. The result is a feature piece Vegas Seven magazine:

With fedora-wearing ticket-takers and an almost-Technicolor presentation, it’s clear that the Mob Experience isn’t a dry, academic colloquium on criminal justice. With costumed actors and sets straight off a Hollywood back lot, this is a haunted-house history of Las Vegas and the mob: Frightening ghosts of Mafiosi past glower at us, but there’s little danger that they’ll make us think as we pass through. It’s Fright Dome with wiseguys instead of wraiths.

So, like the billboards, the museum itself depicts the world in black and white, with blood-red added for effect. Perhaps it’s not the best approach for a city whose history is dominated by shades of gray

via Scrubbed Clean | Vegas Seven.

This was a hard essay to write. Certainly anyone trying to put together a museum or attraction about organized crime history that’s geared towards the general public has their work cut out for them. It’s a controversial area that, to put it mildly, was not well documented. It’s difficult, then, to put together something that’s as comprehensive as, say, a history of the Civil War, or even of the Union Pacific Railroad.

And I kind of had a good time interacting with the actors at the LVME. It’s just that boiling down the history of American organized crime to bootlegging and skimming from Vegas casinos doesn’t seem to do anyone justice. And claiming that “the Mob built Las Vegas” is a real disservice to all of the non-mobbed-up men and women who actually did build Las Vegas.

25
Mar

Sahara Vs. Trop in Vegas Seven

This week I’ve got three separate pieces in Vegas Seven. The first is a short news item comparing and contrasting two Strip casinos with similar origins and dissimilar fates:

The Tropicana and the Sahara are a study in contrasts despite some shared history; at opposite ends of the Strip, both holdovers from the 1950s managed to survive into the 21st century. Both drifted further and further down market as they faced larger and more luxurious competitors. And, as of today, they are facing profoundly different fates. One is closing, while the other has a new lease on life.

via A Tale of Two Casinos | Vegas Seven.

Why did they end up going in different directions? I’d say it’s equal parts decision-making and geography. Obviously, the Tropicana’s going to get much more walk-in action and attract more people who want to be around other casinos. The Sahara, as of today, is almost in a no-man’s-land. The decision making part is: the Sahara folks (SBE) wanted to go for a massive renovation project that would have aimed towards the luxury market, and missed the timing. Two years earlier, and they’d have gotten funding, no problem. The Tropicana, on the other hand, took a smaller approach, simply remodeling its rooms for the mid-market.

23
Mar

Sahara signals Strip woes in LVBP

I’ve got a new column in the Las Vegas Business Press, in which I consider the meaning of the Sahara’s impending closure.

Even in flush times, running a Las Vegas casino was never a license to print money. Casinos have changed hands, declared bankruptcy and even closed their doors. But the recently announced closing of the Sahara, a fixture on the Strip since 1952, is a worrying sign for everyone. Should no one step in to buy the casino and keep it open, it’s a sure signal that the gaming industry faces more challenges ahead.

For much of the past, when casinos found themselves mired in red ink it was usually considered an opportunity, not a calamity. Those running the casino naturally were amazed that their surefire plans to become Las Vegas moguls were fizzling, but there were always others who could see some upside. An individual property might be taking on water, but faith in the broader market was airtight.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : No takers for Sahara means Strip is hitting its limit.

I spent some time at the Sahara on Monday, and I’ll be sad to see it go. It reminds me a lot of the casinos in Atlantic City in the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s a real contrast to the sleeker, bigger casinos that dominate the Strip. Then again, I also got nostalgic smelling the back of the house smell at the Fremont, which brought me back to my carefree days at the Taj.

23
Mar

Summary & thoughts about AB 258 on TWHT

I’ve got another post up on Two Way Hard Three, breaking down AB 258, which would legalize online poker in Nevada:

A bill currently on the floor of the Nevada legislature’s getting a lot of attention. AB 258 would legalize online poker in the state of Nevada and, with the consent of partner states, outside it as well.I thought I’d look at the text of the bill and share my thoughts.

AB 258: Legal online poker in Nevada

It’s a bill that I think has a great deal of potential for the state–I hope it gets an good hearing from the legislators.

20
Mar

Bacc and penny thoughts on TWHT

My first post at Two Way Hard Three is up–it’s a few thoughts where Nevada gaming’s headed right now (as opposed to six months ago):

Last week, one of the local dailies ran a story reporting on the latest trend: baccarat and penny slots are big revenue producers for casinos, particularly on the Las Vegas Strip.

Great story, but it’s about 6 months out of date–at least where baccarat’s concerned. And, as a look at the numbers will show, the ascendancy of the penny slot is hardly news. There’s a real story in here, but it’s not the one you read in the paper–and it’s not necessarily a good one for Nevada gaming.

Thoughts on Bacc and Pennies – Two Way Hard Three

Go ahead and read it–it’s the kind of extended analysis that I look forward to doing there.

16
Mar

Loosening Up Downtown in Vegas Seven

The new Vegas Seven is available online now, and I’ve got an interesting piece about some happenings Downtown:

The folks running downtown’s Las Vegas Club hotel-casino think the slot players are right. PlayLV, which operates the club for the multinational investment group Tamares, has embarked on an ambitious course of slot-loosening—and a pull-no-punches campaign to let downtown gamblers know about it.

via Loosening Up | Vegas Seven.

This was a lot of fun to research, mostly because I don’t usually get to talk to people with such strong differences of opinion (well, except for John Curtas and Marilyn Spiegel, maybe). The biggest obstacle that the LVC will face, I think, is getting the players to actually believe that they’ve willingly loosened their slots.

Steve Rosen’s thoughts about Downtown branding itself specifically as a value gaming destination, with loose slots above everything else, are interesting, and make some sense. A few years ago hotel and f&B values were enough to distinguish Downtown from the Strip, but today that’s no longer the case. Would giving gamblers genuinely looser slots make a difference? I think it might.

Here’s a custom piece of art the PlayLV folks sent me that didn’t make the magazine–I still think it’s pretty funny:
Vegas Club loose slot ad

“The Center of Pleasure Has Shifted,” it’s not.