A Look Back at Caesars Palace in Vegas Seven

In this week’s Vegas Seven, I’ve got a cover feature on the 50 years of Caesars Palace:

Caesars Palace has always been more than the sum of its parts. Yes, it’s just a place where people pay for rooms, eat dinner, watch shows and gamble. But there remains something compelling about the property. It may no longer be the highest-grossing on the Strip, and as of 2016 it still isn’t the oldest, but it might just be the most successful.

Read more : An Empire Like No Other – Vegas Seven

I also have two sidebars connected with the story:

Modern-Day Gladiators about fight nights at Caesars Palace.

The Birth of a Brand about how Caesars became a marketing juggernaut.

Caesars’ Room Art Gives Guests Something to Gawk At – Vegas Seven

Reading the VegasTripping review of the new Julius Tower rooms, I was struck by the art. So I wrote my latest Green Felt Journal about it:

Usually, hotel room art at best presents a regional accent; at worst, it says nothing and moves no one. For the creatives at KNA Design, the distinctly Caesars touch was essential.

Read more: Caesars’ Room Art Gives Guests Something to Gawk At – Vegas Seven

This was a lot of fun to write. It’s fascinating to learn how much thought goes into room design.

Grandissimo and the author at the Forum Shops

Here I am posing with the book at the Caesars store in the Forum Shops.

The store is directly off the casino exit to the Forum Shops. Walk out of the casino, turn right, and you can’t miss it.

Here I am posing with the book at the Caesars store in the Forum Shops.

The store is directly off the casino exit to the Forum Shops. Walk out of the casino, turn right, and you can’t miss it.

Buy Grandissimo at Caesars Palace

Jay Sarno revolutionized Las Vegas with Caesars Palace, so it’s only fitting that Grandissimo is now on sale there. There is some symbolism in the fact that it went on sale yesterday, August 5, which was the 48th anniversary of Caesars’ wild opening—a day that Grandissimo talks about in great detail.

Right now, you can get the book in two locations. The first is the Caesars store in the Forum Shops, just to the right as you exit the casino.

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Here is a shot of a few books in their natural setting:

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if you’re strolling down the Appian Way, you can pick up a copy at Emperor’s Essentials:

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The book is just inside the front door.

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I’d like to thank Sherell Bartley at Caesars Entertainment retail and the staff of both stores for making the book available.

Jay Sarno revolutionized Las Vegas with Caesars Palace, so it’s only fitting that Grandissimo is now on sale there. There is some symbolism in the fact that it went on sale yesterday, August 5, which was the 48th anniversary of Caesars’ wild opening—a day that Grandissimo talks about in great detail.

Right now, you can get the book in two locations. The first is the Caesars store in the Forum Shops, just to the right as you exit the casino.

image

Here is a shot of a few books in their natural setting:

image

if you’re strolling down the Appian Way, you can pick up a copy at Emperor’s Essentials:

image

The book is just inside the front door.

image

I’d like to thank Sherell Bartley at Caesars Entertainment retail and the staff of both stores for making the book available.

Happy 48th Birthday, Caesars Palace

Forty-eight years ago today, Caesars Palace opened, and Las Vegas never was the same again. 

August 5, 1966, was the start of the three-day celebration that introduced the world to Jay Sarno’s vision of Las Vegas. Though there were plenty of skeptics, the opening was a smash and the property never looked back.

Here’s Jay Sarno, in a photo taken the night Caesars opened. 

And here’s Nate Jacobson, Jay’s partner and the president of Caesars Palace, with the guest of honor, Jimmy Hoffa.

If you’d like to learn more about that night (and the day that preceded it, here is an excerpt from Grandissimo detailing Jay’s life on August 5, 1966.

And if you like that, you might want to read a copy of the whole book.

Forty-eight years ago today, Caesars Palace opened, and Las Vegas never was the same again. 

August 5, 1966, was the start of the three-day celebration that introduced the world to Jay Sarno’s vision of Las Vegas. Though there were plenty of skeptics, the opening was a smash and the property never looked back.

Here’s Jay Sarno, in a photo taken the night Caesars opened. 

And here’s Nate Jacobson, Jay’s partner and the president of Caesars Palace, with the guest of honor, Jimmy Hoffa.

If you’d like to learn more about that night (and the day that preceded it, here is an excerpt from Grandissimo detailing Jay’s life on August 5, 1966.

And if you like that, you might want to read a copy of the whole book.

What is Grandissimo?

This is a book project that I’ve been working on for several years. It’s the story of the man who I believe to be the single most influential figure in Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s and 1970s, but who unfortunately not many people know about.

I’m substantially finished the book, and hope to publish it later this year.

Until then, I’m using this space to let people know about the book.

This is a book project that I’ve been working on for several years. It’s the story of the man who I believe to be the single most influential figure in Las Vegas casinos in the 1960s and 1970s, but who unfortunately not many people know about.

I’m substantially finished the book, and hope to publish it later this year.

Until then, I’m using this space to let people know about the book.

Heavyweight Hospitality at Caesars in Vegas Seven

In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to have some very good conversations with people in the casino business that, I hope, have translated into good writing about the business. Here’s the first, a Green Felt Journal column about the challenges that Ramesh Sadhwani is taking on at Caesars Palace. From Vegas Seven:

Ramesh Sadhwani, who in September was named the hotel’s vice president of operations, might be the man to help Caesars recapture the title.

He’s certainly got a championship resumé: 15 years with Four Seasons, living in several countries and managing a number of five-star properties; five years as senior vice president and general manager of hotel operations for Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Tower suites. Sadhwani knows top-tier hospitality, both in its broad international context and its specific Las Vegas spin.

On paper, he’s the first guy you’d want on board to run your five-star hotel. What doesn’t come through on paper, though, is Sadhwani’s genuine enthusiasm for the business of other people’s leisure.

via Heavyweight Hospitality | Vegas Seven.

What is difficult to convey is the genuine warmth in Sadhwani’s voice as he walked me through his decision to join Caesars which, within about five seconds, made his passion and his friendliness–two qualities essential for anyone in hospitality–immediately apparent. It’s usually just about impossible to build a rapport with someone who you’ve got 20 minutes to interview over the phone, but with Sadhwani it happened pretty quickly. He was upfront about the challenges he’s facing at Caesars and very specific about what he’s planning to do there.

It’s always refreshing to talk to a consummate professional like Sadhwani, who knows his business back-to-front and is so confident in his knowledge that he doesn’t have to roll out pre-stamped corporate boilerplate; he can just talk about his job. If you wanted to go into the hotel business, I can’t think of a better teacher.

In the column, I tried to draw on some of the history of Caesars Palace to show where it’s been, which certainly has a bearing on where it’s going.

As one of the best-known casinos in the world, I think it’s better for Las Vegas as a whole when Caesars Palace is doing well. And, despite some questions I’ve got about the Nobu tower concept, I have a lot of faith that Sadhwani’s going to deliver a Caesars Palace that, from a hospitality standpoint, is in the Vegas elite.

Another former head of state…

…is working the casino circuit, and at Caesars Palace, no less:

President Bill Clinton will speak at The Colosseum @CaesarsPalace on Mon., Feb. 22 at 7:30pm. Tickets go on sale Monday!

via The Colosseum ColosseumatCP on Twitter.

Why do I say “another?” About a year and a half ago, Mikhail Gorbachev played the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Hotel and Casino.

So if the hierarchy is Clinton–> Caesars, Gorbachev–>Hard Rock, who is going to sign for the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm?

Seriously, that’s got to be a bit of a comedown–from leader of the free world to a casino showroom. At least Reagan could say that his gig at the New Frontier came 25 years before his presidency.

Another day, another bad marker case

Along with word that business in Las Vegas is “bouncing along the bottom,” the big news today is the latest in celebrity bad marker cases, former NBA star Antoine Walker. From the LVRJ:

Walker faces three felony counts related to writing bad checks at Las Vegas casinos between July 2008 and January 2009. According to the criminal complaint, Walker wrote six checks worth $100,000 each at Caesars Palace around Jan. 19. Before that, the 12-year NBA veteran wrote $400,000 worth of checks for chips at Red Rock and Planet Hollywood, prosecutors say.

Walker has paid back a portion of the money but still owes $822,500.

via Walker charged with writing bad checks to casinos – Sports – ReviewJournal.com.

I did a quick interview on this subject with KVVU (Fox 5) this morning, so I’ve got a few thoughts.

First, for some reason, as I read the story, I kept thinking that he got a marker for $400,000 in red chips. And the old CCTV operator in me said, “That’s four thousand stacks.” I assume that even though he was playing at Red Rock, he did not receive the money in $5 chips.

Anyway, the serious stuff starts here. Why do casinos even offer credit play? That’s a common question. The answer is that we’re talking about sums so big, few people are going to be bringing in cash, and if they are, the IRS may start to get suspicious, since most legitimately high-wealth individuals don’t walk around with hundreds of thousands of dollars on them. There is a detailed process, filled with internal controls and external checks, before someone is granted credit. Generally speaking, the casino investigates the player’s credit history and, if they seem to be good for it, lets them sign a marker.

Why are unpaid markers considered bad checks? That’s a very good question, and the best answer is that this is because that’s what the law is. Why is that the law? I haven’t been able to find much on the legislative debate over the bill that made gambling debts legally collectible in 1983, but I imagine that the casino industry had a fair degree of input into the process.

How much money are we talking about? In 1998, attorney Bob Faiss estimated that between 5 and 15 percent of all money wagered at all Nevada casinos is bet on credit. If you’re interested in the mechanics of casino credit, Faiss’s testimony before the National Gambling Impact Study Commission is as good a summary of any of the process.

For fiscal year 2008, gamblers wagered about $232.4 billion dollars in Nevada casinos.* Five percent of that is about $11.6 billion. Fifteen percent is approximately $34.9 billion. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the number is ten percent of all money wagered in Nevada casinos. In that case, we can say that Nevada casinos extended about $23.2 billion in credit during fiscal year 2008.

According to the Nevada Gaming Abstract, in that year casinos statewide reported a total of $132.1 million as “bad debt expense,” i.e., uncollected markers. That seems like a lot of money, and it is. Compared to annual gaming revenues of about $12 billion for that period, though, it doesn’t look so big (“only” 1.1 percent). Next to the estimated total credit play, $23.2 billion, it’s tiny: 0.56 percent. Just over one-half of one percent of casino markers end up as bad debts.

That’s probably worse than a commercial bank’s lending rate, but isn’t that bad. According to a recent news story, Bank of America, one of the largest banks in the US, is writing off more than 10 percent of its credit card loans.

While more alarmist elements may imagine that there’s a tidal wave of bad credit decisions and unpaid markers coming from Nevada casinos, looking at the numbers shows that this isn’t true. Only a small percentage of markers end up unpaid, and it seems that casinos do a pretty good job of due diligence before letting players sign markers. Of course, a few high-profile cases gives a much different impression.
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*If you want to check the math, divide the total table and slot revenues by their respective win percentages, then add them.

The intoxication defense

A high-roller who lost an incredible amount of money gambling in Las Vegas casinos is seeking to avoid paying some of his markers, claiming that he was too drunk to know what he was doing. From the LV Sun:

High-rolling Nebraska philanthropist Terrance K. Watanabe is mounting an unusual defense to charges he failed to pay $14.7 million in Strip gambling debts.

He is accusing Caesars Palace and the Rio, both owned by Harrah’s Entertainment, of providing him with a steady flow of alcohol and — in the case of Caesars Palace — prescription painkillers as his losses increased.

His Las Vegas attorney, David Chesnoff, lays out the defense in a letter to prosecutors, claiming that casino employees will testify that the resorts kept the prolific gambler in a constant state of intoxication in the latter months of 2007 in violation of state gaming regulations.

Gambler who lost millions claims he was plied with alcohol, drugs – Las Vegas Sun.

Some interesting points: Watanabe reportedly lost $112 million at Harrah’s casinos in 2007. The $14.7 million in bad markers is about 13 percent of the total. Was it worth it to go after these markers? Some would say no, citing customer service, while others would say that if Watanabe had won, he’d have gotten paid, so it’s only fair that he pay every marker.

In 2009, $112 million is almost enough to buy a Las Vegas casino–at least a small one. According to David McKee, it would be enough to buy the Slots a Fun and have plenty left over for renovation and expansion–or pay for Criss Angel’s Believe.

Try to wrap your head around that: this guy could have starred in his own Cirque show, complete with a custom theater, with the money that he lost. It’s staggering.

While nothing is impossible, Watanabe probably is facing an uphill battle: the same argument didn’t work for Leonard Tose back in the early 1990s. This seems to be a similar case.

If Watanabe does win, we’d probably see a major re-evaluation of how casinos do business. Could blackjack tables be fitted with breathalyzers? Probably nothing that extreme, but you’d see a lot less complimentary alcohol.

This may be neither here nor there, but I know several people who come to Las Vegas who’d like nothing more than to be kept in a constant state of intoxication. Isn’t that one of the big sales points?