Posts tagged vegas seven

The Conjuring of The Mirage in Vegas Seven

One of my favorite things about writing for Vegas Seven is the chance to write extended feature pieces that give me a chance to do original research and learn a great deal about Las Vegas, present and past.

In this week’s issue, I take a look back at the event which, 25 years ago, changed the direction of Las Vegas–the construction and opening of The Mirage. It starts in 1985, when Joel Bergman gets a summons from Steve Wynn:

At about 2 a.m., Bergman—who led Atlandia, the Nugget’s in-house design firm—finally arrived at the right condo in an under-construction country club subdivision. Wynn was still up when he got there, waiting for him.

“Joel,” Wynn said, “Let me tell you about the wonderful place we’re going to build in Las Vegas.”

via The Conjuring of The Mirage | Vegas Seven.

I used many sources for this feature, but the best was a series of five interviews with Joel Bergman, Arte Nathan, Bobby Baldwin, Alan Feldman, and Steve Wynn, with an assist from DeRuyter Butler.

Two things really stand out to me: first, 5,000 words isn’t enough to tell the whole story, and second, the building of The Mirage really was a special moment in Las Vegas. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The Coming Social Gaming Revolution | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at what changes might be afoot on casino floors across the country:

Since the recession, however, slot machines have lost ground to tables. Last year, tables statewide earned 35 percent of total gaming win. That doesn’t sound like a big shift—5 percentage points over just as many years—but the original shift in dominance from tables to slot machines was just as gradual.

via The Coming Social Gaming Revolution | Vegas Seven.

The point I wanted to make here is that we can’t assume that casinos ten years for now are going to look exactly like casinos today. It’s been a little more than a decade since widespread adoption of ticket in/ticket out and multi-denom machines changed slot gaming. I think that Dr. Andrade’s work raises all sorts of interesting questions about how people are going to play in the future.

The Online Gaming Debate: Not So Fast, Congress | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I propose a possible solution to the current schism between pro- and anti-online gaming forces in Congress (and the gaming industry):

With both sides ratcheting up their lobbying, though, it seems that Congress is painting itself into a corner without a way forward or compromise that will satisfy everyone.

But maybe there is.

via The Online Gaming Debate: Not So Fast, Congress | Vegas Seven.

I think this column could have been a few thousand words if I had the print space available (I don’t). The more I think about it, the more sensible another national look at gambling’s impact seems.

What’s more, this study could also include credit play (and collection of credit) which is another issue currently in the news thanks to FinCEN’s proposal to force casino to vet the sources of high rollers’ funds. (For more about FinCEN, see my previous Green Felt Journal.)

The nature of gambling in the United States has changed remarkably since National Gambling Impact Study wrapped up in 1999. Online gaming is the most obvious difference, but the shift in where Las Vegas casinos make their money (increasingly, it’s international high rollers) is another change that has profound implications.

Everyone debating the nature of gambling today has something to gain from an in-depth study. With no clear direction presenting itself to Congress and a crying need for solid information, a new national study commission makes perfect sense.

Needs of High Rollers, Government Leave Casinos in a Bind | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at FinCEN, the federal bureau that, I think is going to make a big impact on Las Vegas in the near future:

Would-be high-rollers, take note: If you ever have a transaction of more than $10,000 at a casino, the staff there will gather information from you and file a report with the federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. You probably haven’t heard of FinCEN, but it’s a major player in our city’s biggest industry.

via Needs of High Rollers, Government Leave Casinos in a Bind | Vegas Seven.

As I suggest in the article, the tension between federal reporting guidelines and traditional credit practices has the potential to become a huge issue for Las Vegas.

Caesars’ Changing Empire | Vegas Seven

Here is my latest in Vegas Seven, about two Caesars transactions that, I think, augur the future:

It’s no secret that both online and social gaming are growing; millions of people play “for free” each day, and at least 10 states—including California and Texas—are mulling the legalization of straight-up online gambling. The two transactions show the evolution of the way Americans play—and the way Las Vegas-based gaming companies make money.

via Caesars’ Changing Empire | Vegas Seven.

Once, the industry’s growth was in geographic expansion in the U.S. Now it seems that expansion online–in both money games and social–is the real growth segment–for now, at least.

What Does Bitcoin’s Downtown Presence Say About Las Vegas—and the Future? | Vegas Seven

When Derek Stevens started accepting Bitcoin at The D and Golden Gate, I became curious: How did he make the decision to do this, and why? The result of my curiosity is this week’s Green Felt Journal:

Sometimes a story about newfangled technology doubles as one about old-fashioned neighborhood gumption. When The D and the Golden Gate became the first casinos to accept Bitcoin albeit only for non-gaming purchases it was a sign of the way Downtown Las Vegas, by dint of geography and necessity, is pushing the boundaries of innovation in the casino business.

via What Does Bitcoin’s Downtown Presence Say About Las Vegas—and the Future? | Vegas Seven.

Since the gaming industry handles so much money, any alternate form of payment should be of interest. We will have to see how Bitcoin develops.

The American Gaming Association Takes a Smart New Direction | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at the resurgent American Gaming Association and what it means for Las Vegas:

In the past few months, the American Gaming Association has almost completely regenerated itself. Even though the gaming industry’s chief lobbying group has the same name and offices, it has a renewed mission under new President and CEO Geoff Freeman: to promote the overall positive community impact of gaming, urge a streamlined regulatory process and underline the reality that online gaming is not going away.

via The American Gaming Association Takes a Smart New Direction | Vegas Seven.

I think this is one of stories to watch–a changing AGA might lead the industry into directions that none of us foresee.

Rockhouse, PBR Rock Bar Owner Just a Local Kid on the Strip | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take a look at one of the entrepreneurs who is shaking things up on the Strip:

Jonathan Fine is a case in point. Fine—who operates some of the Strip’s hottest midmarket nightspots—comes from one of the most illustrious families in Las Vegas: His grandfather, Hank Greenspun, founder of the Las Vegas Sun, was one of the community’s pre-eminent leaders. His father, developer Mark Fine, was instrumental in the growth of Green Valley and Summerlin. And his brother, Jeffrey, is involved in numerous enterprises, including Fifth Street Gaming, operator of the recently opened Downtown Grand and other gaming locations.

via Rockhouse, PBR Rock Bar Owner Just a Local Kid on the Strip | Vegas Seven.

I think fine has done some interesting things, and I’m eager to see what he does next.

From the Emerald City to Pharaoh’s Tomb | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Vegas Seven, I have a feature article considering the ways that the spirit of 1993 is still with us:

In the fall of 1993, the wrapping came off three new resorts that promised to change the way people visited Las Vegas. The opening of The Mirage four years earlier is rightfully credited for kicking off the megaresort era on the Strip, and Excalibur, which opened in 1990, proved that the family-friendly, mass-market model worked just as well for new hotels as for older ones. But the 1993 openings of Luxor October 15, Treasure Island October 27 and MGM Grand December 18 seemed to define a new direction for the Strip: families, and lots of them.

It was a big gamble, $1.9 billion invested on more than 10,000 hotel rooms and new attractions that were either going to open up Las Vegas to a new market or be the most expensive failures in the city’s history. And at first, it seemed to pay off. In 1994, Las Vegas visitation increased from 23.5 million to 28.2 million. That doesn’t seem so incredible now that we’re flirting with the 40 million mark, but at the time it was a nearly 20 percent jump—the biggest increase ever, both proportionally and in absolute numbers. Even the four horsemen of 1998-99—Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Paris and Venetian—only moved the needle by 10 percent.

via From the Emerald City to Pharaoh’s Tomb | Vegas Seven.

I think that the importance of what those three resorts meant to Las Vegas has been forgotten, for a few reasons. First, the late-1990s upscaling boom, which you could argue lasted until the opening of Cosmopolitan in 2010, seemed superficially to be a more important transition. Second, the resorts themselves changed their identities within a few years. Third, with the post-2001 shift towards nightlife, the 1990s emphasis on family attractions is a little embarrassing. And finally, Las Vegas casinos are much more about the present than their past.

But, as I discuss in the article, we owe a great deal to those openings, and we have not moved as far from them as we think.

Real Estate Rebel: How the Late David Atwell Set the Standard for Megadeals on the Strip | Vegas Seven

This week’s Green Felt Journal was a difficult one for me to write. A few months back, I struck up a friendship with a long-time Las Vegan, David Atwell, who I learned was involved with some of the biggest real estate deals in the city’s history. We had conversation after conversation about the development of Las Vegas and the colorful personalities that made it happen.

In the past few weeks, as David had a few setbacks, we kept in touch, talking enthusiastically about current news in Las Vegas and some of the deals that got us to where we are. He’d urged me to write more about this aspect of history, but I really wish that I had written this article about some of the big deals of the Strip with him as a source, not as the subject:

When we look at the Strip, the builders get all the headlines. We read about the towering figures who transformed the Strip with Caesars Palace, Bellagio and CityCenter. They take an empty space—which, given our penchant for implosions, might be relatively recently empty—and create something that benefits the community.

But before those city-defining resorts were built, they had to secure the land to build upon. That’s where David Atwell came in. Atwell, who died November 25 at the age of 63, is an almost-native Las Vegan. Moving here with his family in 1955, he grew up watching the city grow up around him. Armed with a degree from UNLV, he went into real estate in the mid-1970s, soon focusing on hotel and casino transactions. Among the numerous deals that Atwell helped broker, three stand out as particularly important to both his career and the current shape of the Strip.

via Real Estate Rebel: How the Late David Atwell Set the Standard for Megadeals on the Strip | Vegas Seven.

Looking at the Strip today, you should appreciate just how big the Dunes deal was. The way history happened, Nangaku bought it in 1987, ran into trouble, and sold it to Wynn in 1992, leading to Bellagio and Monte Carlo right way, and, eventually, CityCenter.

But let’s say that David Atwell isn’t as tenacious in bankruptcy court, and someone else walks away with the Dunes.

If Steve Wynn gets it, maybe The Mirage happens differently; after all, he’d have a whole lot more land to build on at the Dunes.

If Sheldon Adelson gets it, he probably doesn’t buy the Sands in 1988, and the Venetian ends up where the Bellagio is.

Kirk Kerkorian might have turned the property into the MGM Dunes, adding a few thousand rooms and casino space to parts of the existing property, as he did with the Marina, which became part of the MGM Grand.

Hilton and Caesars…it’s hard for me to imagine what they would have done, except that maybe it would have become the site for Paris in the former case and a second Strip resort for Caesars in the second.

So if you’re a fan of the Strip as it is today, you can thank Masao and David Atwell. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know a truly incredible Las Vegan.