Archive for the writing Category

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.

Bilingual blackjack in Vegas Seven

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I look at the innovation of bilingual blackjack tables at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm:

Richey has found that it’s a market loyal to casinos that offer good values for food and entertainment, something for which the Primm casinos are well suited. It helps that catering to the area’s Spanish speakers is a natural complement to the company’s bus program, which ferries dozens of busloads of California gamblers to Primm on peak days.The easiest way to roll out the welcome mat, Herbst has learned, is to speak the language of your customers. The company debuted a Nevada first: bilingual blackjack tables.

via Bilingual is in the cards in Primm | Vegas Seven.

Judging from the amount of play I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other casinos doing this pretty soon.

13th floor fun in Vegas Seven

My latest Green Felt Journal is up in Vegas Seven. This week I talk about a brand new attraction at Circus Circus that’s a little spooky:

About this time every year, theme parks around the country get a monthlong reprieve from the off-season as they re-theme themselves for Halloween. No one wants to float down a lazy river in October, but being chased by zombies through a maze is another story. Locally, Circus Circus is making the most of scare season with two attractions that promise to terrify patrons.

via Welcome to the 13th Floor | Vegas Seven.

This was a fun story to research–I talked a little bit about my experience on the most recent Vegas Gang podcast.

It’s a quick, fun tour, and might be a neat side-trip if you’re coming to town for Vegas Podcast-a-palooza.

Baccarat doesn’t = back in LVBP

In my latest Las Vegas Business Press column, I dissect the August 2010 Nevada gaming numbers:

And if your casino doesn't offer baccarat or high-end play, you might be out of luck. With only 22 out of the 329 casinos with nonrestricted licenses in the state 6.7 percent offering the game, only a few are sharing in the baccarat bounty.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Bounce in baccarat doesn’t signal recovery.

I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a caller who wouldn’t identify herself but still had a very good question: could the rise in gaming revenues be tied to the extension of unemployment benefits?

My first thought was, “I really hope not,” and the nature of the revenues suggests that’s not the case, unless the unemployed are betting big on baccarat. But other revenues are up slightly, and my caller shared an admittedly anecdotal but no less valid example: her neighbor, thanks to the extension, received six weeks worth of checks at once, paid her rent, and gambled much of the rest of it away.

If you multiply that by a few thousand (a big if), you could have a definite bump in gaming revenues, albeit one at taxpayer expense.

You might be able to figure out if this was so by looking at gaming revenues on a day-by-day basis. A big jump in the days after the unemployment checks mail would tend to support the theory. On the other hand, if people from other states are taking their money and vacationing in Vegas, it would be hard to correlate.

Podcast-a-palooza in Vegas Seven

Thursday once again brings a new Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This week I talk about an event that I’m privileged to be a part of, Vegas Podcast-a-palooza:

The event is called Vegas Podcast-a-palooza, and it brings together three prominent Las Vegas podcasts: the Vegas Gang, a roundtable discussion among several Vegas aficionados (including this author) with a business and design focus; The Strip Podcast, Steve Friess and Miles Smith’s interview/discussion show; and Five Hundy by Midnight, Tim and Michele Dressen’s view of Las Vegas from a visitor’s perspective (the two have had a love affair with the city since their marriage here in 1997). Each show broadcasts live, from Las Vegas, in front of an audience.

via Podcast-a-palooza comes to the Flamingo | Vegas Seven.

I strongly encourage you to come down to Vegas Podcast-a-Palooza on October 30, at 4 PM, at the Flamingo GO pool (plug finished). It should be a lot of fun. You can get the tickets and all the info you need–including stuff on the 3X Total Rewards multiplier–right here.

Liz Butler’s story in Vegas Seven

It’s another Thursday, which means another Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. This one is about a remarkable woman who works at the El Cortez, Liz Butler:

If you want a lesson in Las Vegas history, you don’t have to go much farther than Liz Butler, who’s still serving drinks at the El Cortez. With an accent and attitude that betrays her East Coast roots, she’s been a fixture at the El Cortez for nearly four decades, and she doesn’t show any sign of leaving.

via Four decades at the El Cortez | Vegas Seven.

This was my favorite story to write in the past few months. I really liked talking with Liz, and I hope that I could communicate some of her personality through the story. She’s really interesting, and has that total New Yorker attitude, in a good way.

Alfred Heston in Casino Connection

This month in Casino Connection, I take a look back at one of Atlantic City’s most honest public officials, and its first noteworthy historian, Alfred Heston:

Atlantic City has seen generations of public officials and interested citizens, but few residents have left a legacy as monumental as Alfred Miller Heston, a newspaper publisher, historian and city official.

via Making History: Atlantic City’s Alfred Heston | Casino Connection Atlantic City.

This was a fun one to write. Heston was a truly unique Atlantic City character, and his name lives on in the Heston Collection at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.

Response to another lame take on Vegas

What is it about Las Vegas that brings out the worst in some writers? The latest victim shares his thoughts on Las Vegas in Smithsonian Magazine, though I cant imagine why an editor would solicit this kind of superficial “analysis,” much less publish it:

I knew, going in, that I’d feel out of place. The glitz, the kitsch, the acid-trip architecture—Vegas isn’t me. I’m more a Vermont guy. I’ve never actually lived in Vermont, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking of myself as a Vermont guy. Writing a book, however, greatly increased my sense of alienation. Vegas doesn’t want you writing any more than it wants you reading. You can sit by the topless pool at the Wynn all day long, all year long, and you won’t see anyone crack open anything more challenging than a cold beer.And it’s not just books. Vegas discourages everything prized by book people, like silence and reason and linear thinking. Vegas is about noise, impulse, chaos. You like books? Go back to Boston.

via Las Vegas: An American Paradox | Travel | Smithsonian Magazine.

It’s probably 1,500 words long, but it feels much longer thanks to the 5 click-throughs you need to do, and the absolutely vapid writing.

Great, J.R., you saw some T&A, and you had a two-minute conversation with some lady in a restaurant. That doesn’t mean you’ve plumbed the soul of America, or even understand Las Vegas at all.

It’s easy to be contemptuous of other people having a good time–the Puritans elevated it to an art form a few centuries ago. But that says more about the writer than the subject, doesn’t it?

On one hand, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Moehringer spent two years and didn’t have a good time. I get that. But it’s hard not to take what he says personally. I like books, and I live in Vegas. I don’t see any disconnect between the two. And anyone who divides the world between “book people” and the hoi polloi is so ineffably pretentious that…I can’t describe it. But you get the point—really, really pretentious.

That being said, I’ll just mention a few things that I think are really off base in the article. For example, IMHO linear thinking is of definite but limited value. I prefer diagonal thinking–it’s much less limiting.

There are lots of places for silence in Las Vegas. Try Turtlehead Peak, for one: an hour’s hike, and you can look down on the entire valley. It’s beautiful. Or just pick a corner of Sunset Park, or any of the other public parks that dot the valley.

He’s simply wrong that Vegas doesn’t want you writing books. I’ve had no problem writing three books in Las Vegas, and I’m working on the fourth. And as someone who writes a minimum of 5,000 words a month (Vegas Seven, Las Vegas Business Press, Casino Connection, I’m looking at you), I’ve never had a problem finding inspiration or space to write. But I tend not to overthink things, and it’s more a question of, “How many words? When do you want it?” than absorbing writerly inspiration via osmosis or whatever Moehringer does in Fantasy Vermont with all of the book people.

Look, I’m the last person to be a Vegas booster, saying this is the best of all possible cities. It’s just not in my temperament. But I wouldn’t blame any of my shortcomings as a writer on the city. A good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools, or the setting of his workshop. And, like Moehringer, I’m an award-winning author. So there.

HRH, HRC thoughts in the LVBP

A while ago, I got a Twitter request for my thoughts on the Hard Rock lawsuit. Here they are, in the digital pages of the Las Vegas Business Press:

There are several issues here. First is whether the “drunken debauchery” that the HRC folks accuse the HRH of allowing to take place somehow diminishes the goodwill that Hard Rock has built up among customers since the first Hard Rock Café opened in 1971.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : Hard Rock Caf�© lawsuit reveals great LV paradox.

I never thought I’d write an article that hit on Jim Morisson’s crotch, Jersey Shore and drunken debauchery. I’m showing some range, at the very least.