In my latest Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the Riviera’s place in history:
If there were one property you could point to that has represented the evolution of our city’s casinos over the past 60 years, it would be the Riviera. So it’s only fitting that, in its final days, the hotel-casino is doing so again.
via Riviera Going Out as It Came In: A Symbol of the Strip’s Future | Vegas Seven.
I have a lot more than 700 words to say about the Riviera’s past and future, and I hope to be able to write more about them both soon.
This week’s Green Felt Journal dissects the reality behind the numbers in the Gaming Abstract:
Each year, the Gaming Control Board releases a massive document that charts the performance of the state’s casinos for the previous fiscal year, broken down by geographic area and income. The release of the 2014 Nevada Gaming Abstract crystallizes the trends that have shaped the local gaming industry over the past year. Not surprisingly, the 23 Las Vegas Strip casinos that made more than $72 million in gaming revenue in 2014 are a critical piece of the state’s economic infrastructure: These large Strip properties represent more than half of Nevada’s gaming revenue and nearly two-thirds of the state’s total revenue (gaming and non-gaming combined). Let’s dive into the details:
via Nongaming Activities Continue to Pay the Bills for Strip Casinos | Vegas Seven
It will be interesting to see how things fared over the 2nd half of 2014, to say the least.
This week, I’ve got a cover story in Vegas Seven that traces the development of the precursor of today’s Strip retail boom, Hawaiian Marketplace:
You’re walking south down las Vegas Boulevard, past a nondescript strip mall promising beer, wine and four-for-$9.99 T-shirts when you see it: the carved head of a bronze-helmeted warrior poking serenely out of a landscaped planter, faded 7-Eleven banners flapping in the background. With only scaffolding visible behind it, the warrior looks out of place but not out of place—another artifact beached on the Strip shoreline, divorced from logic and context.
And yet that warrior is there for a reason. He’s a sentinel guarding the approach to a development that, 10 years ago, saw the future of the Strip.
via How the Sidewalk Took Over the Strip | Vegas Seven.
I thought this was a story the deserved writing because (a) it’s been ten years since Hawaiian Marketplace opened and (b) it doesn’t seem to have gotten the recognition that current trends would indicate it deserves.
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.
via The Action, for Resorts, Is on the Street | Vegas Seven.
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 today’s Green Felt Journal, I take on a subject that some in the industry don’t like discussing–whether high-profile crimes mean the Strip is less safe than it should be:
When tragedy strikes, police and tourism officials are usually quick to stress that these are random events in an otherwise safe city. They point to the fact that crime rates on the Strip have been falling lately down in 2012 and early 2013 as proof that a Vegas vacation is fundamentally safe. Is this just public relations spin, or do they have a point?
via Crime and Perception | Vegas Seven.
Some feel that the best move is to ignore crime on the Strip, and to downplay incidents that get public attention as random, unconnected acts. I disagree; I think that by being honest with visitors about crime, and by educating them about how to better protect themselves, the city will get a much better handle on its crime problem by getting out in front of it than by pretending it doesn’t exist.
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.
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.
Author David G. Schwartz summarizes chapter 10, “A Place in the Sun: The Las Vegas Strip is Born,” of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Casino Edition).
This chapter covers the development of the Strip from the 1941 opening of the El Rancho Vegas into the 1960s. It discusses pioneers like Thomas Hull, Bill Moore, and Billy Wilkerson, and the infamous Bugsy Siegel who muscled Wilkerson out of the Flamingo casino.
It also explains the three factors that gave mob-connected casinos an advantage (for a time) in Las Vegas, discusses syndicate ownership as exemplified by the Desert Inn, and takes on topics as varied as the Rat Pack, the development of skill play and card-counting, and the desegregation of the Strip and Downtown.
If you don’t see a video, go here: http://youtu.be/5PwpS528RLc
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.
When it opened in 1952, the Sands casino was known as “A Place in the Sun,” and once it signed Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin as entertainers, it became the most popular casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Today, the Sands name lives on in Las Vegas Sands, Inc., the company that owns the Venetian, Palazzo, and Sands Expo Center on the Strip as well as casinos in Pennsylvania, Macau, and Singapore.
As a result, the Sands name is found in the world’s top three gambling markets—a fitting tribute to the place where Vegas got much of its magic back in the 1950s and 1960s.
You can read more about the Sands and other Las Vegas hotels in Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling.
Go here to read an excerpt from the book, or learn where to buy your copy.