Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 87: The Bestish of Las Vegas

Gird your loins for another wildly disappointing installment of the podcast even less valuable than a roulette chip at a cashier cage.

In this episode, we take on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” awards. Some of the awards nail it, while others give our WTF muscles a strenuous workout.

Bestish of Las Vegas

This year’s Best of Las Vegas awards got 3.1 million votes, many of them not completely insane. We’re looking at you, whoever voted Rollin’ Smoke BBQ “Best Dessert” in Las Vegas.

We also dive into what makes Las Vegas so much better than everywhere else. Hint: It’s a very long list.

Examples of things that suck about other places: There’s nothing to do, everything closes early, humidity is awful, there are too many people and toll roads, and you’ll rarely find room values like you do in Las Vegas, even with those annoying resort fees.

There’s also a quick review of “A Mob Story” at Plaza, a show we fully expected to hate but didn’t, because great choreography. And stories told by a former “made man.” And butts.

A Mob Story

Oh, there will be whacking.

Learn more about A Mob Story at Plaza, and see it while you can.

Sure, you’re very busy, so shove a Las Vegas podcast into your earholes because it’s not like you’re eating with them. Or something.

Take a listen and get all the Vegas you’ve got coming to you.

Total Rewards Reportedly Will Rebrand to Caesars Rewards

In what would be a big shake-up in the casino loyalty club realm, we’re hearing Caesars Entertainment will rebrand its popular Total Rewards program to Caesars Rewards in early 2019.

There’s been no official announcement of the Caesars Rewards roll-out, but when has that ever stopped us from sharing news?

Total Rewards Diamond

Using a loyalty club card is one of the best ways to get your fair share of perks.

The Total Rewards loyalty program began as Total Gold. Later, the program was called Total Rewards II.

Caesars Entertainment’s growth into a casino powerhouse owes a lot to its loyalty club, created in 1998 by the company’s former CEO Gary Loveman, borrowing heavily from similar programs in the airline industry.

How valuable is the Total Rewards program? In the company’s recent bankruptcy, the Total Rewards database was valued at a billion dollars. Yes, with a “b.”

Caesars Entertainment reports Total Rewards has about 55 million members.

Caesars Rewards

Unrelated to anything, don’t miss our alternative ways to use your loyalty club cards, including as ninja throwing stars.

While it’s unknown when the rebrand to Caesars Rewards is expected to occur, insiders suspect it will be Feb. 1, 2019, because higher tier cards in the program expire on Jan. 31.

It’s also unknown what changes to the loyalty club might accompany the rebrand.

Caesars Entertainment is currently trying to make the most of its brand, including licensing the Caesars name for non-gambling resorts in Dubai and Puerto Los Cabos, Mexico (we broke that news, naturally).

In related news, we hear Caesars is also going to experiment with a new rewards center at Linq said to be similar to an Apple store environment. You’ll know more when we do.

Should the rumor pan out, a rebrand from Total Rewards to Caesars Rewards is a bold move given the substantial investment made over a number of years to making Total Rewards one of most-recognized casino loyalty clubs in the world, the other being M Life Rewards from MGM Resorts.

In 2012, Caesars spent tens of millions for a relaunch of its Total Rewards loyalty program. The promotion was called “Escape to Total Rewards” and featured simultaneous concerts in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans. No expense was spared, and artists included Mariah Carey, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw, Mary J. Blige, Lil’ Wayne and Cee Lo Green.

Full disclosure: We used to work at Caesars Entertainment and did their Total Rewards loyalty club e-newsletter, with about five million subscribers. Yes, that’s less a disclosure thing and more of a humblebrag, but you know how we are.

Electra Cocktail Club Debuts at Palazzo Las Vegas

There’s a new lounge at Palazzo Las Vegas, Electra Cocktail Club, and our liver remains a somewhat viable organ, so we had to check it out.

Electra Palazzo

We never get tired of filling our eyes with Vegas.

We love new casino lounges. Partially because of the liquor, but mainly because of the marketing.

The news release for Electra calls it “an inventive collision of energy and style.”

The Palazzo’s Web site states, “Magnetic in its appeal, fashionable in its aesthetic and garnished with a dash of the surreal, Electra is where avant-garde cocktail creation challenges the limits of tradition in a kinetically charged environment.”

We quite enjoyed our visit, anyway.

Electra Cocktail Club Palazzo

It’s like the 50-foot woman from that 1950s movie lost her bracelets.

At Electra, you may not experience a “dash of the surreal,” but the vibe is undeniably appealing.

As advertised, the decor features “brass, granite, etched metals and custom wall coverings,” but the real draw is a massive video screen along one wall of the lounge.

The video display (made up of 34 screens) spans 40 feet and boasts 70 million pixels. Yes, we counted, and your skepticism is duly noted.

Electra Palazzo

Electra claims it has the highest resolution video display in Las Vegas. Thankfully for Electra, there are no video resolution police.

The cocktail menu at Electra is extensive, and it’s clear a lot of care has been taken to create drinks that are accessible while being inventive. Many were inspired by classics, nearly all cost in the $18 range.

Yes, Electra is further proof $18 is the new $12 in Strip cocktail lounges. Just go with it, you’re in Las Vegas!

We were delighted to see Electra named a cocktail after us, the Trouble Maker. The Trouble Maker has vodka, sweet vermouth, fresh cucumber, lemon and strawberry.

Electra Palazzo

We’re pretty sure they didn’t intend for the ice to resemble Nevada, but bonus points, anyway.

The drink was quite good, although our experience of it was tainted by the fact Electra only uses paper straws. It’s amazing Las Vegas venues so committed to flavorful drinks would force guests to drink through paper straws, an experience akin to sucking a gourmet meal through the cardboard tubes found inside holiday wrapping paper.

In addition to that annoyance, we were dismayed to see much of our glass was taken up by a large, rectangular piece of ice. “Presentation ice” as we’ve taken to call it, or “flair ice” if you prefer.

Electra lounge Las Vegas

Yes, the ice displaced at least 60% of our $18 drink, but we are a glass-half-full kind of person.

Still, the Trouble Maker was a pleasing cocktail in an environment that conveys a touch of class without being pretentious.

We were surprised and delighted to learn the music volume at Electra was perfect. Which, in our world, means it’s loud enough to give the room energy while allowing for conversation without screaming one’s way to a case of laryngitis.

The DJ deserves a nod as he deftly delivered on the promised “celebration of all genres of rock from old and modern to indie and synth mixed with current hip hop.”

Electra Palazzo DJ

All the very best DJs have an extra set of ears.

Electra Cocktail Club seems a great place to meet up with friends or make new ones, and if you can adjust to the idea cocktails cost $18 a pop, you’re in for a great night out in Vegas.

It’s worth mentioning, by the way, customers at Electra are given a free bottle of water (a $6 value in some of these places) and parking is still free at Venetian and Palazzo.

While you’re at Palazzo, make sure to stop in at another upscale lounge, Rosina.

Rosina lounge Palazzo

Rosina is a village in the Targovishte Municipality of Bulgaria. A little esoteric, don’t you think, Palazzo?

Rosina opened in December 2017, and is part of what’s described as “the trinity that is The Venetian Cocktail Collective.” The third part of the “trinity” is The Dorsey, in the Venetian, that opened in December 2016.

Rosina is more intimate than Electra, and the cocktail menu is much smaller.

Rosina lounge Palazzo

The names you know and love, the hangovers you know and love slightly less.

The decor of Rosina features crystal chandeliers, high-top tables and u-shaped banquettes, perfectly suited for groups of six or eight.

Here, the music is more mellow, with an emphasis on soul, R&B and jazz, clearly intended to serve as counter-programming to Electra.

Rosina Palazzo

Las Vegas does watering holes right.

With the opening of Electra, Palazzo is now brimming with lounge options.

Dress up (or not), choose the lounge that suits your mood and let Las Vegas do what it does best. Namely, help you get lucky.

Actual results may vary.

Electra and Rosina at Palazzo

[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo2.jpg]990
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo1.jpg]870
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu1.jpg]1330
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu2.jpg]1000
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu3.jpg]1010
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu4.jpg]990
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu5.jpg]930
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu6.jpg]900
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu7.jpg]940
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu8.jpg]920
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu9.jpg]920
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu10.jpg]830
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo_menu11.jpg]850
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo7.jpg]880
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo3.jpg]820
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo4.jpg]710
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo5.jpg]660
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo6.jpg]660
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo8.jpg]610
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo9.jpg]620
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_electra_palazzo10.jpg]760
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_rosina_palazzo1.jpg]720
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_rosina_palazzo2.jpg]780
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_rosina_palazzo_menu2.jpg]850
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_rosina_palazzo_menu1.jpg]800
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_rosina_palazzo3.jpg]790
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/electra-and-rosina-at-palazzo/thumbs/thumbs_venetian_art.jpg]960

This Was Easily Our Weirdest Vegas Celebrity Sighting, Ever

We’ve bumped into tons of celebrities in Las Vegas, but this two-fer was a doozy. (Or, for the Millennials, a “humdinger.”)

We were doing lunch at Triple George, downtown, and saw an odd couple enter the restaurant.

The more diminutive of the two caught our eye first, but his companion looked very familiar as well.

The pair of diners were none other than two TV legends: Felix Silla and Gil Gerard, both featured in TV’s “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”

Gil Gerard Felix Silla

It’s been nearly 40 years since they worked together in “Buck Rogers,” and it’s great to see these two are still pals.

“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” a sci-fi TV series that ran from 1979 to 1981. The pilot for the show was released as a feature film as well.

Gerard, now 75, starred as “Buck” Rogers and also appeared in nearly 400 TV commercials.

Depending upon your level of nerd, you may also be impressed to learn Gil Gerard voiced the character of Megatronus in 2015’s “Transformers: Robots in Disguise.”

Felix Silla, 81, co-starred with Gerard in “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” as a robot named Twiki.

Twiki Buck Rogers

Twiki and Buck Rogers can attest to the fact everyone points at things in the 25th century.

Silla was even better known for playing the character of Cousin Itt on the original “The Addams Family.”

Silla has at various times played Las Vegas venues with his group, The Original Harmonica Band.

Just in case you haven’t hit your maximum nerd yet, bask in the fact Felix Silla not only did the voice of Mortimer Goth in the videogame “The Sims 2,” he also played an Ewok in “Return of the Jedi.”

Both Gerard and Silla were gracious about having their photo taken, and when we mentioned they seem to have a lot of fans, Silla said, “Yes we do.”

We didn’t get to ask why the men were in Las Vegas, or why they were having lunch at Triple George that day. We just enjoyed our brush with TV history. Only in Vegas!

11 Amazing Things to Love About Las Vegas

It’s time to celebrate some things we love about Las Vegas!

There’s a lot to love about Sin City, including all its various forms of sin, but these are a few that leapt to mind immediately. Note: We were going to say “leaped,” but “leapt” just sounds fancier.

Share what you love about Las Vegas in the comments.

1. Bellagio Fountains

Leave this off any top 10 list of things to love and you have to forfeit your Las Vegas card. These traffic-stopping dancing fountains, set to iconic music, have enthralled visitors for years, and we hope the dancing never stops.

Bellagio fountain

The Bellagio fountains use four types of nozzles: Oarsmen, shooters, super shooters and extreme shooters. Extreme shooters send water up to 460 feet high.

2. Sexiest Shopping Mall, Ever

Yes, the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is a shopping mall, but man alive, what a mall it is.

Forum Shops

The Forum Shops at Caesars is the highest grossing mall in the U.S.

3. Strip Clubs

Hey, we waited until number three before getting to some actual sin! Dancers travel from around the world to perform in Las Vegas strip clubs, providing a quantity and quality of entertainment unparalleled in the known universe. Make sure to brush up on your strip club slang.

Pole dancer

Fun fact: Strippers make more when they’re ovulating.

4. Bigass Slot Machine Jackpots

Las Vegas remains the undisputed king of life-changing slot jackpots, and the hits just keep on coming. A player recently won $1.4 million at Cosmopolitan on Wheel of Fortune. We’re pretty sure it was one of the machines we were playing a week earlier. Not bitter at all. Another lucky bastard won $1.3 million at the Cosmo a month earlier. In June, a woman won $1.4 million at Golden Gate.

Megabucks

The biggest Megabucks jackpot in Vegas history was $39,710,826.36, won at Excalibur.

5. OMG the Food, Though

There are so many award-winning restaurants in Las Vegas, they need to invent more awards. There’s something to suit just about any craving, and even if you visited a Las Vegas restaurant every day, it would take a decade to visit them all. Oh, and don’t even get us started about the desserts.

Joe's bone-in filet

This bone-in filet at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab is the second best thing we’ve ever had our mouth on.

6. Highest Concentration of Cirque Shows Anywhere

Cirque du Soleil has been in Las Vegas so long, it’s easy to take for granted the sheer variety and quality of these outsized theatrical spectacles. Have trouble keeping all the Las Vegas Cirque shows straight? We’ve got this with our One-Minute Guide to All the Cirque Shows in Las Vegas.

Ka Cirque du Soleil

If you see “Ka” at MGM Grand, don’t miss this photo op.

7. Venetian Eye Candy

So many Las Vegas resorts feature stunning architecture, it’s difficult to single one out, but we will, anyway. A stroll through the Venetian provides so much eye candy you’re likely to leave with diabetes. In a good way.

Venetian

Venetian is gorgeous, inside and out.

8. Fremont Street Experience Light Shows

It’s easy to take the free nightly light shows at Fremont Street Experience for granted, but they are a must-do. The hourly shows are free and feature bands like The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Green Day and others. The canopy will soon get a $32 million upgrade, so expect a whole new level of “What the hell did I just see?” Fun fact: The canopy’s LED brightness will go from 700 nits to 5,000 nits, whatever those might actually be.

9. The Hooch

Do you know this blog at all? Of course the hooch is on our list! Las Vegas is known for its destination drinking, and there’s no place on Earth with the sheer variety or quantity of alcoholic beverages on tap. Literally. Make sure to check out all our completely consensual panty-dropper cocktails.

Pineapple Express cocktail

And they claim you can’t have a crush on an inanimate object.

10. Neon You Want to Dry Hump

Our love affair with neon will never fade, and while lots of casinos are opted for LEDs, there’s still plenty of gorgeous neon in Las Vegas. If you’re pining for even more neon, here’s a bonus thing to love about Las Vegas: “Brilliant” at the Neon Museum, where classic signs spring back to life with the assistance of projection mapping technology.

Flamingo neon

Not for actual licking. Did we really need to tell you that, weirdo?

11. Vegas People

There’s a lot to love about Las Vegas, but ultimately it’s all about the people. It’s about the incredible people who work here and make our vacations possible. It’s about the strangers who become lifelong friends. It’s about the seemingly inexhaustible supply of colorful characters. Las Vegas is the magnet and we’re all wearing iron thongs. Or something.

Beer bottles

Vegas friends are the best kind of friends. Other than rich, forgetful friends, of course.

So, let’s hear more about the things you love about Las Vegas.

Casinos Sending Surveys to Figure Out Why You’re So Annoyed With Vegas

The world’s two biggest casino companies, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, are sending surveys to customers to determine why they’re displeased with Las Vegas and visiting less often.

We know why, but don’t want to ruin the suspense.

The surveys are telling in both their timing and substance.

Here’s a section of the survey from Caesars Entertainment, sent to us by Darrell V.

Caesars survey

Spoiler alert: Darrell sort of nailed it.

The timing? Casino earnings and stock values are down significantly, and many believe the situation’s going from bad to worse.

The substance? “Where the hell have you been?”

Other questions in the surveys try to get at why travel patterns have changed.

Caesars survey

Just a hunch, but the “unreasonable resort fees” thing probably gets a consistent ranking of “WTF.”

In another section of the survey, the company asks what would have to happen to get a guest back.

Caesars survey

Surveys are important because not every business involves interaction with customers every day. Every single day.

We got a weird feeling when we read that survey question. It sort of triggered memories of ex-girlfriends asking what they’d have to do in order to get back together.

The problem is when you’re at that point, it’s too late. You weren’t vibing, cues were missed and it’s nearly impossible to recapture that spark.

But that’s what Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts are trying to do, apparently.

Park MGM, an MGM Resorts casino, sent out a similar survey, as did other casinos in the MGM Resorts family. Thanks to Brent E. for passing it along to us.

In it, the company flat-out asks if the customer thinks Las Vegas is changing for better or worse.

Park MGM survey

Better late than never on the surveys, probably.

These surveys are remarkable in that 1) the companies seem to be aware visitor perceptions are changing, 2) it’s taken them so long to become aware of that fact.

See, people who interact with Vegas visitors have known for some time they’re visiting less often.

While there are a number of reasons for this, there’s one we hear over and over again: “Las Vegas is nickel-and-diming us, and we’re not going to take it any more.”

Even devoted fans of Las Vegas cite a litany of fees and irksome business practices they say is causing them to visit less often.

Resort fees.

Parking fees.

CNF fees.

Venue fees.

Convenience fees.

Processing fees.

Wait for it.

Tap water fees.

The list is seemingly endless. And don’t get us started about drink monitoring and swapping out liquor brands for knock-offs.

Dick's Last Resort water charge

We are not making this up. Thanks to Sam N. for sending his our way.

Until recently, casino companies barely acknowledged nickel-and-diming could be a factor in revenue and occupancy declines, despite an avalanche of concern we see every day on social media.

It seems the casinos weren’t listening.

Well, they’re listening now.

As we said, there are a number of reasons Vegas seems to be at a crossroads.

For example, there’s something called “commoditization.” It’s defined as “the process by which goods that have economic value and are distinguishable in terms of attributes (uniqueness or brand) end up becoming simple commodities in the eyes of the market or consumers.” You
go, Wikipedia.

In human terms, it means legal gambling is everywhere now, rather than Las Vegas having a virtual monopoly.

The irony of all this is Las Vegas is in a slump when the overall economy is booming. You can bet this is an ongoing source of frustration and embarrassment among casino executives.

Las Vegas CNF fee

Concession fees are some of our least favorite, ever. It’s a fee for literally nothing.

What’s the solution?

First, listen.

Casino companies shouldn’t need surveys to understand what’s frustrating their customers. Their customers are online all day every day, not to mention in their casinos, sharing their concerns.

Second, provide value.

This is a tricky one, because in may ways, Las Vegas provides incredible value. Compare the cost of a hotel room in Las Vegas to those in other cities, and the contrast is dramatic.

Despite that, the value isn’t the focus for visitors or what they remember or share with friends. It’s their anger about resort fees, the exact opposite of value.

Vegas is in the middle of an image crisis.

It’s also suffering from a comparison to itself. Specifically, a comparison to its past self, the one where gambling paid for everything so everything appeared to be cheap or free.

Now, casinos have to get smart about how they make money.

They have to roll back paid parking. They have to get rid of resort fees, or at least stop calling them that and just include them in the cost of a room. They have to dump triple zero roulette and 6-to-5 blackjack.

Triple zero roulette

It’s not fun and it’s not funny.

Casinos can’t stop there. They have to wrangle their restaurant and show partners and insist they stop jacking up nonsense convenience fees and moronic CNF charges. Why? Because they’re a reflection on the casinos and Las Vegas itself.

And as great as Las Vegas is, people will stop coming. Many tell us they already have.

Visitors are willing to pay for great experiences, but they won’t tolerate feeling ripped off. They demand value, and Las Vegas has to make a concerted, coordinated, committed effort to provide it again.

Update (9/27/18): Strip gambling revenue was down more than 12% year-over-year in August 2018. It was down in July as well. Trust us, they’re listening.