Thursday, December 25, 2008

Aliante Station Review and Room Pics

This past weekend, I got an opportunity to spend a night at the newly-opened Aliante Station. It was pretty much everything as billed including how far "out there" the place really is. The design and feel is quite similar to Red Rock in desert browns and reds. The first thing that struck me were the front doors. They are a translucent blueish green on the way into the lobby but amber colored on the way out. Very cool. Just like Red Rock and GVR, they have gone to great lengths to seperate the hotel and casino. With only 202 rooms, there was only a small wait to chack-in, no more than 10 minutes from valet to room. The room also sports the desert color scheme with a lot of dark wood and natural colors. There is a flat screen TV, mini-bar, CD/MP3 clock radio and a safe. A nice feature is a big, comfortable bench seat that is great for watching TV. The bathroom is pretty large for a standard room and nicely done with nice fixtures and lots of tile. The downside is only 1 sink and just a shower, no tub.

The casino has all of the latest greatest machines with nearly all having video screens for both the display and the marquee. This means that just about any machine can be made into something different in no time at all. There is goodly amount of multi-line penny slots along side tons of mostly weak video poker. The table pit is fairly large for a locals place with mostly low minimum games.

As for the location... I decided to take the I-15 to the Beltway route on the way up, which is out of the way but damn, there is a huge amount of nothing along the drive. It is seriously at the very north end of the valley. The better way to get there is by taking surface streets through North Las Vegas but either way, it's about as far north as you can go. However despite it's remote location, at the end of the day the Vegas Valley isn't very big. Even at 5 PM, I was able to make the drive from Aliante to downtown in about 25 minutes. Maybe living in southern California skews my perspective but nothing seems very far while driving around Vegas.

Aliante Station is quite a nice place from the lobby to the rooms to the casino. It better be considering it cost a cool $750 million and that is my biggest problem with the place. For a Saturday night, the place was pretty busy despite the economy; it was busy with nickle video poker and $5 Blackjack players. You need an awful lot of those people to pay the bills on 3/4 of a billion dollars and I just don't know if they have the clientele. Clearly, the place was planned before the economy went poof and the expectation was for growth around the casino. With that not happening in the foreseeable, I don't know if it can carry it's weight when all is said and done. Station Casinos is already starting to have troubles with it's debt load since the buyout and there are rumors of a bankruptcy on the horizon. We will see if this place remains a Station the dust finally settles on the current economic environment.

Click Here for Room Pics

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Death of the Casino Coffee Shop

Its seems that another of the victims of the economic crisis is the legendary casino coffee shop. The home of the $2.95 steak and eggs and $5.95 prime rib is going the way of dodo bird. In efforts to cut costs casinos have turned to the venerable coffee shop as a place to save money, at the customer's expense of course. In past few months, the recently opened Aliante Station was built from the start without a coffee shop and went with a non-24 hour TGI Friday's instead. Sam's Town has replaced it's coffee shop with a TGI's that also isn't 24/7. Gold Coast has done the same but at least they cordoned off a section of the buffet for a placed called "The Cafe." My guess is it doesn't last very long however. While the guys over at Station are replacing their coffee shops with Denny's at both Fiestas as well as the non-hotel Wildfire casinos. Just short of shutting the whole thing down, Rio's Sao Paolo Cafe is only open fron 6AM until noon.

Why does this bother me so much? For two reasons; firstly it's personal. Anyone who knows us knows that we are hardly gourmets. Aside from the occasional steakhouse dinner, we pretty much live on coffee shop food and it's cousin, room service. I love how the menus in most places are giant, with everything from bacon and eggs to Italian and Chinese food. Breakfast is usually served all day and the aforementions specials that you would never found anywhere else in the world. Another great thing is how some places are noted for certain things such as the chinese at Gold Coast or the steak and beer at Eliis Island. All of that is lost with some chain place that actually strives to achieve exact facsimilies in every location. Don't get me wrong, nothing say 4AM drunkeness like a meal at Denny's but I can do that 5 minutes from home. It is not my idea of Vegas.

My second problem with this situation is that it represents more anti-gambler behavior towards the very people the casinos should be begging for, the serious gambler. Who is sitting at a BJ table at 4 AM on a Tuesday? Not the couple from the Midwest or the 23 year old Californian, its the guy who's playing 10 or 12 hours a day. Now you have given him no choice for a place to eat when he needs to take a break which is one less reason to play at your casino. You have also eliminated round the clock room service as well since it usually comes from the coffee shop kitchen. It is unthinkable to me that Rio has 2,500 rooms and 100,000 Sq. Ft. of casino but does not have a 24/7 dining option.

I completely understand the problem facing the Vegas casinos right now but some of the decisions they are making in the name of "cost leadership" are going to end up costing them more in end. Things like closing restaurants, cutting comps and gutting the casino of good games is only going to make the problem worse. I have said it countless times in the last year, Las Vegas needs to get back to it's roots as a "value" destination if it is to bring back the numbers it once had.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008 has become

Although the old name served the site well over the past 3+ years, it doesn't quite roll off the tongue. was one of the original names I had wanted but days before it expired, the squatter that was sitting on it renewed the name. It sat dormant for a long time and I guess the guy finally gave up on his dreams of selling it for big bucks. So when it became available, I jumped on it.

The new name also marks the start of a lot of great things for the site. I have a bunch of new content coming soon and a cool new way of presenting it. It still being developed but the some of the new stuff will start coming online before New Year's. Everyone have a safe, lucky and happy holiday season!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Aliante Station Opens in N. Las Vegas

The $662 Million Aliante Station opened last night to the usual fanfare of fireworks and celebrities despite the state of the economy in Las Vegas. Located in the far north part of the Vegas Valley, it is intersection of the Beltway and Aliante Parkway. The numbers are typical of a locals place; 202 rooms, 120,000 Sq. Ft. casino filled with tons of (bad?) video poker, heavy on the casual food including a decent sized food court and a 16 screen movie theater.

Ironically, it opens on the same day Station Casinos reported terrible financial numbers. Due largely to the debt it took on to go private earlier this year, they posted a 3rd quarter loss of $23 million with revenue declining 10%. Not a great day to open a casino! I am very eager to check the place out and see what they got for their 650+ mil. With that price tag and the current environment, particularly in NLV, I don't know how they get their money back. By comparison, the Eastside Cannery that opened in August, "only" cost $250 million. The other problem facing Station is that any money made on Aliante will almost certainly come at the expense of Texas and Sante Fe Stations and Fiesta Rancho. With new development at a virtual halt in Vegas, they will just be cannibalizing themselves. As always with any new casino endeavour, I wish them all the luck in the world but like I said... Not a great day to open a casino!

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Las Vegas Sands, owners of the Venetian and Palazzo, announced today that they were in default of certain convenents on their long term debt. This means that the lenders can call for the debt to be paid back immediately, triggering an almost certain bankruptcy. Sheldon Adelson, who owns 70% of the company, has already lent them a half a billion of his own money and may have to pony up more if he can find additional financing.

Its an amazing fall for a company that just a year ago was on top of the world. Adelson was one of the richest men alive and they had new projects going in Vegas, Macau, Singapore and Philly. All of that construction activity turned out to be the downfall as they took on way more debt than they can handle in the current horrendous environment. While the economic situation on the strip is certainly not Adleson's fault; when the downturn started, instead of trying to lure in the serious gambler he did everything in his power to drive them away by destroying anything even remotely playable in his casinos. Meanwhile, just next door at Wynn, he put in some decent plays and is weathering the storm much better than the guys at LV Sands. Of course, that is a gross over simplification but the point is that Wynn knows how to bring a customer in while Adelson was just good at fleecing them. I personally know of several high-end player who bailed on Venetian long ago. In times like this, a casino needs its regulars who won't think twice about putting in 8 hours a day in front of a machine. When things were good, the Venetian said "the hell with the gambler" and instead banked on the conventioner to pay the bills with $300 dinners. Well those people have stopped coming and his regulars are now playing at Wynn, the Palms and Green Valley Ranch.As the old saying goes... You reap what you sow!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Caesar's Octavius Tower Preview

Caesars Palace's new Octavius Tower is nearly completion and the Las Vegas Sun has a preview of the rooms. Designed during the pre-downturn heyday, they are going for the "boutique" hotel look that is so popular this days with the acommpanying prices, of course. The only problem, which is the same that MGM faces with City Center, is that the debt load taken on to build these super sweet top of the line rooms will not be able to be supported by the cash coming in the door. The days of the casino subsidizing thier insane construction budgets with $300 meals are over and they certainly wont be able to get away with $500 a night to pay the bills. The new 665 room tower with some additional convention space and restaurants cost a billion dollars. By comparison, the new Eastside Cannery tha opened in August was build from the ground up for a quarter of that.

The bottom line is that while all of the new luxury rooms built in the past few years are certainly nice, they cost way too much to build. Sadly, I think there may be a bankruptcy or two in the near future due to the crushing debt load some of these companies have taken on, Harrah's and MGM Mirage in particular. Upside is that when it happens, the winner will be the Vegas visitor who will be able to experience the best of Vegas at reasonable prices once again.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some Vegas Nuggets

It's been a little while since my last update. I work for a big financial company so as you could imagine, the last couple of weeks have been chaotic to say the least. Fortunately, we haven't been all that negatively impacted by the mortgage crisis and my company still exists!!! Anyway, I hope to be making a few updates in the next few days including some new property maps that are WAY overdue to get posted.

Continuing with the economic crisis theme, an interesting tidbit was run on CNBC yesterday talking about casino stocks. Anyone who has been following them knows they have been absolutely slaughtered in the past year but one stat jumped out at me. At this time last year, Sheldon Adelson's (builder of the Venetian and Palazzo) share in his company, Las Vegas Sands, was worth $30 billion. He was even the richest man in America for a brief few days. Today, it is now worth $3 billion. Now that is no small change and he is hardly poor but could you imagine losing 90% of your net worth in 1 year. Brutal!!! The numbers were similar for MGM Mirage's Kirk Kirkorian. Jim Cramer commented while MGM's stock chart was on the screen that it was the "ugliest chart he has ever seen in his life!" Of course, I would also happen to be the proud owner of some of those shares too. Ughhh...

In other Vegas news, some pieces of good news emerged on the downtown scene recently. If there was a ever a place that needed some good news, rumors have it that the shuttered Star Trek attraction from the Hilton will reappear downtown at the long struggling Neonopolis. This is excellent news if it turns out to be true. Neonopolis has been a ghost town since it opened and anything to bring people in will be a huge upgrade. It also will help bring people downtown who probably would never go there otherwise. I hope it works out for them but I am not holding my breath. The other downtown news involves the Plaza. Apparently, the owners, Tavares Group, are planning a remodel of the place. They have setup several different prototype rooms to decide which way they want to go. They want to "elevate the Plaza to just a notch below the Golden Nugget." That indeed is a worthy goal since the Plaza has been pretty crappy for a long time. However, I have my doubts about the management at the Plaza. Tavares has owned the Plaza as well as the Vegas Club for years now and they haven't done a single thing positive to either of those properties. If anything, there are worse off than when they took over. I know downtown has its issues and big capital projects are hard to justify but there just hasn't been any effort on their part to really make a difference. As with the Star Trek/Neonpolis news, I wish them the best of luck but there has been a lot of talk downtown in recent years but not a whole lot of action.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Wall St. Disaster

Well today was one of the worst days in Wall St. history. The Dow was off 778 points, the NASDAQ is under 2000 and the S&P 500 has lost 4 years of gains. All because a few Republican clowns in Congress suddenly "found principles" that they gave up long ago and voted down the Bailout package. Not without blood on their hands, 1/3 of Democrats also voted it down. It is inconceivable to me how this was not passed and the consequences were predictable. It is high time for a through and complete cleansing of Washington. Both McCain and Obama stood around the past 2 years and watched this happen. Neither deserves the White House.

I am tired of also hearing how this is a bailout of "millionaire bankers." Im sorry but it was myself and the 100s of millions of others with 401Ks and pensions who were the ones who lost $1.2 trillion today because of a few guys, who have sold their soul eons ago, picked today to find God. Everyone needs to get on-board with this package before all of us are screwed for a very long time. Its time for the class warfare crap to end and to get this plan into action before it's too late. The partisan bickering at a time

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Friday, September 12, 2008

City Center's ARIA Preview and July's Casino Numbers

The Los Angeles Times was allowed a sneak peek at the rooms in ARIA, the largest component of MGM Mirage's City Center. The rooms will be loaded with technology never seen in a hotel room before. Some of the nicest features include the drapes opening and lights coming on when you enter and the lights going off and the tempurature adjusting when you check out. You will also be able to control the lights and temperature, play music and video all run through the 42" flat screen and a joystick remote console. The coolest thing about the whole setup is that when the battery starts to run low on the console, it notifies housekeeping to replace it! That is pretty slick.

Of course, the downside to all of this technology is room rates that will assuredly be through the roof. It's been many years since Vegas has had a shortage of luxury hotel rooms and these 4,000 will certainly not help stretch your vacation dollar. Sadly, rooms at FountaineBleu will be similarly equipped (I-Macs in every room) and similarly priced it opens in 2009. It will be very interesting to see how the high end plays out once these additional 8,000 rooms comes on-line. Thus far, that sector has fared pretty well compared to the mid and low end places but this definitely won't help room rates that are already down 25%. If nothing else, this will benefit the Vegas visitor as places like Bellagio and Venetian will be forced to compete with better deals.

Along those lines... the casino number for July came out this week and showed a continue trend of declining revenue. Clark county, which included Vegas and all point south, was down 15% over last year with the strip showing similar results. This is the seventh consectutive month of declines and there is no sign of it letting up anytime soon. I did hear one analyst point out that "at least next year's numbers will be easier to beat." I guess you can always put a positive spin on $150 million less in taxable revenue! Let's hope that the casino companies pain is our gain in the way of continued discounting on everything from rooms to shows.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Death at Bally's and other Vegas Tidbits

In the early morning hours yesterday, an argument at the Front Desk of Bally's led to the stabbing death of a 22 year old woman. The female suspect fled on foot but turned herself in to the LVMPD 5 hours later. 23 year old Latrovia Reed from Milwaukee was also being held on an outstanding warrant for prostitution.

Ms. Reed looks like yet another example of the dregs of society that often migrate to Las Vegas. This is one of the uglier sides of Las Vegas. The sheer number of transients that show up in town looking for either riches or victims is just astounding. Stories like this serve to remind us that despite having more "security" than any other city on earth, you really need to be in "urban" mode at all times in Vegas. It is no different than any other big city in America and you need to have common sense and look out for yourself.

In other news, The troubled and foreclosed Cosmopolitan that is rising between City Center and Bellagio once again has a new party helping trying to get the thing built. Related Cos. of New York has been hired by owners Deutsche Bank to finish the $3.9 billion resort that Deutsche ending up owning through foreclosure on the original developer. The move is being cheered as a step towards completing what had the potential of being a giant unfinished eyesore in the middle of the strip.

Rumors of a partnership between Deutsche and Related have been floating around for months (see my May 30th Blog Entry.) This is Related 3rd try at getting a resort in Vegas and they may have to settle for just running one instead of owning it. Related track record has been questionable in Las Vegas but they do have some skill to get things done. They have built the enormous World Market Center downtown as well as the Time Warner Center in New York City, which is pretty impressive. With the financial muscle of Deutsche Bank and their apparently will to see this thing through, I believe that Cosmopolitan will eventually see the light of day. I think that bodes well for Vegas as a whole.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Rates Down Double Digits

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported this week that room rates in town are down double digits on average and upwards of 50% in some cases. As has been the case recently, the higher end properties seem to be holding up better than the mid and low end places. For example, Venetian was down 17% while the Riviera was down 39%. The discounting seems to be working as McCarran Airport is predicting that it may match last year's passenger volume.

This is a continuation of what I have seen in my 2 trips in the past month. People are still coming to town in droves, they are just spending less money while they are there.I noticed that to be the case in many aspects. The lines were a little sparse at the ultra lounges but the casino bars were packed. The gourmet restaurants were less busy but the coffee shops and casual places had waits. This tells me 2 things about the future of Las Vegas. Bringing back the value that made Vegas great in the past is exactly what is needed right now and that once the economy does pick back up, the casino companies stand to take off once again because the people are still coming and they will have fatter wallets in the future. You may start getting worried if we see sharp declines in the visitor numbers.

On a different topic... I would like to add some color to my review of the Hooters room below. I posted it on several internet message boards and quite a few people disagreed with my assessment based on the pics I posted. I want to clarify that it was far from the most disgusting or flithy room I have ever stayed in. I lived in Motel 6s for a month so I have see some scary rooms. My major problem with the room was pretty much everything but the room. The elevators, hallways, view and the general cleanliness of the place. It was just cheesy and depressing and it seriously felt like we were being "warehoused." Even my worst room at the Imperial Palace still felt like I was staying in a hotel. To be fair, I will give the place another try in the future if it remains around long enough for that to happen.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Hooters Bungalow Room Review

First, a little background... Back in July; my brother, some friends and I had a guys trip and we spent a lot of time in the Hooters casino. We originally went there to take advantage of their excellent slot club sign up bonus, $100 in free play and a ticket to see the comedian Bobby Slaton. If you like obnoxious, raunchy humor, the guy is awesome. Otherwise, probably not your cup of tea. Anyway, afterwards we played a little and had a blast. The casino quite fun with the Hooters girls dealing cards and serving drinks. It certainly beats your average zero personality dealer at most places! We ended up back there a few times over the weekend. When I returned home on Monday, I had an email thanking me for my play and offering me 2 free nights in August. What a sweet deal for only minimal play compared to what I normally do. My brother received the same offer. I was planning a trip back to town in August with the wife so I figured if nothing else I would take the room for a night just for the room pictures.

Lisa and I checked in at about 5 PM on a Wednesday and there was no one in line. We were directed to the elevators at the back of the casino to a room on the 3rd floor. We get in the elevator and go up 2 floor, the door opens and we immediately think it must be the wrong floor because the elevator lobby looks like a prison. Industrial gray paint with the trademark pine "accents." After get out, we venture down an equally dreary hallway. It literally felt like it was a housekeeping area or something. We then open the door to what has to be the cheesiest room I have ever had in Vegas. The room had "office building lobby" grade carpeting and the cheap pine molding everywhere. There wasn't even a night stand, just 2 piece of wood nailed to the wall. The desk and armoire where of equal high quality. I have purchased better furniture at Target. The bathroom was the same deal. The only modification to the original 1974 bathroom was the enchanting pine molding yet again.

The quality of the furnishings wasn't even the real problem, the place just had a disgusting feel. From the hallway of horrors to the cheap stained carpet to the overflowing dumpster that was our view, it just was a scary experience. Lisa didn't even want to stay the length of time to get the room pictures! We immediately picked up our stuff, dropped the keys in the express check out and left. Total length of our Hooters stay: 15 minutes check in to check out!

I don't want to totally bash Hooters based on this one experience because these rooms are their cheapo ones. I am hoping the tower rooms are a better experience because I wouldnt wish a Bungalow room on anyone. If you are planning at stay at Hooters, spend the extra $10 a night for a tower room. I would still, however, definitely recommend their casino if you want a fun low-roller place with good drink service.

Click Here for pictures of the Hooters Bungalow room. They don't do this experience justice!!!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back from the another trip...

Just got back from another trip and although the gambling was BRUTAL, that is always expected so I managed to still have a great time. It was 2 nights in a new suites at South Point and 2 nights in a suite at MGM. We did most of our gambling at South Point and the video poker gods did not smile upon thee... It was pretty much an ass kicking from beginning to end. The stay at MGM was more a traditional Vegas Strip stay. A lot of food, pool and a trip to the spa for Lisa. One of the nights, I double booked a room at Hooters through a email offer I got for two free nights for signing up for their slot club. Pictures and a review will be posted in the next day or so but they don't do the room justice. Check back for this plus new property maps, and other nuggets of wisdom!

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Boyd "delays" Echelon Plus New Property Maps!

Boyd Gaming announced today that it was suspending work for "3 or 4 quarters" on its Echelon project where the Stardust once stood. They cited problems in the credit markets as the reason as they couldn't line up financing for their $3.3 billion portion of the the bill. Their partners, Morgans Hotel Group and General Growth Properties, are facing similar problems in raising their parts as well.

There have been a truckload of failed projects in Vegas recently especially in the condo market but this marks the first time one of the major gaming companies have closed up shop. While Wall Street cheered the news to a 20% gain, this doesn't bode well for Vegas long term. Echelon, along with City Center,, which is facing its own difficulties, were being counted on to save Las Vegas' housing market as they were to bring thousands of jobs to town. This delay doesn't help matters. I have regularly harped about the need for the Strip to be more competitive in this environment but I think at this point its not a matter of cheap buffets and free rooms. Nothing gets better in Vegas until the economy as a whole turns around. The myth of a "recession-proof Vegas has been shattered.

All is not gloomy however, Wynn's Encore plus 2 locals places open between now and the end of the year and Fountainbleu looks like it is well progressing toward an 2009 opening followed by City Center in 2010. If nothing else, enjoy Vegas now while the crowds are down and the deals are flowing!

A website update note... I have posted a bunch of new Property Maps from my recent trip. I have maps of Hooters and Suncoast which a brand new additions plus updates for 6 or 7 others. Enjoy!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mandalay Bay Review

The final 2 nights of the trip were at Mandalay Bay in one of the remodeled Strip view rooms. All 3 of the rooms on this trip were recently redone showing that Vegas never stays with the status quo even at the lower end joints. This room cost more than the previous two combined and at $239 a night, the most I have paid for a room in ages. Since it was a buddy's birthday, he decided where we would stay.

We got there pretty early, around 11:30 but were still able to check-in. We were given a 2 queen room on the 33rd floor with an incredible view all the way down the strip and out to the airport. At 550 Sq.Ft., the room is a nice size. It had a funky table/chair combo thing by the window with a desk, dresser and nice size flat screenTV rounding out the furnishings. The bathroom is great with a large vanity and seperate tub and shower. The bed at first glance appear big and comfortable but I would soon realize, it was the worst bed of the trip. It completely sloped to one side and made for 2 pretty bad nights of sleep. I ended up sleeping on the edge of it for both nights. Also, the safe was useless for anything larger than a wallet. I just can't fathom how a room that was redone in the last year doesn't have a laptop sized safe, especially at a place that is trying to pull down the convention traveler.

We spent a good portion of the our time at the pool of course. Mandalay Bay is all about the pool. It is huge with several regular pools plus a giant wave pool and a lazy river. There is also a poolside casino, nudie pool and a stage to host outdoor concerts. The drink service was good once they realize you are drinking. They keep it flowing at that point, at $11 a piece of course... We had a blast hanging out going from pool to pool and just being idiots. No doubt this is one of the top 2 pools in town.

The casino is typical new, hip casino garbage. Loads of 6/5 Blackjack and nothing in the way of playable video poker. Yet despite that fact, it was packed all weekend. On both Friday and Saturday nights, they had 10 craps tables open and they were lined up 2 deep and there wasn't a BJ table under $25. Needless to say, there wasn't much gambling going on at the "Bay." We did however spend way to much on overpriced drinks in the casino bars.

The only restaurant we tried was the Burger Bar in Mandalay Place. It is most famous for the $60 Fois Groi and Truffle Kobe burger but the standard run of the mill burger was excellent. A nice half pound of beef with just about any topping you could imagine, hence the name "Burger Bar." Highly recommended if you are in the mood for a nice, big juicy burger.

Mandalay Bay is a very nice place they just think WAY too highly of themselves. The room prices are ridiculous in this economic environment and judging by the way it dropped from $289 to $239 in the 2 weeks I watched them before booking, I think they are realizing it. There were no bargains anywhere else in the place from the casino to the gift shop to the bars. Its a nice place to stay every once in a while, especially during pool season but I just could never see staying there on a regular basis. There are just too many other places in town that offer much more for less.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bill's Gamblin' Hall Review

The second night of the trip was at Bill's Gamblin' Hall. You just got to love the downhome feel of the apostrophe in "Gamblin'!" This room was a 2 queen on the 3rd floor facing the Flamingo.

These rooms have also been recently remodeled but it definitely was not a top to bottom refurb as the bathroom was still pretty dated. It is a strange room in that the bathroom is in the far corner of the room instead of near the door. This configuration made for a very small bathroom that was even smaller by the closet area being in there as well. It definitely was unlike any other room I have ever had in Vegas. The bed was comfortable though nothing to write home about. The flat panel TV was actually appropriately sized unlike the one at Circus Circus the night before. For $50 a night, it was well worth the price.

It was an interesting stay at Bill's. The valet is in the back of the building, not directly connected to casino which is out of the ordinary. The front desk is about 5 feet long with never any wait since it is only 200 rooms. It certainly wasn't a mega-resort experience, that's for sure. All in all though, Bill's was a very enjoyable stay. You can't beat the location with 10 casinos within a stones throw of your room. It made it easy to just stroll down the strip for a couple of hours, which I haven't done in years. The combination of location and price makes Bill's an excellent choice if you are looking for a modest priced room.

Click Here for pictures of the remodeled Bill's Gambling Hall room.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Circus Circus Review

I spent the first night of my recent trip in a recently remodeled room in the West Tower of Circus Circus. It was a single king on the 17th floor facing the strip. The decor was pleasantly surprising without a trace of pink to be found anywhere! The bed was pretty comfortable as was the large chair by the window. The bathroom also has been remodeled but it is still small with just 1 sink and a combo tub/shower. Not much you can do about that. With that said... for a remodeled room, it was a bit worn already. There were some stains on the carpet and a cracked tile on the bathroom floor. The window also looked like it hasn't been cleaned since it was built! The flat panel TV, while a nice touch, was definitely on the small side. Another curious thing I noticed about the room was a complete lack of "accessories." No matches, pens, notepads or even the ubiquitous hotel guide. I don't know if that is standard policy but that is what I got.

I only had 1 meal during my stay at "Le Cirque," a late night breakfast special in the 24 hour Casino Cafe. I didn't see it offered anywhere but when I ordered the normal breakfast off the menu, the waitress told me about it and saved me $5. It was served up piping hot in about all of 5 minutes. I may have just been starving but it was all very good. I was out the door in 20 minutes for under $10. 2 enthusiastic thumbs up for the Casino Cafe.

Of course. the first thing comes to mind when you think about Circus Circus (after the horror of the clowns) is the KIDS! Personally, I dont believe that kids belong in Vegas but that is just my opinion. However, I fully expect that at CC and it doesn't really bother me. I actually bought an all-day pass for the Adventure Dome and had a blast on the riding the roller coaster a bunch of times.

Other miscellaneous thoughts... The elevator are not the speediest in the world. I swear only 1 was running in my bank as I always ended up on the same one. The valet is also pretty slow. Getting out of there on a Thursday morning took more than 20 minutes. One of the best amenities ever, the phone check-in service. The Circus Circus lobby is ALWAYS a nightmare, day or night. I bypassed what was easily an hour wait to check-in. There was only person at the window when I walked up and had my keys in 2 minutes. Make sure you take advantage of this option if you are staying here.

Click Here for room pictures of the remodeled West Tower Room.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just Back from the City of Sin!

I just returned from 4 more nights in Vegas. I did the first night at Circus Circus then one night at Bill's Gambling Hall and finished with two nights at Mandalay Bay. Interestingly, all three rooms were recently remodeled. It was a guys trip with a bunch of old friends from around the country meeting up for the first time in years. Needless to say, it was a very different trip than when I am with the wife!

There will be quite a few updates over the coming days. I will have room pics and reviews of all 3 hotels (CC wasn't that bad, really!) plus a bunch of property map and other miscellaneous updates. Check in through the week for new stuff!

In other miscellaneous Vegas news of note while I was gone... The Clark County Commission voted last week to proceed with a new terminal at McCarran Airport at a cost of $1.7 billion despite opposition from the airline industry themselves. They claim that there is a need to re-evaluate the need for the terminal in the face of $140 oil.

This is a tough call for airport officials. In the past, every new hotel room that got built also got filled. With new rooms comes the need for more airport capacity. There are 30,000 room coming online in the next 3 or 4 years; they need to be able to get bodies into town. On the other hand, is this downturn unlike others Vegas has faced in the past? Many before have all but counted Vegas as dead and they have all been wrong. Are things different this time around. Of course, I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I don't think that prices of rooms, shows and meals will continue as they have in the past. The days of charging $400 are over. There will be a return to value, at least on some level, that will make Vegas appealing once again to the average American. The airport guys need to look at every way to squeeze capacity out of the existing terminal and perhaps scaling back plans for a new terminal to something a little less ambitous. After all, the people who have to pay for this thing are the ones who use the airport. I know the temptation is almost irresistable for government but don't screw us more than is absolutely necessary.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Downright Awful Numbers!

The Nevada casino numbers for the month of May are in and it is not pretty! Strip revenue was down 16% representing almost $100 million less in business over last year. The news pounded casino stocks with MGM dropping more than 20% and Wynn taking it in the shorts to the tune of 10%. Many of the casino stocks are trading at levels not seen in 2 or 3 years.

This is just more bad news for the Strip.The way they spent money building the latest wave of resorts is coming back to haunt them. They have relied on the "non-gaming" business to rake in the bucks and that money just isn't there anymore. Less people are coming and those that do are spending less money. Out goes the dinner at Emeril's or Wolfgang's when for 1/4 of the price you can eat at the coffee shop.

Vegas got away from its roots in the effort to become all things to all people(with cash!) The casino became an afterthought and they still apparently don't get it(see my May 19th comments on the new City Center hotel "ARIA.".) They need to get back to offering a good deal on a vacation and good odds in the casino. It is Vegas. Sell it for what it is and stop being something it's not. Otherwise this downturn is going to last longer than anyone wants to believe.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crazy Heat!!!

Its not really big news considering its July in Las Vegas but the National Weather Service has issued an "Excessive Heat Warning" for the Vegas area tomorrow and Thursday. Temperatures are expected to be over 112 for the next several days. This may only be of interest to me since in addition to being a Vegas fanatic, I am also an amateur weather geek. Click Here for the current conditions at my house in southern California.

I personally don't mind the summer Vegas heat. I enjoy sitting by the pool and drinking frosty beverages for a few hours each day. Less than 2 weeks til the boys trip to Mandalay Bay where plenty of pool and drinking time will be had.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sad Closings

Last week, the Stage Deli at the Forum Shops closed for good. When it opened 15 years ago, it was one of the first famous restaurants to set up shop in Vegas. While I have never eaten at the Caesars version, I have enjoyed the original in New York and if it was even close in quality, it will be a loss. The last thing the Forum Shops needs is another "high-end retailer" that will be replacing it.

Also announced this week is the September 1st closing of the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. Millions of Trekkies the world over are in mourning over its passing. In all seriousness, the attraction was seen by millions and has to be considered a success. Despite what was always a curious location at the Hilton which never seemed like a great home and a high admission price, it lasted 11 years and long outlived the Vegas as a family place phase the town went through a decade ago.

Adios and farewell to both places. Two more pieces meet the scrap heap of Vegas history for whatever is bigger, better and new.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Government "Wisdom!"

The Las Vegas Sun is reporting that Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons wants to tax food comps. He claims it would close a $150 million "loophole." This is despite his pledge of "no new taxes." I can only assume Gov. Gibbons has talked with his compatriot in the Sacramento, Arnie Schwarzenegger, as they both are No New Tax guys except they are both all for "fees, closing loopholes and revenue enhancements."

This "wisdom" is no different than the grips I have with the management over at the Venetian (See my June 21st Rant below.) When things are tough, you reduce taxes (or margins) not increase them! You have to be more lean and nimble not fatter and more bloated. So instead of giving us a reason to come to Vegas, the brilliant folks in Carson City just give the 35 million people in California more reason to gamble at the local Indian casino!

One more thing that needs to be noted here... Gov. Gibbons also said "“I want them (the Legislature) to close that loop so that we don’t get ourselves in a further problem dealing with it down the road.” Anyone who has ever watched a political mind at work know exactly what this means... Instead of closing a "loophole" the Governor is just opening up the floodgates. Does anyone really believe that once government taxes food comps that free rooms, shows and drinks are not far behind. Once they gets their fingers on a tax, they never let go just look for more ways to feed the ever growing beast. Just pathetic!!!

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Deals are Coming!!!

In the past 24 hours alone, there have been quite a few signs that the casino operators have finally come to grip with reality and the discounts are starting to flow. Room rates are down considerably for the holiday weekend and that trend seems to be continuing into the summer.

A report from the JP Morgan Gaming analyst shows that rates for the upcoming July 4th holiday are down an average of 18% over last year with Caesars taking the biggest hit, down 42%. It is the 13th consectutive week of declining room rates. Amazingly, Planet Hollywood's rates are actually up 18%. Apparently they are very proud of a property that has no real draw whatsoever.

Further anecdotal evidence of better deals ahead... In the past day; I have received email offers from TI starting at $76 with all sorts of goodies thrown in. New York New York is "Taking 20% Off!" according to their offer and Luxor is offering $50 in gas credit for making the drive to Vegas. I also have been looking at rates for my next trip in July to Mandalay Bay. Last month, it was $279 a night and this morning I got an email for $229.

It's about time these places have woken up and smelled the recession. The decline at Caesars, in particular, doesn't surprise me since in the past 2 years or so they have regularly charging over $300 a night on weekends. That is just absolute insanity even in good times. The arrogence of Planet Hollywood to raise rates is just stunning. Yet another reason to avoid that place like the plague. With management running the joint like this, how long before it follows in the Aladdin's footsteps to bankruptcy?

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