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

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

 

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

How Retirees Will Help Las Vegas’ Local Economy Rebound From Recession

Highest Poverty Rates – The metropolitan areas of the U.S. with the largest gains in people living below the poverty level:

1. Las Vegas, 2. Modesto (CA), 3. Detriot, 4. Ft. Myers (FL), and 5. Los Angeles.

I bring that up because people wonder about the long-term viability of this area. But few wonder about he long-term viability of Los Angeles. Ft. Myers isn’t going to dry up and blow away either. (No question that Detroit has had issues that pre-dated the current recession).

What do Ft. Myers and Las Vegas have in common that will bode well for the long run? Sunny weather, a low cost of living, and no state taxes. IE, the very things that retirees who their pensions and not in need of a vibrant jobs market.

According to a recent Review-Journal editorial:

…studies debunk the idea that senior citizens are a drain on government services. On the contrary, their median income is higher than the national average. Although 12.6 percent of the country’s population is at least age 65, only 11.3 percent of the state’s residents are that old.

“Our population is getting older,” Mr. Aguero said. “Seniors will choose where to retire and bring a huge amount of capital with them.

“Somebody is going to get the benefit. If it is not us, it will be somebody else.”

The story also noted that $80 million a year is spent to advertise Las Vegas as a great place to visit. None is spent attracting retirees by showing that it is a great place to live. With ample, inexpensive housing and a low cost of living, perhaps someone needs to look into that.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Las Vegas New Years Eve Fireworks Info and Insider Party Tips

Our New Years Eve fireworks display details have been announced. The 8 minute show will be the largest display west of the Mississippi and we’re expecting 310,000 people in town. If you’ve never been, imagine the entire 4-plus miles of the Las Vegas Strip closed to traffic and filled with revelers. Drinking is allowed (no glass) and the party atmosphere is second-to-none.

Because of the glut of rooms which have opened in our soft economy, this may be one of the more economical years to come and experience it! Even this close to the date, our travel partners are showing hotels like Sahara, Flamingo, and Hooters at around $200 a night. (Honestly, there is nothing wrong with staying at Hooters. All the rooms were entirely refurbished when it became Hooters, and you are directly across the street from the porte-cochere of the MGM Grand).

Fireworks will be shot off the tops of 8 hotels but heed our important notes and tips:

  • The fireworks will be concentrated on the middle and south end of The Strip (Venetian Las Vegas to Tropicana Las Vegas). The Stratosphere Las Vegas Tower will be involved (and seeing them go off that tower is probably the most impressive). BUT… no hotel between the Strat and Venetian are involved.
  • The center strip gets crowded. WAY too crowded for my tastes (and I like a crowd). The farther south you walk, the more the crowds will thin out. Down by Trop and MGM you will have all the elbow room need without sacrificing a good view of the show as you look stright up The Strip.
  • Porta-Potties are generously stationed in various locations. Take a note of them when you see them so you can get back to them. Why? The hotels will NOT allow you in without a room key on this night only. 
  • Drinking: Is allowed! Various vendors have beer for sale, and you are allowed to bring whatever you want as long as it isn’t glass. If you are doing BYOB, look for a store that sells beer in plastic bottles before you head down. Also, some brands of hard liquor are available by the pint in plastic. Some people take a gallon water jug and make their own concoction and bring it along.
  • The Cops: Except to enforce the no bottles rule, break up fights, and get the overly-drunk off the street, they are unbelievably cool. They are generally stationed every 100 feet or so in groups of four. If they are not taking care of something, they will usually be happy to pose for a photo of even take one for you. If you are a cute girl, they might even let you pose for a photo on one of their motorcycles! Take a minute to thank them for the work they are doing. You are having fun, but virtually every Metro (Las Vegas police) officer is on duty during this 24 hour stretch. They sacrifice family and holiday vacation to make this night special for you. 
  • Happy Mardi Gras… Almost. Beads (and what girls will do for them) are no longer limited to New Orleans. You can do an online search and buy a mess of them (enough for your entire group) for $40.00 or less. The police don’t sweat it unless a particular woman starts go on too much and want too much attention and gets the crowd out of control. 
  • Parking: Hotels will generally NOT let you park in their lots (this night only) unless you are a guest. If driving (either because you are a local, or you are staying off-strip), get down to The Strip by 6 PM. First try some of the street behind the Flamingo/Imperial Palace area. If no dice, get down Koval to the area around Tropicana and start checking out all the side streets in that area. Also, an empty just east of Koval on Tropicana usually is selling parking. If you are having trouble finding a street spot, just pay up and be on your way.
  • If you can’t attend, you can still watch live streaming at no cost. For many years now, KLAS TV has streamed their live coverage on their site 8newsnow.com Do keep in mind the time difference! Those of you outside our time zone and watch the boring ball drop from New York and if that does not put you to sleep, stay up and ring our new year with us (and see what a REAL new year’s eve celebration looks like)!

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Taxing The Las Vegas Visitors… Here We Go Again

A couple of years ago, we railed against the increasing rental car taxes to fun a performing arts center downtown. This area is already awash in venues of all sizes, and the clientele that goes and sees a touring ballet company isn’t likely to then head to Fremont Street, order up a 3 foot tall frozen drink from a girl in a bikini, and fire up the craps table. I continue to content that the city didn’t need the center, especially on the backs of visitors who already pay outrageous rental car taxes.

Now comes a proposed (just shy of) 1% sales tax only for an area within a 3 mile radius of the center of The Strip. Why? To fund an arena behind Flamingo/Harrah’s/Imperial Palace.

Disclaimer: I got out a map and a ruler (old school) and found out that I’m in that radius. So are most of the places I shop and eat at. On the flip side, we’ll probably be able to profit selling some tickets to the events.

Look… we have arenas. Coming out our backside for a community of this size. The only real reason some want this is because they feel it will land us a pro sports team. Let’s not be stupid here: Las Vegas is in an economic slump. Southern Nevada is slated to lose another 50,000 people. If the team draws, it will have to depend heavily on visitors from the other team’s city.

Can a sport team really bet on that (no pun intended)? And how well is a Las Vegas team going to do when 70% of the people in the stands at their HOME game are rooting AGAINST the home team? This just isn’t the right time to be (once again) sticking it to our visitors financially to fund something we don’t need right now.

The great thing is that this will bring in more people who want more gamble tips in Las Vegas.

What are your thoughts? Make your voice be heard with a comment below.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

Zappos.com Moves Downtown Las Vegas, Major Boost Seen For Fremont Street Experience Area

The Biggest News That No One Is Talking About – happens to be the Zappos.com takeover of Las Vegas City Hall for their corporate headquarters. Why have I yet to see even one major Las Vegas blog talk about the impact? Who, what… who cares? You should. Here’s why:

Zappos.com employs 1000 people and they are growing. These employees tend to be younger and obviously have paychecks. With a new Las Vegas City Hall under construction, Zappos will be taking over the old building (on block off of the Fremont Street Experience) for their headquarters.

Despite the bad economy, downtown Las Vegas has slowly but surely been undergoing a revitalization. The new East Fremont district has gained a nice reputation. First Friday is established. The Golden Nugget opened a new tower about a year ago. The El Cortez had a major makeover a couple of years ago and continues improvements. The Plaza Las Vegas is currently in the process of MAJOR upgrades and improvements to their rooms.

However, downtown still has somewhat of a run-down image. With justification. Many of the properties simply have not had the cash to reinvest. Here’s where Zappos employees come in:

Seven days per week, Zappos employees are going to get off of work downtown. They will grab a drink. They will eat. They will leave their money downtown (plus add to an already lively scene). This infusion of people and cash will help provide the profits and incentive for ALL downtown businesses to step up their game. They will have the money to fix-up and upgrade.

I’m not saying that downtown Las Vegas will ever compete with The Strip. Nor should it. To build billion dollar resorts, you have to charge customers high prices to recoup the cost. Las Vegas continues to need the lower-price, lower-frills option downtown has offers. I don’t anticipate that changing. But wouldn’t it be nice to see some of the older downtown properties spruced up a bit? New life into them with the influx of more customers? This arrangement between the City of Las Vegas and Zappos is a winner for all involved and a huge win for downtown in general.

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas