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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