Monthly Archives: January 2016

Here’s How Cosmopolitan’s New High Limit Fastpay System Works

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas recently opened a new High Limit Slot Lounge.

The high limit area is spacious and welcoming, and the free cookies are spectacular. No, really, there are cookies.

Cosmopolitan high limit room

Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in the Cosmopolitan’s High Limit Slot Lounge, so we cannot show you the photo you are currently viewing.

When the High Limit Slot Lounge opened, Cosmopolitan touted a new system for “processing jackpots right at the machine.” As most slot players know, winning a jackpot of more than $1,200 in a Las Vegas casino means filling out tax forms so The Man can get his cut of your hard-won windfall.

It’s annoying, but it could be worse. The IRS has suggested $600 be the cut-off. Don’t get us started.

Fastpay is available at Cosmopolitan exclusively, so we figured we should find out more.

Cosmopolitan free cookies

Research fuel. And possibly the last loss-leader in Las Vegas.

Cosmo makes good on its promise, as Fastpay provides a number of advantages to the player. And the casino, of course, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

As advertised, Fastpay allows jackpots to be processed with zero delay and without attendant assistance. For most players, waiting for a hand pay is exciting stuff, but for high limit players, they’d prefer to just play on. Fastpay lets them do that.

Cosmopolitan high limit slots

We are not polishing all that.

Also as promised, Fastpay does reduce “legwork and paperwork, freeing up more time for play.” The system also “eliminates errors associated with manual completion of paperwork,” whatever those might actually be.

The secret to Fastpay is players provide their personal information before they play. Having one’s information in the casino’s system means when a taxable jackpot is hit, the player simply enters a PIN, the paperwork is done electronically, and the player can continue with nearly zero delay in play.

Fastpay is just that easy.

During our visit, we saw a player hit at least three taxable jackpots (at one point, she had $30,000 in credits on the machine), and her play was virtually uninterrupted.

Cosmopolitan Fastpay

Someday, “handpays” in Strip casinos could be a thing of the past. Like 3-to-2 blackjack and mob whackings.

If you consider hand pays can often take 15 or more minutes to complete, that’s an additional 45 minutes playing time which otherwise would have been idle.

Which brings us to the other reason Fastpay is ingenious. It allows players to play more. Playing
more tends to work out really well for the casino.

Cosmopolitan charging stations

These handy charging stations found between machines in the high limit slot area also encourage customers to keep playing. Sorry it’s blurry. Cocktail service in the high limit lounge is really, really quick.

Fastpay is only available in the Cosmopolitan’s High Limit Slot Lounge. Which makes sense, as Fastpay really only makes sense when a player gets multiple taxable jackpots, and that’s much more likely to happen in a high limit room.

Fastpay is just one example of how Cosmopolitan is getting serious about its casino like never before. The resort took years before it had its first two profitable months in the latter part of 2015.

Find out more about what the Cosmo is up to in CEO Bill McBeath’s interview with KNPR.

Fastpay in the Cosmopolitan’s High Limit Slot Lounge seems to be a win-win.

Wish we could say we got to personally use Fastpay during our most recent visit, but ultimately, we ended up enjoying some really, really expensive free cookies.

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Downtown Discovery: Stoned N Baked at Downtown Container Park is Worth the Trip

If you’ve never been to the Downtown Container Park, Stoned N Baked is the perfect reason to swing on by.

Stoned N Baked

“Stoned” and “Baked” are only redundant if you’re a stoner. You know who you are.

To say Stoned N Baked is compact would be an understatement. Like all the shops and restaurants at Downtown Container Park, this new offering fits inside a shipping container.

The quality and value at Stoned N Baked more than make up for the restaurant’s diminutive size.

Stoned N Baked Container Park

It’s quite a feat to fit so much scrumptious into such a wee space.

Seating is limited inside Stoned N Baked to say the least (there were three chairs during our visit, but we hear that will be expanded to six), so the food is mostly grab-and-go.

The restaurant’s colorful decor is the work of an artist with a nearby shop, Tanya Michelle Watler of Lil Art Bodega.

Stoned N Baked Las Vegas

A little tag, a little piece, a little roller, a little stencil, a lot of us faking something we know next to nothing about.

Stoned N Baked keeps things simple. The menu consists of pizza, salads (house, Caesar and arugula) and brownies.

Here’s the menu. Yes, this is all of it.

Stoned N Baked

Anything written in wax pencil can be translated as “subject to change without notice.”

The basic cheese pizza is $7, and it’s not available by the slice.

The prices are good and the pizza is top notch. There are currently 12 toppings to choose from. Why, here they are now.

Stoned N Baked

We went with cheese, but go nuts if you’d like.

The pizza has a thin crust, crispy at the edges and chewy in the center. It’s Chicago-style, so ingredents are under the melted cheese.

It takes only about five minutes for your pizza to be made from scratch and cooked in an imported Italian oven.

Stoned N Baked Downtown Container Park

Feel free to share, but because the pizza is thin and light, you can finish one off on your own.

Playing on its edgy name, there’s a “Dime” special (a reference to a $10 bag of marijuana), which includes a pizza, bag of chips and soda for $10. Tax is included.

Stoned N Baked

You thought we were kidding, didn’t you?

While this restaurant’s pizza game is strong, the co-star on the menu threatens to overshadow the pies. The company that manages Stoned N Baked is SasaSweets, with a solid reputation for confections, and the brownies at Stoned N Baked are off-the-chart good. Yes, even when you’re not under the influence of anything.

The turtle brownie below is $3.

Stoned N Baked

This brownie was so epic, we considered impregnating it. Don’t worry, we were also going to marry it at Downtown Container Park’s new wedding chapel. We have a sense of decency, you know.

When Nevada finally gets around to having a clue and legalizing recreational marijuana, Stoned N Baked is going to be poised for a serious windfall. (For the record, this blog has never personally even tried marijuana, but we hear it has some fans.)

Stoned N Baked joins a strong collection of eateries and is likely to be a hit with an under-served group of Downtown Container Park visitors—kids.

Stoned N Baked

We’d totally get this as a tattoo were it not for the fact we are an inveterate coward.

Downtown Container Park has a giant playground at its heart, and they’ve yet to invent a child that doesn’t like pizza, so Stoned N Baked is a great fit for the quirky, eclectic shopping center.

Stoned N Baked can be found on the second floor of Downtown Container Park, in the space formerly occupied by Simply Pure Vegan Cafe. Don’t freak out, vegans. Simply Pure Vegan Cafe moved to another spot at Downtown Container Park.

Stoned N Baked

Leave no slice behind.

Stoned N Baked exceeded all expectations, and we’ll be adding it to our regular rotation of restaurants downtown. Which, of course, is one of the highest honors a Las Vegas restaurant can receive that doesn’t involve a trophy or cash prize.

Insider tip: If you visit Stoned N Baked, but are uncomfortable having “Stoned N Baked” show up on your corporate credit card, ask to pay at the establishment’s sister shop, “ChillSpot.”

If you stop by Stoned N Baked, say you heard about them at Vital Vegas. They won’t have any idea what you’re talking about, but it’ll break the ice and help avoid having to make small talk about the weather.

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Sands Corp. Proposes $1 Billion Stadium to Lure NFL Team to Las Vegas

Some bigtime sports news has nearly caused Sin City’s collective head to ‘splode, so here it is: Las Vegas Sands Corp. has proposed a $1 billion, 65,000-seat stadium to be built on 42 acres recently purchased by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Yes, that’s a big deal, but that’s not all.

Las Vegas Sands executives, including CEO Sheldon Adelson, are meeting with reps of the Oakland Raiders, leading to speculation the team could relocate to Las Vegas.

This is pretty much where all the heads ‘sploded, in case you’re keeping score at home.

Las Vegas Raiders

Fun fact: The Raiders logo was inspired by our friend and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke. Look, we needed a Vegas tie-in, so that’s the story we’re sticking to.

This news sparks a lot more questions than answers, mainly along the lines of “WTF?”

If Sands Corp. wanted to build a stadium, why didn’t they purchase the land involved rather than paying for a stadium on somebody else’s land?

Given the history of antagonism between the NFL and Las Vegas (“Gambling, bad!”), has something suddenly changed?

Is the Raiders meeting just a ploy to intimidate Oakland into building a new stadium for the team?

There are others more qualified to provide an analysis of the liklihood of the stadium project and Raider move scenario transpiring. Oh, who are we kidding? Everyone is more qualified to provide an analysis of the liklihood of this scenario transpiring. Some of those include the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ralston Reports, ESPN and Fox Sports.

If the Raiders, or any NFL team, come to Las Vegas, that’ll make two professional teams, as an NHL expansion team is expected to take up residence in the new Las Vegas Arena.

Rumors about arena and stadium projects in Las Vegas are as plentiful as showgirls with eating disorders, so we’ll see if this one pans out. Having someone with deep pockets behind the project, rather than just the usual high hopes and questionable Asian financing, got our attention.

Tell us what you think!

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MGM Resorts Hauls Ass Toward April 4 Opening of Dining and Entertainment District, The Park

MGM Resorts has set April 4, 2016 as the opening date for The Park, its new dining and
entertainment district between New York-New York and Monte Carlo.

The Park at Monte Carlo

You go, two billion construction dudes.

How fast are things moving? Two weeks ago, that structure on the left didn’t exist.

The Park Las Vegas

Vegas magic.

The entire area in and around The Park, including the new Las Vegas Arena and Monte Carlo
Theater, is bustling with activity. Thankfully, the New York-New York parking garage
provides a great vantage point to capture photos of the all the latest developments.

The Park Las Vegas

This area outside the Las Vegas Arena will have live music. Several repeater towers were pilfered from the Rock of Rio USA site.

MGM Resorts is touting The Park as the “Las Vegas Strip’s first park,” although that’s
only really true if you have a short memory. There was actually a park outside Bally’s,
complete with trees, foliage and a water feature. That park was demolished to make way
for the spectacularly repugnant Grand Bazaar Shops.

The Park at the Las Vegas Arena (official name: T-Mobile Arena, but we don’t like the
sound of that as much) will have a mix of restaurant and bars, as well as live
entertainment.

Some of the offerings won’t be opening April 4, but there should be enough to make The
Park worth a visit, with more venues opening in the weeks and months to follow. The
20,000-seat Las Vegas Arena opens April 6, 2016.

Las Vegas Arena

A new ramp from the New York-New York parking garage back on Jan. 10.

Here’s the new ramp now.

T-Mobile Arena

The Las Vegas Arena cost $375 million, or basically what this Las Vegas blog spends on Captain Morgan each month.

A distinctive element of The Park are its signature trumpet-shaped sculpture thingys.
(Not the technical name. They don’t seem to have a technical name.) At night, the
sculptures will “emit marvelous LED sequences from high above, captivating guests below.”

Never change, Las Vegas news releases. Never, ever change.

Park Arena Las Vegas

To our highly-trained eye, these art pieces resemble the trumpet-leaf pitcher plant, or “Sarracenia flava.” And by “highly-trained,” of course, we mean “drunker than an Amish teen on Rumspringa.”

MGM Resorts has ponied up a list of restaurants opening by April 4, including Shake
Shack, Beer Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Sake Rok and Bruxie.

The vastly over-hyped Shake Shack opened at New York-New York on Dec. 29, 2014. From the
looks of MGM Resorts’ announcement, there will be an affiliated location inside The Park district somewhere.

The Beer Garden, currently a thing in Las Vegas (there’s another Beer Garden opening at
Paris Las Vegas on Jan. 30, 2016), will offer “farm-to-table meats” (also currently a
thing in Las Vegas), “an impressive regional craft brew list” (also a thing), live music
(always a thing) and games like darts, bocce ball and ping pong (so much of a thing it’s
not even funny).

The Park New York-New York

We have no idea how we’re going to get photos of the buildings at The Park. Thanks a lot, trees.

The reliably good California Pizza Kitchen should also be open by April 4. The CPK at The
Park will have an outdoor patio, easily the most popular kind.

Sake Rok will serve up Japanese cuisine. At night, “Sake Rok will transform into a high-
profile social dining extravaganza, immersing guests in an experience part culinary, part
performance and completely unexpected.” And you know what? We’re going to go there,
anyway.

Oh, wait, interactive servers will “double as entertainers, spontaneously breaking into
dance and lip-sync serenades.” Well, we’re definitely going to the Beer Garden!

Las Vegas Arena

There’s a lot of new on the Las Vegas Strip. NHL expansion team announcement soon, too, promise.

There’s also Bruxie, a fast-casual, gourmet waffle restaurant. The description of the
food sounds delicious, and reviews are good for the California locations. Looking forward
ot this one.

Beyond the dining and drinking, MGM Resorts has spent a good deal of time thinking about
the landscaping at The Park. Visitors into horticulture should enjoy discovering all the
various plant life including santolina, apache plum, mormon fir, red yucca, torch lily,
desert bear grass, Mexican feather grass, orange sedge, blue agave, golf tooth aloe and
horsetail. Our keyboard’s copy and paste function has rarely come in this handy!

The Park Las Vegas

Eat. Drink. Perambulate. Repeat.

All kidding aside (don’t count on it), The Park should provide lots of delicious new diversions on the Las Vegas Strip.

As if the new arena and The Park weren’t enough, Monte Carlo is building a fancy new theater. The long-awaited announcement of a new name for Monte Carlo should be coming soon. It’s telling the Monte Carlo name has been removed from a marquee at the arena site.

Monte Carlo rebrand

Don’t get all weepy. You’ll cause a short in your electronic device.

Here’s a closer look at the Monte Carlo Theater construction area.

Monte Carlo Theater

The 5,000-seat Monte Carlo Theater was formerly home to Blue Man Group. They’re back at Luxor, once voted “Most Uncomfortable Las Vegas Hotel to Sit On, Ever.”

The new name for the Monte Carlo is one of the most closely-guarded secrets in Las Vegas at the moment, but the investment in The Park means it’s not unreasonable to think “Park” will be part of the name, despite parking being a touchy subject at MGM Resorts at the moment.

Monte Carlo Las Vegas

Monte Carlo’s days are numbered. Because every day has a number. Hence the popularity of calendars.

Learn more about The Park restaurant and entertainment district at the destination’s fancy new official Web site.

Enjoy a relative slew of photos from The Park, the Las Vegas Arena and the Monte Carlo Theater. It’s an exciting time for Las Vegas. Which is why we’re not standing up at the moment. Thanks for making it awkward.

 

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Stratosphere’s Level 107 Lounge Becomes 107 SkyLounge, Keeps One of the Best Happy Hours in Las Vegas

We’ve long sung the praises of the happy hour at Level 107 Lounge at Stratosphere, and we won’t need to change our tune now that it’s become 107 SkyLounge.

The “107” in 107 SkyLounge refers to the floor the bar is on, and the view alone would make it a must-do in Las Vegas.

107 SkyLounge

Guys, Spanish Flies aren’t real. This view, however, is.

But 107 SkyLounge ups the ante with not one happy hours, but two.

There’s an early happy hour, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., where appetizers are half price and cocktails are two-for-one.

Appetizers are half price during a late happy hour, from 10:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. And there’s another two-for-one cocktail happy hour from 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

Both the food and drinks are great, and the discounted prices make them even more appealing.

White Peach Margarita

The White Peach Margarita should serve all your panty-dropping needs.

The food, small plates and appetizers, come from the same chefs as the Strat’s Top of the World restaurant.

107 SkyLounge Stratosphere

Please don’t confuse the sliders at 107 SkyLounge with the sliders at Skyfall Lounge at Delano. Significantly better value here.

DJs do their thing starting at 11:00 p.m., so that’s either a reason to stay late or to leave early, depending upon your level of enjoyment of the DJ experience.

Making 107 SkyLounge an even better value is the fact visitors going up to the Stratosphere’s observation deck pay $20 to do so ($12 for hotel guests, $10 for children ages 4-12). If you say you’re hitting 107 SkyLounge, you get to ride in the super fast elevators—they travel three floors per second—free of charge.

Here’s more about one of the best happy hours in Las Vegas.

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Caesars Palace Plays Red Light, Green Light for Comped Drinks at Sports Book Bar

On the heels of Mirage rolling out a voucher system to regulate how comped drinks are earned by video poker players, Caesars Palace has implemented a new system of its own.

It’s a little like Red Light, Green Light, but it’s no game, and it could signal another unfortunate penny-pinching trend by Las Vegas casinos.

The Red Light, Green Light comp drink system is currently at one bar, the Race and Sports Book Bar at Caesars Palace.

Caesars Palace sports book bar

The Race and Sports Book Bar at Caesars made its debut in Sep. 2014 at a cost of $1.6 million.

The casino has installed three small lights on the back of each video poker machine at the bar.

One light is green, another is red, and a third is blue.

Most customers would probably never even notice the lights, but they’re used by bartenders to determine if players are worthy of comped cocktails while sitting at the bar.

Caesars Palace sports bar comps

Yes, there’s a blue light, but “Red Light, Green Light, Blue Light” sounds stupid. Just play along.

Here’s how it works.

First, the blue light turns on of the customer at the car has inserted $20 into the machine. It serves as a baseline to differentiate between customers drinking and enjoying sports on the nearby screens and those playing video poker.

Typically, a bartender can comp a first drink if a player puts money into a machine, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with the Red Light, Green Light system.

Only after a player has qualified with their play do they get the green light for a comped cocktail.

Caesars comped drink system

Skynet has deemed you worthy of a comped drink.

Red light, no comped drink for you.

There’s no publicly available formula for how much play is required to get a comped drink under this new system. One player we spoke said he had $40 in the machine and hadn’t yet been approved by the machine for a comped drink.

There are likely a number of variables, as is the case with the Mirage voucher system.

You certainly need to be playing “max coin,” and duration of play is likely to figure into the formula created by bean counters to ensure you’re not getting something for nothing.

As with the Mirage voucher system, its bartenders who are between a rock and a WTF place with customers accustomed to getting comped drinks more frequently and without having to get the approval of a robotic overlord.

Caesars comped drinks

Casino bartenders have typically decided the frequency of comped drinks for players, but no more, and they’re super stoked about it.

When you ask bartenders at these bars what they think of the new systems, they are diplomatic, but it’s obvious such practices are hurting not only their tips but the image of the companies implementing them.

These automated systems for approving comped cocktails are the latest among a series of moves by Las Vegas casinos to evaluate every aspect of their business to find ways of cutting costs and create new sources of revenue from perks long given to guests for “free.”

Of course, nothing’s ever really been “free,” but casinos have a long tradition of using things like comped drinks and free parking as loss-leaders, then making their money back in the casino. Those days are at an end, for better or worse.

Caesars sports book comps

Red Light, Green Light is often abbreviated RLGL, and is called “Grandmother’s Footsteps” in the U.K. Which isn’t creepy at all.

We’ve railed endlessly about the casino practice of casinos swapping name brand liquors for generic ones on comped drinks, and ranted frequently about CNF charges at Vegas restaurants, and while the “RLGL” system isn’t as insidious, it certainly doesn’t enhance the guest experience.

On the bright side, it’s just the one bar. Two, if you include Mirage’s lobby bar. All right, three, since it’s rumored Bond bar at Cosmopolitan is using a ticket system, too. Sensing a pattern here?

Let us know what you think about this new practice, and don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts with the casinos directly.

Ultimately, we get to vote with our business, and only a hit to the bottom line can stem the tide of a Vegas where robots decide how blitzed we get to be when we play.

 

Update (9/25/16): In a somewhat shocking development, the “Red Light, Green Light” comp drink monitoring system has been rolled out to every Caesars Entertainment casino in Las Vegas. The comp light system can be found at every sports book and casino bar in nine Caesars Entertainment resorts. Read more.

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