This week in the Green Felt Journal I wanted to revisit an issue that continue to be relevant: casino debt loads”
It’s the dark matter of the Las Vegas casino business: there, but not readily apparent to the naked eye. You can spy reflections of it in deferred maintenance and longer check-in lines on the Strip. It’s casino debt, and it could remake the Strip over the several next years. Or not.
via Debt Matters | Vegas Seven.
I also have a web extra–some thoughts from Applied Analysis principal Jeremy Aguero on what’s happened on to the Strip’s mountain of debt. You can read it here.
My next Vegas Seven contribution is a short piece about the strange mixing of the past and present that’s coming to define Downtown Las Vegas:
Downtown continues to mine a balanced—and, so far, successful—strategy of mixing Old Vegas nostalgia with modernized amenities. Nowhere is the Janus-faced approach that’s come to define downtown as apparent as at The D. The most obvious example is the split-level casino, which looks to the present on the first floor and the past on the second.
via Time Travel on Fremont Street | Vegas Seven.
I expect to be writing more about this theme. Downtown seems to be pulling in two separate directions–retro casino value and dot com hub. I look forward to writing more about those tensions define the area.
Today’s a big day for me in Vegas Seven. I’ve got four different pieces in the magazine. Let’s start with the cover, which is some VT-inspired musings on Hunter S. Thompson, influence on Vegas literati:
July 18 would have been Hunter S. Thompson’s 75th birthday. His name is linked with Las Vegas; more specifically, with fear and loathing in it.
The story of his pathbreaking book is about as straightforward as you would expect. Thompson drove up to Las Vegas in March 1970 to cover the Mint 400 off-road race for Sports Illustrated. In place of captions for a photo spread, he delivered a rambling semi-fictional account that ultimately grew into the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. The book is a hallmark of gonzo journalism—the gleeful abandonment of objectivity for a disturbingly personal stream-of-consciousness narrative, peppered with tales of recreational drug use and abuse and politico-cultural pronouncements.
via Vegas in the Gonzo Mirror | Vegas Seven.
Instead of looking at Thompson biographically, or my own thoughts on his writing, I figured I’d look at how he looked at Las Vegas, and how that’s shaped how other writers have looked at it.
The whole idea to write the piece came from Charles S. Monster of VegasTripping, so consider it a response to the several posts on Dr. Gonzo over there.
Today, I can offer you a double-shot of prose pieces featuring a game called Double Action Roulette. First, this week’s Green Felt Journal takes a look at the odds against new table games, focusing on Double Action Roulette:
Sometimes it seems like there are more people with ideas for new casino games than gamblers. From afar, it’s a lot like watching salmon swim upstream; you know that many of them aren’t going to make it, but in order for the big circle of life to keep turning, they’ve got to try.
via How to Set a Fresh Table | Vegas Seven.
Then, because I had lots more to say about the game than space in the print edition allowed, I wrote a medium-length blog piece:
I think the game is going to be accepted by casinos because it does two things that the generally like: it increases revenues while holding steady (or decreasing) labor costs. With one dealer, Double Action can generate as much revenue as two dealers on two tables. That’s important, because payroll (including pay, benefits, and payroll taxes) takes up out 32 percent of gaming revenues on casinos included in the “Boulder Strip” reporting area (geography be damned, that includes the M). In general, the casino innovations that have caught on are those that help casinos lower their labor costs; coinless slots are the most dramatic example.
Why Double Action Roulette Will Catch On
I hope to do more of this sort of follow-up in the future. Often I have to leave a lot of good stuff on the cutting room floor because it doesn’t fit in with the main point of the article but is nonetheless enlightening.
Today’s Vegas Seven includes a short piece I wrote about a Las Vegas start-up that’s worth looking at:
Walls 360, a local wall-graphics producer, has just announced a partnership with Moshi Monsters, an online virtual pet community think Neopets meets Pokémon with 65 million registered pre-teen users. And the company, which is based just south of the Orleans, isn’t about to stop there: It has plans to launch several more licensing partnerships this summer, adding pop-culture snap to a wall-decorating lineup that already includes images from Star Trek, children’s books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and EA videogame titles.
via It’s Only Logical: Wall-Spocks Are the Future of Las Vegas | Vegas Seven.
On one hand, it was satisfying to learn about a growing local business and share their story. On the other, it was even more satisfying to get another Star Trek reference in print. And if you want your own wall Spock, check out Walls360.
A few weeks ago I got to sit down and talk with a UNLV grad who’s gone pretty far in the Vegas hotel business and is poised to go further. The results of that talk? Today’s Vegas Seven cover story, a profile of Jon Gray:
For one, the $550 million shopping and entertainment district between the Flamingo and for now Imperial Palace will have its own mayor.Admittedly, the idea of a private business having a mayor—Foursquare notwithstanding—calls to mind a mascot more than an executive. But Jon Gray, the guy Caesars Entertainment has tapped for the post, is no Mayor McCheese. He’s considered one of the fastest-rising stars in the Las Vegas hospitality business. If there’s anyone who can rock the “mayor” title without losing credibility as vice president and general manager of Linq his official title, it’s a man who has spent much of the past decade learning the business from one of the best.
via The Sorcerer of Linq Alley | Vegas Seven.
Since it was unveiled, I’ve been generally upbeat about Linq. It going to add ancillary attractions without expanding the room capacity, and it makes sense from a variety of angles. I’m most curious about just how it will be distinguished from the numerous other places on the Strip where people can dine, shop, and be entertained, and Gray gave me one idea on how it will be different. I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together.
Plus, how many chances do you get to make a Mayor McCheese reference? Still waiting for the chance to legitimately drop a Hamburglar reference in somewhere. I’m not particularly fond of McDonald’s, but that stuff apparently made quite an impression on me as a kid.
Yesterday I wrote a blog piece for Vegas Seven about the significance of Fertitta Interactive launching Ultimate Gaming:
The story here isn’t so much the debut of a new online gaming platform. It’s the way that Ultimate will be branded and marketed. The Fertittas will align their betting platform with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world, whose live shows, pay-per-views, and television broadcasts reach an audience of millions of men who happen to share
the same demographic profile as poker players.
via Fertittas Look to Leverage UFC for Online Gaming | Vegas Seven.
I’m probably going to write a column about this in the future, but I think that the advent of online gaming is going to change the business far more profoundly than is expected right now. There’s going to be some creative destruction and probably many unforeseen consequences, which will make it interesting to chronicle, if nothing else.
Yesterday (June 20) was the 65th anniversary of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s murder. Vegas Seven editor Greg Blake Miller asked me to write something about it, and I thought it would be a good time to introduce someone I’ve recently met, Bernie Sindler, who actually knew Siegel. I share a little of Sindler’s story and his theory about who really killed Bugsy in this Latest Thought:
Few murders have seared the soul of Las Vegas like one that didn’t even happen in the city—the June 20, 1947, murder of mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in his girlfriend’s Beverly Hills home.
Just about everyone in Las Vegas thinks they know who Bugsy Siegel was—the guy who founded the Flamingo and created modern Las Vegas. Actually, the credit for the former goes to Hollywood Reporter publisher/Los Angeles nightlife impresario/compulsive gambler Billy Wilkerson, and the latter … it’s safe to say can be credited to a few dozen people.
Siegel’s Shadow | Vegas Seven.
Who really killed Bugsy? Obviously, I wasn’t there, and as I say above, there’s no shortage of theories. But Sindler’s makes a lot of sense.
Bernie has an interesting story to tell, to say the least.
In today’s Green Felt Journal, I look at whether tending bar is the new dealing:
For decades, becoming a casino dealer was a guaranteed ticket to a middle-class income, even without the benefit of a college education or long vocational training. But because of changes in technology and in the casino business itself, bartending is looking more and more like the new deal for post-recession Vegas.
The similarities run deep. Like dealers, bartenders are part of the party, watching people have the time of their lives night after night. Both jobs seem simple at first glance but actually have considerable technical, physical and psychological demands. And workers in both fields must work their way up a steep and sometimes rigid hierarchy.
via Are Bartenders the New Dealers? | Vegas Seven.
This was a busy week for me: I have one other online piece and another print piece in Vegas Seven today.
This week, there’s no Green Felt Journal column, but I have two stories in Vegas Seven nevertheless. The first is a look at what I consider to be one of the most interesting things about Sunset Station, the Gaudi Bar. Sunset Station has just celebrated its 15th anniversary:
As Sunset Station turns 15 this month, there isn’t a special celebration planned for the Gaudi Bar. But that lounge was a look into the future of locals gambling.
Sunset Station Turns 15
Then, I have a piece that started as a short blog item but grew into a Latest item. I wrote it Sunday morning pondering the awful night that was Saturday: check-in delays at MGM properties, EDC shut down because of wind, and the Bradley/Pacquiao decision debacle. I figured that there were plenty of visitors (and locals too) who were pretty upset, and that it would all be forgotten by next week. But I think there’s something valuable in acknowledging our failures, and I thought that the perfect storm of mishaps was one that should not be unremembered. Was there a thread tying all of the messes together, or at least something we can learn from them? Read and find out:
There are a few reasonable ways to spin what happened: Fight fans got thrilling boxing action; MGM guests got the chance to spend more time in hotel lobbies close to the Vegas action; EDC-ers learned that Insomniac Events places a premium on their safety.
And of course one could simply say that the wheel of fortune is always turning, that the cards went against Las Vegas this weekend, but our luck is sure to turn soon, so don’t worry. But neither of those avenues will get this town very far. So, what’s the best way to manage what, for the hospitality business, would have to qualify as a PR crisis?
The Worst Night Ever?
That’s what I’ve got for this week.