After months and months of speculation, Crown Resorts, the company behind the Alon (pronounced AY-lawn) resort project has sadly announced the project is officially dead, expired, bereft of life and has joined the bleeding choir invisible.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly.
Look, we all grieve in our own way.
The Alon project has a long and tumultuous history we do not have time to look into, even in the most superficial way.
Suffice to say, Alon was to be a sprawling, high-end resort just across from Wynn Las Vegas. It was supposed to cost upwards of $1.6 billion, but recent shifts in the Malaysian markets, whatever those might be, made financing the endeavor a challenge to say the least.
You can read more about the drama surrounding Crown Resorts here, but fair warning, it’s really boring.
The bottom line is we won’t be getting this much-anticipated, 1,100-room hotel-casino, emphasis on casino. Hopes were high Alon might become a reality, with executives swearing the project was moving forward even though evidence pointed to the contrary.
Nary a shovel ever hit the dirt at the Alon site, and at the moment, it’s a giant dirt lot with a small building at its southern tip. Which sounds like a euphemism for something, if you ask us.
In March 2016, Alon’s CEO Andrew Pascal was quoted say, “We have the right team, the right idea, the right timing and the right location.” Three out of four ain’t bad.
News of the demise of the Alon project is disappointing in myriad ways.
Primarily, we love new Las Vegas things. There will be others, but this one had all the makings of something truly special, in large part because of the talent assembled to make it happen.
Alon’s executive team included former Wynn Resorts executive Andrew Pascal, former SLS president Rob Oseland, Danielle Babilino, former Senior V.P. of Hotel Sales at Wynn Las Vegas, and Las Vegas nightlife whiz Jesse Waits.
What might have been.
Given the implosion of Alon, now all eyes will be on its neighbor, Resorts World, another massive resort project that appears to be stalled. Thanks a lot, Malaysian markets.
Here’s hoping somebody with deep pockets snaps up the Alon site and builds something big and shiny and stocked with Captain Morgan. Or whatever liquor you’re into that’s not nearly as good.
Hooters Casino knows a good PR opportunity when it sees one, and the off-Strip casino is taking full advantage of recent news Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Las Vegas will soon charge for parking.
The folks at Hooters claim their valet and self-parking will not only remain free, but guests who take advantage of the casino’s free parking will also get a free beer.
To qualify for the free beer, guests are asked to either present a receipt from another Strip parking garage or post a photo of their car in the Hooters lot on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #IParkedForFree.
Guests can make their way to the Hooters lobby bar to redeem the free beer offer.
We are not a beer person, but this almost makes us want to visit Hooters. Bonus: Hooters.
Kudos to Hooters for acting quickly to ride the wave of publicity resulting from the chatter about paid parking in Las Vegas. We also appreciate the fact they read our blog, since their news release started with the sentence, “Monopoly isn’t the only place to find free parking!” We’re right there with you, Hooters.
Hooters hasn’t said when the free beer offer expires, but let’s hope it’s not when the casino later has to reverse its position on paid parking, because other casinos have tried similar marketing strategies in the past, sometimes with less-than-ideal results.
In 2011, Caesars Entertainment touted the fact its resorts didn’t charge a resort fee. The company (where we worked at the time, incidentally) went so far as to create an ad campaign featuring “angry showgirls,” presumably to illustrate how frustrated guests were about these infuriating fees.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
In March 2013, Caesars Entertainment caved to market pressure and began charging resort fees, resulting in a level of awkwardness that continues to inspire face-palming to this day.
Hang in there, Hooters. Sometimes risks pay off, sometimes they don’t. Vegas was built on that premise, come to think of it.
It was just a matter of time, and now it’s official. Caesars Entertainment will soon begin charging for parking at eight of its nine Las Vegas resorts.
The news from Caesars Entertainment follows on the heels of the other major casino company in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts, launching its paid parking program earlier in 2016. The world didn’t end then, so no sense freaking out now. Probably.
Just because we knew it was coming doesn’t make it any less like a colonoscopy.
Caesars Entertainment’s parking policy will be implemented in phases.
On Dec. 19, 2016, paid valet services will kick in. Valet fees will run $13 (up to four hours) and $18 (four to 24 hours) at Bally’s, Caesars, Cromwell, Paris and Planet Hollywood. Lower fees of $8 (up to four hours) and $13 (four to 24 hours) will apply at Flamingo, Harrah’s and Linq.
Paid self-parking will be rolled out at Caesars Entertainment resorts across Las Vegas in early 2017. Caesars Entertainment hasn’t provided information about the cost of self-parking, but there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t mirror the cost of paid parking at MGM Resorts, or about $10 day.
Parking at the off-Strip Rio will remain free, at least for now. Which would be good news except for the fact you have to visit the Rio to take advantage of the free parking. Zing!
Et tu, Caesars?
As is true of the MGM Resorts paid parking program, Nevada residents will self-park free at Caesars Entertainment resorts in Las Vegas. (There are other ways to get around paying for parking at MGM Resorts, by the way.)
Rumors persist that paid parking has caused retail shops and shows at MGM Resorts hotels to take a financial hit, so it’s possible the free parking for locals will continue beyond 2016, superseding what was originally announced.
Select fancy-schmancy members of the Total Rewards loyalty club (Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars tier levels) will self-park and valet free at Caesars Entertainment hotels.
Did you think you spent all that money on slots just for finger foods and Britney tickets?
In true Vegas fashion, Caesars Entertainment officials have provided an abundance of the requisite bullshittery surrounding the company’s decision to implement paid parking.
“Blah blah spaces have become increasingly scarce blah blah improved parking experience blah blah,” one official pretty much said.
Translation: “MGM Resorts broke the seal, so we’re not going to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table! We could really, really use the cash.”
Choose your poison.
You know what would improve our parking experience? Pressure washing the crud off the self-parking garages at Linq and Flamingo that haven’t been cleaned since the Truman administration.
While the news about paid parking at Caesars Entertainment resorts doesn’t come as a surprise, it’s disappointing nonetheless. Las Vegas casinos have a long history of providing free parking, although even freebies at casinos have never really been “free,” per se. Free perks, or “comps,” were always provided with the understanding gambling would pay for them indirectly, but that paradigm has shifted in recent years. That’s why more Las Vegas shows are closing and casinos are implementing automated monitoring systems for comped drinks.
As mentioned, MGM Resorts has already taken the brunt of the backlash related to paid parking, so Caesars Entertainment is unlikely to get much resistance from visitors who have resigned themselves to parking fees much as they have hotel resort fees.
The Las Vegas version of Monopoly will never be the same. Read more.
There are still a number of Las Vegas resorts on The Strip where parking is free, including Cosmopolitan, Venetian and Palazzo, Tropicana, Treasure Island, Circus Circus (despite it being in the MGM Resorts family) SLS and Stratosphere. Oh, and Casino Royale, the little casino we’re betting will be the last to cave to the paid parking tsunami.
It’s worth noting Wynn and Encore were previously on our list of Vegas resorts with free parking, but no more. Valet parking will no longer be free.
Ultimately, paying for parking is the norm in every other city in America, and so it shall be in Las Vegas. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.
It was recently announced MGM Grand will join the growing list of Las Vegas casino desperately scrambling to woo millennials, younger guests who don’t seem to enjoy traditional forms of gambling all that much.
A new millennial-oriented lounge, Level Up Las Vegas, will soon open at MGM Grand in the space formerly occupied by the Rainforest Cafe (which moved to Harmon Corner).
Rainforest Cafe closed at MGM Grand in August 2015. Millennial translation: A bajillion years ago.
Level Up will be managed by Hakkasan Group, the nightclub people responsible for hugely successful clubs like Hakkasan at MGM Grand, Omnia at Caesars Palace and others.
Seven of the 10 best-earning nightclubs in the world are in Las Vegas, and Hakkasan consistently dominates the revenue rankings.
A third party recruiter for MGM Grand has tipped its hand about what’s in store for Level Up, sending out a job posting that provides what’s sure to be a polarizing peek into both Level Up and potentially the future of casinos.
“We need very little experience dealing but you must be an entertainer,” says the call for job applications. “We are looking for people that are outgoing, bubbly and can really entertain.”
Hold onto your participation trophy, because this video is the inspiration for Level Up.
If you think this hybrid of nightclub, stadium-style gambling and trying-much-too-hard are a special kind of Hell on Earth, guess what—you’re not who it’s for!
Casinos are convinced millennials will enjoy gambling more if they can figure out how to take as much of the gambling out of it as possible. It’s more about the interactivity, the music, the party.
Level Up appears to be what middle-aged white guys in suits think millennials want, based upon reading white papers and attending panel discussions at gaming expos. Which is definitely a recipe for success.
As for the dealer jobs, the posting continues, “The pay is a guaranteed $25/hour. You will not share in the tokes of the MGM dealers. You will receive the tokes given to you in this pit though.”
“Tokes,” by the way, are tips.
So, the dealers aren’t traditional dealers. It’s not about the dealing, you see. They’re more “dealertainers,” a term once reserved for the performing dealers at Imperial Palace, a position quickly killed off when the Imperial Palace became The Linq.
Brownie points if you even know what we’re pining for.
The Level Up job posting concludes, “If you consider yourself to be an emcee type of personality then this will be a great job for you.”
If we ever create a list of people we least want to spend time with, those who consider themselves “emcee types” are likely to sit comfortably at the top.
The future of Las Vegas casinos. Over our dead body.
Then again, we are not a millennial, and casinos have to try something to wrangle these confounding millennials. Downtown Grand went with eSports. Encore tried its Encore Player’s Club. And just about everyone in town has tried cornhole.
It remains to be seen if younger casino customers will respond to Level Up’s special kind of WTF. Apparently, it’s easier for casinos to provide noise, feigned enthusiasm and skill-based games than outmoded things like value and customer service and actual fun.
Since we’re admittedly not the target audience for Level Up, we’ll share a couple of thoughts from our always-insightful commenters.
Guillaume says, “I live in Montreal and I love The Zone at the casino, super excited to see it’s in store for Las Vegas. The Zone is always full on weekends, the party is fun and the minimums are way lower than at tables (3:2 black jack with good enough rules for 5$, can’t beat that). I really believe it’s going to be successful in Vegas too and can’t wait to see it!”
Commenter Mike adds, “It does look kind of fun to me, I’d definitely try it out. I know as a resident I’m spoiled because the usual Vegas is ho-hum regular, but the part of me that loved the SpaceQuest casino at the ex-Hilton would give this a whirl. If you don’t like it, there’s literally the largest casino floor in the United States right outside the door. And it’s got those same amber lights, those same red carpets, and that same damn Bruno Mars song playing that you can find everywhere else.”
We’d love to hear what you think. Of course, you’ll get a ribbon for leaving a comment.
W Las Vegas, a new hotel-within-a-hotel at SLS Las Vegas, officially opens Dec. 1, 2016. As you might suspect, we couldn’t wait that long.
We poked our nose inside the new hotel to see what’s in store.
Judging from the bar above, it appears W Las Vegas will practice safe mixology.
The new entry and reception area of W Las Vegas, called the Living Room, seems just about ready for its big reveal.
The Living Room at W Las Vegas is just like your own living room, just with fewer freeloading relatives.
The Living Room will have a bar, custom artwork, a DJ booth and ridiculous amounts of seating.
W Las Vegas is essentially taking over one of the towers, the Lux tower, at SLS Las Vegas. The W Las Vegas will have its own private entrance and other amenities, including a rooftop pool called Wet.
Nobody really gets the whole hotel-within-a-hotel thing, so just play along.
W Las Vegas designers appear to be embracing their new Las Vegas home, as a number of casino-themed touches appear throughout the hotel.
For example, there’s an area near the W hotel tower elevators sporting wallpaper with Sahara playing cards.
We’re loving this nod to the classic Sahara. The Sahara closed on May 16, 2011 and opened as SLS on August 23, 2014.
Also nearby is a wall featuring thousands of casino chips.
Oh, all right, we didn’t count them, so, thousands-ish.
Reps of W Las Vegas have teased there will be a W made from 20,000 poker chips. We’re pretty sure the W below is the W in question, but didn’t want to spoil the surprise. We also don’t want to be banned from the hotel before it opens.
No, we didn’t peek. It’s called restraint.
W Hotels & Resorts is a luxury hotel chain owned by Marriott International. The company operates nearly 50 hotels in 24 countries and has some serious marketing clout.
The opening of W Las Vegas, in addition to the recent opening of the Lucky Dragon casino about two minutes away, could signal new life for SLS Las Vegas and the north end of The Strip. Staff members at SLS Las Vegas are being told the opening of W Las Vegas is expected to boost restaurant and casino business at SLS roughly 20%, right off the bat.
The prospects of new business at SLS means that W could very well stand for “win-win.” We’ll reserve judgment until we see if the Living Room bar serves Captain Morgan.
Lucky Dragon’s official opening isn’t until Dec. 3, 2016, but the owners of the boutique hotel-casino apparently couldn’t wait that long to show it off. And with good reason. Lucky Dragon exceeds all our expectations, and is a great new addition to the north end of the Las Vegas Strip.
It’s been six years since a casino was built from scratch in Las Vegas. The most recent was Cosmopolitan in 2010.
Lucky Dragon is located near the corner of Sahara Ave. and Las Vegas Boulevard, between the Bonanza Gift Shop and Golden Steer Steakhouse, not far from SLS Las Vegas and the Stratosphere.
Some good news right off the bat: Parking is free.
Lucky Dragon has done an amazing job with relatively little real estate. Lucky Dragon occupies about three acres of land. By comparison, Caesars Palace sits on about 34 acres.
Size, it turns out, isn’t everything in Las Vegas.
The biggest “wow” factor at Lucky Dragon is its stunning, quarter-ton dragon chandelier. The glass sculpture took 800 people to create, and has 288 glass balls. Sorry, orbs. The sculpture is 23 feet tall and is a dazzling centerpiece of Lucky Dragon’s casino.
They’re orbs, not balls. Please keep it classy.
It should be made clear Lucky Dragon isn’t your typical Las Vegas casino, attempting to be all things to all people. Lucky Dragon isn’t just Asian-themed, its intention is to cater primarily to Asian players.
So, you won’t find the usual mix of casino games or cuisines. Lucky Dragon’s focus is on table games like baccarat and Pai Gow, and all the restaurant offerings at Lucky Dragon feature Asian food.
First, let’s hit the casino.
Lucky Dragon’s center bar is lively and comfortable. Luckily, drinks are poured from the bottle, so unlike in many Las Vegas casinos, you know you’re getting the liquor you ordered.
The bartenders are hilarious, and provide some great entertainment for video poker players. The video poker machines feel loose, and you won’t find any automated drink monitoring systems here.
One of the best things about our first visit was the TVs at the casino bar weren’t working yet, so no sports.
Just about the only qualm we had with Lucky Dragon’s casino (aside from there being no Top Dollar slot machines) was the fact the reflection from the dragon chandelier made it a little difficult to see the video poker screens. Not a huge deal, but we expect changes to the screen angles will be made prior to the casino’s official opening.
You’ll see what we mean.
Everyone on staff was incredible friendly and helpful. The cocktail servers are lovely, and their uniforms are flattering and tasteful.
Yes, some people are Asiaphiles. Don’t make it weird.
Playing at Lucky Dragon means you may have to shift your gambling priorities a bit. We found just four blackjack tables (thankfully, they pay 3-to-2, as opposed to the odds now more common on The Strip, 6-to-5), so for the first time we tried our hand at baccarat. Hey, when in Macau.
Baccarat (you don’t pronounce the “t”) is simultaneously the easiest and most confounding table game. You place a bet on “Player” or “Banker,” and your dealer does the rest. You can do the math, but in our book, math is the opposite of fun.
The house edge is so low for baccarat, a number of Las Vegas casinos don’t offer the game at all.
Of the 37 table games at Lucky Dragon, 25 are devoted to variations of baccarat. There are four Pai Gow tables and two roulette tables. Alas, no craps tables at all, but we’ll live.
Here are the Lucky Dragon chip designs, because we know how you are.
Slot machines take a back seat to table games at Lucky Dragon, but there’s still a solid selection. Most of the games are Asian-themed, but you can still find your favorites like Wheel of Fortune and Buffalo.
One of the brilliant aspects of Lucky Dragon is how it combines a high ceiling with the feeling you’re in a more intimate casino space. Studies have shown players gamble less in spaces with high ceilings, so Lucky Dragon’s designers wisely covered the table games with faux “ceilings.”
These structures allow guests to experience the grandeur of the place, while feeling cozy at the same time.
Somebody’s been reading up on casino design. This is brilliant.
Off the main casino floor is a high limit table game area, the Emerald Room.
Much like when we have sex, we tend to last about four minutes in high limit rooms.
Players looking for an even more intimate space can hit Lucky Dragon’s six VIP gaming rooms. These tastefully appointed, Macau-style rooms feel private, but they’re open to the public, as required by Nevada gaming regulations.
We’re going to design our den just like this someday. As soon as we get a den.
During our first visit to Lucky Dragon, we pretty much won at every game we played, both in machines and at the tables, so maybe there’s something to this dragon thing!
As with any Las Vegas casino, it’s important to sign up for the loyalty club. At Lucky Dragon, it’s the Dragon Club. You can visit the loyalty club desk or asked for a loyalty club card at one of the gaming tables. A hundred points equals a dollar, and points can be used at Lucky Dragon’s restaurants and hotel.
Beyond its great casino, Lucky Dragon has put together a rather extraordinary collection of dining options. The first you’re likely to encounter is the 24-hour Bao Now, right on the casino floor.
The restaurant has dim sum, soups, noodles and other to-go dishes. You can tell it’s a to-go counter since there are only about 10 chairs.
It would be difficult for us to adore the name Bao Now more.
A majority of the food on the casino’s first floor comes from a “show kitchen” called Jewel Kitchen.
There’s a lot going on in there, and it’s a great reminder of how much we don’t know about how Asian cuisine is prepared. Lucky Dragon could sell tickets, but we don’t want to give them any ideas.
Careful, or you just might learn something.
Also on the first floor is Dragon’s Alley, meant to evoke the night market scene on Ghost Street in Beijing, whatever that might actually be.
Dragon’s Alley could be described as a food court, but we consider it more along the lines of a buffet. Each station has Asian delicacies, and guests choose dishes a la carte. The chefs are extremely knowledgeable, so navigating the dishes isn’t as intimidating as you’d think.
We’re definitely getting a metric ass-ton of lanterns for our den.
Guests can choose from a wide variety of dishes, each running $5 to $11. There’s seafood and barbecue and dim sum and desserts of all kinds.
Dragon’s Alley seats 325 people, and will be open “from breakfast through late evening.” Translation: We’ll see how it goes.
Unlike at other Las Vegas buffets, there’s no signage to identify the dishes, and there are also no prices posted, so you’re sort of winging it until you get to the cashier. We suspect this process will be refined prior to Lucky Dragon’s official opening.
Thanks, random guy in line who let us take a photo of his food.
At Dragon’s Alley, look for the art piece fashioned from bicycles.
Bicycle is “zi xing che” in Chinese. Told you there was a chance you’d learn something.
On the casino’s mezzanine level, there are the Phoenix and Pearl Ocean restaurants. We’ll definitely be back to do some damage to their menus.
We’re fairly sure this is Pearl’s Ocean restaurant. We were fairly well lubricated by this point in our visit. For good luck!
Roaming out of the casino and over to the Lucky Dragon’s hotel, you’ll find Cha Garden. It includes the hotel lobby and pool area, and serves as a lounge and tea garden.
The walk from Lucky Dragon’s casino to its hotel takes approximately a fourth of a minute.
We are not a tea person, but the pool and lounge areas seem a great place to meet friends and enjoy yum cha. Yes, we looked that up. Yum cha are light snacks, like tapas.
The pool area isn’t large, but again, Lucky Dragon has done a lot with a little, and guests should find the space a cooling diversion, especially during Sin City’s sweltering summer months.
We’re pretty sure the pool isn’t more than a couple of feet deep, even at the deep end, so please, no diving.
We stayed overnight in Lucky Dragon’s 203-room hotel, and found our room to be clean and comfortable.
Lucky Dragon’s standard room is 400 square feet. The 55-inch TVs seem to have more Chinese programs than the actual country of China.
That’s our first take on Lucky Dragon, the newest casino in Las Vegas. We had a completely enjoyable first visit, and it’s a must-try during your next Las Vegas visit.
Lucky Dragon seems to have a thorough understanding of its target audience, a departure from the vast majority of Strip hotels that seem to only give lip service to wanting business from Asian customers. (“Look, a lion dance! Gamble here!”)
While Lucky Dragon may have its eye on Asian guests (signs are in both Chinese and English), there’s never a moment when non-Asian guests feel out of place. Whether you prefer chopsticks or a fork, you’re going to find something to love.
Worth noting: Not a single security guard or staff member freaked out about our taking photos at Lucky Dragon, making us a fan for life.
The north end of The Strip has proven challenging for SLS Las Vegas, but Lucky Dragon has chosen a bold strategy in wooing a niche audience. Lucky Dragon could very well end up being an unlikely success story, scooping up regulars from casinos known for being Asian-friendly, like Palace Station and Gold Coast.
Back in the day, opening a Las Vegas casino was pretty much a financial sure thing. That’s not the case today. (Especially when you open a resort without a nightclub. Another reason to love Lucky Dragon!)
With its gorgeous, exotic decor, buzz-filled casino and delicious dining, though, Lucky Dragon could very well have what it takes to get lucky in Las Vegas.