Category Archives: Las Vegas Casinos

Stardust Was Imploded 10 Years Ago, We Still Get Weepy

The Stardust will always hold a special place in our heart.

It was the first hotel we stayed in during our first Las Vegas visit. Our first craps game happened at Stardust.

We can still remember the sounds, the decor, the smells.

Stardust

Not going to lie, we sometimes fantasize about engaging in sinful acts with this Stardust postcard.

The Stardust was imploded 10 years ago, on March 13, 2007.

The quintessential Las Vegas resort opened on July 2, 1958. It was purchased by Boyd Gaming in 1985. Stardust closed on Nov. 1, 2006.

Stardust players club

Think it’s weird we still have our Stardust players club card? We just told you we have sinful thoughts about postcards! You are messed up.

Before it was acquired by Boyd Gaming, Stardust had a reputation for being mobbed up. It eventually became the inspiration for the movie “Casino.”

One of our favorite parts of the Stardust was the sign. The iconic sign, designed by Kermit Wayne, was made up of dozens of Googie stars. The sign also featured 7,100 feet of neon and 11,000 bulbs.

Stardust

This is the postcard we call when the other postcard is on its period.

The implosion of Stardust is bittersweet because it was taken down to make way for another construction project, Echelon Place, which never materialized. Construction at the Echelon site was halted in 2008, a victim of the economic downturn.

Stardust Leroy Neiman

This Stardust homage by Leroy Neiman can be founding hanging in The California, owned by Boyd Gaming.

Here’s a look at the implosion of the Stardust.

Today, a new resort is slated for the Stardust site, Resorts World. While Resorts World officials claim construction will pick up soon, it remains to be seen if the Asian-themed hotel-casino will actually come to pass.

Even if it does, our memory of Stardust will loom large over the site.

Stardust

It’s difficult to express the breadth of our love for this sign at the Neon Museum.

The implosion of Stardust led to our creation of the only iron-clad rule in Las Vegas: If you knock something wonderful down, you have to replace it with something even more wonderful.

No pressure, Resorts World.

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Don’t Be Surprised If Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas Is Sold

We fully realize we’ve been light on the rumors and speculation lately, but we’re about to make up for it. From what we hear, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas is being sold, so don’t be surprised if the purchase is announced soon.

Hard Rock casino Las Vegas

Fun fact: Hard Rock International boasts 80,000 pieces of music-themed memorabilia. Hard Rock Las Vegas has about 2,000.

Signs point to the Hard Rock casino in Las Vegas being purchased by Hard Rock International, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The Hard Rock in Las Vegas is currently owned by Brookfield Asset Management. It’s operated by Brookfield and Warner Gaming.

Rumors of a sale come on the heels of a recent announcement the Seminole Tribe of Florida has purchased the closed Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City from bajillionaire Carl Icahn. That’s the same Carl Icahn who owns the abandoned Fontainebleau on the Las Vegas Strip. We’re hoping Icahn uses proceeds from the Trump Taj Mahal to buy the Fontainebleau a wrap. No, seriously, it’s an eyesore.

Hard Rock casino Las Vegas

The off-Strip Hard Rock casino in Las Vegas opened in 1995.

Hard Rock International seems to be in expansion mode, so the purchase of the Hard Rock casino in Las Vegas makes sense.

Insiders say reps of the Seminole Tribe of Florida have visited the Hard Rock in recent months, and a number of internal organizational changes at the Las Vegas Hard Rock lend credence to the rumblings about the resort’s imminent sale.

Hard Rock employees have been informed of a resort-wide meeting on Monday, March 6, 2017, which may involve word of the sale.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is not to be confused with its neighbor, the recently-shuttered Hard Rock Cafe, just outside the casino. The Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas, which leased the name but wasn’t affiliated with the hotel, shut down on Dec. 31, 2016. The Hard Rock Cafe had been in operation for 26 years. The Hard Rock Cafe was snapped up by Brookfield and would presumably be part of the sale to Hard Rock International.

Hard Rock Cafe closes

The former Hard Rock Cafe sign.

Hard Rock International owns or licenses venues in 74 countries, including 175 cafes, 24 hotels and 11 casinos.

The Hard Rock brand was consolidated in October 2016, after being split between a variety of owners for 30 years.

If a sale of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas happens as we believe it will, hopefully it won’t disrupt plans for a new steakhouse, MB Steakhouse. Because steak. The “MB” stands for Morton Brothers, specifically, Michael and David Morton. The new steakhouse is slated to open in May. The resort recently got a new Oyster Bar.

There’s also been talk of changes coming to the resort’s Vanity nightclub, although specifics aren’t yet available.

The Hard Rock is set to debut a new male revue, “Magic Mike Live Las Vegas” on March 30, 2017.

The Hard Rock resort recently unveiled a renovated Center Bar, which we’re really only including here because we know how much you like pretty pictures of Las Vegas bars.

As rumors go, the potential sale of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas is an especially juicy one. We’ll keep an eye on the potential sale as the story unfolds. Then we’ll fold it up again, because we’re tidy like that.

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Construction Begins on 18 Fremont Resort (Las Vegas Club), World Almost Misses It

There were no fireworks, no gold-plated shovels, no mayoral Proclamations. There were none of the trappings of a Las Vegas resort groundbreaking, but it was, indeed, just that.

That tingling sensation you feel isn’t numbness resulting from sitting at a slot machine too long, it’s the excitement of knowing a long-awaited Las Vegas resort is finally in the works on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. We’ve got all the exclusive scoop! Because having an “exclusive” is nearly as good as “having a life,” and that’s the story we’re sticking to.

Construction, or more accurately “deconstruction,” has quietly begun on a new hotel-casino from Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of Golden Gate and The D Las Vegas.

18 Fremont resort

“What construction?” you ask. We’re trying to build some suspense here, just play along for once.

Owner Derek Stevens has said he’s attended more than 50 design meetings for the new downtown resort. While it doesn’t have a name yet, its placeholder name is “18 Fremont.”

A modest demolition project, not easily seen by pedestrians on Fremont Street, marks the beginning of a major (and expensive) construction project which will make the new resort a reality.

The demolition is happening behind two closed shops, Blowout and Forever Flawless. Demolition crews are making quick work of the structure.

18 Fremont resort construction

Boom. Work on the next Las Vegas casino resort begins, sans hoopla, which would make a good band name.

Blowout and the Forever Flawless store (covering a tiny 0.08 acres) cost the Stevens brothers  a steep $13.5 million. Millionaires be crazy, as the kids say, but there was a method behind the madness.

The shops were a critical element of a series of acquisitions allowing for 18 Fremont to encompass a full block, spanning a stretch of Fremont between Binion’s and the Plaza casino.

18 Fremont casino

This is how the lot looked midday. Keep reading to see how it looked a couple of hours later. Suspenseful, right?

Mermaids and the Glitter Gulch strip club were also purchased by the Stevens brothers, along with La Bayou, currently site of an expansion of the Golden Gate casino.

The Stevens also acquired a parcel across the street from the Las Vegas Club, between Plaza and Main Street Station, for $7.5 million.

Yes, there will be a quiz.

18 Fremont construction

A couple of hours later and virtually nothing of the shops remains. They’re going to need a really big vacuum cleaner.

Why is the demolition of the Blowout and Forever Flawless shops so important to the 18 Fremont project? We won’t ruin the surprise. (Suspense!) All we can say is there’s equipment in motion at 18 Fremont and that’s enough to get us excited about what’s to come.

Derek Stevens and others involved in the project have been tight-lipped about specifics of the new resort, but Stevens has at various times hinted it’s likely to take downtown’s pool scene to a whole new level. On an episode of our podcast, Stevens described downtown Las Vegas as “underpooled.”

The casino will be the centerpiece of the resort, of course, but multiple restaurant and bar offerings will also be in the mix. Stevens has also said it’s likely the resort will have a spa, but relatively few specifics about the resort have been shared to-date. Hey, we’re working on it.

18 Fremont construction Las Vegas Club

Look closely. The shops are now see-through.

One of the existing Las Vegas Club hotel towers will be demolished and the other is likely to have more floors and rooms added. There’s a 99% chance the older tower will be taken down without an implosion due to the proximity to other structures and casinos. Sorry, no hoopla.

See below, in case that wasn’t the direction you were already going in.

las_vegas_club_towers_demolition

After watching failed casino projects like Alon, and seemingly stalled projects like Resorts World, it’s refreshing to see a Las Vegas casino project moving forward full steam ahead. Millennial translation: Nobody’s come up with a better way of saying “full steam ahead” since the steam engine, sorry.

18 Fremont demolition

Here’s a peek inside what was the Blowout gift shop. Their inventory now consists largely of debris.

This new resort represents not only hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, but also an entirely new place for us to drink Captain Morgan and diets and play Top Dollar. Just keeping it real.

Las Vegas Club demolition

The forever forgettable Forever Flawless. Anything that decreases the number of annoying salespeople chasing us down Fremont Street Experience (where we work in marketing as our day job) hawking face cream is fine by us.

Here’s a little help with where this demolition site is in relation to things you might recognize, specifically a strip club and some classic neon, including Vegas Vickie.

Las Vegas Club demolition

The good news is we can all start using “Glitter Gulch” again without feeling the urge to get a “Silkwood” shower.

Update (2/23/17): Things move fast in Vegas, and what a difference 24 hours can make. Here’s a photo to keep you abreast, and not just because we love using the word “abreast” as often as possible.

18 fremont construction

Did we mention these demolition guys don’t mess around?

It’s a pretty straight shot to Fremont Street now.

18 Fremont construction

Demolition guys must have really organized closets.

Demolition of the Blowout and Forever Flawless shops is expected to take just a few days (Feb. 24, 2017 is the expected completion date), but there’s much more in the works, so anticipate a cavalcade of security breaches in the months to come.

Update (2/26/17): Like we said, blink and you’ll miss it. We’re pretty sure we said that. Anyway, here’s another look at the site. Cleans up real nice.

18 Fremont construction

A good many great things begin in tiny spaces. Which sounds a lot dirtier than it is.

Yes, yes, there’s video. Demanding, much?

We trust this won’t be our last update about the 18 Fremont construction project, so visit this Las Vegas blog often. Hourly, if possible. No pressure.

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Expansion of Golden Gate Casino Has Begun

An expansion of the oldest casino in Las Vegas, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, has begun.

The expansion will increase the footprint of the Golden Gate’s “intimate” casino and increase the number of slot machines by nearly 30% (100 additional machines). Golden Gate currently has 361 slots. Yes, exactly.

Construction is expected to be complete by August 2017.

Golden Gate expansion

Casinos and construction equipment? We’re going to need some Kleenex.

Golden Gate is expanding into the former La Bayou casino space. La Bayou, known for its free beads, daiquiris and unmistakable funk, was part of a purchase of several venues that also included the nearby Mermaids and the Glitter Gulch strip club.

La Bayou, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch closed on June 27, 2016. We should know because this blog ate the very last deep fried Oreo served by Mermaids.

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate construction site is like a duck, calm on the surface, but paddling like the dickens underneath. Or something.

The addition to Golden Gate is expected to be a two-story building. The casino will be on the first floor, and the second floor will be used primarily to supply liquor to the Golden Gate’s casino.

The demand for liquor at Golden Gate has outpaced the small hotel’s ability to deliver it, and a team of four people carry kegs and boxes of liquor up and down stairs throughout the day due to the lack of storage space. The second floor of the new structure will allow gravity to do the lion’s share of keeping the hooch flowing, and could save the casino $150,000 a year in labor and associated costs.

Golden Gate construction

Granted, we’re using the word “construction” very loosely at the moment.

At the moment, construction crews are doing some things we don’t entirely understand. They’re digging out Mermaid’s old basement and mixing the soil so it has a more uniform density or composition. Look, we are a blog and not a pedologist.

Fun fact: La Bayou was just 25 feet wide.

If you look closely, you can see the steps that went into La Bayou’s basement, a basement we didn’t entirely know existed until we security breached the construction site.

Golden Gate construction

Those are either steps or the equivalent of seeing Harambe in a Cheeto, you decide.

We’ll keep you in the loop as the Golden Gate project progresses. It’s good to hear some positive news after experiencing the loss of Du-par’s restaurant, Golden Gate’s pancake mecca since 2010.

Du-par’s closed Feb. 7, 2017, as a result of, among other things, the restaurant’s owner allegedly owing the IRS an amount of money we can’t disclose.

Golden Gate construction

You have your thing, we have a heavy equipment thing. Don’t judge.

We’re also keeping our eye on the project on the other side of Fremont Street, the new resort which will encompass the Las Vegas Club, Glitter Gulch and Mermaids. Our interrogation techniques have proven fruitless with owner Derek Stevens, but we’ll keep at it.

This blog loves it some Las Vegas newness.

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How People Started Sitting at Slot Machines in Casinos

For the longest time, slot machines were the red-headed stepchild of casino gambling. They were the thing casinos had to offer to keep the wives of table games players (“real gamblers”) occupied.

It may sound absurd now, but in the early days of casino slot machines, players stood while they played. Which sucked in a number of ways.

Slot machines

Back in the day, everyone stood at slot machines. Probably because Top Dollar and Wheel of Fortune hadn’t been invented yet.

It’s believed a major turning point in how slot machines are played came about because of our human need to urinate. See, after feeding a slot machine for a period of time, players didn’t want to leave a machine to use the restroom for fear of losing their impending jackpot to another player.

Clever players began stealing chairs from nearby table games and took to leaning them against the slots to save their spot. This is a practice that continues today, despite it being incredibly annoying.

Slot machine leaning chair

On the Annoyance Scale, this is right up there with resort fees and cigars. Just stop.

It didn’t take long for customers to use the chairs to sit and play, thus changing the culture of slot machine play forever. Today’s slot machine chairs are plush and ergonomic, and many feature sophisticated sound systems and vibration functions to keep players engaged and entertained.

The folks at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas claim they know the exact moment the practice of sitting at slot machines began.

In 1956, the Birdcage Casino opened at the corner of 1st Street and Fremont. The casino began offering customers a 10-cent keno slot, and the machines started raking it in. In response, Binion’s offered its own bank of 10-cent keno slot machines to compete with its neighbor.

It was inside Binion’s the practice of sitting down at slot machines began.

Today, slot machines account for as much as 85% of a casino’s revenue. One of the biggest measures of a machine’s profitability is known as “Time on Device,” or TOD, or the average time a gambler spends on a given slot machine.

Suffice to say, “Time on Device” has been increased immeasurably by the fact customers sit as they play.

Here’s another fun fact about Binion’s: It was the first downtown casino to get carpeting. How’d that happen? Presumably, a gambler ran up some debt with the casino’s owner at the time, Benny Binion, and repaid his debt by carpeting the joint.

Now you know!

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Lucky Dragon’s Doing the New Casino Shuffle

In a refreshing turn of events, Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, the newest casino on the Las Vegas Strip, put out a news release sharing some changes happening at the resort. Typically, such changes have to be ferreted out by visitors and bloggers, but in this case, Lucky Dragon was the source of the scoop.

Yes, there was a bit of spin involved, but it’s still a rare case of a casino getting ahead of the conversation, so credit where it’s due.

Lucky Dragon is doing some shuffling, and we’re not talking cards here.

We’d heard the resort had closed its Pearl Ocean restaurant, but it’s still humming along. The night we visited, Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh was in the house.

Pearl Ocean

Please don’t try to spot Tony Hsieh, you’ll herniate yourself.

The resort has closed its entire first floor Dragon’s Alley food court temporarily and the space will soon get a new Dragon’s Alley noodle bar. Noodle bars are springing up in casinos across the city, so this is probably a smart move.

Lucky Dragon Dragon's Alley

Dragon’s Alley will soon be home to a noodle house. At nearby SLS Las Vegas, Ku Noodle tanked. Hey, casinos aren’t IKEA furniture, they don’t come with instruction manuals.

Apparently, a portion of Dragon’s Alley will be the new location for Pearl Ocean, and the Pearl Ocean space will be used to expand Lucky Dragon’s VIP Gaming Lounge. That’s sort of the spin part, mainly because it seems unlikely there’s been a huge influx of high rollers to a resort with relatively few amenities high rollers demand, but let’s just go with it.

Lucky Dragon VIP salon

The Macau-style VIP Gaming Lounge would be even cooler if we knew what Macau-style meant.

Pearl Ocean will stay open while Dragon’s Alley is being renovated.

No date has been set for when Pearl Ocean will close in its current location, or when the new noodle bar will open.

Pearl Ocean

How do you say, “Damn it, now we have to change all the signs!” in Chinese?

All this is pretty much par for the course when a new casino opens. It takes a little time to figure out the right mix of offerings, and changes are made to adjust to demand (or lack thereof). It remains to be seen if Lucky Dragon can thrive despite its awkward location. Lucky Dragon is near the intersection of Sahara Ave. and Las Vegas Blvd., between the Bonanza Gift Shop and Golden Steer Steakhouse.

During our visit (on a Thursday night), the table games area was pretty much empty, but there was a fair amount of slot machine play, and the fast-casual Bao Now restaurant was packed. (The closed Dragon’s Alley was at full capacity with a private event for an Asian tour group, so we expect they stuck around to play.)

While this is all very interesting, following up on this news gave us an excuse to visit Lucky Dragon again, and we have a story to share, so gird your loins.

So, we hit Lucky Dragon’s loyalty club desk to get a replacement card. The attendant, Ellie, informs us we have “eight lucky dollars in free slot play.” This is awesome, of course, because eight is super lucky in Asian cultures, so we say, “Look, that’s lucky, so we’re going to split our jackpot with you.”

Ellie laughs, because it seems she’s heard this kind of thing before.

We say, “All right, not 50-50. But how about 90-10?” She laughs and says “fine.”

We immediately proceed to play Wheel of Fortune, and after a few minutes hit the 2000 quarter jackpot. It’s Vegas, no big deal, five hundred clams, baby.

Wheel of Fortune

Remember, a great story is always, always more valuable than a little cash.

So, we head back to the loyalty club desk to find Ellie and give her the “commission” we promised, and she seemed somewhat shocked, very appreciative, but repeatedly declined her well-deserved $50. Eventually, she caved.

She said, “Customers say things like that all the time, but nobody comes back.”

This news made us a little sad. Look, in a Las Vegas casino, it’s all about mojo. Keep your promises, take care of the crew and don’t screw with Lady Luck.

Here’s hoping the changes at Lucky Dragon are just growing pains. It’s a great little resort and “evolution” is preferable to “flounder” any day of the week.

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