Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Caesars Entertainment Resort Fees starting March 1, 2013

After years of advertising that they don't charge resort fees, Caesars Entertainment has changed course 180 degrees. The company will start charging the fees on all Las Vegas rooms booked after March 1, 2013.

This is quite a change from the summer of 2011 when showgirls from Bally's protested resort fees on the Strip.

All eight Caesars properties in Vegas (Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Paris, Bally's, Harrah's, Flamingo, Rio and The Quad) will start charging resort fees ranging from $10-25 a night, which will include the use of basic amenities like internet access and use of the hotel fitness center.

From an outside perspective this seems like a strange move. Since most Las Vegas Strip hotels charge resort fees, I thought Caesars was in a great position being able to advertise that the didn't have the fees. Obviously adding fees will provide a revenue boost for the company, but they could have just as easily done that by raising hotel rates outright.

Caesars obviously didn't think they could continue on with the no-fee strategy though, as eye-catching low rack rates backed up by secondary "hidden" fees are proving to be a very successful strategy for travel providers.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tragic Car Chase Shooting on the Strip

A car chase and shooting reminiscent of an action movie ended in tragedy early this morning.

An SUV was reportedly chasing and shooting at a sports car when the sports car was hit and veered out of control near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo right in-front of the closed Bill's Gamblin' Hall.

Unfortunately an innocent taxi cab was caught up in the accident and the driver was killed, along with a passenger. The driver of the sports car was also killed in the accident.

The Strip was closed to traffic for a good part of the day as police investigated.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Parts of CityCenter could be For Sale

MGM Resorts International would consider selling off parts of CityCenter in order to reduce the project's huge debt load.

During MGM's earnings call this morning, CEO Jim Murren said the Crystals mall was particularly attractive for a possible sale, and even mentioned that the shopping complex was built with a plan to sell it off eventually. Not sure I'm buying that part.

The company isn't going to sell Aria, but would be also be open to take offers on the non-gaming Vdara and Mandarin Oriental hotels.

The biggest downside I can think of with selling Crystals would be MGM's loss of that part of the Strip and the ability to funnel people back to Aria. On the other hand they are building a huge Aria marquee that should help with that, and I assume the eventual buyer of Crystals would have some kind of agreement to be Aria pedestrian friendly.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chris Paul Celebrates All Star MVP in Vegas

Right after being named MVP at the NBA All Star game in Houston, Chris Paul and his entourage hopped on a plane and headed to Las Vegas. He celebrated at Lavo along with his brother CJ, who was celebrating his 30th birthday.

The most impressive thing about this story is the timing. I think the game ended at around 10:30 central time, and he was able to be in Vegas at the club by 1:00 am pacific. It must be pretty sweet to jet off to Vegas on a moment's notice (although he was probably planning on going even if he didn't win the MVP).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

UNLV Now Stadium faces Challenges

The new proposed stadium on the campus of UNLV, commonly known as UNLV Now is facing challenges. MGM Resorts International was a key early supporter of the project, but now that support is wavering as they have publicly questioned the expensive cost of the project.

A new stadium at UNLV is a great idea on paper. It would provide great new facilities for university athletic teams, along with providing a new, larger arena for some of the biggest events in Vegas like the National Finals Rodeo, UFC and concerts. It would also open up Las Vegas to possibly hosting premiere events like the Final Four and Super Bowl.

The price tag for the stadium is a large $800-900 million. Even though the community should benefit from the new stadium, the budget might be a little too big. I think if the stadium is going to get off the ground that number might have to come down a little bit.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rio Show in the Sky - Closing March 30, 2013

Rio's Masquerade Show in the Sky attraction will be closing for good on March 30th.

The show opened back in 1997 along with the rest of Rio's Masquerade Village expansion. It features dance and style from Brazilian Carnival, and Mardi Gras floats which are suspended on guide rails hanging from the ceiling. Guests can ride on the floats for a nominal fee, or just watch for free.

While it's sad to see an attraction like this close, I'm not surprised in the least bit. It was surely very popular at the beginning of its 16 year run, but I really don't think people were making the trip over to Rio just to see the show anymore. Showtimes had already been cut down to weekends only, and the cost of labor for the show performers couldn't have been cheap, especially for a financially depressed company like Rio's parent Caesars Entertainment.

That being said, it's one less thing on the list of "free things to do in Las Vegas" along with the recently closed Lion Habitat at MGM Grand. You have to wonder if providing a free attraction to bring people into your hotel is a viable strategy anymore, although I'm guessing it still works with the Bellagio fountains. Many of these attractions dated back to when Vegas was marketing itself as family friendly. Since the family friendly thing seems to be a thing of the past, many of these free family attractions are going to bite the dust.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gronk Sorry for Partying at XS

New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski has been making the rounds on sports news shows and websites. A video surfaced of him dancing shirtless and playfully body-slamming a friend onto his broken forearm at XS during Super Bowl weekend in Vegas.

Now a receipt has surfaced from that same night, which shows Gronk's hefty (although it could be seen as modest by celebrity standards) $9600 bar bill at XS. Highlights include a bunch of $525 bottles of vodka and $11 bottles of water:

Photo: Busted Coverage.

Gronkowski has apparently responded to the controversy by wearing a "Sorry for Partying" t-shirt:

Photo: meli_garcia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Downtown Grand and SLS

Two closed Las Vegas hotels might be reopening in the near future.

First up is The Downtown Grand, which previously operated as Lady Luck up until it closed in 2006. In 2010 there were some rumblings about the property reopening, and they even had a 2012 target date. Obviously 2012 has come and gone, but now the property has a new name, and today they gave local newspapers a tour of what the new rooms will look like. The rooms look great, and will start at a very reasonable $69 a night. With definite progress and construction work ongoing it's looking more and more likely The Downtown Grand will be open by the end of 2013.

Next up, the closed Sahara might be reborn as SLS Las Vegas. After Sahara closed in 2011, owner Sam Nazarian claimed that he would reopen the property as SLS in 2014. Not many people believed that would actually happen, but now The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Nazarian has secured financing for the project. Some of the money is coming from EB-5, a program which gives green cards to foreigners who make investments in US businesses. The Journal article mentioned that The Downtown Grand is also using EB-5 for some of its financing. Construction for SLS is set to begin immediately, but there are still question marks, as much of the foreign EB-5 investment isn't available for use until it clears through government red tape.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Penn and Teller sign 6 year Extension

Penn and Teller celebrated their 20th year in Las Vegas by doing a special show Friday night (February 8, 2013). During the show they performed material from when they first came to Vegas in 1993 and called Bally's their home.

According to the Pulse of Vegas blog, Penn and Teller and Rio also announced a six year contract extension, which will make them the longest-running headlining act at an individual hotel in the history of Las Vegas.

In other Penn and Teller news, they will be getting a star on the Hollywood walk of fame soon, and Penn will be facing off with Donald Trump again on Celebrity Apprentice all-stars.

Penn and Teller is on the short list of shows that I want to see in Vegas, so this extension should give me ample opportunity.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Wedding Chapel at Aria

CityCenter has always needed a wedding chapel, and now its getting one.

The creatively named The Wedding Chapel at Aria is scheduled to open on April 23rd.

Much like CityCenter and Aria itself the chapel will try to shed the tackiness of the traditional Las Vegas wedding experience and transform it into a modern and upscale experience:

"Guests will enter the chapel through chrome, gated double doors backed by mahogany wood. Within the chapel lounge they will be greeted by a sense of natural light streaming through frosted glass windows etched with a blossoming tree. The stylish furniture, wrapped in sumptuous fabrics and set in comfortable arrangements, will create a contemporary, high-end residential feel. Inside the chapel, delicate live flowers weave their way up walls upholstered with infinity symbols to create a sense of romance and opulence."

I'm glad to see a wedding chapel at Aria. It's my opinion that every Las Vegas resort needs a wedding chapel, and I was a little dismayed when both Aria and Cosmopolitan opened without one. Cosmopolitan fixed that problem by opening their wedding chapel about a year ago, and now Aria will have one too.

Source: Aria Press Release.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Adventuredome getting El Loco Roller Coaster

The Adventuredome indoor amusement park at Circus Circus is getting a new roller coaster.

Construction of the El Loco coaster will begin soon, and the ride should debut by December 2013.

Adventuredome's Rim Runner flume ride will be closing to make room for the El Loco coaster.

There are currently four El Loco type coasters operating around the world. Here's a video of one of the other El Loco type coasters from the maker S&S Worldwide:

For more information: Circus Circus press release.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Britney Spears Planet Hollywood Residency Likely

Britney Spears is reportedly close to signing a residency deal at Planet Hollywood.

Rumors of Britney coming to Las Vegas have been swirling around for a while now. I remember hearing years ago that she wanted to perform without having to travel, which makes Vegas the natural choice.

Two days ago, Billboard reported that Spears was in negotiations with two hotels - one being a Caesars property.

Today Extra reports that it will definitely be a Caesars property, and is most likely Planet Hollywood.

Planet Hollywood makes the most sense by far if it's going to be a Caesars location, as the PH demographic fits well with the Britney demo. Planet Hollywood also has a recent track record of residencies, notably Cee Lo Green performing at the 7,500-seat Theater for the Performing Arts.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Nobu Open - Bill's Closed

After more than thirty years of operation, Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon closed today at noon in preparation for a year long renovation project. The former Barbary Coast was a favorite spot among budget visitors to the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel will be transformed to an upscale boutique resort with a new name. Some of Bill's lounge performers, including the famous "Big Elvis" will be moving over to Harrah's.

Meanwhile the much anticipated Nobu Restaurant and Hotel at Caesars Palace opened on Saturday. Everything I have seen from the new hotel-within-a-hotel looks amazing. I would love to stay in one of the brand new rooms, but they are a tad pricey. Rack rate is $249 for most weekdays and $299 for most weekends. It will be interesting to see how this concept works. If successful I wouldn't be surprised to see other towers of different hotels being remodeled and branded to satisfy niche markets.