Monthly Archives: September 2014

Controversial Mike Tyson Slot Machine Unveiled at Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas

A slot machine manufacturer is taking heat over its new “Iron Mike” slot machine, just unveiled at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

The controversial new video slot machine, inspired by former boxing champion Mike Tyson, has put Ompax Gaming Technologies (OGT) and its CEO, Philip Neri, in the hotseat for what some critics claim is an attempt to exploit Tyson’s bad behavior and criminal history for profit.

Here’s an exclusive look at the “Iron Mike” slot machine.

Mike Tyson slot machine

The slot machine inspired by boxer Mike Tyson has gotten a “split decision” at the Global Gaming Expo, receiving a mix of accolades and criticism, depending upon who you ask.

The Global Gaming Expo, also known as G2E, is an annual trade show held in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center. A slew of new slot machines make their debut at G2E, and this year’s crop included machines inspired by movies (“Austin Powers,” “Gremlins,” “Ted”), television shows (“Sons of Anarchy,” “Wonder Woman,” “Friends,” “Mad Men”) and personalities (Britney Spears, Elton John, Elvis Presley).

However, while numerous slot machines have launched at G2E, the Mike Tyson slot machine seems to have stolen the show, and not necessarily in a good way.

Much of the concern relates to the icons on the slot machine’s virtual reels. Critics have been vocal about their distaste for the inclusion of graphical references to Mike Tyson’s tumultuous past, including a 1992 conviction for rape.

CEO Philip Neri stated, “We are certainly sensitive to the concerns being expressed on the trade show floor. But from our earliest conversations with Mike Tyson, he was clear he didn’t want to shy away from anything. As he bravely did in his one-man show, ‘Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,’ he’s wrestling with his demons, and we applaud him for it, especially given the fact we receive a portion of the revenue generated from this exciting new game coming to casinos very soon.”

A close-up look at the “Iron Mike” slot machine reveals some of the problematic icons used in the game.

Critics of the game have singled out the inclusion of a tiara (a reference to the victim in his rape conviction, a former Miss Black Rhode Island), handcuffs and a Monopoly-style graphic alluding to his Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2003.

Mike Tyson slot machine

“No tigers or ears were harmed in the making of this slot machine rendering,” say OGT officials.

The Mike Tyson slot machine also integrates images related to his love of pigeons, a tiger (from his cameo in the smash hit, “The Hangover”), Tyson’s former promoter Don King, Tyson’s distinctive tattoo and an injured ear, presumably that of fighter Evander Holyfield.

“We’re hoping people will focus on the fun of this game and how it makes someone who was the heavyweight champion of the world accessible to everyone,” says Ompax Gaming’s CEO. “Mike Tyson is an international brand, much like Coke, although given his 2007 drug conviction, perhaps that’s not the best example.”

Neri continues, “The point is Mike is easily the most-beloved convicted rapist in history, and the ‘Iron Mike’ slot machine brings his colorful personality to life, augmented by the most advanced, crowd-pleasing surround-sound technology available.”

To the credit of OGT, they pulled off a feat not many slot machine makers can: They included a timely reference on the machine’s reels, specifically a cartoon image from Mike Tyson’s new animated series on the Adult Swim cable network, “Mike Tyson Mysteries.”

Most slot machines are woefully outdated by the time they hit the casino floor because of rights and royalty issues. For example, when released, the “Walking Dead” slot machine had characters who had long before met their demise on the TV show.

Impressive, too, are the slot machine’s bonus rounds.

A news release about “Iron Mike” states, “This game-changing new video slot machine boasts unique bonus rounds such as ‘Champ Stamp,’ highlighting Mike Tyson’s iconic facial tattoo, ‘Whack-a-Walters,’ tongue-in-cheek payback for a 1988 interview that caused an international sensation, and ‘DUIOU,’ where players get to choose high-priced attorneys to help make plea agreements while shirking their financial responsibilities.”

Controversy or not, there’s no denying the “Iron Mike” slot machine has made a splash at this year’s Global Gaming Expo.

“We think our casino partners, and players of both genders, but probably mostly men, are going to love this new slot machine,” said OGT’s Philip Neri. “I think we’ve created a game that truly embodies the spirit of Mike Tyson, without being overly rape-y.”

While Neri wouldn’t reveal his company’s next collaboration, rumors have surfaced there could very well be an O.J. Simpson slot machine in the pipeline for 2015. “We can’t confirm that,” said a winking Neri. “But that’s the kind of partnership that would fit our company like a glove.”

The Global Gaming Expo happens through Oct. 2, 2014, so if you get a chance to “get into the ring” with “Iron Mike,” let us know what you think.

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Fulton Street Food Hall at Harrah’s Opens: A Food Court, Las Vegas Buffet Mash-Up

At first glance, you might be tempted to dismiss the new Fulton Street Food Hall at Harrah’s Las Vegas as just another food court. But you’d be missing an intriguing innovation we’re thinking may catch on.

Specifically, Fulton Street Food Hall might just be The Strip’s first “a la carte buffet.”

Fulton Street Food Hall

Nothing glitzy, but we tend to be fans of substance over form.

If you set aside the fact there’s no all-you-can-eat price (most of the items here tend to be around $10), everything else about the Fulton Street Food Hall is buffet-like, in a good way.

There’s no food court vibe at all, and you’ll find all your favorite buffet stations in this spacious, understated dining offering with seating for about 250 people. Fulton Street Food Hall is in the space formerly occupied by Ming’s Table restaurant and the Cafe at Harrah’s.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Roomy, check. Shiny and new, check. Let’s food hall! Whatever one of those might actually be.

The “stations” comprising Fulton Street Food Hall include New York-style pizza, comfort food (like sandwiches and lasagna, told you it was a mash-up), sushi, Pan-Asian noodles, soup and salads, frozen yogurt, gelato, as well as a coffee shop and bakery with an impressive selection of desserts.

Like the best buffets in Las Vegas, Fulton Street has a fully-stocked bar.

Fulton Street Food Hall

On some days, this is where we get our appetizer, main course and dessert.

All the stations feel integrated here, as they do at a buffet. There’s also the same feeling you get when you get to build your own dishes at buffet “action stations.” There’s a sense of attention to service, and enough variety to take care of any craving.

While much of the food is prepared when you order it, other dishes are prepared beforehand, so there’s no wait.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Pointless PR phrase of the day, “chef-inspired food.”

It’s the best of all possible worlds, and you can also do something you can’t do at buffets: Get your food to-go.

Let’s take a look at some of the stations, shall we? What else have you got going on? No, really, what’s up with you? You don’t write or call. We see how you are. Moving on!

The coffee shop could very well give the nearby Starbucks a run for its money.

This station offers 25 different Lavazza coffee drinks. (Lavazza is, apparently, a brand of coffee. The things you learn doing a Las Vegas blog.)

Lavazza coffee

Lavazza coffee was founded in 1895. There is a Lavazza Center for coffee research devoted to the study of espresso. Because the Internet.

The coffee runs in the $3-5 range. Not bad for The Strip.

Fulton Street Food Hall

It’s estimated 75% of Italians drink Lavazza coffee. Italians know coffee. And mommy issues. But mostly that first thing.

Also at the coffee shop station is a dizzying collection of desserts.

Fulton Street Food Hall desserts

And so it begins.

Say what you will about the financially-wobbly Caesars Entertainment, but the folks in their dessert department, who supply sugary diversions to many of the Caesars Entertainment resort buffets and restaurants on The Strip, have got this down pat.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Most of the desserts are in the $5 range. Much like your sister.

There are close to 40 bakery items available, and while you probably won’t be able to try more than one or two, as you would at a traditional buffet, who cares? An “a la carte buffet” is a built-in form of portion control.

Fulton Street Food Hall dessert

See? Fruit. Technically, health food.

You get the idea, but we’re sharing more of these desserts so we have something to post on Pinterest.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Tooth decay is the new push-ups.

There’s also six flavors of gelato.

And since we’re starting our “buffet” with desserts, which is how you should do any Las Vegas buffet, by the way, there’s also a frozen yogurt station with a surprising number of options and toppings.

Frozen yogurt

Frozen yogurt is lower in fat than ice cream. We like it, anyway.

Because we care about your yogurt experience, we made note of every single flavor offered: Southern Butter Pecan, Butter Cup, Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter, Peach Medley, Peach Tart, California Tart (see all the jokes we’re not making?), White Chocolate Mouse (sic), Alaskan Moose Tracks, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, Mississippi Mud, Tahitian Vanilla, Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Strawberry Sensations, Triple Chocolate and German Chocolate Cake. (There were two spouts for Cookies & Cream, so apparently we have a winner.)

White chocolate mouse

Right, like we were going to let “White Chocolate Mouse” thing go. Do you know this blog at all?

Fulton Street Food Hall’s yogurt station should be interesting. The sign says “build your own” for $6 ($5 with a Total Rewards loyalty card). We love that the cost isn’t tied to the weight of the yogurt or toppings, but this can result in what’s been called “customers trying to fit a metric ass-ton of yogurt and gummi bears into a vessel not intended to hold an ass-ton of anything.” Clean-up in the frozen yogurt station!

strawberry yogurt

Don’t be surprised if certain flavors are under government surveillance.

Now that we’ve done the important course, let’s meander on over to the pizza station.

The 11-inch pizzas are made in-house, although they might not really be 11 inches, because it’s Las Vegas, if you get our drift.

Fulton Street pizza

“Just put quotes around ‘New York-style,’ okay?” ~New Yorkers

Fulton Street Food Hall claims its pizzas are made using a “proprietary dough recipe.” We are not making this up.

Fulton Street Food Hall pizza

We assume the Hawaiian pizza contains some proprietary pineapples. Bonus: The Proprietary Pineapples would make a great band name.

Next stop is the comfort food station. Although we find pizza pretty comforting, but let’s not get bogged down in details.

comfort foods

What kinds of food aren’t comforting, come to think of it?

The sandwich breads are made fresh daily in-house, and there are eight types of bread to choose from, including a sassy Jalapeno Cheddar Roll.

Other offerings at the comfort food station will be swapped out from time-to-time, but on the day we visited, it was all about lasagna and meatloaf.

The salad station was decked out with a colorful display of fresh vegetables, which we’re pretty sure were for decoration only, but they make the whole place more inviting.

Fulton Street food court Harrah's

An eye-catching display of things you don’t actually get to eat.

Salads are made to order, and you can dine in or take your salad to-go. Same with the soups. Then again, you’re in Las Vegas. Why in the hell are you wasting your time on salads and soup? Go back to the dessert station immediately and order a heaping serving of YOLO.

salad bar

No one should ever utter the words, “I went to Las Vegas and ate foliage.”

Yes, Ming’s was taken away, but fans of Asian food will find plenty to like at the noodles and sushi stations.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Seating is limited at the sushi counter, so bring your throwing stars. Unless that’s racist, then nevermind.

The sushi station has a long list of “foods this blog has never tried” like eel, crab and octopus.

You can either sit at the sushi bar and watch the sushi chefs at work or get your sushi to-go.

Fulton Street sushi chef

Becoming a sushi chef, or “itamae,” typically takes five years of on-the-job training. This blog has never done anything for five years in a row, other than complaining about bars that don’t carry Captain Morgan spiced rum.

Next to the sushi bar is a noodle bar, with things like roast duck noodle soup and Singapore-style noodles.

But those aren’t really the bars we’re looking for when we’re in a Las Vegas casino. Thankfully, there’s a Fulton Street Bar inside the Fulton Street Food Hall. You can’t miss it, as the edge of the bar juts as close to the casino as you can get without impregnating it.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Any new bar at a Caesars Entertainment resort must now have a water feature.

There are signature cocktails like the “Cucumber Cup” made with Hendrick’s Gin, Robinsons Ginger Tom Ale, fresh mint and cucumber. There’s also the “Bakon Mary” with Bakon vodka, Bloody Mary mix, Guinness and a strip of bacon. There are also cocktails we might actually order sometime.

Yes, there are video poker machines at the bar. You should look into that gambling problem of yours.

Before we forget, while we’re not a big breakfast person, Fulton Street Food Hall will apparently offer a “traditional sit-down breakfast with table service,” in a section of the restaurant devoted to breakfast, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. daily.

If you care where your food comes from, the folks at Harrah’s say “all components of each of the dishes are locally-sourced and made in-house daily.”

Fulton Street Food Hall

How you locally-source berries in a desert, we’ll never know.

Also differentiating itself from food courts is the fact you can order items at various stations and pay at a central cashier station before you chow up (see below).

cashier

There’s a bit of an honor system here. We’re a big fan of customer being treated like grown-ups.

Fulton Station Food Hall does your typical buffet one better, too, in that it will be open 24 hours, seven days a week.

Overall, Fulton Street Food Hall is a great addition to Harrah’s Las Vegas (along with its new Signature Bar, because you can never have too many bars), and there’s clearly been a lot of thought put into appealing to value-seeking, no-frills Harrah’s customers.

Fulton Street Food Hall at Harrah’s Las Vegas is a clever food court and buffet hybrid, a refreshing switch from the reliable but formulaic, interchangeable food courts at Flamingo or Bally’s.

Fulton Street Food Hall

Fulton Street Food Hall was supposed to have been inspired by Fulton Street, a restaurant district in New Orleans. We witnessed a zero percent correlation. Although, they had to call it something.

Fulton Street Food Hall delivers fast food that doesn’t taste like fast food, in a welcoming atmosphere (11 TVs, but not intrusively so), without being a budget-buster.

We’ll be back, and we might even try the White Chocolate Mouse.

Fulton Street Food Hall at Harrah's

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12 Fascinating Facts About Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular games in Las Vegas casinos. The rules are fairly simple, and blackjack has one of the lowest house edges of all casino table games.

Here are 12 fascinating things about blackjack, assuming you use the word “fascinating” very, very loosely.

1. The first written mention of blackjack was in a collection of short stories by Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote.”

2. Blackjack got its name when gambling establishments started marketing a game called “Vingt-et-Un” (French for “21”), a European import, in America. Gambling joints offered bonus payouts to players, and one of the bonuses paid 10-to-1 if the player’s winning hand contained a black jack (spades or clubs). The “blackjack” name stuck.

Blackjack

Bonus trivia: Four suits, four seasons. Thirteen cards of each suit, 13 lunar cycles. Fifty-two cards, 52 weeks in a year. Seeing a pattern?

3. Casino blackjack tables have a small mirror used by dealers to check the “hole card.” The mirror is called a “peeker” or “peeper.”

blackjack peeper

The peeper has a mirror that allows the dealer to see their face-down card without revealing it to players.

4. Blackjack discard trays are translucent and red. The red discard trays are an attempt to thwart cheats who mark cards with inks. The marks are invisible to the naked eye, but can be seen by security personnel wearing tinted sunglasses or special contact lenses.

Blackjack discard tray

A cheat who uses marked cards is called a “paper worker.”

5. Your chances of getting a natural 21, or blackjack, are 4.8%.

6. The card dispenser used at many blackjack tables is called a “shoe.” That’s because early versions of the device looked like a woman’s high heel shoe.

7. A “cut card” is a blank, plastic card inserted into a deck by a player to let the dealer know when the cards need to be shuffled. (See cut cards in the photo below.)

8. When cards are dealt from a shoe, two cut cards are used. As mentioned above, one card denotes it’s time to shuffle. The other card ensures the last card in the shoe can’t be seen by players. The cards between the two cut cards are called the “plug.”

Blackjack plug

We’re pretty sure you’re going to be the only one at your blackjack table who knows what a “plug” is. Try not to gloat.

9. A “snapper” is another name for a natural blackjack (an ace and a face card), presumably because in the early days of blackjack, players would “snap” down their cards upon receiving a blackjack.

10. A blackjack player who’s “steaming” is one who bets erratically because their luck has gone south. It’s like poker players who go “on tilt.”

11. There’s a Blackjack Hall of Fame at the Barona Casino in San Diego. The casino offers inductees free rooms, food and drinks for life in exchange for agreeing to never play at the casino’s tables.

12. One of blackjack’s biggest fans was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. He played the game regularly, especially after he was exiled in Elba.

Now you know everything there is to know about blackjack. Well, at least some obscure stuff, ensuring you are going to, at some point, take Alex Trebek for a fortune.

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Central at Caesars Palace Goes Pork Belly Up, Will Close Any Day Now

Central by Michel Richard restaurant at Caesars Palace recently filed for bankruptcy protection, but it wasn’t enough to keep the struggling restaurant operating. The high-profile restaurant will close within a week.

Central restaurant

Dibs on the hanging plate thingys.

Central filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in mid-July, according to our friends at Eater Vegas.

Bankruptcy protection can often stave off a closure as a business gets its stuff together, but it hasn’t transpired for Central. Despite its ideal location, just off the lobby at Caesars Palace, Central owes more than $1 million to creditors.

About a week ago, Central was put on notice it had 14 days to close, which means the restaurant will shutter for good any day now.

Central cocktail

We will miss both the cheese puffs and cocktails most. But mostly those last things.

Central by Michel Richard restaurant opened to much fanfare in September 2011. Its namesake chef, Michel Richard, is a James Beard Foundation award-winner and has helmed a number of acclaimed restaurants.

Investors contributed $4.5 million to build out Central at Caesars Palace.

There’s no word yet on what new restaurant concept might replace Central, but given recent trends, it’s likely Caesars Palace will be seeking out a celebrity chef with whom to collaborate.

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Six Free, Entertaining Las Vegas Things We Didn’t Miss Until They Were Gone

For as long as Las Vegas has been Las Vegas, there has been free entertainment. Granted, in the early days of Las Vegas, that entertainment mainly consisted of watching tumbleweeds roll by, but it was free nonetheless.

In recent years, though, some of the free entertainment has dried up. Like the plants that eventually become tumbleweeds. Ah, the circularity of the universe.

In honor of the Las Vegas entertainment that is no more, we’ve painstakingly compiled this slapped-together list of things we didn’t miss until they were gone.

1. Blue Man Group Parade at Monte Carlo

Before each “Blue Man Group” show at Monte Carlo, band members would stroll the casino floor drumming up business. Literally.

The “Blue Man Group” procession was a lively way to raise awareness of the show and never failed to perk up denizens of the casino. As of Sep 14, 2014, however, the percussion parade is no more.

If you never caught the “Blue Man Group” parade, here’s your only remaining chance.

Here’s the show’s official statement about the demise of the parade: “The final appearance of Blue Man Group’s free nightly procession took place on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 14. It is in Blue Man Group’s DNA to continue to change and evolve and these recent modifications are a part of Blue Man Group’s natural creative progression.”

Translation: Not enough return on investment. Or it was a union thing. Or both.

Blue Man Group parade

Triplet-triplet-dragadiddle-flam, you will be missed.

The “Blue Man Group” procession is definitely a case of “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

Which reminds us, we didn’t appreciate Cinderella enough while it was around, either.

2. Dealertainers at The Quad

In case you missed the recent news, The Quad’s dealertainers (blackjack dealers who also performed free for guests) have left the building. Forever.

The dealertainers were always a cheesy part of The Quad, dating back to when The Quad was the Imperial Palace, but having learned they were going away, we find ourselves pining for them.

dealertainer

We hear some of the dealertainers are still dealing at The Quad. They’ll probably still sing a few notes at your blackjack table if you tip generously.

The Quad will soon become The Linq Hotel & Casino, and the dealertainers didn’t fit into the hotel’s new direction. Please don’t ask us what that new direction is, because we fear it may have something to do with fedoras and bottle service.

3. “Sirens of TI” at Treasure Island

What an awful show the “Sirens of TI” was, and some considered it a mercy killing when the show finally walked the plank.

Still, we find ourselves thinking about the Sirens from time to time, wondering whose timbers they’re shivering now that the show has closed.

Sirens of TI

Belching contests have better dialogue than “Sirens of TI.”

“Sirens of TI,” and before that, “Battle of Buccaneer Bay,” were wildly popular with visitors, but again, the costs couldn’t be justified in a Las Vegas where every square foot has to generate direct revenue.

We started missing the “Sirens of TI” even more acutely when we learned Sirens Cove, also known as Buccaneer Bay, was being carved up to make room for a shopping center.

Cue the saddest of all possible trombones.

4. Masquerade Show in the Sky at Rio Las Vegas

“Masquerade Show in the Sky” immediately leaps to mind when we ponder how Las Vegas has taken away things we didn’t pay much attention to at the time.

The free “Masquerade Show in the Sky” opened in 1997 and closed on March 30, 2013. Three guesses as to why. (Hint: Woodward and Bernstein were right to follow the money.)

“Masquerade Show in the Sky” gave guests a chance to ride on the show’s mechanical floats while tossing beaded necklaces into the skulls of onlookers, below.

Show in the Sky

Fact: Beads thrown from these overhead floats caused more eye injuries than running with scissors ever did.

Our optimism is slowly waning, but there’s always a chance Rio Las Vegas might dust off its “Show in the Sky” show sometime.

You might even say hope floats.

5. O’Sheas Shadow Dancers

Hardcore Las Vegas fans will recall there was sexy, free entertainment at the former O’Sheas in the form of shadow dancers in the casino’s windows.

The O’Sheas shadow dancers were life-like projections, and sadly their plug was pulled when the contract ran out with the company that created the saucy light show.

O'Sheas shadow dancer

The shadow dancers at O’Sheas were better than real strippers, mainly because it’s impossible to catch an STD from light particles.

The new O’Sheas, in The Linq shopping promenade, has been an incredible success, but is unfortunately shadow-free. On the bright side, they kept Lucky the Leprechaun. During a drunken stupor, we asked Lucky if he’d give us a show like the shadow dancers. Our groin is expected to heal in a month or two.

6. Cook E. Jarr at Harrah’s

Talk about taking someone for granted. Cook E. Jarr is the quintessential lounge lizard, and he has entertained Las Vegas visitors for more than three decades. The beloved entertainer recently had his last show at Harrah’s Las Vegas, with no new venue in sight. We miss him terribly, even though we rarely went to see him when we had the chance.

Update: Cook E. Jarr is back! He’s currently performing at Napoleon’s Lounge inside Paris Las Vegas.

Cook E. Jarr

Cook E. Jarr’s real name is Anthony Pettine. Good luck getting him to admit it.

Las Vegas entertainment, it turns out, is like romantic relationships. You sort of get used to having someone around all the time, and it takes them tripping and falling into a wood chipper to realize what you’ve lost. Then, you’d do anything to get them back.

So, let this serve as a reminder nothing is forever, especially in Las Vegas.

Enjoy the shadow dancers at Shadow Bar inside Caesars Palace while you can.

Cherish every minute of the free circus acts at Circus Circus, the erupting volcano at Mirage, Big Elvis at Harrah’s, the flamingos at Flamingo Las Vegas, the Botanical Gardens and dancing fountains at Bellagio.

What free Las Vegas things have you been taking for granted?

For better or worse, it’s clear this ain’t your grandpa’s Las Vegas. Oh, and for the record, we took our grandpa for granted a little bit, too. Damnit.

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