Siegel’s Shadow in Vegas Seven

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.


Worst Night Ever and a Prescient Casino Bar in Vegas Seven

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.


Electric Daisy Economics in Vegas Seven

In the Green Felt Journal available in today’s Vegas Seven, I take a look at the real impact of the Electric Daisy Carnival on Las Vegas:

Generally speaking, if you want to bring an event to Las Vegas, the town is happy to oblige, provided you do three things:
1. Fill rooms with people who …
2. Open their wallets and …
3. Don’t disturb the other paying guests.Since last year’s event hit each of those benchmarks, this year the Electric Daisy Carnival is being welcomed back with open arms.

via Electric Daisy Economics | Vegas Seven.

I’d seen an economic impact statement and wanted to do a little comparison shopping. Turns out, EDC provides a respectable boost in spending for Las Vegas (no surprise there) that is right in line with many other major events.

I thought the LA Times editorial comments made a nice juxtaposition to the apparent success of EDC in Las Vegas, too.


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.


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.



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.


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?