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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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?


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.


Protecting the Game in Vegas Seven

This week, the Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven takes a look at the World Game Protection conference, held at the M Resort:

Right now, casinos around the world are under attack.

They’re not besieged by outlaws with guns and masks, but they are facing a threat that’s no less daunting. Cheaters are working their craft at the blackjack tables. Cashiers are pocketing money that should be making its way to the register. Counterfeiters are passing bogus bills and casino chips.

That’s why casino surveillance and security is such a big deal. And from Feb. 27-29, the global casino surveillance community turned its eye on the M Resort, which hosted the seventh annual World Game Protection Conference.

via Protecting the Game | Vegas Seven.

As you might know, I used to work in casino surveillance, so this topic is near to my heart.  Great conference.


Mob Neighbors in Vegas Seven

I didn’t have a chance to share this yesterday, but this week’s Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven is about the Mob Museum’s impact on its casino neighbors Downtown:

The really interesting story in the wake of the Mob Museum’s Feb. 14 debut will be how the museum reacts to its downtown casino neighbors—and how they react to it. Usually, when people think of the mob in Las Vegas, they think of Teamster-financed Strip resorts, complete with visions of Frank Sinatra, Sam Giancana and Carl Cohen having a schwitz in the Sands’ steam room while mob lackeys bagged up money for Chicago in the count room. But downtown, even though it’s better known for characters like Benny Binion, Sam Boyd, Mel Exber and Jackie Gaughan, was just as open to mob influence as the Strip.

via Mob Neighbors | Vegas Seven.

I wanted to pull in some lesser-known historical material about the mob’s role Downtown and highlight how the Museum’s already impacted the casinos.

On a sad related note, Dennis Gomes, who helped to drive the mob about of casinos like the Fremont, passed away last night. I’ve written a short Vegas Seven blog piece about his influence on Nevada and the national casino industry.

I worked for Dennis at the Taj back in 1994-5, and, as I told someone this morning, it obviously made an impression on me since I’m still studying the industry 18 years later. I had a few nice exchanges with him over Twitter in the past few months and was hoping to record a podcast interview with him when our schedules permitted. Sadly, that’s not going to happen now, but there’s enough that’s been written about his career in gaming that there’s no danger of his legacy going unheralded. If I got a ballot for the Gaming Hall of Fame, I know how I’d be marking it this year.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Gomes’s family and friends. As I said this morning, Atlantic City–and the gaming industry–has lost a leader and a friend.


Stomp the House in Vegas Seven

I’ve got another piece in Vegas Seven today: a preview of the Fresh Beat Band’s concert (this Saturday!) at Planet Hollywood:

When the Fresh Beat Band rolls into Planet Hollywood, it’s a fair bet that toddlers are going to go wild. The surprising thing is that, if you’re taking yours, you might end up having a good time yourself.

via Stomp the House | Vegas Seven.

In the past few months, I’ve become a huge Fresh Beat Band fan. Part of it might be musical Stockholm Syndrome from listening to their music just about every day, but I’ve come to really appreciate the energy that all four of the Fresh Beats bring to the show. It’s not easy keeping kids entertained, and it’s even harder keeping them entertained while not driving adults completely insane.

Here’s a sample of what the Fresh Beats do:

I woke up with the next song in my head. It’s been alternating with Van Halen’s “Bullethead” all morning.

I’m really looking forward to this concert.

If you can’t make the show, the Fresh Beat Band’s new CD is available on amazon for the ridiculously low price of $9.00.