Category Archives: Las Vegas

Checking In On the Construction at Wynn Plaza

It’s tough to get too riled up about shopping, but since this particular shopping is coming to Wynn Las Vegas, it’s tough to ignore.

We popped in to see what’s up at Wynn Plaza, a $54 million retail center that sits in front of one of the best-known resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Wynn Las Vegas. Please try and keep up.

Wynn Plaza

Fun fact: Steve Wynn once accidentally shot off his index finger with a handgun.

There’s been a lot of progress since we first reported on the project in Sep. 2016.

The new shopping complex is expected to add 75,000-square-feet of luxury retail space to Wynn Las Vegas. Square feet are, of course, one of the most popular kinds of feet in Las Vegas. For the other kind, you pay extra.

Wynn Plaza Las Vegas

Another fun fact: Steve Wynn once put his elbow through a $155 million painting, “Le Reve.” Wynn purchased the painting for a mere $48 million in 1997.

Wynn Plaza brings the resort’s footprint right down to Las Vegas Boulevard and will generate revenue from previously unused space, as well as giving the shopping center just across the street, Fashion Show, a run for its money.

Wynn Plaza is expected to debut by the end of 2017.

Wynn Plaza

The exterior of Wynn Plaza is already starting to take shape. Hey, some facts aren’t “fun,” they’re just facts.

Interestingly, Wynn Resorts recently sold about half of its interest in Wynn Plaza, and other retail space at Wynn and its sister resort, Encore, to Crown Acquisitions for $472 million. Wynn already got $292 million and will receive another $180 million when construction of Wynn Plaza is complete.

Shopping is big business in Las Vegas, as well as being incredibly boring.

Several shopping malls in Vegas have changed hands in the last year, including Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood being sold to Institutional Mall Investors and Crystals at City Center being sold to Invesco Real Estate and Simon Property Group. The latter deal was for $1.1 billion. That’s a lot of handbags and shoes normal people can’t begin to afford.

Wynn Plaza

Oh, all right, one more fun fact: Steve Wynn’s real last name is Weinberg.

On a less boring note, Wynn Plaza is likely to have not only high-end retail shops, but also new
restaurant and bar options, and we’re always up for more that.

More construction porn ahead! Enjoy.

Wynn Plaza Update: Feb. 20, 2017

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Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 41: “Puppetry of the Penis,” Gambling Tales and Vegas Exclusives

It’s our girthiest episode yet of the Vital Vegas Podcast.

Get the naked facts about “Puppetry of the Penis” at the Erotic Heritage Museum with an exclusive interview with its stars, Robert Ryan and Jamie Morris.

We also chat with Jared DeBehnke, owner of Jared’s Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers at Pawn Plaza.

Jared's hot dogs and hamburgers

To be clear, this is not a photo from “Puppetry of the Penis.”

Hot dogs! See? There’s almost a theme to this week’s show. That’s some quality podcast entertainment right there.

Also in the mix is a metric ass-ton of insider skinny about all the latest Las Vegas news, including stories about Chick-fil-A’s third Vegas location, drama at Du-par’s, a hefty grant for the Neon Museum, Caesars Entertainment’s resorts getting a resort fee bump, Cosmopolitan’s new blog, the crash at Speed Vegas, “Hell’s Kitchen” and a new music festival downtown, Las Rageous.

Neon Museum storage

A $425,000 grant means the Neon Museum will be able to take a number of classic signs out of storage, including some with our favorite design flourish, Googie stars.

We serve up not one, but two, listicles of the week, “10 Alternate Things ‘Puppetry of the Penis’ Could’ve Called Itself” and “11 Casino Gambling Devices and Their Surprising Names.”

We’ll regale you with gambling stories, listener collisions, Las Vegas history and so much less.

Lean in, listen up and fill your earholes with everything Vegas.

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Chick-fil-A Near Las Vegas Strip Gets Opening Date

It’s possible we’ve mentioned Chick-fil-A a time or two in recent weeks. That’s because we’ve been waiting for years to unleash our pent-up lust for the chain’s glorious chicken sandwiches, and two Chick-fil-A locations are now crushing it in Las Vegas.

To be precise, though, the two existing Chick-fil-A locations aren’t exactly in Las Vegas. They’re in Henderson. That’s about to change, though.

A third Chick-fil-A opens March 30, 2017, just off The Strip on Sahara Blvd. at S. Rancho Drive. The new outpost sits just across the street from the Palace Station casino, not far from Lucky Dragon and SLS Las Vegas.

Chick-fil-A Rancho Sahara

Do not make us choose between Chick-fil-A and saving an infant from a burning building. Infants can fend for themselves.

This new Chick-fil-A puts the restaurant within striking distance of The Strip, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to see the same crush of customers as the first two Las Vegas locations.

The third Chick-fil-A is expected to take some of the pressure off its sister locations. Both of the Henderson stores have been so busy, they’ve had to employ off-duty police officers to do crowd control since opening on Jan. 26, 2017.

Here’s another look at the third Chick-fil-A in Las Vegas.

Chick-fil-A plans to have 10 restaurants in Nevada over the next five years. So, grab the app, skip the pickles and join us as we bask in our Chick-fil-A euphoria.

And while you’re at it, please let us know how seriously we need to take this restraining order.

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Caesars Entertainment Preps to Launch Paid Parking

Paid parking has become the new normal at Las Vegas resorts, and one of the Strip’s biggest players, Caesars Entertainment, is ready to expand its paid parking program to include guests who self-park.

We hit The Strip to check on the progress of the paid parking roll-out expected to kick in sometime in March 2017. Caesars Entertainment already charges for valet parking at most of its Strip resorts.

Flamingo Las Vegas paid parking

Up first, Flamingo. The parking machines are encased in plywood. Let’s keep it that way!

While we were on a quest to visit every Caesars casino that will have paid parking, we did make the occasional stop to imbibe, a word which comes from Latin, meaning “if you can feel your face, you’re doing it wrong.”

At Flamingo, we had a lovely dinner at Carlos’n Charlie’s, including one of our favorite dishes in town, the Parmesan & Swiss Chicken. We played a bit of blackjack, and couldn’t help but snap a pic of two newlyweds at a nearby table.

Casino newlyweds

Congrats to the lovebirds. Oh, and both of the newlyweds were women. Las Vegas loves everyone’s love equally.

Next, we bopped next door to the Linq hotel, and again, paid parking machines are in place.

Linq paid parking

The machines at Linq are at the top of a steep incline, so that’s sure to be interesting.

Our Parade of WTF isn’t done yet. Right next door is Harrah’s Las Vegas, where a familiar theme is beginning to unspool. If you can unspool a theme. Just play along.

Harrah's paid parking

Harrah’s appears to have the most machines of any Caesars resort. If this keeps up, Las Vegas is going to experience a plywood and yellow paint shortage.

Next, we zip across the street to Caesars Palace, recently named “Las Vegas Resort With the Most Topless Women Carved From Marble.” We were going to say “David Wang,” but not everyone knows there’s a replica of Michelangelo’s David at Caesars Palace.

Back to the parking thing.

Caesars Palace paid parking

Caesars Palace is lagging a bit. We’re cool with that. Take your sweet time.

Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s share a parking structure, so we got a two-fer.

Paris Bally's paid parking

We totally predicted the plywood shortage.

Part of the pitch with paid parking has been it will help upgrade the various parking garages. That appears to already be happening at Paris and Bally’s. The parking structure already has a lighting system to let guests know which spaces are available (green) or not (red, please try and keep up).

Paris Bally's parking

You’re paying for the availability indicators, so enjoy! Bonus: The Availability Indicators would make a great band name.

While Caesars Entertainment has said the self-parking at Rio Las Vegas will remain free, we decided to have a look, anyway. And, boy, we’re so glad we did. As expected, there were no paid parking machines to be found at Rio. Inside, however, we found gold.

Rio Kiss Mini Golf Car

This awesome Kiss Mini Golf Car is right on the casino floor at Rio. Curious if they had to pay to park there.

While the car is cool, we found something even cooler. It’s so Vegas, it’s ridiculous. Apparently, guests have been getting creative with their selfies, so Kiss Mini Golf had to take the necessary actions to deter such behavior.

Wait for it.

Rio Kiss Mini Golf Car

So Kiss. So Vegas. So awkward.

Time to swing by Planet Hollywood. There was no trace of parking machines at Planet Hollywood, and presumably the hotel won’t be charging for parking because the structure is owned and managed by Miracle Mile Shops, not Caesars Entertainment. We take our good news where we can get it!

That’s about it. When Caesars Entertainment rolls out its paid parking program in full, it will mark the end of an era in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts started the trend when it instituted paid parking across its half of The Strip.

Visit Caesars Entertainment’s Web site for all the paid parking details.

It’s important to note you can still park free at both MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment resorts, but you have to get their respective credit cards. Having the card bumps you up to a qualifying tier in their player loyalty clubs. Get details about MGM Resorts’ program here.

The big casino companies seem determined to ride out their paid parking plans, despite rumors of fallout inside the casinos. Retail shops at some MGM Resorts casinos have reported drops of as much as 30% in business since paid parking was implemented.

We recently shared an MGM Grand insider’s observation that front line employees (from valets to cocktail waitresses and bartenders) have taken a major hit in tips, a decrease of 30% to 50%, according to our source. Read more.

Still, stock prices continue to rise, so it’s likely paid parking is here to stay. (Although, given recent bumps in the road, the jury’s still out.) Paid parking is also coming to Cosmopolitan, Wynn and Encore. While paid parking may seem to make business sense short-term, there’s a growing feeling the decision to charge for parking may have unforeseen consequences, including a change in the perception of Las Vegas itself.

Update (2/11/17): Caesars Entertainment has also announced it will raise resort fees at 10 Strip resorts.

One blog’s opinion: This really is the worst possible time to learn we can’t sit on the tongue.

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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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