31
May

The Rise of the Gaming-Tech Corridor in Vegas Seven

This week in Vegas Seven, I’ve got a short piece about why BMM’s move to the gaming tech corridor is significant:

The gaming-testing lab BMM International announced in late May that it was moving its world headquarters from its current Eastern Avenue digs to the south-of-McCarran industrial area that’s become the city’s gaming-tech corridor—an area whose very existence defines the way Las Vegas and gambling are changing.

via The Rise of the Gaming-Tech Corridor | Vegas Seven.

As you’ll see from the full article, this move speaks to the bigger shift that, I think, will profoundly change Las Vegas over the next few decades.

17
May

Moving Mountains, Building a City in Vegas Seven

This week in Vegas Seven, I have a Latest Thought that looks back at the life and career of Stuart Mason, as viewed through the lens of something you don’t hear enough about in Las Vegas, at least in the news: community:

We’ve all heard the stereotype: Las Vegas is nothing more than a transient city, a plastic place where no one puts down roots, neighbors remain strangers, and the only civic duty is every man for himself. It’s not true, of course, and it never has been. But with the constant media flow of Vegas “mythology”—often delivered by our very own marketing gurus—sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are a real community, built by people willing to devote their lives to an improbable dream. The recent death of Stuart Mason, a builder of the real Las Vegas, is occasion for such a reminder.

via Moving Mountains, Building a City | Vegas Seven.

I got to know Stuart Mason a few years ago, through his involvement in UNLV Libraries. He was a great, funny guy, very unassuming, who nevertheless had a tremendous impact on Las Vegas.

 

17
May

Miracle Man & More in Vegas Seven

In today’s Vegas Seven, I have an About Town profile of the work Russell Joyner’s done with Miracle Mile Shops:

The International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual REcon event is the Super Bowl for retail real estate professionals. It’s going on right now at the Las Vegas Convention Center, so all eyes in the shopping-mall world are riveted on Las Vegas. Plenty of attendees have made it a point to talk to Russell Joyner, who, in eight years has turned Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood into the talk of the town.

via Miracle Man | Vegas Seven.

Talking with Joyner, I got a sense of just how many moving parts there are in Strip retail.

From last week, I’ve got a short look at the closing of the Stirling Club, if you missed it.

10
May

With Oseland Aboard, SLS Could Be a Winner in Vegas Seven

As you might know, a month ago, sbe Entertainment Group sent out a press release with some details of the financing of the putative SLS Las Vegas. I was skeptical, as were others. Last week, the company sent out a second press release, which provided more details. I still had questions, so, wearing my Vegas Seven gaming and hospitality writer hat, I put a call into sbe. After some back and forth, I had a 45 minute conversation with Rob Oseland, which answered many of my questions. The result: the latest Green Felt Journal, which talks a little about why, if this project is going to go forward, Oseland is a good guy to have in the driver’s seat:

Sam Nazarian’s SBE Entertainment Group made headlines last week by announcing that it had secured $300 million of the $415 million it needs to transform the shuttered Sahara hotel-casino—which the company bought in 2007, at the height of the casino real estate boom—into the SLS Las Vegas, a “refreshing, fun and accessible take on Vegas luxury.”There are still a host of concerns about the project, however: skeptics say that it’s too far away from the center of the action to compete; it’s too small; no one will invest in the north Strip; in any event, it’s not completely financed.Rob Oseland, recently hired as the president and chief operating officer of SLS Las Vegas, is the guy to answer those questions.

via With Oseland Aboard, SLS Could Be a Winner | Vegas Seven.

I look forward to a real back-and-forth about this on the next Vegas Gang.

I’ve gotten a few questions via email about this. The biggest one is: am I still skeptical? I’m not running for office, but I’m going to equivocate here. I have no idea whether sbe will be able to get the funding it needs. I’m not plugged into the investment banking/equity community, so I have no real insight about how competitive SLS Las Vegas is with the million other things that people could invest in.

Assuming a total project cost of about $415 million, you might have an annual average interest expense of $42 million or so. Could 1,600 rooms produce the kind of revenue that would enable them to make that nut? Possibly, if it does Cosmopolitan-like numbers for F&B. Will it be able to do Cosmo-like numbers in that location? It’s certainly possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

Then again, if it was a slam dunk, there would be a half-dozen other projects under construction. At one point very smart people in Las Vegas thought that a huge residential component at CityCenter was a slam dunk. Or taking on $20 billion in debt to go private. So is it possible that Nazarian, Oseland, and company see a value that others don’t? Definitely, because the crowd isn’t always right.

Of course, the crowd often is right, which is the rub.

According to Oseland, we should know by October–November at the latest–whether sbe gets its funding or not. This is going to be a great topic to debate up until we see construction start, or we get a tersely-worded press release announcing the project is “suspended.”

We had a few years of predictable success on the Strip, followed by a few years of predictable flops. Now we’re entering the unpredictable phase, where just about anything is possible. Should be a fun couple of years.

3
May

Renovating the Grand and more in Vegas Seven

This week in the Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven, I take a look at the massive renovation of the MGM Grand:

If you’ve been to the MGM Grand in the past few months—or even checked its website—you probably noticed that they’re renovating the place. And that might not seem like such a big deal—casinos evolve all the time—but in this case, owner MGM Resorts International and contractor Thor Construction are making history.

via Renovating the Grand | Vegas Seven.

I took many pictures of the renovations, and will hopefully have the time to post them.

Earlier this week, I wrote a short blog piece about Lynda Allan, a Palace Station cocktail waitress who is retiring after 34 years on the floor.

19
Apr

The Man Behind The D in Vegas Seven

This week in Vegas Seven’s Green Felt Journal, I look at someone who’s making some waves Downtown:

Although the energy of Tony Hsieh and other non-gamers has helped fuel the transformation of downtown Las Vegas, a cadre of Fremont Street casino owners also deserve credit. Derek Stevens is prominent among them.

via The Man Behind The D | Vegas Seven.

I had a very nice conversation with Mr. Stevens in writing this piece. He’s got a definite vision for what he wants to do, and I think it’s a great match for Downtown.

12
Apr

Digging into the GSA scandal in Vegas Seven

This week in Vegas Seven, I take a look at why the GSA scandal at the M Resort happened in the first place, and why it will probably happen again:

Las Vegas is back in the national headlines as a place where responsible people shouldn’t be wasting their money. Last time, it was executives for bailed-out firms “blow[ing] a bunch of cash in Vegas,” as President Obama put it; this time, it’s public employees behaving badly. National media outlets and politicians such as Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have made sure that each time they’ve mentioned the bad behavior, they mention “Vegas” as well. As our very own marketers know, irresponsibility sells better when you leverage the Sin City name.

via Don’t Sweat It, They’ll Be Back | Vegas Seven.

There will be some immediate fallout from this, but I think that some meetings planners will continue to make poor choice–as most of them make good ones. Guess who’s going to make headlines?

5
Apr

The Gaughan Also Rises in Vegas Seven

This week, my Green Felt Journal column in Vegas Seven is about Michael Gaughan, Jr., taking the reins at the Rampart Casino in Summerlin:

This week, a reunion of sorts took place in Summerlin, as the JW Marriott Resort & Spa and the Rampart casino, which had operated as separate units for a decade, were consolidated under the new ownership of Hilfreich Stiftung, a Liechtenstein-based foundation. Overseeing the transition and helming the new, combined operation is Michael Gaughan Jr., a third-generation casino executive who’s seen plenty of changes in his hometown, and who is now helping to write the next chapter for one of its most idiosyncratic casinos.

via The Gaughan Also Rises | Vegas Seven.

It’s an interesting story not just because it shines some light on the locals market, but because Gaughan is a third-generation casino operator. You’ve probably heard of his grandfather, Jackie Gaughan, and his father, Michael Gaughan.

3
Apr

Casino attractions that matter in Vegas Seven

My latest in the Las Vegas Business Press is inspired by a recent more at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas:

Recently, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas announced a replacement for its Strip-front pop-up wedding chapel, itself a replacement for Droog, a quirky boutique chock full of intricately fashioned, completely impractical, outrageously expensive furniture. The new tenant? EA Sports Bar, a bar/video gaming area featuring the latest titles from the popular game maker. They should pay their rent, and Madden 12 enthusiasts will be jazzed at the possibility of playing on the Strip, but will it help the bottom line at The Cosmopolitan, which has yet to find its gambling groove?

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : To matter, attractions must draw business.

As I indicate, this is a complex question. Does retail simply support the casino, does it drive customers into the casino, or does it offer something completely different from the casino as a way of getting people who wouldn’t usually be patrons through the door?

16
Mar

High Culture History in Vegas Seven

I’ve got a Latest Thought about the Smith Center’s place in Las Vegas history in Vegas Seven:

As a world-class, centralized home for the performing arts, The Smith Center brings something new to the Valley. But high culture itself goes back a long way in Las Vegas—even on the Strip. And to this day, the priorities of casino moguls and arts patrons aren’t as disconnected as you might think.

via Yes, High Culture Has a History Here | Vegas Seven.

Just my two cents to add to the Smith Center opening media cavalcade.