In a little experiment on price sensitivity in the ebook format, I’ve decided to slash the price of the e-version of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling by nearly 20%. The list price for all versions of the RTB ebook is now $7.99. You can learn more or buy it at your favorite ebook retailer:
When Derek Stevens started accepting Bitcoin at The D and Golden Gate, I became curious: How did he make the decision to do this, and why? The result of my curiosity is this week’s Green Felt Journal:
Sometimes a story about newfangled technology doubles as one about old-fashioned neighborhood gumption. When The D and the Golden Gate became the first casinos to accept Bitcoin albeit only for non-gaming purchases it was a sign of the way Downtown Las Vegas, by dint of geography and necessity, is pushing the boundaries of innovation in the casino business.
Since the gaming industry handles so much money, any alternate form of payment should be of interest. We will have to see how Bitcoin develops.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s decision to release less information about gaming win. I think it’s a bad thing:
The industry is often misunderstood, partially because many people don’t grasp the nature of casino math. Some confuse the amount of money gambled with the amount the casino keeps. Others confuse revenue what casinos take in with profits what’s left over after they have paid their bills. Real numbers can clear up these misunderstandings.
With what I do, the more numbers the better. I’d like to think that having better information really does serve the public.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the resurgent American Gaming Association and what it means for Las Vegas:
In the past few months, the American Gaming Association has almost completely regenerated itself. Even though the gaming industry’s chief lobbying group has the same name and offices, it has a renewed mission under new President and CEO Geoff Freeman: to promote the overall positive community impact of gaming, urge a streamlined regulatory process and underline the reality that online gaming is not going away.
I think this is one of stories to watch–a changing AGA might lead the industry into directions that none of us foresee.
Here is my final Green Felt Journal of 2013. It’s perhaps appropriate that it looks ahead to 2014:
While 2013 was mostly a year of building and transition, Las Vegas should definitively enter the post-recession era in 2014. That won’t mean a return to pre-recession prosperity, but rather a shift in how casinos approach visitors. In fact, it may turn out that the restaurants, retail and entertainment of the Linq will mark the biggest change on the Las Vegas Strip since the county began installing pedestrian overpasses in the 1990s.
As I mention in the column, I think that the ultimate transformation that the inside-out model will bring hasn’t been fully considered, and it may bring some changes that are unexpected.
In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at one of the entrepreneurs who is shaking things up on the Strip:
Jonathan Fine is a case in point. Fine—who operates some of the Strip’s hottest midmarket nightspots—comes from one of the most illustrious families in Las Vegas: His grandfather, Hank Greenspun, founder of the Las Vegas Sun, was one of the community’s pre-eminent leaders. His father, developer Mark Fine, was instrumental in the growth of Green Valley and Summerlin. And his brother, Jeffrey, is involved in numerous enterprises, including Fifth Street Gaming, operator of the recently opened Downtown Grand and other gaming locations.
I think fine has done some interesting things, and I’m eager to see what he does next.
In this week’s Vegas Seven, I have a feature article considering the ways that the spirit of 1993 is still with us:
In the fall of 1993, the wrapping came off three new resorts that promised to change the way people visited Las Vegas. The opening of The Mirage four years earlier is rightfully credited for kicking off the megaresort era on the Strip, and Excalibur, which opened in 1990, proved that the family-friendly, mass-market model worked just as well for new hotels as for older ones. But the 1993 openings of Luxor October 15, Treasure Island October 27 and MGM Grand December 18 seemed to define a new direction for the Strip: families, and lots of them.
It was a big gamble, $1.9 billion invested on more than 10,000 hotel rooms and new attractions that were either going to open up Las Vegas to a new market or be the most expensive failures in the city’s history. And at first, it seemed to pay off. In 1994, Las Vegas visitation increased from 23.5 million to 28.2 million. That doesn’t seem so incredible now that we’re flirting with the 40 million mark, but at the time it was a nearly 20 percent jump—the biggest increase ever, both proportionally and in absolute numbers. Even the four horsemen of 1998-99—Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Paris and Venetian—only moved the needle by 10 percent.
I think that the importance of what those three resorts meant to Las Vegas has been forgotten, for a few reasons. First, the late-1990s upscaling boom, which you could argue lasted until the opening of Cosmopolitan in 2010, seemed superficially to be a more important transition. Second, the resorts themselves changed their identities within a few years. Third, with the post-2001 shift towards nightlife, the 1990s emphasis on family attractions is a little embarrassing. And finally, Las Vegas casinos are much more about the present than their past.
But, as I discuss in the article, we owe a great deal to those openings, and we have not moved as far from them as we think.
This week’s Green Felt Journal was a difficult one for me to write. A few months back, I struck up a friendship with a long-time Las Vegan, David Atwell, who I learned was involved with some of the biggest real estate deals in the city’s history. We had conversation after conversation about the development of Las Vegas and the colorful personalities that made it happen.
In the past few weeks, as David had a few setbacks, we kept in touch, talking enthusiastically about current news in Las Vegas and some of the deals that got us to where we are. He’d urged me to write more about this aspect of history, but I really wish that I had written this article about some of the big deals of the Strip with him as a source, not as the subject:
When we look at the Strip, the builders get all the headlines. We read about the towering figures who transformed the Strip with Caesars Palace, Bellagio and CityCenter. They take an empty space—which, given our penchant for implosions, might be relatively recently empty—and create something that benefits the community.
But before those city-defining resorts were built, they had to secure the land to build upon. That’s where David Atwell came in. Atwell, who died November 25 at the age of 63, is an almost-native Las Vegan. Moving here with his family in 1955, he grew up watching the city grow up around him. Armed with a degree from UNLV, he went into real estate in the mid-1970s, soon focusing on hotel and casino transactions. Among the numerous deals that Atwell helped broker, three stand out as particularly important to both his career and the current shape of the Strip.
Looking at the Strip today, you should appreciate just how big the Dunes deal was. The way history happened, Nangaku bought it in 1987, ran into trouble, and sold it to Wynn in 1992, leading to Bellagio and Monte Carlo right way, and, eventually, CityCenter.
But let’s say that David Atwell isn’t as tenacious in bankruptcy court, and someone else walks away with the Dunes.
If Steve Wynn gets it, maybe The Mirage happens differently; after all, he’d have a whole lot more land to build on at the Dunes.
If Sheldon Adelson gets it, he probably doesn’t buy the Sands in 1988, and the Venetian ends up where the Bellagio is.
Kirk Kerkorian might have turned the property into the MGM Dunes, adding a few thousand rooms and casino space to parts of the existing property, as he did with the Marina, which became part of the MGM Grand.
Hilton and Caesars…it’s hard for me to imagine what they would have done, except that maybe it would have become the site for Paris in the former case and a second Strip resort for Caesars in the second.
So if you’re a fan of the Strip as it is today, you can thank Masao and David Atwell. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know a truly incredible Las Vegan.
It’s kind of meta that, in the big holiday rush last week, I didn’t share my latest in Vegas Seven, a look at the maybe fantasy called Wonderland:
In Las Vegas, you’re never quite sure what’s real, what’s fantasy and what’s just wishful speculation. And it’s never possible to tell which is which, until it’s entirely obvious.
The latest real-or-not dream might be Wonderland, a project which purports to bring the charm of winter to 18 acres on the Las Vegas Strip: a cluster of pre-fab faux storefronts decked out in twinkling lights, the sound of sleigh bells ringing, everything dusted in fake snow. Like nothing you’ve ever seen, and everything you’ve ever wanted!
I guess we’ll find out in a few days if this is actually happening, though the original website and media pack were entertaining in their own right.