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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve got the cover story in this week’s Vegas Seven. It’s a piece that I worked on a quite a while under the astute editorial eye of Greg Blake Miller, in which I come to grips with why people come to Vegas to see dead people:
The Mob Museum’s Feb. 14 debut was another reminder of Las Vegas’ longstanding penchant—one might even call it a skill—for raising the dead and recycling the past. People used to joke that Vegas was where show business careers went to die, though just as often it’s been the place where, having died, they rise again in tribute shows and improbable cults of personality. Sometimes it feels as if the Rat Pack really is back. In a way, there’s not much separating the stage icons who have returned from the dead to entertain Las Vegas audiences from the rubbed-out wiseguys whose careers the Mob Museum chronicles. Both return from a troubled reality to fulfill our longing for—or at least fascination with—a burnished past. Michael Jackson might not have had a made man’s swagger, and Bugsy Siegel surely never moon-walked, but the two have this in common: They’re worth more to Las Vegas dead than alive
I haven’t gotten the chance to do much of this kind of writing before. Don’t get me wrong, I like the more straight-forward “telling people’s stories” material I usually do, but I wanted to try something more ambitious where I got to use some of my more academic analytic sensibilities but for a broader audience.
A few things inspired me to write this piece: the macabre attractions at Luxor, which got me thinking about Iron Maiden’s Live After Death; the Michael Jackson billboard, which reminded me of Live After Death’s cover; Elvis impersonators; the fizzling of “Viva Elvis;” and the obsession with mobsters.
It’s fun to be able to bounce from H. P. Lovecraft to mobsters to Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson and back again, and close with a reference to It’s a Wonderful Life. And that’s just the first paragraph. I also got to make an Anthrax reference, probably my first in print, and even worked Bob Stupak into the mix along the way.
Hopefully this gets a good reception and I get to do more of it in the future. Thanks for reading it.
Some people might consider the massive New Year’s Eve celebration—“America’s Party”—the ultimate night for Las Vegas casinos. True, that bash attracts more than 300,000 people each year. But ask the people charged with making money for casinos, and they’ll tell you that the holiday they really look forward to is Chinese New Year.
It is now arguably the second most important holiday in Las Vegas, right behind the “holiday” known as Super Bowl weekend. And it’s just about tailor-made for casinos: Traditionally, it’s considered propitious to gamble at the start of the new year.
This week Vegas Seven released its nightclub issue. Since that’s such a big part of the casino scene these days, I thought I’d tackle the question of how clubs rebrand in this week’s Green Felt Journal:
In the wake of the Great Recession, nightclubs have been a crucial part of the identities and business plans of Las Vegas casinos. Major operators such as Wynn, the Venetian and even the storied Caesars Palace have made their clubs integral to their overall operations. Meanwhile, such resorts as the Palms and Hard Rock Hotel have built themselves almost from the ground up as party destinations. When clubs work, they generate buzz, foot traffic, ancillary casino gaming and food-and-beverage spending. But when they don’t, they can be a drag on a property.