Smokeless on the Strip? | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I tackle the issue of smoking in casinos on the Las Vegas Strip:

The implicit question raised in those cheeky billboards is this: Smoking is banned in restaurants, movie theaters and indoor arenas. Why is it still permitted in Nevada casinos? The short answer: because casinos were exempted from the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which voters approved in November 2006.

via Smokeless on the Strip? | Vegas Seven.

Two things I want to mention here….

1. I love the art for this column.

2. This, I think, is the most divisive issue in the gaming industry today. Casino execs get very dismissive/defensive when the topic of banning smoking on casino floors comes up. Personally, while I respect the right of people to smoke, I also think that my right to be in a public place without breathing in smoke has to rank somewhere. Doesn’t it?

I’d like to see one of the two big companies experiment with making one of their casinos smoke-free. Let’s say, Monte Carlo for MGM Resorts and Planet Hollywood for Caesars. Give it a three-month trial run at the very least: see what it does to occupancy, gaming win, overall spending. Would it work? Revel would seem to indicate no, but Revel’s problems didn’t start with not permitting smoking on the casino floor. In other states, there has been an initial revenue drop followed by a recovery. While I’m sure some people would gamble less, other people may gamble more, and I suspect that traffic at restaurants might increase as well, with non-smokers not having to run a smoky gauntlet before getting to their eatery of choice.


JFK in Las Vegas | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Vegas Seven, I’ve got the cover story: a look back on John F. Kennedy’s visits to Las Vegas:

It was a meeting for the ages: the midcentury King of Cool getting together with one of the nation’s fastest-rising political stars. The star of From Here to Eternity and the hero of PT 109. An idol of the pop charts and a Pulitzer Prize winner. And it could only have happened in Las Vegas, in that heady era when Frank Sinatra reigned from the stage of the Sands’ Copa Lounge and everyone, even presidential aspirants, wanted a front-row seat. On February 7, 1960, future President John F. Kennedy got one.

via JFK in Las Vegas | Vegas Seven.

I had to do some real digging for this one, and I’d like to thank Larry Gragg for his help in sharing his citations for articles about Kennedy. If you like, you can learn more about his book Bright Light City right here.

I’m also glad that I get a chance to do long-form pieces like this for Seven–it’s a good bridge between the bi-weekly Green Felt Journals and academic articles for me.


Pin Interest | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take up bowling, which seems to be heading towards a renaissance in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas’ first casino bowling alley opened in 1959 when the off-Strip Showboat added lanes as part of its successful effort to refocus on locals, driving growth at the property for the next 20 years.

Showboat’s success has made bowling a mainstay of locals casinos—so much so that the International Bowl Expo came to Paris Las Vegas this month it ends June 28. Yes, it’s ironic that the expo settled on a casino without a bowling alley, but the lanes have been the purview of locals casinos: Station has five bowling alleys in the Valley, with lanes at Red Rock, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Santa Fe Station and Wildfire Sunset.

via Pin Interest | Vegas Seven.

Researching this gave me a chance to learn a little about bowling. I really like that aspect of writing the Green Felt Journal: I get to learn quite a bit on a variety of subjects.


Casino Concentration and the Logic of Empire | Vegas Seven

For this week’s Green Felt Journal, I offer you an 800-word version of the 10,000-word paper I presented at the International Conference on Gambling and Risk-Taking. It’s my attempt to assess whether the mid-decade spate of mergers was good for anyone…and from what I’ve discovered, it looks like the answer is “not really.” From Vegas Seven:

For the Las Vegas casino industry, the past decade has been defined by two things: consolidation and disaster. From 2000 to 2008, Las Vegas Strip casino operators acquired each other until two companies—today they are known as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corporation—controlled nearly two-thirds of the Strip corridor casino market. The following three years is where the disaster, in the form of the recession, comes in. The timing of the two makes it difficult to assess whether the mergers were good or bad, on the balance, for Las Vegas, but the evidence we have indicates that we would have been better off with less-concentrated ownership.

via Casino Concentration and the Logic of Empire | Vegas Seven.

There’s a lot of research behind my conclusions that didn’t make the Vegas Seven article, but if the article makes it into the conference proceedings, you might be able to read the whole thing.

Glad my suggested headline (complete with Heinlein reference) made it to print.


Investing in America | Vegas Seven

Busy week, so I’m just posting this week’s Green Felt Journal about the EB-5 program, which is changing Las Vegas:

“Invest In Your American Dream,” reads the text next to a photo of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. The words are quickly replaced by “LAS VEGAS EB5 IMMIGRATION CENTER IS YOUR BEST CHOICE,” with a view of the Strip at night, followed by “THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBTAIN U.S. GREEN CARD,” against a pastiche of a billowing American flag with extra stars, the Statue of Liberty and the Capitol building. Then, just to make the message clear, we get “THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPERIENCE AMERICAN LIFESTYLE,” laid over a skyline that’s definitely not Las Vegas.

via Investing in America | Vegas Seven.

I learned a good deal researching this one…it will be interesting to see where the program goes in the next few years.


The History of Our Future | Vegas Seven

I’ve been wanting to write more about Macau, which is such a huge gambling story, for a while, and when given a feature slot for Vegas Seven, jumped on the chance to talk about Macau’s impact on Las Vegas. The result is this week’s cover story:

Back in the early days—2006 or so—American executives signing on for tours of duty in Macau felt like they were stepping into the Wild West. Street violence had subsided since the island’s 1999 reversion to mainland control, but there was still a sense that this was a frontier, a place where anything could happen. And when strangers rode into town—often from the former frontier town of Las Vegas—they went where strangers always go first: the saloon. In this case, that meant the Embassy Bar at what was then the Mandarin Oriental hotel. It was an admittedly upscale saloon, but for an expat executive it was an oasis, a free-port, a place to make crucial first connections and ease into Chinese life. It offered just enough reassuring familiarity, and just enough tantalizing strangeness.

via The History of Our Future | Vegas Seven.

At 4,000 words, this is a long magazine piece for me, but I think you’ll agree it packs a lot of story into those words. The great art really helps. I’m as proud of this as I am of anything I’ve written so far.


One Game’s Wild Ride | Vegas Seven

Last Sunday, on a short deadline for my Green Felt Journal, I suddenly got inspired. I recalled that Caribbean Stud Poker no longer had a separate line item in the monthly Gaming Revenue Report (these things apparently stick in my head), and figured, that’s got to be worth a column.

Some digging for numbers and comment later, I had a story. You can read it for yourself:

But with limited floor space, games that no longer draw don’t last. This is nowhere more apparent than in looking at the fate of Caribbean Stud Poker in Nevada. Once nearly ubiquitous, it’s now nearly gone from the state’s casinos.

Caribbean Stud Poker is known in the industry as a proprietary table game. Some games, like roulette and blackjack, have rules that are in the public domain; any casino can offer them, as long as they get regulatory approval. Proprietary games, on the other hand, are developed by a creator who patents his or her work. The creator then sells the game to casinos, which pay a per-table rental fee ranging from $30 to $2,500 per month; more profitable tables command higher rents.

via One Game’s Wild Ride | Vegas Seven.

I learned a lot writing this one–I hope you find it interesting as well.


MGM’s Park Will Be Good in Vegas Seven

In addition to the two features (Light and space) in this week’s Vegas Seven, I have a Green Felt Journal, which talks about the probably impact of MGM’s proposed Park development:

How about getting back to urban basics and creating a worthwhile street-level experience? That’s what MGM did on April 18 with the formal announcement of The Park, comprised of retail/dining development on underutilized land between New York-New York and Monte Carlo, a renovation of the Strip-front facades of both resorts and a 20,000-seat arena operated by international sports and entertainment giant AEG.

via MGM’s Park, and Competition With Linq, Will Be Good for Vegas | Vegas Seven.

It’s a project that I think is correctly scaled to what Las Vegas is today. And from what people say about it, I’m looking forward to the Shake Shack, if nothing else.


Anatomy of a Nightclub | Vegas Seven

I already shared one feature I had in this week’s Vegas Seven: my piece on space tourism and Vegas with a sidebar on Zero-G, which currently flies out of McCarran. I also wrote a feature on the evolution of nightclubs, as seen in the soon-to-open Light at Mandalay Bay:

With all that success, it’s no wonder today’s nightclub scene is crowded. Meanwhile, clubs are working themselves more deeply into the weft of resort fabric, with dayclubs and vibe dining carrying them into new areas. At the turn of the millennium, nightlife started going Vegas. Now Vegas has gone nightlife.

via Anatomy of a Nightclub | Vegas Seven.

One of the things I like best about the online version is the link back to my January Green Felt Journal, which wondered if Las Vegas had a nightclub bubble.


Vegas to the Moon! in Vegas Seven

A few weeks back I got an email about an event connected to the launch of Virgin America’s thrice-daily LAX-LAS flights. I usually don’t go to those kinds of events–there’s not too much to “cover” outside of photo ops. But I got thinking…wouldn’t it be fun to ask Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson how Vegas might factor in his plans for regular open-to-the-public spaceflights?

That’s the genesis of this feature in Vegas Seven:

Could Las Vegas become a launching pad for a new type of tourist—the kind who’s looking for a thrill ride that can’t be found behind the velvet rope?

In the past five years, ideas that once seemed outlandish—medical tourism, a tech corridor, green energy—have been seriously considered as viable tools for our economic development. Why not space tourism?

via Vegas to the Moon! | Vegas Seven.

I also did a companion piece about a company that’s already flying out of McCarran. It won’t take you to space, but it will get you weightless:

You want to experience the feeling of spaceflight, but you don’t have the 200 grand to fork over to Sir Richard. What to do?

As always in matters of semi-sane wish-fulfillment, Las Vegas can help. The Zero G Weightless Experience—available several times a year at McCarran International Airport—never leaves Earth’s atmosphere, but does let participants leave gravity behind.

How to Get Spacey Without Going to Space

Between this and last week’s video game wagering piece, I’m all about proposing strange new worlds for Las Vegas to consider.