Rock in Rio USA Music Festival Could Reap $450,000 From Cashless Wristbands

The numbers are in from the inaugural Rock in Rio USA music festival, and at least one of those numbers is mind-blowing.

We’re not talking about the attendance numbers, unfortunately. While the estimated attendance of 130,000 people over two weekends (festival officials say it was 172,000), that number is a fraction of what Rock in Rio USA originally projected. The event venue, City of Rock, has a capacity of 80,000 people per day.

No, the truly staggering number is the amount of money the festival will make from its use of “Rock Cash,” the festival’s cashless payment system.

In essence, festival organizers partnered with a company called Intellitix to turn RFID wristbands into scannable debit cards. Festival-goers loaded up their wristbands with cash before attending the event, or at kiosks called “Top-Up” stations inside the City of Rock site.

Rock in Rio USA wristband

Lots of music festivals use wristbands for entry, but Rock in Rio USA also used them as a form of payment. Key point: The only form of payment.

Every vendor inside Rock in Rio USA used the cashless wristbands, so if you wanted to purchase food, drinks or merchandise, you had to use your wristband. If the balance on your wristband ran out, you could refill it with more money.

Organizers touted the convenience of the cashless system and, less overtly, Intellitix trumpeted the fact festival-goers using such wristbands tend to spend 15-30% more than they would using cash.

But here’s the thing. Virtually everyone using the cashless wristband had a balance remaining, large or small, when the festival ended. That balance could be refunded, but a fee of $3.50 would be charged.

This inspired us to do some math. And we don’t even like math.

Say attendance was 130,000 (a number believed to be more accurate than the official number by the Las Vegas Metrolitan Police Department and other observers, including this Las Vegas blog), and say half those people requested refunds of their Rock Cash at $3.50 a pop. That’s $227,500 in fees. The other half wouldn’t request a refund because their balance was less than $3.50. If we calculate voluntarily “surrendered” balances based on half that amount, or $1.75, that’s an additional $113,750.

That puts Rock in Rio USA’s windfall from fees and surrendered Rock Cash at $341,250.

Rock in Rio USA wristband code

Each Rock in Rio USA wristband had a unique code. The code was inscribed in tiny print to assure no one over 50 years old would be encouraged to attend Rock in Rio USA.

That’s a lot, but let’s say the organizer’s number of attendees, 172,000, is correct.

That works out to be $301,000 in refund fees and $150,500 in voluntarily surrendered balances, for a total of a whopping $451,500. In other words, a nearly half-a-million dollar windfall.

There are some mitigating factors, of course. First, it’s possible a portion of those in attendance didn’t use the cashless payment system. That would be understandable given the long waits at the Top-Up kiosks. Also, kids were invited to attend, and it’s unlikely they’d have funds on their wristbands. It’s one of the benefits of being a kid. Freeloaders.

Rock in Rio Top-Up station

Rock in Rio USA’s Top-Up stations were a great place to meet people. And get married and have kids and grow old together.

We should also say there’s no way to know what the average amount of “surrendered” or un-refunded Rock Cash was. We just took $3.50 and split it down the middle. We are a blog, not a supercomputer.

It goes without saying the cashless wristband system has a lot of built-in costs, so the dollar amounts we mention aren’t profit, per se. Purchasing the RFID wristbands is expensive, and the kiosks and back-end costs are higher than you’d think.

Still, Rock in Rio USA did all right with its cashless wristbands. Ticket prices of $300 per weekend ($500 VIP) helped the bottom line a lot, too. And don’t even get us started on the 24-ounce cans of Corona for $13.

Nobody outside Rock in Rio USA knows if the festival made a profit in its Las Vegas debut, but the cashless wristband system certainly didn’t hurt its chances of being in the black.


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Life is Beautiful Announces 2015 Line-Up, Including Duran Duran, Stevie Wonder, Duran Duran, Imagine Dragons and Duran Duran

Life is Beautiful has announced its talent line-up for the downtown Las Vegas festival happening Sep. 25-27, 2015.

Here’s the line-up in all its cut-and-paste glory (although we moved Duran Duran to the top of the list because, well, Duran Duran): Duran Duran, Stevie Wonder, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Hozier, Weezer, Major Lazer, Death Cab for Cutie, Brandon Flowers, Kygo, Atmosphere, Twenty One Pilots, Porter Robinson, Thievery Corporation, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Life is Beautiful

In 2014, 90,000 people attended Life is Beautiful, at least four of whom ingested no illicit substances.

We arbitrarily broke up the list of acts to make it seem like we read them all.

Here are more: Metric, DJ Snake, Awolnation, Walk The Moon, RL Grime, Run The Jewels, Rebelution, GRiZ, Future Islands, SOJA, Royal Blood, Madeon, Glass Animals, Lindsey Stirling, Clean Bandit, BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah, Best Coast, Robin Schulz, The Green, TCHAMI, SZA, Against Me!, Dan Deacon, Meg Myers, Cashmere Cat, New Politics, Tommy Trash, Two Gallants, Ryn Weaver, Shamir, What So Not, Big Data, Elle King, Jauz.

We did it again, right here: Saint Motel, B├śRNS, X Ambassadors, Klingande, Halsey, SALVA, Leikeli47, The London Souls, Kaleo, Giraffage, Andra Day, Mercer, Night Terrors of 1927, Parade of Lights, Peking Duk, Jared & The Mill, Mercy Music, with more to be announced.

Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful offers a full bar that last time included nearly 60 specialty cocktails. Rock in Rio served 24-ounce cans of Corona for $13. ‘Nuff said.

In total, more than 70 established and emerging artists will perform throughout the Life is Beautiful weekend. The festival will boast four stages and lots of earplugs. Except when Duran Duran is onstage. Because, again, Duran Duran.

This is the third installment of the popular festival, this time in partnership with Insomniac (the folks that do Electric Daisy Carnival).

Three-day general admission advance tickets are available for $235, three-day general admission tickets are $255 and VIP tickets are $595.

Find out more at the official Life is Beautiful site.

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11 Las Vegas Lies That Can Royally Screw With Your Visit

We love Las Vegas, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most egregious Las Vegas lies so you’re better prepared to chortle when you hear them. We’re big on chortling.

Las Vegas Lie #1: Concierges recommend the best restaurants and shows.

Concierges are a guest’s best resource for information about Las Vegas restaurants and shows, right? Wrong!

First, many of the people at concierge desks aren’t even concierges in the traditional sense of the word.

They’re salespeople working for third party companies with the mission of selling tickets to shows for which they’ll get the biggest commission. That’s right, many Vegas hotels outsource their concierge services.


We’re no linguist, but we know “le horse manure” when we get a whiff of it.

Even when concierges are real concierges, you’re likely to get a recommendation based upon which establishment is paying the most for a referral. (Ditto the recommendation of cabbies. They get kick-backs when they deliver customers to an establishment’s doorstep.)

Las Vegas Lie #2: Resort fees are for your convenience.

Ah, the tangled web Las Vegas hotels weave. Just about every hotel claims resort fees are for the convenience of their customers. Some even claim customers “demand” them.

Resort fees are a way to make more money, plain and simple.

Resort fees

How’d that go, anyway?

In Las Vegas, one of the key reasons for resort fees is it allows hotels to keep their “official” rate low so they can compete with other hotels on travel Web sites (called OTAs in the industry, or “online travel agencies”).

Hotels that are up front about the cost of their rooms tend to show up lower in search results, and that costs them money.

Las Vegas Lie #3: There’s sex in the Champagne Room.

Fortunes have been spent by delusional men in pursuit of the fantasy of scoring in a strip club’s VIP room.

However, prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, and strip clubs get a lot of scrutiny by law enforcement, pretty much ensuring nothing seedy is happening in the Champagne Room.

Crazy Horse Too strip club

If we’re boring you, please check out our list of things you didn’t know about Las Vegas strippers.

Lap dances are a fine form of entertainment, but don’t be lured into having a “private” show in a strip club’s VIP room. This is one of the more expensive Las Vegas lies.

Las Vegas Lie #4: The odds of hitting red or black in roulette is 50/50.

Hey, there are only two colors on a roulette wheel, black and red, so betting on those colors is like a coin toss, right? That’s what the casino would like you to believe, anyway.

Actually, roulette tables have three colors, red, black and green.

Those green spaces, zero and double zero, are easy to miss (especially when liquor is involved), but they lower the odds of your red or black bet to 47.4%.


If you can find a roulette table with just a zero, play it because the odds are better. In Vegas, they’re mostly reserved for high rollers.

That may not sound like a lot, but over time, you’ll wish you’d invested that money in a lap dance.

Las Vegas Lie #5: Hotels encourage reuse of towels to save the planet.

The social awareness of Las Vegas hotels is astonishing. They actually offer to not wash your towels and bed linens because they’re interested in conservation that can save the planet!

Hog, meet wash.

Hotels play up their “eco-friendly” initiatives for PR value, but they also save a fortune if they can get even a fraction of their guests to forego laundering during their stay.

High roller suite

Nothing says “We’re all about conservation!” like a bathroom tubs that holds 1,400 gallons of water.

We love Capitalism, and cost-saving measures are smart business, but it’s the lie that gets our shorts in a twist. You do not want to be around us when our shorts are twisted.

Las Vegas Lie #6: Ground is being broken, so this project is definitely happening.

Las Vegas is huge on groundbreaking ceremonies! There’s even a cottage industry built around fancy gold shovels and over-sized scissors used for ribbon-cutting.

However, history has shown groundbreakings have almost no relationship to whether a project will come to fruition or not.

The list of failed projects in Las Vegas is long, including Fontainebleau Resort, Echelon Place, All Net Arena (pictured, optimistically, below) and the SkyVue Observation Wheel.

All Net Arena

Groundbreakings and renderings are in a tie for the most awkward Las Vegas lies.

It’s one thing to stick a shovel in dirt and another to line up the millions and often billions needed to finance Las Vegas projects.

We treat everything like it’s a lie until proven otherwise. It’s not quite as fun that way, but it helps avoid crushing disappointment down the road. Note: This can also be a useful tactic when navigating

Las Vegas Lie #7: Your comped drink is made with the liquor you ordered.

It’s one of the best things about Las Vegas, isn’t it? Play your favorite game of chance and get your favorite liquor, free!

Not so fast, dreamer of dreams.

The fact is you’re not getting the liquor brand you ordered. The casino is swapping your call drink for a cheap knock-off, and they’ll rarely, if ever, admit they’re doing it. Read more.

Don’t believe it? Next time you order your favorite cocktail while you’re playing video poker at a casino bar, watch the bartender make your drink. Unless the liquor comes from a bottle, you’re getting rot-gut. If you’re at a table or slot machine on the casino floor, you’re truly screwed.

If you ask your cocktail waitress whether you’re getting the specific brand of liquor you ordered, she’ll nod. Same thing with your bartender. Or even a manager. Sadly, everyone’s in on this Las Vegas lie.

Casinos think they have the right to swap your liquor brand for comped drinks, possibly in violation of Nevada state liquor laws (NRS 597.260).

Substitute drinks sign

Kudos to this casino, the only one we’ve found in Las Vegas with the brass ones to put this policy in writing, albeit on a tiny sign, below bar level, in the dark.

When you’re in a Las Vegas casino, watch every single pour, and if you want to be sure you’re consuming the liquor brand you ordered, pay for your drink. Even then, though, you might get something other than what you ordered. (We’re looking at you, V Bar at Venetian. Jerks.)

Las Vegas Lie #8: Las Vegas entertainers look just like their publicity photos.

Oh, Vegas. Of all the sins in Sin City, awful Photoshop jobs of Las Vegas performers are perhaps the most excruciating.

Skillfully retouched photos of Las Vegas performers are almost impossible to come by. From posters to cab toppers to magazine covers and Web sites, there’s a non-stop cavalcade of WTF foisted on Las Vegas visitors.


In Vegas, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Times infinity.

Apparently, Las Vegas advertisers think we’re too stupid to realize Marie Osmond is no longer 14 years old, or that Carrot Top may not have a flawless complexion. See more.

Enough, already! You only get to use Photoshop when you realize great power comes with great responsibility.

Las Vegas Lie #9: Taxi drivers take the quickest route possible.

This Las Vegas lie has gotten so much buzz, most people know it’s a lie, but visitors (many of whom are first-timers to the city) keep getting burned.

The term is “long-hauling.” It’s when taxi drivers take customers a longer route than necessary, boosting the cost of the fare. Be prepared by knowing the best route before you ever set foot into a cab.

Vegas taxi

We didn’t say we’re against using Photoshop. Just excessive use of Photoshop.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, another great Las Vegas lie told by cabbies and the cab industry is, “We’re against Uber because we’re concerned for the safety of the public.” If you believe that, we’ve got a lovely bridge at New York-New York to sell you.

Las Vegas Lie #10: Casinos are just like other businesses.

Casinos would like you to think they’re just like any other business. Ultimately, though, casinos thrive because they treat each customer as someone who won’t stop gambling until their money is depleted. Exhausted. Extinct.

Each aspect of a casino, from maze-like interiors to mesmerizing slot machines, are designed to make players lose track of time (no clocks, no windows), get comfortable (ergonomic chairs), play longer (screen brightness and pixel counts help avoid eye fatigue, sounds disguise losses as wins) and spend more (bill acceptors make it easy to forget how much we’re spending).


“Casino” is an Italian word meaning “small house.” That’s why you hear people say, “The house always wins.” It doesn’t, or nobody would gamble, but they say it anyway.

There’s a cost, of course: It’s estimated 30-60% of total gambling revenue is derived from problem gamblers.

Can you have fun in a casino knowing those things? Sure. Just see through the lie of casinos being “committed to responsible gaming.” It’s lip service. They’re committed to extracting money from our bank accounts, and they’re really good at it.

Las Vegas Lie #11: What happens here, stays here.

It’s not just a catchy slogan, it’s a promise.

Shockingly, 66% of Las Vegas visitors in a recent poll (taken by this very Las Vegas blog, as a matter of fact) believe that famous tourism tagline is true.

Come on! Seriously? Exactly nothing that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, social media has made sure of that.

Beyond everyone on the planet having a smartphone with a camera, there are credit card receipts, security cameras, browser histories, the list goes on and on.

Las Vegas divorce


The “what happens here, stays here” mentality is a romantic one if you’re looking to misbehave in Sin City, but realize the reality is that your lapses in judgement are likely to live in perpetuity on the Internet and beyond. Just ask Prince Harry.

Can you think of other Las Vegas lies? We’d love to hear them.

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New 3-D Animation at SLS Las Vegas Center Bar Has Legs

The high-res video screen above Center Bar at SLS Las Vegas puts on a great show, especially the 3-D effects.

Our video of a 3-D face is testament to that fact, having been viewed nearly half-a-million times on YouTube. See the 3-D face.

SLS 3-D legs

Center Bar’s video screen has 2.1 million LED pixels at 6mm line spacing, whatever an “mm” might be. We are a Las Vegas blog, not a metrics understander.

SLS Las Vegas, formerly the Sahara hotel-casino, recently unveiled a new 3-D segment featuring a metallic pair of woman’s legs.

Take a look.

As with the computer-generated face video, you have to stand in just the right spot to get the full 3-D effect. The best place to stand is between the casino’s main entrance and Center Bar. Off to the side, not so much.

The video screen over Center Bar is one of 12 at the resort made by Daktronics, a company whose name was apparently inspired by a cat coughing up a fur ball. Read more.

More 3-D animations are in the works, as they’ve turned out to be a popular photo op and conversation-starter for the casino.

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Failed, Dismantled Harmon Hotel is Now Little More Than a Nub

The Harmon Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip never hosted even a single guest, and now, it’s almost a memory.

Harmon Hotel Las Vegas

Engineers determined the Harmon would topple in a 7.7-magnitude earthquake. Because Las Vegas gets those, never.

Construction of The Harmon, part of CityCenter, was halted after serious defects were found, and the building has been painstakingly dismantled over time, floor by floor.

The Harmon was originally supposed to have 49 floors, but in the end, the structure had 28.

The deconstruction process is nearing completion, with just a few floors remaining.

Harmon tower

Another item for the “What were they thinking?” file.

Lawsuits resulting from the Harmon fiasco have been settled, with MGM Resorts paying $173 million to resolve the matter.

Here’s a “before” photo, for scale.

Harmon demolition

The Harmon was supposed to have 400 hotel rooms and 207 condos. Construction defects, then, resulted in fewer condo salespersons in Las Vegas. Not a total disaster after all.

The dismantling of The Harmon is expected to cost $11.5 million.

Harmon tower


Soon, The Harmon will be just another quirky, funny-sad twist in the story of Las Vegas, a pre-emptive “implosion” sans fanfare.

Only in Vegas, baby.

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Downtown Grand Offers “Rebate” of $1,000 in Slot Losses

Downtown Grand appears to be getting serious about making its floundering casino a success. The casino is offering to “rebate” up to $1,000 in slot losses.

The shiny new promotion at Downtown Grand is similar to other rebate offers, including previous reimbursement programs at the now-closed Riviera and the Palms. Other Vegas casinos have also offered rebates as well, for smaller amounts, including The Trop and Cosmo.

The Downtown Grand $1,000 rebate offer is so new, they don’t even have the brochures printed up yet. But they do have these signs dangling from slot machines throughout the casino.

Downtown Grand $1,000 rebate

Believe everything you read?

The sign above is significant in that: 1) you can lose, actually, 2) you don’t actually get a grand from the Grand, and 3) it’s not a rebate, per se. But other than that, it’s on point.

Here’s the way it works.

The promotion is for new loyalty club sign-ups only. Hey, everything in Vegas has small print!

The offer covers losses up to $1,000 within the first 24 hours of signing up for the loyalty club. By “covers,” though, we don’t mean you get your losses back. You do, however, get free slot play equivalent to what you lost. Except you don’t get your “rebate” all at once.

If you live in Las Vegas, you get half the value of your losses right away, then 25% a week later (the Monday following your membership sign-up), and the remaining 25% a week after that (again, the following Monday).

If you don’t live in Vegas, they change up the payback schedule a bit. You still get your 50% in play right away, but the window to get the rest of your play is three months.

The idea here is Downtown Grand wants you to visit again, preferably multiple times, as all casinos do. Staggering your “rebate” gets you back in the casino.

As long as you know what you’re in for, this is a perfectly good way to see some additional play for your investment.

The ideal scenario, of course, is to win, which means you get to bypass the rebate process altogether. Win big enough and you can buy the Downtown Grand outright and you get to make up the promotions.

Stranger things have happened in Las Vegas. Some of them in our pants.

Thanks to our friends at Las Vegas Advisor for the tip about this new promotion. The Downtown Grand’s $1,000 rebate promotion will run through the end of 2015.

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