Why You Should Be Excited About The Las Vegas North Strip Soon!

Oh so much news about the North Strip! Many of you have most likely avoided going north of Wynn/Encore because there are long walks between not much. Even if you have to get up to SLS and Stratosphere Las Vegas (for whatever reason), the monorail has been the way to go. That is going to change dramatically in the next couple of years. Here’s a north-to-south overview of what to anticipate:

Stratosphere Tower Las Vegas

– The Stratosphere (and both Arizona Charlie’s) have been bought by Golden Gaming, which owns a few casinos scattered around Nevada (Pahrump and Laughlin), and more importantly operates the most dominant chains of bar and grills around Las Vegas (over 60 locations at my last count). They plan unspecified investments in the property. For now, what I’d look to is them taking all they’ve learned with their bars and non-Vegas Strip casinos and making things very easy on the wallet to lure people through the door.

– SLS(ahara) was recently sold to a Reno casino operator. Our hope was that he would bring Reno-style hospitality and pricing to The Strip. Unfortunately, that sale seems up in the air. Word is that, despite the intense renovation of the property, it still has significant problems and the price needs to come down to make the deal work. No word of what those issues are, but one has to assume they are infrastructure issues which were glossed over during the renovation. (I’m just making a guess here, not a statement). Those of you who have worked on old houses know that you can make the house look great, but that doesn’t mean the plumbing and electrical are new.

– The All Net Arena, on the old Wet ‘N’ Wild property just south of SLS, claims that financing is in place for them to build an NBA-style arena on the property. This has been in the world for years, and the principles have NBA connections. However, not so fast on this one. MGM Resorts will have none of this. If we get an NBA team, they want it in their own T-Mobile arena. So much so, that to build a relationship with the NBA, they just went out and bought San Antonio’s WNBA team and is relocating it to Las Vegas. (WNBA games will be in the smaller Mandalay Bay Events Center, not at T-Mobile. This due to the expected number of ticket sales per game).

– Nothing much new since we reported the sale of the Fontainebleau. I expect that we’ll hear something sooner than later, as the convention center expansion is slated to open in 2020. Given their proximity to this expansion, it would do them well to have the door open when that happens.

Circus Circus continues to be the red-headed step-child of MGM Resorts. However, don’t expect them to part with it anytime soon. They are just biding their time. They were instrumental in pushing the funding for the new convention center expansion, which is a stones-throw away. Just as they are remodeling, de-themeing, and upgrading the Monte Carlo, I’d expect a similar initiative with Circus around a year before the new convention space across the street comes online. The value of the property will rise dramatically in a couple of years. I find it unfortunate that MGM Resorts seems to love de-theming casino properties. However, all is not lost on the theme front…

Resorts World Las Vegas (old Stardust) has hired a construction manager, and multiple cranes are on-site and on the rise. This property will be seriously Asian themed and be the first themed casino to be built here since Paris Las Vegas opened in 1999. Nearly 20 years.

As always, we’ll keep you in the loop and continue to make you among the most informed visitors to Las Vegas.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Should You Try To Use Coupons When In Las Vegas?

A recent blog post Playing the Coupon Game in Vegas highlighted various suggestions for using coupons when in Las Vegas. But is this really a wise thing to do? Food for thought:

Many people  forget to factor in the cost of using a coupon. If it is something you were already interested in doing or seeing, more power to you.

HOWEVER, if you are staying at MGM Grand Las Vegas and you have a coupon for something way up The Strip (or off Strip or downtown), you must factor in the transportation cost (or time factor if you are walking) against the cost of redeeming a coupon on something you’d otherwise only find marginally interesting. Even couponing in everyday life can be deceiving. You have a $1 off coupon for Tide, but the store brand (provided it works just as well, and often does) is half the money. Even with the coupon, you are paying more for the Tide.

I realize that some people really get a rush out of using coupons (thinking that they are a really smart consumer and really saving money), but the reality is that you only have so many hours while here on vacation. When you factor in the cost of air and hotel and food, you are spending a pretty penny each hour you are in Las Vegas just to be here!

It is often worth spending a few extra bucks to do and see the things you really want to do in that precious amount of time.  Save the “look how smart I am for saving money” pat on the back for when you are at home.


Ted Newkirk
CEO/Manging Editor
AccessVegas.com

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Are You Over 35? Head Downtown Las Vegas To Fremont Street

I hate to beat this into the ground, but the AVERAGE age of a Las Vegas visitor is 49 years old. That fell a few years during the boom, but it came right back and settled at 49. 49 year olds that make upwards of 6 figures per year.

Yet, The Las Vegas Strip seems hell-bent on focusing on people under 35.

Downtown’s outrageous gaming gains in April (25% over the previous year) were no surprise to me. For the most part, downtown is going after the 40+ crowd and starting to do a damn good job of it. Even before their 80’s Rock themed summer for 2012, they’ve had Arena Tribute Band and other 80’s rock/metal cover bands playing for a couple of years now.

I’m 46 and downtown is starting to be my preferred place to hang out. OK, it isn’t as spiffy at The Strip, but it isn’t as expensive either. Even the best restaurants are relatively affordable. Getting bored of the casino you’re at (or simply losing too badly)? A 30 second walk will put you in an entirely new property. You simply can’t do that on The Strip.

Don’t get me wrong: The Strip has awesome shows and great attractions that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. But with the Fremont Street East bar district, the resurgence of Neonopolis, great free entertainment nightly and no thump-thump nightclubs, downtown might be calling your name if pimple cream and prom are a very distant memory.


Ted Newkirk
CEO/Manging Editor
AccessVegas.com

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Hoover Dam Or Boulder Dam? A History Question

If you talk to an “old timer” from Las Vegas (or the child of one who is an area native) and you get the conversation going about Hoover Dam, you’re also likely to find out what side of the political aisle they favor. How so? The dam was originally going to be built in Boulder Canyon on the Colorado River and the construction project was casually refereed to as Boulder Dam. Ironically, it was decided that Black Canyon was a more suitable location (Boulder Canyon has a fault running through it), but the Boulder Dam name originally stuck.

Congress never gave the project an official name, but Hoover’s Secretary Of The Interior Ray Wilbur showed up to break ground on the rail line running from Las Vegas out to the dam (most of which is still in service today), he unilaterally decided to name it Hoover Dam. And so it was… until Roosevelt (who succeeded Hoover in office) Interior Secretary Harold Ickes attempted to revert the name back to Boulder Dam at the dedication ceremony. It never really caught on, and Congress stepped in and officially sanctioned the name Hoover Dam more than a decade later.

Hoover was a Republican. Roosevelt was a Democrat. And some area natives aren’t letting the argument die. In the meantime, you can enjoy a Hoover Dam tour and enjoy this amazing, working piece of history for yourself.


Ted Newkirk
CEO/Manging Editor
AccessVegas.com

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Binion’s Downtown Las Vegas Rebirth, 601 On Track

A Saturday evening chat with one of the construction foremen (who himself is now living in one of the shuttered Binion’s rooms) confirmed that Binion’s Hotel & Casino downtown Las Vegas is about to remodel all of their rooms and suites in preparation for re-opening the hotel portion of the property. He gave us a sneak peak at some room design photos which he had on his smart phone. Going to be lots of silver and red plus each door will evidently have a steel-plated mildly cross-hatched design (think artsy, not industrial).

Completion is expected to take the rest of the year. It is more than just a room make-over. An antiquated heating/cooling system (consisting of hot and cold pipes in the walls) will have to be completely gutted and modernized. One can assume they are gunning to be open by New Years Eve.

In addition, the infamous coffee shop downstairs is slated to be turned into a Las Vegas location of the famed Velvet Margarita top rated restaurant and Hollywood hot spot which will convert to a club/lounge after hours.

Old Binion’s Horseshoe Coffee Shop:

Velvet Margarita owner Carlos Adley is also partnering with Binion’s owner Terry Caudill to move forward with the refurbishment of the old Metro Police building at 601 E. Fremont Street and the plans announced last year are indeed taking shape:

New lease at 601 Fremont Street may be shot in arm for entertainment district

We’ll be following the progress and have more details in our Access Vegas Insider Vibe newsletter (free to subscribe at AccessVegas.com).


Ted Newkirk
CEO/Manging Editor
AccessVegas.com

Comments on this topic? We want your opinion! Leave it below. Comments, questions or Vegas suggestions on other topics?

Is Las Vegas In The Wrong Time Zone?

We’re In The Wrong Time Zone! I’ve been saying this for almost as long as I’ve been living here, and local writer David McGrath Schwartz just wrote a great article about it: Is switching time zones a bright idea for Nevada?

In Las Vegas, it is pretty much completely dark by 5 PM for three months of the year. Once the sun goes down, even temperatures that are in the 60’s start to drop like a rock. Wouldn’t it make sense to give our visitors (especially since most of you sleep in and don’t need the crack of dawn to occur at 6 AM) an extra hour of light and warmth to enjoy strolling The Strip and perhaps enjoying some outdoor drinking or dining? And think about the summer. The sun starts to come up not long after 4 AM in June and July. Tell me why that is necessary?

Think about jet lag which would be reduced. Those of you coming from the East (a significant portion of our visitors) would feel much less jet lag. We all know that moving one or two time zones isn’t bad. But for some reason, bouncing three time zones (or more) really starts to screw with your body

For those who still see no merit in putting us on Mountain Time, here’s a fact: Las Vegas sits EAST of Boise, ID. Boise is in… Mountain Time.

For our Northern Nevada (Reno/Tahoe/Carson City) readers, don’t fret. You are west of Los Angeles and should absolutely stay on Pacific Time. Drawing the line would be simple: Use the Oregon/Idaho boarder and draw a line straight south to create the time zone divide in Nevada.


Ted Newkirk
CEO/Manging Editor
AccessVegas.com

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Las Vegas Downtown Hotels: Luck May Not Be A Lady Much Longer

Big news of late regarding ownership of downtown hotels, new construction, and the revival of a legendary lady. I’m downtown a number of times a month and most nights anymore, it is packed. A significant group of Las Vegas visitors are rebelling against what they perceive as outrageous prices on The Strip for food and drink, and tight Strip slots.

Side Note: Let me note that our Nevada gaming control board does break down statistics from The Strip and downtown separately. Downtown slots ARE looser.

A couple of years ago the Golden Nugget Las Vegas opened another tower and despite the poor economy, they have had little problem filling it. Then The Plaza completely made-over their place and seem to be doing quite well.

So… the owners of the Golden Gate — ironically just across the street from The Plaza — then recently announced that they were building an additional 5 story addition on what is now their parking lot. At first I thought that was a pretty modest addition to a hotel that is doing very well via their sexy dealer party pit — which we have dubbed the boobie pit — until the next shoe dropped:

The owners of the Golden Gate announced that they are buying Fitgerald’s, which ironically has the tallest tower downtown. The owner of the Fitz died recently after a long illness and the Golden Gate people have stepped in to buy it. Of interest to some: They are going to take their second-floor casino area and theme it Vintage Vegas complete with old school slot machines that actually take coins. No word on any changes to their Vue bar in that area that overlooks Fremont Street, but we hope they don’t screw it up too much.

BTW, I will not confirm or deny that I was throwing beads off of that balcony a couple of years ago on Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday!

The new Fitzgerald’s owners also plan a hotel renovation from top to bottom including rooms.

We do know this for sure: They don’t have continuing rights to the name Fitgerald’s, so they are going to have to rename it within 6 months. Interestingly enough, This is the same boat the Las Vegas Hilton is in since their contract as a Hilton Hotel isn’t being renewed.

Finally, we have news on the Lady Luck. It shuttered years ago and yet I’m still asked about it on a regular basis by my readers. Work to re-open it is just about to commence, but with some major changes. Guess what? They aren’t going to have rights to the Lady Luck name (familiar theme here), and are changing the name of the property to The Downtown Grand. Since the MGM Grand is always simply called MGM, I’m assuming that this hotel will end up just being called The Grand by locals and visitors alike.

Also, they are gutting it down to and including plumbing and electrical and are rebuilding the property as an upscale property. What will be interesting to see here is if admittedly mid-market downtown can support three somewhat upscale hotels in the Nugget, Plaza, and Grand. One of the reasons The Strip fell flat on its face during the recession was that too many really expensive properties were built and there wasn’t enough upscale visitor demand.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville Casino Las Vegas – Winner, Winner… Chicken Dinner

We just returned from the brand new Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville casino at the Flamingo Las Vegas and the results are very impressive. Parrotheads (Jimmy Buffett fans) will enjoy it as will anyone who wishes they could sail away to a tropical island for a relaxing respite.

The centerpiece is the 5 O’Clock Somewhere bar (named after the country hit duet Jimmy Buffett sang with Alan Jackson) with ironically for Las Vegas does not feature video video poker (possibly the first casino bar in Las Vegas that doesn’t).

At 6 PM on a Monday night, the bar was full and while Monday Night Football and baseball playoffs certainly played a part, most people were actually just enjoying drinking and talking and having a good time just inches from the Las Vegas Strip in a stress-free atmosphere.

The lone craps table is right inside a set of front doors a la O’ Sheas, which should provide some great energy into the evening. A very busy roulette table sat with a similar configuration in front of an entrance.

Video poker is the same garbage payouts as the rest of the entire property. Typical Strip payouts, and what is typical of what you’ll find in local bars in town as well. Me, I primary play video poker at Vue Bar in Fitzgerald’s Las Vegas downtown (full-pay bonus poker, 8/5 with multiple progressives). Very few video machines at Margaritaville Casino Las Vegas as they are after the tourist gambler.

Selected blackjack tables are 3-2 (full-pay, traditional rules… you have to ask which ones are which) which is getting harder and harder to find in any of the “party” casino areas on The Strip. I didn’t press further about other rules. When I play blackjack, I either play at the $5 tables in the Golden Gate “boobie” pit downtown with the sexy dealers or (if playing seriously) at Palace Station (double-deck, hand-held, 3-2… plus since no mid-shuffle entry you can time your bathroom breaks right and miss a LOT of hands while enjoying the comped libations you get while playing).

The entire Margaritaville Casino was seeing brisk business for early on a Monday night. It really does feel like you are in another property altogether and actually the main Flamingo casino felt old and tired by comparison. The low ceilings really create that intimate atmosphere that studies have shown people like when gambling.

Cocktail waitress outfits are (for the most part) string bikini tops. Very, very nice. No, we were not rude enough to sneak a photo. We live in Las Vegas. We’ve see girls in next-to-nothing (both casino employees and visitors walking The Strip) all the time. But especially if you are from a cold-weather climate or visiting Las Vegas during our “cold” (for us) winter months, this place is a great respite. I can see visiting on a regular basis just for a drink at the bar and soaking up the tropics.

They must have really rammed customer service into the heads of employees. You couldn’t walk past one without them saying hello and that extends into the gift shop. Hint: Check out the “other” Margaritaville T-Shirt shop near the check in desk. Currently if you spend $20 or more, you can get a free margarita. Considering what a margarita will cost you at a place like The Flamingo, this is a great deal.

Overall Impression? Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Jimmy Buffett is going to have no problem keeping his fleet of aircraft fueled up off his cut of this thing. Between the success of both the Toby Keith pit and bar and Margaritaville, I’d expect to see more musically branded gaming areas. Michael Jacksonville, anyone? What musical group or performer would you like to see have their own Las Vegas casino area?

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Why Did All The Las Vegas Casinos Support Harry Reid Last Election?

Hi, I am really sad to write this as I have been vacationing every year in Vegas since the 70’s. First with my husband and then with my brothers and sister. 20ll is the first year we have not attended. Here is the reason. We were so disappointed when we found out that the casinos were shipping their employees on buses to vote. We could not believe that they would vote for Harry Reid, which is a vote for Obama who bashed Las Vegas and caused many cancellations and who is ruining this country. Just see how many people will be able to afford Las Vegas with this government.

I live in Florida, my brothers live in Indiana and my sister lives in Alabama. This year we stayed at my sister’s home in Alabama and spent our time and money in Biloxi, Ms. and had a wonderful time.

We will miss Las Vegas some, but we won’t miss your politics.

Thanks for listening,

Mary Anne

 

Ted Responds:

First, I’d suggest you read the Politics section of my blog post So You Want To Move To Las Vegas, Is It Right For You? and you’ll find out that Nevada isn’t exactly a state that bleeds blue. You might be surprised.

Gaming (and not just here in Las Vegas but all  over the US including areas you mentioned) gave significant support to Harry Reid (D-NV, US Senate Majority Leader) because they felt that the power he has would protect the industry from federal regulation and legislation that might not be gaming-friendly. His opponent Sharon Angle has never been a gaming proponent.

Ironically enough, Reid helped to assure that Angle’s top primary opponent Sue Lowden lost so he could face Angle. Lowden is a former casino owner, charismatic (which Reid isn’t), and a moderate Republican. Virtually every pundit believes that she would have been a slam-dunk. The Tea Party won the primary but lost the big battle in the race.

If supporting the gaming companies who are with you politically are important, here’s the breakdown:

  • Jim Murren (MGM Resorts including CityCenter, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, Circus Circus, Monte Carlo and New York-New York) is a life-long Republican who endorsed Harry Reid. An asterisk here as Reid made calls to bankers when a partially-completed CityCenter was on the verge bankruptcy and a halt in construction and used his influence to keep the money flowing. Murren’s company did work very hard to get Reid re-elected.
  • Gary Loveman (Caesars Entertainment including Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Paris Las Vegas, Bally’s, Bill’s, Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah’s, Imperial Palace, Rio Las Vegas) gave the vast majority of his 2010 political contributions to Democrats (impacted by the support of Reid). Loveman’s 2008 political donations were split much more evenly.
  • Steve Wynn (Wynn/Encore) voted for Obama but is traditionally a Republican and has been an extremely harsh critic of the President (garnering national news).
  • Sheldon Adleson (Venetian/Palazzo) has been an unwavering staunch conservative Republican.

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor
AccessVegas.com

Las Vegas “Linqing” Up Hotels With New Shops, Dining (Say Goodbye, Imperial Palace)

Project Linq Now Official – Caesars Entertainment (the company) has announced their 1/2 billion dollar project to convert the smelly side-street (glorified alley) between The Flamingo Las Vegas and O’Sheas into an entertainment district anchored at the rear by a “biggest in the world” observation wheel (think London Eye) called the High Roller. Restaurants and bars will make up about 70% of the project with retail and entertainment rounding out the rest.

Like the Imperial Palace? Bummer for you. No, they are not blowing it up. But it will get a completely new look, new casino area, new name, and open up to create a passage between Carnival Court and Linq.

O’Sheas is going bye-bye. Kind-of. The present O’Sheas location will be turned into part of Project Linq (which we assume means more Strip-front dining and roof-top nightlife which has become so popular). O’Sheas itself will be integrated into the “new” Imperial Palace (which has no announced name yet). This actually makes sense. If you’ve been coming to town for a while, you’ll remember that (what is now) Rockhouse — the separate area of the IP fronting The Strip – was once a bar and casino area. This would be a very sensible spot for the O’Sheas relocation.

The winners and losers? Obviously too early to tell. Ceasars Entertainment (CET) is noting that the prime demographic Linq is reaching out to are 21-46 year olds. The average age of the Las Vegas visitor is 49 and even CET noted that only 52% of Las Vegas visitors will fall into this category over the next few years. The Riviera is banking hard on the over-50 set and if they can hang on during their bankruptcy, they may benefit from some of the migration. As most likely downtown will. If the “new” O’Sheas is too “uppity” then they’ll see the migration of their customers to Casino Royale (who would be well-served to knock out part of their front wall to create an open-to-The-Strip atmosphere, and immediately figure out where they can put beer pong).

My concern? Visitors tend to not walk away from The Strip. It is almost like a phobia. It is one thing to walk into a hotel, but down a side area between two hotels that takes you “off” The Strip? Will the lure of looking at the High Roller be enough to get them walking that direction? Or is part of the “bet” on this project a hope that CET will get the taxpayer support (read: special sales tax) needed to build an arena on the rest of the land they own back there? We all know that sports/event arenas do wonders for nearby restaurants, bars, and retail. I’m surprised that no one has asked about how important of a cog this is to the CET plans.

Ted Newkirk
Publisher
AccessVegas.com