Thursday, December 24, 2015

Baltimore House of Cards Display

During a recent visit to non-Vegas casino Horseshoe Baltimore this house of cards display caught my eye outside of Jack Binion's Steak. It's a fairly simple display, but cool things like this are part of the reason I like to explore different resorts and casinos.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Photo of Las Vegas from Airplane

It's always a great feeling when you're flying to Las Vegas - taking a look out the window of the plane and catching your first glimpse of the Strip. Here's a photo I had a chance to take recently capturing that moment.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Guy's Baltimore Kitchen Review

Guy Fieri has a few restaurants in Las Vegas. Recently I had a chance to check out one of his non-Vegas locations - Guy's Baltimore Kitchen at Horseshoe Baltimore.

I'm guessing Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and Bar is pretty similar to the Baltimore version. The appetizer I had is a Baltimore exclusive though, the Maryland Crab Fondue which was excellent.

For my entree I wasn't too adventurous and just had a burger. It was mediocre at best, and overpriced as expected. I even think the waiter messed up my order as the burger I got had slightly different toppings as the one I ordered.

So Guy's Baltimore Kitchen was pretty predictable in my experience. Expensive, perfectly fine bar food. The Maryland Crab Fondue was really good though, and I would consider a return trip just to order that again.



Friday, December 18, 2015

Sheldon Adelson buys Review-Journal

After a few days of intrigue surrounding the mysterious purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the buyer was finally revealed to be Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands (parent company of Venetian and Palazzo) owner and CEO paid $140 million for the newspaper.

Adelson is known for his political views, so the newspaper's purchase is likely more about influence than profits (if there are any). It's somewhat surprising that Adelson would choose to buy a Las Vegas newspaper though. Most of his company's profits come from overseas.

The RJ likely already aligned with Adelsons political views. It's known to lean a little to the right, causing Democrat Harry Reid to openly bash the newspaper.

Some people are speculating the $140 million purchase price was more than the newspaper is worth. Sheldon Adelson likely doesn't care though. He's one of the richest people in the world - his Las Vegas Sands shares are worth almost $3 billion.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

More Las Vegas Bowl Controversy

Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl - which already had some controversy over ticketing - just got ratcheted up a notch. At a pre-game dinner banquet on Fremont Street - Utah player Seni Fauonuku called out BYU for being dirty. It was a move reminiscent of a heavyweight fight, fitting for Vegas.

The video clip is making the rounds on various sports shows around the country. Coincidentally (or maybe not?) the publicity generating event took place outside of The D, home to publicity king Derek Stevens.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Zarkana Closing for Convention Expansion

Zarkana - the Cirque du Soleil show at Aria - will be closing next year. The final performance is expected to be on April 30, 2016.

The show closing makes way for a $154 million expansion of Aria's convention center. The glass-enclosed venue will allow Aria to take advantage of its relatively close proximity to The Park and new Las Vegas Arena.

Zarkana has been running at Aria for just over 3 years. It replaced the also ill-fated Viva Elvis, which ran for only two years shortly after the hotel's opening.

I'm not sure if the quality of these particular shows was just bad, or if there's something about Aria itself that makes it a bad place for a show. I'm thinking its the latter. Aria's upscale modern motif seems to lend itself better to a convention center rather than a Cirque show.

I've always kind of wanted to see Zarkana, and now that it's closing I might have an extra incentive to actually do it. I'll be sure to post a review if I happen to catch one of the final performances.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

MLB shows Hypocrisy in Rose Banning

Pete Rose was once again denied admission to the baseball hall of fame when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred handed down a decision to maintain his ban from baseball recently.

The MLB's stance on Rose is just the latest in a line of examples of professional sports leagues enacting hypocritical attitudes towards gambling.

While Pete Rose can't be part of the baseball hall of fame because of gambling, MLB currently has no problem allowing casino advertisements at their ballparks, including this one prominently displayed during the World Series.

You can bet (see what I did there) that baseball has also benefited greatly from the rise in Daily Fantasy leagues such as DraftKings and FanDuel. MLB isn't rushing to ban those though.

Part of the reason for MLB's judgement against Rose seems to be the fact that he's chosen to live in Las Vegas. Rose addressed the media from his "Hit King Throne" at the newly opened Pete Rose Bar and Grill on the Strip:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Jubilee Ending after 34 Year Run

Jubilee at Bally's - the last of the classic Las Vegas showgirl spectacular shows - will be closing early next year. The final performance is expected to be on February 11, 2016.

The announcement came just days after the news that longtime Jubilee manager Fluff LeCoque had passed away at the age of 92 on December 10th.

The classic showgirl spectacular was a dying breed that will likely go extinct once Jubilee closes. The other longtime running spectacular Les Folies Bergere closed in 2009 after running at the Tropicana since 1959.

I had a chance to see Jubilee a few years ago. I enjoyed the show, but it was clearly outdated and not well attended. A 2014 revamp of the show fell flat, seemingly not doing anything to improve attendance.

It's interesting how "the showgirl" is one of the most iconic symbols of Las Vegas, but the actual show won't exist anymore.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

How Much is The Mirage Worth?

Back when the Mirage was rumored to be for sale there was a lot of discussion about how much the sale price would be, and how it would compare to other similar properties, say Cosmopolitan for example.

With Phil Ruffin's $1.3 billion offer to buy the Mirage rejected, we can determine that it would be worth more than that.

Cosmopolitan sold for $1.73 billion back in 2014. Although MGM Resorts has repeatedly stated that Mirage is not for sale, I would think they would need an offer of around that figure to raise their eyebrows.

If I had to place a value on Mirage I would place it right around that $1.73 billion mark. Now this is an unscientific estimate. I haven't dug into the financials like I probably should have, but I think it would be a fair price for the Mirage if it were ever to be on the market.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Driving The Strip Video

The use of GoPro and other new HD cameras have given us some great footage of Las Vegas.

Today I came across this video from early 2015 giving us a glimpse of what it's like to drive up and down the Strip during the day:

Friday, December 11, 2015

Showcase Mall Sold

Over the past year developer Barry Fieldman has been selling off pieces of his Showcase Mall property near MGM Grand to New York real estate investor Eli Gindi and Jordache jeans founders the Nakash family.

The final plot was sold last week for almost $83 million, completing the $370 million buyout of the property.

Showcase Mall is known for a Coca-Cola store complete with giant Coke bottle, along with an M&M's World property. If you're dying to see a movie on the Strip, there's also a United Artists theater.

The sale of Showcase Mall has started speculation wondering if anything will be done with the property. I'm guessing not really. In spite of the relative kitsch of the property, it seems to be fairly busy most of the time. I can't see a serious real estate investor doing anything to jeopardize that.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Uber now at Las Vegas Airport

Uber is now fully authorized in Las Vegas, recently gaining approval to operate at McCarran International Airport.

It's been a long journey for Uber to get to Las Vegas. The service was banned, then briefly operated, and banned again before gaining approval first to operate outside of tourist areas, then moving into the resorts and now airport.

I've long thought that Uber, while a great service is somewhat unnecessary in Las Vegas. Taxicabs (annoying long hauling aside) are available everywhere so it's usually not a problem getting around.

That being said Uber has gained so much popularity in such a short amount of time that it's become the default mode of transportation for many people. It's very possible that young people in Las Vegas won't even consider cabs since they are so used to using Uber.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Steve Wynn Buys his own Stock

Steve Wynn has never lacked self confidence. It should be little surprise that he made a big bet on himself, recently purchasing a little over 1 million shares of Wynn Resorts stock valued at just north of $60 million.

The news of the purchase sent WYNN stock up 13% earlier today, increasing a little over $8 a share to finish just shy of $70 a share.

The one million shares Wynn recently purchased now represent 9% of his total stake in the company. He now directly or indirectly owns 11.07 million shares worth around $775 million.

While many see Wynn's purchase as a strong buy signal, I'm not so sure.  While Las Vegas results are strong because of lower gaming odds, Wynn's results are more centered around Macau.

I think Macau is going to be a strong casino market for the long term, but there are a lot of question marks in the short term. A slew of new resort openings will likely expand the market in the long run, but could put pressure on existing resorts in 2016 and 2017.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

BYU and Utah in Las Vegas Bowl

The Las Vegas Bowl match-up is set. BYU and Utah will take their in-state rivalry to Las Vegas to do battle on Dec. 19, 2015, at 12:30 p.m. (PST).

The game is already sold out.

There has been a little controversy with the tickets as Utah fans are claiming that BYU fans had an unfair advantage in buying tickets since their team was announced to be playing in the bowl game much earlier.

Controversy aside, the Las Vegas Bowl is becoming one of the more popular bowl games, selling out in 8 of the last 11 years.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Killers and Wayne Newton open Arena

Back in September it was reported that George Strait would be the first performer to open the new Las Vegas Arena in late April 2016.

While Strait will still be doing his shows, the first performance will actually be done by Las Vegas band The Killers on April 6, 2016 according to FOX5 Vegas.

Mr. Las Vegas himself Wayne Newton will be a special guest, and North Las Vegas local Shamir will also be on the show.

It's kind of cool to see an all Las Vegas lineup to open the arena, and ticket prices start at a modest $35 making this arena-opening show affordable for many.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Impressions of Las Vegas Video

Las Vegas hyper-lapse video by Julian Tryba:

Impressions of Las Vegas from Julian Tryba on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Mid 2000's Las Vegas Strip Video

I stumbled upon this somewhat old video of Las Vegas showing scenery from the Strip back when Planet Hollywood was still Aladdin and when Stardust and Westward Ho were still open.

I'm guessing the footage is from 2005 or earlier (Westward Ho closed late 2005). It's pretty impressive to have HD footage from back then, since HD was a relatively new concept at that time.

Friday, December 04, 2015

California Renovation Planned

California Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas announced a multi-million-dollar redesign and renovation plan yesterday.

The public areas will be improved first, "with distinctive elements include bright, brilliant metallic finishes, luxe textures like alpine white granite, and a dark, rich wood finish to accent molding throughout the casino."

That will be followed by "a complete redesign and upgrade of nearly 500 hotel rooms and suites, as well as additional food and beverage projects."

The Cal is one of the most under-the-radar casinos in Las Vegas. The location a block off Fremont Street on Ogden Ave puts it out of sight out of mind for most casual downtown travelers. The hotel is able to thrive on its unique business model of selling vacation packages to Hawaiian travelers.

I'm guessing these renovations will be a welcomed improvement to the property.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Stratosphere Take Vegas Back Campaign

The Stratosphere's Take Vegas Back ad campaign is almost a year old, but I haven't had a chance to blog about it.

The premise is that Las Vegas has become too expensive and the Stratosphere is the place to be if you want to get a good value, touting it as a resort for the every man.

With rising hotel rates and added resort fees, the campaign might be more relevant than ever.

I'm wondering if the advertisement might be slightly hypocritical though, since the Stratosphere itself has resort fees, along with not-so-great gaming odds (from what I've heard).

Hypocrisy aside it's nice to see a casino try something new to gain customers, and the message decrying high Vegas prices will certainly resonate with a lot of people.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Sheldon Adelson Republican Debate

The next Republican debate will take place on December 15, 2015 at the Venetian.

This will be the second debate of the year held in Las Vegas. One of the Democratic debates took place at Wynn Las Vegas in October.

Las Vegas will also host the final Presidential debate next year at Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV campus.

Aside from these debates being held in Las Vegas, it's also been in the news lately that Las Vegas Sands CEO and Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson will be deciding soon which Republican candidate to support.

Adelson is famous for his gigantic campaign contributions, so it's being seen as a major advantage for the candidate who manages to gain his support.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

November 2015 Las Vegas Stock Recap

With the calendar now showing December 2015, let's take a look back and see how Las Vegas stocks did in the month of November.

After a blazing hot October for Las Vegas stocks, they came back down to earth a little bit in November.

Caesars Entertainment was the only stock finishing up in November, inching up a little over 5% after soaring over 36% in October.

MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming were relatively flat in October, both declining slightly.

Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands both were both down a little over 10% in November after both had a strong October. Some issues in Macau continue to weigh on these two operators.

Penn National was down almost 11% in November, after having the weakest performance of all the Las Vegas stocks in October. I'm guessing their master lease accounting issues could have hurt their stock price recently.

CompanySymbolStartEndChange
CaesarsCZR8.058.47+5.22%
MGMMGM23.1922.74-1.94%
BoydBYD19.9919.59-2%
WynnWYNN69.9562.77-10.26%
PennPENN17.8615.95-10.69%
SandsLVS49.5144.06-11%

Monday, November 30, 2015

October 2015 Revenue and Visitation Numbers

October 2015 Las Vegas Gaming Revenue and Visitor Statistics have been released.

Las Vegas visitation was up again in October increasing +5.6% year over year. This translated into citywide occupancy up +3.7% with average room rates and revenue per available room increasing significantly (+11.7% and +16.3% respectively). Total room nights occupied were up +3.3%. October was a another strong month for convention attendance, which was up +12.6%.

Downtown continued its winning streak with strong occupancy (+7.7%), average daily rate (+11.1%), and revenue per available room (+21.7%) all trending upwards.

Air traffic was also up again in October, increasing +6.4% year over year.

Gaming revenue on the Strip was down -5.12%. Slots were flat while table games were down -10.22%. It seems as if gamblers were lucky in October as table game win percentages were lower than normal.

Downtown had a slow gaming month, down -6.5% overall. Weakness in slot machines (-12.43%) offset strength in table games (+7.21%) in October.

The up and down Las Vegas locals market was down this time, as the Boulder Strip was -6.55% in October while North Las Vegas was -3.96% year over year.

In conclusion, October was a really strong month for Las Vegas visitation, while gaming numbers were a little disappointing in part because of lower hold. The weak gaming numbers seem to reflect the fact that people are gambling less in Las Vegas, but it's kind of hard to tell with high end play and hold percentages skewing the numbers so much.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Casinos Test Drink Ticket System

A few months ago news spread that Mirage was testing a drink voucher system at one of their video poker bars.

Instead of the bartender giving free drinks while you are playing, you would have to "earn" the drink by playing a certain amount that would trigger your machine to print out a drink voucher.

Now several message boards are discussing a similar drink voucher system being installed at Cosmopolitan at their Bond bar.

I'm hoping this trend won't continue and that these experiments with drink vouchers at video poker bars won't prove to be successful. I really don't see how having a system like this is going to save the casino that much money.

Sure, some people like to take advantage by putting a $20 in and getting a few free drinks by slow playing the machine, but I think bartenders are pretty good at making sure people are actually playing before comping them.

While a drink ticket system is certainly annoying to players, it's not completely unheard of in Las Vegas as most sportsbooks around town have implemented a similar policy for better or worse.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

New Resorts Opening in Macau Downturn

Encore, Aria, and Cosmopolitan are three of the newest casinos in Las Vegas. All three are considered successful, but they opened right in the middle of a severe slowdown in Las Vegas which didn't make things easy.

History might be repeating itself in Macau, as that city faces a downturn right as major properties are set to open. Studio City just opened, while Wynn Palace will be opening next year followed by The Parisian after that.

A recent New York Times article did a good job of chronicling some of the issues in Macau. The government restriction on table games at Studio City prompted Steve Wynn to show frustration. Macau's junket operators have also been under fire lately. A possible smoking ban could be another hurdle for Macau casinos.

I tend to be pretty optimistic on the future prospects in Macau. Somewhat like Las Vegas I think these new upcoming resorts might have a rough start but should find their footing eventually.

Even with the recent downturn Macau is still a much larger gaming market than Las Vegas. I think some of the government regulations will ease with time and these issues will be seen as minor growing pains. We shall see.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Monorail Expansion Talk

It's a slow Las Vegas news day on this Black Friday, so I had to take a look around to find something to blog about.

I came across this article from two weeks ago about the Las Vegas Monorail and a possible expansions to the line.

Everyone wants to know when the monorail will be expanded to the airport, but the article concluded that an expansion to the airport probably isn't economically feasible. Not to mention opposition from taxi cab companies.

An expansion to Mandalay Bay might be on the table soon though, along with a station at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. If those two expansions are completed the monorail would link the three major convention centers in Las Vegas.

The monorail has struggled with ridership due to its out of the way location behind many of the hotels it serves. Ten years after it opened it's still operational though, and seems to have found a niche serving conventioneers. Linking the convention centers makes sense in that regard.

Not mentioned in the article is a possible monorail expansion downtown to Fremont Street. Although it's probably not happening anytime soon due to cost and routing issues, this would be the most exciting monorail route for the average tourist. Being able to travel quickly between the Strip and Fremont Street for cheap would be ideal. Maybe we'll see it someday, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

SportsCenter Las Vegas Themed Opening

The new SportsCenter starring Scott Van Pelt has a Las Vegas theme as part of the opening sequence.

Van Pelt is a known fan of Las Vegas and frequently discusses betting on his show - rare for the family friendly ESPN. He was featured on one of those Travel Channel shows about Las Vegas a long time ago.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beer Park by Budweiser at Paris

The beer garden concept has been making its way around Las Vegas to varying degrees of success. Umami Burger at SLS has one, and there's one downtown at Plaza. A beer garden is also being planned for the new MGM Resorts Park development.

This week renderings have been making the rounds of a new beer garden planned for Paris Las Vegas that will be taking over the Chateau Nightclub space. Beer Park by Budweiser will essentially be a huge indoor-outdoor sports-bar featuring 100+ brews (likely all Bud brands).

On paper the beer garden concept seems like a good idea. Cold beer, sports on TV, outdoor bar space. All that stuff is great but there's something about it that doesn't seem to fit into Las Vegas in my mind. It will be interesting to see how these concepts play out in the coming years.






Renderings: Beer Park.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

SkyVue Land For Sale

UPDATE: This is old news as the site has been for sale since early May.

The site of the failed SkyVue observation wheel project on the south end of the Strip is for sale for $385 million, officially ending any hope that the wheel will be completed someday.

When plans were announced for an observation wheel back in 2011 - I questioned whether the developers would be able to raise the $100 million needed for the project.

When the High Roller wheel opened at The Linq there really wasn't a point in opening a second wheel in Las Vegas, despite SkyVue having started construction with two giant concrete pylons.

The 38.5 acres of land for sale is directly across from Mandalay Bay. It seems like MGM Resorts International (or perhaps their new REIT) would be interested in picking up this land since it's near their other properties.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wynn Buffet Reopens

The Wynn Buffet has reopened after undertaking a month long renovation and expansion project.

I'm having a little trouble putting my finger on exactly what's different now, but the Wynn Buffet webpage had this to offer:

Indulge in a feast for all your senses amid the resplendent surroundings of the all-new buffet at Wynn. Sample tastes from around the world at the 15 live-action cooking stations presenting rotisserie grilled steakhouse cuts, coast-to-coast seafood and over 120 new dishes, all artfully presented. Newly reimagined d├ęcor and impeccable attention to detail imbue what is traditionally a casual dining experience with a fine dining sensibility. The finale is provided by the sweet patisserie, featuring warm pastries, chocolate fountain dipped specialties and an assortment of cakes and confections made daily by our dedicated pastry chefs.

The Wynn buffet has always been one of my favorites, and is unarguably one of the best in Las Vegas. I am looking forward to seeing what it's like after the changes. Hopefully they are for the better.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Vegas Dad GoPro Video Probably Fake

A viral video is making the rounds of a dad in Las Vegas who "accidentally" filmed his entire vacation with a GoPro camera pointed in the wrong direction (back at himself).

As funny as this premise is (or isn't) - it's probably fake. Even if someone were dumb enough to point the camera in the wrong direction, why would they use a selfie stick while attempting to point the camera in a non-selfie direction?

Fake. So fake.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Phil Ruffin on Ralston Live November 2015

One day after MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren was on Ralston Live, Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin made an appearance on the program.

Fighting back a cold, Ruffin talked about his failed attempt to purchase the Mirage for $1.3 billion, and his close relationship with Donald Trump.

I thought it was interesting there was no mention of Fontainebleau, which is currently for sale. I would have liked to hear if Ruffin is interested in buying the property, although by other comments in the interview I'm sure the answer would have been no.

Friday, November 20, 2015

SLS Focusing on Fundamentals

News of Sam Nazarian selling his 10% stake in SLS broke last month, but the transaction was officially approved this week.

The Vegas Inc story about the approval had some interesting quotes from current SLS boss Scott Kreeger.

Kreeger admitted that SLS has gotten off to a rough start financially, saying "It's probably fair to say that the first year at the property was a little tumultuous."

It seems that now Nazarian is out of the picture, Kreeger is taking a "back to basics" approach to the resort. He said they are going to focus on a more "fundamental Las Vegas casino model."

In addition to making those casino changes, SLS will be adding the new Foundry Hall concert venue soon, along with converting one of the hotel towers into a W Hotel.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wynn Palace Opening Date now June 25, 2016

Wynn Palace, the new $4.1 billion dollar resort being constructed on the Cotai Strip in Macau has moved its opening date to June 25, 2016 pushed back from the original announced date of March 25, 2016.

Wynn Resorts issued a press release stating, "it was notified today by its general contractor, Leighton Holdings Limited, that the Wynn Palace project in the Cotai area of Macau will not be ready to open by the projected early completion date."

Recently Steve Wynn expressed frustration with the Macau government over uncertainty about the number of table games the company would be granted at Wynn Palace.

The Studio City development recently opened in Macau, but early reports indicate it hasn't done much to improve city-wide gaming results.

A three month delay in the opening of Wynn Palace probably won't mean much in the long term, but it's just another setback in what has been a very rough year for Wynn Resorts shareholders.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jim Murren on Ralston Live November 2015

MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren was on Ralston Live on Monday. He talked about the company's REIT conversion, how he had offers to sell the Mirage, Macau, and more.

Murren wasn't asked about the controversial rumor that MGM Resorts will soon be charging for garage parking in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rio Carnival World and Seafood Buffet

Last month I wrote a blog post about how the Village Seafood Buffet was closing at Rio and was going to be folded into the Carnival World Buffet.

That transition is now complete, as Rio's new combined buffet has opened and is now called Carnival World & Seafood Buffet.

According to the Rio website the prices will be:

Lunch: $25+
Dinner: $33+
Seafood Dinner: $48+
Brunch: $32+

As much as I like the seafood option - $48 is a lot to pay for it. If I were looking to spend that much on a buffet I would probably just go all out and spring for Wynn, Bellagio or Bacchanal at Caesars Palace.

That being said I'm happy they decided to keep the seafood around in some form instead of getting rid of it altogether. If I find myself staying at Rio again I will likely be giving it a shot.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Marriott to Acquire Starwood Hotels and Resorts

Marriott International announced today their intention to acquire Starwood Hotels and Resorts. If the deal goes through it would create the world's largest hotel company, controlling over 1.1 million rooms.

Starwood currently has an affiliation with the Caesars Entertainment properties on the Strip, and recently signed a deal to convert one of the towers at SLS into a W Hotel.

Marriott has an agreement with Cosmopolitan, although it has been rumored that will be replaced with Hilton due to Cosmopolitan's recent sale to Blackstone.

I personally don't have a vested interest in either one of these loyalty programs, but from what I'm reading it appears that Starwood customers are worried about having their points devalued by Marriott.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Foundry Hall coming to SLS

The former Life nightclub at SLS Las Vegas is being transformed into an 1800 seat music venue called Foundry Hall, which will open early in 2016.

A Las Vegas Weekly article detailed the renovation project. The nightclub's DJ booth is being removed in favor of a stage. Audio improvements are being made, while keeping the nightclub's massive LED screens.

Live Nation will partner with SLS to book acts at the new venue, which will be a mix of permanent and standing room only seating.

The new music venue comes at a time when SLS is looking to make major improvements to the property to attract more guests. Last week it was announced that one of the hotel towers will be converted into a W Hotel brand.

SLS is still struggling financially. After reporting third quarter earnings they have lost $122.7 million so far in 2015. Parent company Stockbridge is banking on these improvements to help turn the property's fortunes around.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cosmopolitan Reports Third Quarter Profit

Cosmopolitan reported a $4.7 million profit in the third quarter of 2015 according to a filing with the SEC yesterday.

While third quarter net revenue was down year over year ($179.8 million in 2015 compared to $189 million in 2014) Cosmopolitan was able to acheive a profit by slashing expenses all the way down to $167 million down from $203.5 million the previous year.

Cosmopolitan's new parent company Blackstone seems to have the ship pointed in the right direction, as Cosmopolitan has now reported two consecutive quarterly profits.

It appears the new owners are shifting the focus away from food, beverage, entertainment and retail and putting more of an emphasis on the casino. It will be interesting to see if this strategy proves to pay off over the next few quarters.

Friday, November 13, 2015

SLS Losses Mount in Third Quarter

A filing today with the SEC revealed that SLS Las Vegas had a net loss of $38.7 million in third quarter 2015.

SLS managed only $33.55 million of net revenue in the third quarter, which was down from $36.9 million of net revenue in the second quarter.

I like to compare SLS with somewhat similarly located Circus Circus, which managed almost double the net revenues that SLS did in the third quarter - $62.6 million.

Casino revenue at SLS was up slightly from the second quarter to the third ($9.5 million to $9.9 million). Almost every other category of business was down sequentially though.

Hotel revenue dropped from $13.1 million to $12.3 million. Food and Beverage dropped from $16 million to $13.6 million. Retail and other dropped from $1.3 million to $900,000 (likely explained by the Fred Segal departure).

Year to date the property has racked up a net loss of $122.7 million.

Parent company Stockbridge has now contributed $59.3 million this year to keep the hotel operational. That means they poured in an additional $31 million in the third quarter.

Based on these poor financial results it would seem like SLS would be on the verge of closing. However, the announcement that W Hotel will be taking over one of the hotel towers seems to indicate that SLS (backed by Stockbridge) will be around for a while.

If I had to guess - I think Stockbridge will likely make a few more deals similar to the W Hotel deal, essentially outsourcing different parts of the property. I wonder if a casino management deal with one of the regional players looking to get into the Vegas market might be on the horizon.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Future of Tipping in Las Vegas

It was a hot news item a few weeks ago when Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group announced they were eliminating tipping in their New York City restaurants.

Just this week Joe's Crab Shack became the first major chain to follow suit and roll out an experimental plan that would also eliminate tipping at their restaurants.

This got me thinking about tipping in Las Vegas and if it could be possible for a no-tipping policy to ever be adopted.

Tipping is ingrained in the Las Vegas culture. Almost every employee a tourist encounters is tipped, from the cab driver on the way from the airport, the bellhop, front desk clerk, housekeeping, bar tenders, wait staff, all the way to the usher at the showroom.

Las Vegas is also one of the remaining places where cash is the preferred currency, making tipping easy. My first thought is that a cash free, non-tipping movement would face resistance in Las Vegas.

Times are changing though. Younger generations are getting more and more used to not using cash at all. When we eventually go to a mostly cash-free society (if we aren't there already) tipping seems like more of a burden.

While the transition away from cash might be slower in Las Vegas because of gambling, it will happen eventually. With less cash changing hands tipping might become less common.

Services like Uber have made it common for the tip to be included. That line of thinking might work its way though the hospitality industry.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fontainebleau For Sale - Who Will Buy?

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Carl Icahn is looking to sell the Fontainebleau. The property will be listed by CBRE for $650 million.

I immediately starting thinking about who might be a candidate to buy and finish the stalled Fontainebleau project. I'm going to spend the rest of this blog post speculating about which companies might be in the mix.

MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment are the two largest Las Vegas hotel/casino companies but neither of them are really looking to expand in Vegas at the moment. Plus MGM will be completing a REIT conversion soon, and Caesars is going through a partial bankruptcy. I don't see either of these giants buying Fontainebleau.

Wynn Resorts boss Steve Wynn has long said he doesn't want to build in Las Vegas again. His frustration with the Macau government and endless headaches getting his Boston project off the ground might have him singing a different tune though. The rub: Wynn likes to build from scratch and the Fontainebleau structure might not be a blank enough slate for architect DeRuyter Butler and designer Roger Thomas to work their magic.

Like Wynn, Las Vegas Sands and Sheldon Adelson have shown a lack of interest in building anything new in Vegas. I actually think the Fontainebleau would be a great fit though. LVS has deep pockets so finishing the resort wouldn't be a problem, and the location near the planned convention center expansion would fit right in with their convention heavy business model. The best part: They could call the property Sands Hotel and Casino resurrecting an iconic Las Vegas brand.

Speaking of iconic properties: Boyd Gaming has been looking to get back on the Strip ever since they demolished The Stardust and failed to replace it with Echelon Place, later selling the property. While I would be in favor of Boyd buying Fontainebleau and renaming it The Stardust (or Borgata Las Vegas perhaps?) it seems unlikely they would undertake such a large project so shortly after abandoning Echelon.

Penn National was seriously considering purchasing Fontainebleau before ultimately losing out to Carl Icahn. Since then they have entered the Las Vegas market with purchases of M Resort and later Tropicana. If Penn was unwilling to spend $150 million to buy Fontainebleau in 2010 I'm guessing they don't want to spend $650 million in 2015.

Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin was in the news earlier this week as it was reported he made a recent $1.3 billion failed bid to buy The Mirage. If Ruffin has that much cash to spend could he possibly want to buy the Fontainebleau? It seems like a real possibility to me.

Other regional operators like Eldorado Resorts, Golden Entertainment, Full House Resorts, and Pinnacle Entertainment are likely eager to get into the Las Vegas market but probably don't have the money to make a deal like Fontainebleau happen. Could one of these companies partner up with a rich benefactor like Ruffin to get it done?

Lastly and perhaps most likely to buy Fontainebleau are private equity real estate companies. Cosmopolitan parent company Blackstone might be a possibility if they are looking to expand their casino holdings. Once rumored Mirage buyer Starwood Capital might also be looking to buy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Caesars Upgrading Las Vegas Room Product

For years Caesars Entertainment has had a reputation for not maintaining their properties. While most Strip properties had routine room updates, Caesars seemed to take the approach of deferring maintenance to save money.

This provided some great room rates for budget travelers, but from a company perspective Caesars was hurting themselves by not being able to charge more for nicer room offerings.

This might be changing though. On the latest Caesars Entertainment earnings conference call yesterday new CEO Mark Frissora talked about being able to achieve higher average daily room rates by improving their properties.

Indeed Caesars has already taken steps to upgrade Las Vegas hotel rooms with the upcoming Julius Tower at Caesars Palace, new suites at Paris, upgraded rooms in the Carnival Tower at Harrah's, and refreshed Hollywood Hip rooms and suites at Planet Hollywood.

This follows some other improvements at Caesars properties including the complete overhauls at The Cromwell and The Linq, along with new hotel rooms at the Bally's Jubilee Tower and the Rio Samba Suites.

If Caesars continues to aggressively improve their room products it would give Las Vegas travelers many more options for a nicer hotel room closer to the center of the Strip.

Monday, November 09, 2015

W Hotel coming to SLS

Starwood Hotels and Resorts announced on Monday their W Hotel brand will be taking over the Lux tower at SLS Las Vegas. In addition to the W Hotel, SLS will become part of Starwood's Tribute Portfolio.

SLS has been struggling financially since its opening. Something like this needed to happen to give the property some life after controversial leader Sam Nazarian sold off his stake.

While I think bringing the W Hotel into the fold is a good move, I have to wonder if it's the best fit for the property. I assume W guests expect only the best for the top dollar they pay, and I'm not exactly sure SLS is what I think of when I think of top notch Las Vegas luxury.

If anything this tells us that SLS is here to stay though. Parent company Stockbridge wouldn't be making this move if they were ready to bail on the property. It's good to know that they are committed to seeing this through and making the necessary changes to be successful.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Fontainebleau Getting Building Wrap

The stalled Fontainebleau project at the north end of the Strip will be getting a building wrap in an attempt to make it look less like an eyesore.

County commissioners have been pressuring owner Carl Icahn to do something with the property for some time now. He now has 90 days to submit a plan and six months to complete it.

When I heard that Fontainebleau would be getting a building wrap, my first thought was "why"? The tower itself is topped out and is mostly glass so I didn't know how a wrap would help cosmetically.

It turns out the wrap will only cover the first three stories closest to the Strip. This part of the building does have exposed steel and is visible from the street, so I suppose a wrap will help hide that.

Both news3lv and KLAS TV produced pretty informative news stories about Fontainebleau. KLAS reported that Icahn is looking for $550 million to sell the property, which would be a nice profit from his $150 million purchase price.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Ellis Island Steak Special

The days of really cheap food in Las Vegas are long gone. Look back at some old photos of Vegas and you're likely to see a sign or two for a $2.99 steak and eggs breakfast or a $4.99 prime rib dinner. Inflation has taken its toll and those deals really don't exist anymore.

One holdout over the years though has been the famous Ellis Island Steak Special. Starting at $7.99 (with players card and some slot play) you get a sirloin with choice of soup or salad, potato, and green beans.

The deal previously came with a beer from the property's brewery included, but that has apparently been discontinued.

Beer is really cheap at Ellis Island, so adding one will only cost you an extra buck or two, but it's still sad to see the steak special slightly diminished. I almost wish they had just raised the price instead of taking away the beer.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Stevens Buys Remaining Golden Gate Stake

America's favorite casino owner Derek Stevens has been in the news again the past couple of days.

Greg and Derek Stevens have purchased the remaining 35% of Golden Gate that they didn't own, now making them 100% owners of the property.

This move should pave the way for a combined players club loyalty program between Stevens' three Fremont Street casinos - The D, Golden Gate, and Las Vegas Club (which will be renamed after a renovation).

Derek Stevens was also featured in a news piece about the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. The outdoor space is helping to attract more visitors downtown. Stevens talked about some of the events he is looking forward to hosting, including plenty of boxing matches.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Gourmet Hot Dogs in Las Vegas

The odd topic of whether a hot dog should be considered a sandwich has engulfed the internet. While I don't really care if a hot dog is a sandwich, it got me thinking.

Where can you get a good hot dog in Las Vegas? Gourmet hamburgers have been all the rage for a while now, but what about dogs?

American Coney Island - Located at The D on Fremont Street this brand has been a Detroit staple for almost 100 years. They are famous for hot dogs with secret recipe Coney Island Chili Sauce.

Pink's - In the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood this is a Las Vegas outpost of the world famous hot dog stand in Los Angeles. Along with Classic Dogs you can also opt for one of their Special Dogs with all kinds of fun toppings.

Haute Doggery - At The Linq promenade this shop is affiliated with the same people who run Pink's. It looks like Haute Doggery is less chili focused and more inspired by classic mustard and relish.

Shake Shack - Located at New York New York Shake Shack is more known for burgers, but they actually started as a New York hot dog cart. Their flat top dogs come in four different styles, including a chicken version.

Little Richie's - At Treasure Island. Perhaps less gourmet than the others listed here, Little Richie's specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and Polish sausages. It looks like a good spot to grab some drunk food if you're in the neighborhood of Treasure Island.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Las Vegas Club Sports Memorabilia Gallery at Plaza

A collection of sports memorabilia that was on display at the now closed Las Vegas Club are being sold off at a popup gallery at Plaza.

Ten percent of all sales will go to UNLV Libraries Special Collections, which aims to preserve the history of Las Vegas.

Jerseys from Michael Jordan, Marcus Allen, Ken Stabler, Jerome Bettis, Thurman Thomas, and Warren Moon can be seen at the gallery.

Plaza tweeted this picture of the display:

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Caesars Loses Rock Ohio Management

Caesars Entertainment will no longer manage three Ohio properties starting in 2016.

Rock Gaming announced in a press release that Horseshoe Cleveland, Horseshoe Cincinnati and ThistleDown will all be self managed by Rock next year, cutting ties with Caesars.

As part of the transition the properties will be renamed, and they will no longer be part of Total Rewards. A new loyalty program will replace it but that wont help people looking to build up comps for a trip to Las Vegas.

Many people have wondered if Horseshoe Baltimore will also transition, as Rock has an ownership stake in that property as well.

I think it's a long-shot since Caesars Growth Partners is the largest owner of Horseshoe Baltimore. It's unlikely that Rock, a smaller owner would be able to push them out unless Caesars wanted to sell.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Guy Fieri El Burro Borracho at Rio

The restaurant personality everyone loves to hate, Guy Fieri is opening his Mexican joint El Burro Borracho at Rio.

According to the press release, "El Burro Borracho, or the Drunken Donkey in its literal translation, will bring a vibrant, fun atmosphere with the Guy Fieri touch. Guests will enjoy authentically prepared Mexican dishes with upscale touches and the signature, flavorful flair you would expect from Fieri. Crispy Mahi Mahi Juan Tacos, Flaming Queso Fundido, Acapulco Gold Salad, Drunken Fish Tacos, Lava Rock Shrimp, signature tortas, enchiladas, burritos and an array of house made, signature salsas are just a few of the items available on the menu."

I personally don't have a problem with Guy, but he really does bring it upon himself with those wacky menu items. A little self awareness would go a long way, but then again he's done quite well with his antics - manufactured or not, so whatever works right?

This will be Guy Fieri's second Las Vegas restaurant. The other one is Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar at The Linq. His roots in Las Vegas stem from being a graduate of UNLV.

When I first heard about this news I suspected El Burro Borracho would replace the closing Rio Village Seafood Buffet - but the press release says that Guy's restaurant will actually be located near the Rio pool.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

October 2015 Las Vegas Stock Recap

With the calendar now showing November 2015, let's take a look back and see how Las Vegas stocks did in the month of October.

October turned out to be an amazing month for Las Vegas stock returns with every stock I track finishing green, and 5 out of the 6 finishing up by more than 20%.

Caesars Entertainment has been on a wild bankruptcy fueled roller coaster ride. After soaring an incredible 83.3% in August they came crashing back down to earth in September falling 38.32% only to turn it around again in October jumping up 36.67%.

Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands both were up big in October after declining significantly in September. While Steve Wynn was angry at the Macau government during Wynn's earnings call, Sheldon Aldelson was nothing but respectful.

MGM Resorts International had a 25% gain in October highlighted by the news that they are creating a REIT called MGM Growth Properties.

Boyd Gaming rode the downtown Las Vegas success wave with their stock increasing almost 22% in October.

Penn National was "only" up 6.4% in October. I'm guessing their limited exposure to Las Vegas compared to the other stocks kept them form having the same explosive October results.

CompanySymbolStartEndChange
CaesarsCZR5.898.05+36.67%
WynnWYNN53.1269.95+31.68%
SandsLVS37.9549.51+30.46%
MGMMGM18.4523.19+25.69%
BoydBYD16.3019.99+21.96%
PennPENN16.7817.86+6.44%

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fremont Street Performer Details

Last month I wrote about some new rules for downtown street performers. The rules still allow street performers to work for tips but restrict the time and place they are allowed to perform, containing them in selected six foot circles around Fremont Street.

Now the City of Las Vegas has announced more details on their blog:

Performers must first register online at lasvegasnevada.gov in order to participate in the lottery. Performers may also register in person on Fremont Street from 2 p.m.-8 p.m. or at the Development Services Center during regular business hours (333 N. Rancho Drive). A performer is not entitled to more than one registration regardless of the number of characters or acts performed. The registration is valid for 180 days and must be displayed at the perimeter of the designated location being used by the performer.

The online registration process will soon be located on the city’s website at www.lasvegasnevada.gov. Registered performers will be able to sign up for the online lottery on the city’s website beginning Nov. 16. Performers will sign up for the lottery each day for the next day’s time slots for one of 38 available spaces. Performers will be randomly assigned spaces that must be used between 3 p.m. and 1 a.m. and will be notified via email their assignments, or can look online. Each spot is good for a two-hour time slot.


I'm guessing the street performers can't be happy with these rules, as from their perspective the process seems like a hassle. On the other hand from a tourist's perspective I'm pretty happy with the way this has turned out, as Fremont Street should be much more pedestrian friendly now.

Friday, October 30, 2015

September 2015 Revenue and Visitation Numbers

September 2015 Las Vegas Gaming Revenue and Visitor Statistics have been released.

Las Vegas visitation was robust increasing +6% in September year over year. This translated into citywide occupancy up 4% with average room rates and revenue per available room increasing significantly (+8.8% and +13.9% respectively). Total room nights occupied were up 3.6%. September was a particularly strong month for convention attendance, which was up 23.9%.

Downtown continued its winning streak with strong occupancy (+5.8%), average daily rate (+19.4%), and revenue per available room (+28.3%) all trending upwards.

Air traffic was also up again in September, increasing +5.9% year over year.

Gaming revenue on the Strip was up +2%. High end baccarat, which has been a struggle for casinos lately, had a better month on the Strip in September increasing +23.39% from last year.

Downtown had more good news with total gaming revenue up +9.3%. Slot machines (+7.55%) and table games (+12.33) both showed healthy increases.

The up and down Las Vegas locals market was down this time, as the Boulder Strip was -5.52% in September while North Las Vegas was -7.32% year over year.

All in all September was a really good month for Las Vegas. The Strip and downtown both showed strong hotel results. Strip gaming numbers seem to be improving, while downtown gaming is really going strong. It will be interesting if these impressive trends continue through the end of 2015 and into 2016.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

MGM Growth Properties REIT Announced

MGM Resorts International reported third quarter 2015 results earlier today. While the numbers were good, especially in Las Vegas, the big news was MGM's announcement that they are creating a REIT.

MGM Growth Properties (MGP) will consist of seven Las Vegas properties (Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, Excalibur, and The Park) along with three regional properties (MGM Grand Detroit, Beau Rivage in Biloxi, and Gold Strike Tunica).

Notably excluded from the REIT are Bellagio, MGM Grand, and Circus Circus along with MGM's joint ventures including CityCenter, MGM China, Borgata, and the new Las Vegas Arena.

The parent company MGM Resorts International will own approximately 70% of the REIT. This is a big difference from the Penn National / Gaming and Leisure Properties REIT conversion from a few years ago which resulted in a complete and total split of those two companies.

Keeping 70% of the REIT will give MGM more control, but will also limit the potential sale price of the planned MGP IPO which will supposedly take place early in 2016 (that timetable seems ambitious).

Further tampering the REIT's potential is the $4 billion of debt which will be piled on to MGP's books. There are definitely questions about whether the ten properties included in the transaction can generate enough income to support that kind of debt.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wynn Poker Room moving to Encore?

The rumor that Wynn's poker room is moving to Encore has been around forever, but it looks like it finally might be happening.

Las Vegas Advisor is in fact reporting that Wynn's poker room will be moving to Encore.

The closure of the Ferrari showroom at Wynn had people wondering what would happen to the nearby poker room. Moving it to Encore allows for a pretty big space for something new. The smart money seems to be on more retail.

While the difference between Wynn and Encore isn't much, poker players might have a longer walk from the parking garage to Encore than they had at Wynn. Poker players probably won't like that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Gaming Roundup - Studio City Macau Opens

Studio City in Macau has opened. The 3 plus billion dollar hotel designed in part to bring more non-gaming amenities to Macau features a batman ride and a figure eight ferris wheel in the middle of the building.

Studio City should be a good barometer of how non-gaming attractions do in the Macau market, especially since the government only granted them 250 tables.

Next door to Studio City on the Cotai Strip is The Parisian. The 2.7 billion dollar Las Vegas Sands owned hotel and casino will open in late 2016 or early 2017. It was originally planned for a spring 2016 opening so it's being pushed back a bit.

Back here stateside Caesars Entertainment is halfheartedly trying to sell their bankrupt CEOC unit, but it appears there aren't any bidders likely because Total Rewards would be excluded from the transaction.

Boyd Gaming, Penn National, and Eldorado Resorts all reported earnings within the past few days. All three locals operators seem to be doing well growing EBITDA, but I like net income better which seems to be hard to come by.

Monday, October 26, 2015

New Bellagio Fountain Song Uptown Funk

It had been a while since I had heard about anything new on the Bellagio Fountains song list - but earlier today Bellagio announced the addition of the smash hit "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars.

Bellagio produced this video to promote the new song:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rio and Wynn Buffet Changes

Changes are coming to two of my favorite Las Vegas buffets.

The Wynn Buffet is undergoing a refresh and expansion. The buffet closed last week and will be re-opening on November 23, 2015. While the Wynn Buffet was already the best in the business they are attempting to be even better by adding a reported 100+ new menu items. I'm a little worried they're messing with a good thing here, but I'm sure it will still be good after the reopening.

The Village Seafood Buffet at Rio is also closing, and will be combined with Rio's pedestrian Carnival World Buffet according to the Las Vegas Advisor. I think this is likely a bad development. Village Seafood Buffet was an underrated gem, and although it will still exist within the Carnival World Buffet (for an up-charge) it likely won't be the same.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rebel Madness at Downtown Events Center

UNLV basketball held Rebel Madness, the official tip-off to basketball season Thursday night outdoors at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. This is the first I've heard of a college basketball team holding an event like this outdoors, but I guess it makes sense in the dry Las Vegas climate.

Bringing events like these to downtown has been a vision of The D Las Vegas owner Derek Stevens ever since he purchased the old courthouse land in 2013 and converted it into the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

UNLV Basketball tweeted a few pictures of the court being installed at the Events Center:




Photos: UNLV Basketball.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Caesars Palace Julius Tower

Caesars Palace is remodeling and renaming the Roman Tower, which will be transformed into the Julius Tower opening January 1, 2016.

This tower is the oldest at Caesars Palace first opening in 1966. The last major renovation to the tower was back in 2001.

The rooms appear to have a somewhat standard modern look. Very grey with a little bit of gold mixed in. The 55 inch TV is nice, and the bathroom looks huge if we can trust the publicty pics:




Photos: Caesars Palace.

Once the most affordable tower at Caesars Palace, the new upgraded rooms will now be more inline with the rest of the property. Rates will be starting at $149.

The cost of the tower renovation is a cool $75 million. Not small money for a company in bankruptcy, but it appears the courts are allowing the renovation as part of a standard capital expenditure plan. The fact is that real estate needs to be maintained, and even Caesars creditors stand to benefit since a remodel like this will likely bring in much higher revenue for the company.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

MGM set to Charge Parking Garage Fees?

MGM Resorts International will soon charge for parking at their Las Vegas self park garages, according to a report from Vegas Tripping.

Casino companies are willing to nickel and dime their customers endlessly in a quest for higher revenues. Over the years gaming odds on the Strip have declined consistently, and more recently resort fees have become commonplace at almost every Las Vegas hotel.

It's no surprise the bean counters would eventually try to get their hands on one of the remaining free perks left in Vegas.

Gamblers will be upset, but MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren has recently talked about focusing more on non-gaming clientele saying, "Many of them have no interest in gambling and that's perfectly fine with me."

There might be hope though. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has strict rules regarding access to gaming and according to their guidelines:

"...all gaming establishments in Nevada must remain open to the general public and the access of the general public to gaming activities must not be restricted in any manner..."

I'm not sure if charging for parking would count as restricting access, but hey it's something. Could Gaming Control block MGM from charging for parking?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Las Vegas Sands Reports Third Quarter 2015 Results

Las Vegas Sands reported third quarter 2015 earnings results earlier today. The weak Macau market caused gaming revenue to decline significantly, but that softness was offset by a strong performance at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and at Bethlehem Sands in Pennsylvania.

In Las Vegas at the company's Venetian and Palazzo properties gaming revenue was down 22.5%. Non-gaming on the other hand was very strong with rooms up 19.4% and food and beverage up 33.9%.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about today's results was the Sands' decision to raise the quarterly dividend by 10.8% from 65 to 72 cents per share starting in 2016. With the weakness in Macau I was thinking the company might have to keep the dividend steady, or even cut the dividend similar to what Wynn Resorts did recently.

Speaking of Wynn, Steve Wynn's comments about the Macau government and the government's response were bound to be asked about on the Las Vegas Sands earnings conference call.

As expected Sheldon Adelson was overtly respectful to the government saying, "We're in China, let the Chinese decide what they want to do with the concessionaires. Again it's our privilege, it's not our right. So we'll do everything we can to justify getting the blessings from the Macau government. It's their government, it's their right and we'll do whatever they ask us to do."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jewel Nightclub to replace Haze at Aria

Hakkasan Group has announced a new nightclub. Jewel will open in the Spring of 2016 in the former Haze nightclub space at Aria.

Haze closed almost a year ago and was operated by The Light Group, which itself was later acquired by Hakkasan.

I think Haze was somewhat of a disappointment from the time it opened. It never was able to match the buzz of more popular clubs in town like Marquee or XS. I wonder if Jewel will be more successful in that space.

This seems to be a prime era for nightclubs to be remodeled and renamed. The once popular Pure at Caesars Palace recently reopened as Omnia.

Tryst at Wynn Las Vegas will also be closing to be remodeled and will likely be renamed and reopened around the same time as Jewel.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Macau Government Responds to Steve Wynn

Steve Wynn verbally lashed out at the Macau government on the Wynn Resorts third quarter earnings conference call last week. Steve is frustrated at the government's restriction on the number of table games a casino is allowed to have.

The Macau government not surprisingly didn't appreciate what Wynn had to say and fired back in kind, issuing a release stating in part:

"The Government says it will not lightly change its policies on the gaming industry and on labour – policies that have been widely supported by the Macao public.

The Government additionally noted that overseeing applications for gaming table allocation for the local casino sector and applications by companies for non-resident labour are executive legal powers of the Macao Government.

The Government also expressed regrets over an opinion from a casino operator – reported by news media outside Macao – relating to the city's gaming policy...

...In order to reiterate the Government's stance and its principles on the gaming policy issue, the Secretary met with representatives of the relevant gaming operator on 18 October."


The release showed a photo of Wynn Macau president Gamal Aziz meeting with government officials. The news of the government response sent WYNN stock price down by more than 6% earlier today.

I have a couple of questions about this whole incident. The first one - was this calculated by Steve Wynn, or did he just fly off the handle at the spur of the moment? The second question is whether the Macau government is serious about their hard line stance on table games.

I have a feeling this is some kind of dog and pony show designed to get Wynn Palace more table games while letting the government save face at the same time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Passport to Fly to Las Vegas?

If you live in Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire or New York you might have to use a passport to board domestic flights starting in 2016.

Those four states use state issued drivers licenses that do not comply with stricter standards mandated by the federal government according to a CNN Money article.

Minnesota is most affected as their residents will likely have to start using passports on January 1, 2016. The other three states have later deadlines in 2016. Nothing is set in stone though, as extensions could be granted and drivers licenses could be changed to comply.

Las Vegas could be impacted, as three of the four states have listed Las Vegas as their favorite summer travel destination, according to Kayak data.

The need to use a passport could end up being a headache for residents of these states. Getting a new passport is somewhat of a hassle, not to mention the costs. I would imagine many flyers already have passports, but I'm sure many don't.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Steve Wynn Makes Casino Adjustments

Steve Wynn spent most of Thursday's Wynn Resorts earnings call complaining about the government in Macau, but he also had some comments about Las Vegas.

You may remember last quarter when Steve Wynn talked about lowering craps odds. This time he provided a little more context to those kinds of adjustments he's making in the casino:

"We made a whole bunch of changes in the casino, both physically and procedurally. We've even fooled with the rules of the game. It's been 50 years since Las Vegas increased the price of gaming. We're way overdue considering the cost of running games and payroll.

We've adjusted our yield rate management approach. Maurice Wooden is here and he's very good at that in the whole American operation. We've made a host of adjustments. We were off in one month from $100 million in baccarat to 45. We were off $55 million in baccarat but we made almost the same amount of money because of all the adjustments we made.

And they go across the board throughout the hotel. And the way we price the hotel, the restaurants, and entertainment and gaming. We don't sit by and allow ourselves to become victims of anything of any aspect of our operation over which we have any control. So my long term view of our operations in America and in China is still positive. It's the short term that's bewildering."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Nevada Bans Unlicensed Daily Fantasy Sports

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has ruled that daily fantasy sports (DFS) is a form of gambling, and needs to be licensed to be legal. Unlicensed operators, most notably DraftKings and FanDuel, have been effectively shut down in the state of Nevada as of today.

Licensed operators in Nevada (the sportsbooks) can offer daily fantasy, but they largely don't have the technology yet. I wonder if some of the bigger players like William Hill and CG Technology will step up to the plate.

The ruling brings daily fantasy sports to an interesting crossroads. DraftKings and FanDuel could probably get licensed in the state of Nevada if they really wanted to, but their entire business hinges on the premise that they don't offer gambling.

If they admitted they offer gambling by getting a Nevada license that would probably put them in hot water with other states, not to mention the sports leagues themselves.

Now the question is whether other states will follow Nevada's lead and ban DFS, or is Nevada the only state that really cares enough to do anything since they want to protect their other gambling interests.

I look forward to the day when all sports gaming is legal in every state (well, except for Utah) and we don't have to go through with this "is it gambling" charade.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Steve Wynn Frustrated by Macau Tables

Today's Wynn Resorts earnings call was particularly interesting with a frustrated Steve Wynn on the line. The reason for Steve's frustration: the government in Macau.

Macanese gaming regulators set the number of tables a casino is allowed to have. With the government seeking to de-emphasize gaming in favor of non-gaming activities they have been stingy with the amount of tables they are willing to license.

The brand new Studio City development by Melco Crown recently was only granted half of the tables they had asked for, and that decision was made a mere two weeks before the property is set to open on October 27, 2015.

Wynn was not happy about this, as it doesn't bode well for his upcoming Wynn Palace opening March 25, 2016. Aside from the prospect of having less tables, not knowing how many they're going to have makes staffing decisions almost impossible.

When speaking about the government's policy of allowing less tables Steve shouted, "The damn casino is the cash register!" That prompted one analyst to thank him for being "refreshingly frank."

Steve Wynn unlike other CEO's likes to speak freely about the issues of the day without worrying about what people will think. One exception though is China.

Wynn usually chooses his words about the Chinese government very carefully without questioning them. He seems to be getting away from that strategy though and if today's call is any indication he's now willing to let the government know exactly what he thinks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tennis Court Arena at Caesars Palace

A temporary tennis court arena was recently installed in front of Caesars Palace to host a celebrity charity event.

Billie Jean King and Elton John hosted Mylan WTT Smash Hits benefiting the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF) and local AIDS organizations. The event has raised more than $13 million since its inception.

This is the first time the event has been in Las Vegas. This year's event raised over $1 million.

Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Lindsay Davenport and Andy Roddick were among the tennis stars playing.

Tennis Channel tweeted this picture of the setup during the day. Appropriately the Elton John Caesars marquee was in the background along with Mirage and Treasure Island.


Caesars Palace tweeted this picture of the arena during the event at night, with Caesars in the background.


Andre Agassi tweeted this picture of himself with wife Steffi Graf and Flamingo in the background.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Final Presidential Debate in Las Vegas

The Democratic presidential debate is taking place at Wynn Las Vegas tonight.

Las Vegas will do it all over again a year from now though, as the Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV campus will host the third and final general election debate on October 19, 2016.

You can bet that having the final presidential debate in Las Vegas will cause some traffic headaches for locals and tourists alike. On the bright side though we might get to see The Midnight Idol, Mr. Las Vegas himself Wayne Newton do more television appearances like this:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Grandissimo new Las Vegas Club name?

When Las Vegas Club was purchased by Greg and Derek Stevens back in August it was revealed that the name of the property wasn't included in the transaction. This means when the casino (and hopefully hotel) re-opens it will need a new name.

The detectives over at Vegas Tripping immediately speculated that the new name would be Grandissimo,"in honor of the project that legendary Las Vegas developer Jay Sarno never built." Stevens holding company Desert Rock Enterprises is the owner of the Grandissimo trademark.

At the time I thought that Grandissimo was unlikely to be the new name of Las Vegas Club. I didn't think the name would really fit a smallish downtown property, and thought having "Grand" in the name would have the potential to be confused with Downtown Grand.

Now however we have more evidence that Grandissimo could indeed be the new name, as Edge Vegas pointed out - a Gambling Invest article shows that grandissimo.net, grandissimovegas.com, and grandissimolv.com are all currently under the ownership of The D Las Vegas (also owned by Stevens).

With Grandissimo looking more and more like the new name, we might be in store for an announcement soon. It just so happens that Derek Stevens will be doing a live Vegas Gang podcast episode this weekend as part of VIMFP. Will Derek announce that Las Vegas Club is now Grandissimo?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Linq Parking Garage Flooding

It almost never rains in Las Vegas, and when it does flash flooding can occur. One place that is almost certain to have flooding during a storm is The Linq hotel parking garage. This spot has been prone to flooding for years, dating back to when it was the Imperial Palace.

I was watching the latest TheTrooper97 vlog video and he captured some of this flooding from last week at the 3:21 mark:


I also found another YouTube video from back in July that shows the overflow:


These videos make the Linq parking garage river look pretty dramatic, but I'm guessing this happens frequently enough that the staff knows how to re-direct traffic away from the rushing water.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pawn Plaza Opens

One of the more unexpected Las Vegas development projects is Pawn Plaza. It's a mini shopping center right next to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop which was made famous by the television show Pawn Stars.

The pawn shop has become so much of a tourist attraction because of the TV show that a strip mall was essentially built to take advantage of overflow crowds.

The pawn shop is located in a non-touristy area, so building coffee shops, bars, and restaurants where people can go before or after visiting the gift, I mean pawn shop is a good idea... I guess.

I'm just wondering what's going to happen when the heat from the TV show dies down, and they're left with a (somewhat) upscale shopping center in the middle of a not-so-upscale neighborhood.

Pawn Plaza celebrated a grand opening Friday night complete with celebrity guests including presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

Friday, October 09, 2015

M Resort Pink Blackjack Table

M Resort has pink felted blackjack tables this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Blackjack pays 3:2!


Photo: M Resort Twitter.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Lisa Marchese signs Cosmo Extension

Lisa Marchese has signed a deal which will keep her in her role as Chief Marketing Officer at Cosmopolitan for at least three years.

Marchese will earn a base salary of 400k a year, with a potential for up to 50% more in bonuses according to a filing with the SEC.

Lisa Marchese is responsible for booking many of the musical acts which have put Cosmopolitan on the map, including a newly announced Bruno Mars New Year's Eve show.

Having her continue to serve as Chief Marketing Officer is a definite plus for Cosmo, as she seems to have a good feel for attracting the "curious class" demographic they have become known for.

She's even been able to get more gamblers in the door as well, if the latest Cosmopolitan quarterly report is any indication.

For more about Lisa Marchese and her musical bookings at Cosmopolitan, check out this Las Vegas Weekly interview from 2012.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Bellagio Craps Inside Job Busted

Two former Bellagio craps dealers along with two accomplices were in court this week after they were busted cheating at a craps scheme carried out between 2012 and 2014. The group won over $1 million during that period.

An article in the RJ detailed the court proceedings.

The scam involved the players muttering unintelligible hop bets while the dice were being thrown. The dealers in on the scheme would then pay off the bets as if they were winners.

There was no place on the craps felt for hop bets at MGM Resort International properties at the time. That made it almost impossible for the "eye in the sky" to catch the illegal bets.

Ultimately another dealer noted the suspicious play and reported it to a supervisor. After a statistical analysis was done it was determined that odds of winning $1 million betting like these guys did was 1 in 452 billion.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Sam Nazarian Sells SLS Las Vegas Stake

Sam Nazarian and his company SBE are selling their ten percent stake in SLS Las Vegas as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Stockbridge Capital Partners will be purchasing SBE's stake and will now own 100% of the resort.

SBE will also be transferring management of the resort to Stockbridge, who will lease the SLS brand from SBE.

Nazarian and SBE were responsible for closing the historic Sahara hotel and transforming it into SLS. While SBE has a pretty good track record of hotel and nightclub management, they might have bit off more than they could chew with SLS Las Vegas.

The casino has struggled to attract gamblers, and the restaurants and nightclubs have received a tepid response from the public. Fred Segal, the exclusive SLS retail partner also packed up and left town.

Those struggles have led to a disastrous financial performance. According to SEC filings SLS has been losing money hand over fist which has caused Stockbridge to infuse cash to keep the hotel afloat. Some kind of management change had to happen after those results.

It will be interesting to see what Stockbridge will do now to turn things around. Some people think this move paves the way for a sale of SLS, but I think Stockbridge will at least attempt to right the ship before that happens.