Monthly Archives: July 2016

Wahlburgers Las Vegas Opens at Bally’s and, Yep, It’s a Burger Place

After a series of agonizing delays, Wahlburgers restaurant has finally opened at the Grand Bazaar Shops outside Bally’s Las Vegas.

The new restaurant is a welcome addition to the underwhelming Grand Bazaar Shops. In fact, it could very well be the only reason to visit what amounts to an outdoor flea market, unless you’re looking for some calming solitude when you’re on The Strip.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

Wahlburgers has plans to open 30 more stores in seven states. This will be everyone’s favorite, because Las Vegas.

Wahlburgers, of course, is a restaurant chain that comes from the Siblings Wahlberg, including movie star Mark Wahlberg; New Kids on the Block member, Donnie Wahlberg; and the Executive Chef of Wahlburgers, Paul Wahlberg.

“Wahlburgers” is also a reality TV series on the A&E network.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

Stand here for your selfie.

Were it not for the Wahlberg name, Wahlburgers would be a fairly unremarkable burger joint in a town with some of the best burgers on the planet. It’s hard to ignore the fact BurGR from Gordon Ramsay is just one resort away at Planet Hollywood.

The burgers are solid, though, and we’re always up for any burger restaurant that also boasts a fully-stocked bar.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas bar

Bar seating is perfect for solo dining. Plus, you’re closer to the hooch.

Wahlburgers sits at the “back” of the Grand Bazaar Shops, just outside of the Bally’s casino. The location a godsend for other tenants in the complex, as guests must trek through the collection of boutique shops to get to to the burgers. Please don’t let the “boutique” thing make them sound more appealing then they are.

The 5,000-square-foot restaurant offers a walk-up counter, bar seating and an outdoor patio.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

The dining area isn’t huge, especially by Vegas standards, and we expect there may be a wait once Wahlburgers hits its stride. We’re already hearing about waits in the 30-45 minute range at certain times.

Wahlburgers is officially in a soft opening mode, so presumably kinks in service are being worked out. An official grand opening is expected soon, presumably when it fits into Mark Wahlberg’s schedule.

The menu at Wahlburgers features sandwiches, hot dogs, salads and desserts.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

They might be using the term “gourmet” a little loosely, but it’ll do the trick.

Prices are what we’ve come to expect on The Strip, with burgers in the $10-15 range. Fries are $5. Our basic burger (The Our Burger), fries and a soda totaled $19, before tax and tip.

At that price, we like to think Mark Wahlberg fashioned our patty with his bare hands, quoting lines from “Ted” while wearing his prosthetic device from “Boogie Nights.”

When you’re trying your first Wahlburgers, make sure to look up. There, you’ll see the screen credits of Mark and Donnie Wahlberg.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

Just pretend they’re equally famous, as we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

It’s also worth noting there’s a branch office of Wahlburgers near the entrance to the Grand Bazaar Shops. There, you can get Wahlburgers merchandise and slushy drinks, but no food.

The slushy drinks include favorites like piña colada, strawberry, margarita and mai tai flavors. It’ll cost you $20 for a 32-ounce drink, beer is $6.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

Hit this Wahlburgers outpost for merch and inebriation-on-the-go.

Overall, Wahlburgers is worth a stop, especially if you’re a fan of the “Wahlburgers” TV series, just as tons of “Pawn Stars” fans stop by the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, downtown.

We’d love to hear what you think of Wahlburgers, especially if you agree with us. Until then, enjoy some poorly-composed photos from the new Wahlburgers Las Vegas.

Wahlburgers Las Vegas

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10 Ways Thrillist Got Casinos, and Las Vegas, Wrong

We make no apologies for the fact this blog loves it some “listicles” (a catch-all for “information presented in list form”), and we also love a site that frequently publishes them, Thrillist.

Recently, though, Thrillist was responsible for a story we simply can’t let stand.

The piece is called “10 Sneaky Ways Las Vegas Casinos Take Your Money.” The article rehashes lots of outdated Las Vegas myths, jumps to lots of erroneous conclusions and states a number of falsehoods as truth, so we figured it would be fun to lend our two cents to the conversation.

If you don’t already live by the credo, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” now might be a good time to start.

1. Casinos are Windowless Traps

Right up front, Thrillist asserts “casinos are windowless traps.” We call bull.

Many newer casinos have windows and natural light. The extent to which this assertion is misguided can be easily illustrated by the fact casino companies are now building entire venues outside. Those include the multi-million dollar Linq promenade and The Park, between Monte Carlo and New York-New York.

Bliss Dance The Park Las Vegas

It’s true The Park at New York-New York is windowless, but that’s because it’s all outside.

The article also asks, “Where is the nearest exit?” Seriously? There are signs for exits everywhere. Fire and safety regulations require casinos to post exit signs everywhere. Being sneaky about exits simply wouldn’t be tolerated in casinos.

Although these tidbits make for a colorful conspiracy theory, they’re simply not true upon further scrutiny.

2. Casinos Don’t Have Clocks

The Thrillist article asks, “What time of day is it?” We say it’s time to get a clue about Las Vegas and the modern world.

While you can’t often find clocks inside a casino, why would you need one? Just about every person in a casino has a smartphone on them that shows the time!

Whether the trope about clocks is true or false, why would it matter if casinos provide clocks? Let’s put this old saw to rest, already.

Las Vegas dice clock, wrong Thrillist

Clocks? We’ve got a metric ass-ton of clocks.

3. Casino Cages Are Hard to Find

The Thrillist article posits, as fact, casino cages are difficult to find.

“It always seems that the casino cage is hard to find, requiring a walk deep into the casino—past many other games and temptations.”

The hooey is strong with this one.

There’s nothing sinister going on with the placement of casino cages. The location of cages is based upon security concerns, and signage for cages is everywhere.

Today’s casinos are all about customer service. Annoy a customer by hiding a cage and they won’t be back. Also, many casinos have players club desks at the cage, so why would they want to deter players from signing up?

Riviera cashier cage

Placement of casino cages has more to do with structural demands and security than anything nefarious.

In addition, most people playing in casinos are doing so at slot machines. Those machines spit out TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out) vouchers that can be redeemed at self-serve kiosks, more numerous than ever.

4. Casino Cages Are Intentionally Understaffed

The Thrillist story continues, “And once you find it, often there is a line with only one person there to service those who want to trade their chips in for cash.”

We have personally been to every casino in Las Vegas, for a time period spanning more than a decade, and we have never been to a casino cage with one attendant.

Again, slow service doesn’t benefit a casino. We presume there are also regulatory and security requirements about someone being left along with millions of dollars in cash.

If hogwash and hokum had a bastard child, it would be this.

5. Wild Casino Carpets “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”

We’ve heard this ridiculous theory for years now, and it’s never been true. We’re very familiar with the concept of “unpleasant design,” a concept covered masterfully in a recent episode of the exceptional 99% Invisible podcast. (Many Las Vegas casinos use sharp and pointed design elements on their outdoor features to keep vagrants from sitting or sleeping at their venue, for example.)

But casino carpets aren’t that.

The reason casino carpets are colorful, and have distinctive design details, is to disguise stains. Casino carpets get a lot of traffic, and much of that traffic is drunk and carrying liquor. Spills are frequent, and busy carpeting helps camouflage spills and stains. As usual, practicality wins over conspiracy.

Mermaids carpet

Las Vegas fans love casino carpet, even if it looks it was designed by someone with severe head trauma.

6. Casinos Teach Players Wrong

Thrillist encourages casino guests to be careful who they learn from, the implication being that if you take free gambling lessons at a casino, instructors don’t “exactly have a ton of incentive to teach the best bets that give players the best chance to win.”

Free gambling lessons are a popular service, and it’s not on the casino to teach every detail of a given game. The idea is to give an introduction to the game, and it’s on the player to learn the nuances, odds and strategies.

Ultimately, all casino games are stacked in favor of the house. Casinos don’t have to be “sneaky.” They need to make customers feel welcome, they need to differentiate themselves from their competition (free services do that) and they need to provide a memorable, safe, fun experience.

Gaming lessons

Casinos don’t teach guests to lose, they teach them to play. The winning and losing is all on us.

That said, we’re not oblivious to the ways casino games avoid having big, red arrows pointing to the better bets on a given table game. You won’t find any wording about “odds” bets on a craps table, despite that bet being one of the best in the casino. And you’ll almost always see the “Big 6” and “Big 8” bets (sucker bets) clearly marked.

But casinos aren’t teaching players wrong. They’re whetting our whistles, and what happens from there is up to us.

7. “Cash Advance Leads to Winless Trance”

This item seems to be included in the Thrillist article to warn us against using credit card cash advances. Great advice, but we’re baffled as to how this is a strategy by casinos to take
our money.

Yes, casino ATMs charge for withdrawals and cash advances. Fees are clearly stated during the transaction. Yes, credit cards charge interest for money we borrow.

Is any of this underhanded on the part of a casino? Of course not.

8. Dirty Hidden Fees, Part One: Resort Fees

Again, this item isn’t so much incorrect as it is irrelevant.

Thrillist says, “Many casino hotels charge what are called ‘resort fees’—daily charges tacked on to the hotel bill for ‘resort amenities’ rather than just including them in the cost of the hotel room—which is just a way to bump up what you thought was a reasonable bill.”

Fair definition, and nobody likes resort fees, but what in the name of all that’s Vegas do resort fees have to do with casinos?

Resort fees

At one time, Caesars Entertainment touted the fact it didn’t have resort fees. That was adorable.

We bash resort fees often, but they’re a worldwide problem in the hotel industry. Proportionately few of the offending hotels are in Las Vegas and only a tiny fraction have casinos in them. Somebody’s fluffing up their listicle!

Note: Thrillist uses a photo of the Fremont casino in its story, a downtown hotel that doesn’t charge resort fees.

9. Dirty Hidden Fees, Part Two: CNF Charges

Our blog is a likely source for this entry in the Thrillist article, as we’ve ranted about CNF charges frequently.

Thrillist says, “There are plenty of great restaurants in Vegas and plenty of places to eat in Vegas for $10 or less—but on [sic] of the most infuriating practices for a few restaurants, especially on the Strip, is the Concession and Franchise Fee (known as a CNF)—sticking it to diners for an extra 4.7% on every bill.”

So, we’re not saying Thrillist was wrong in bashing these asinine charges at places like Beer Park and Hexx at Paris, Cabo Wabo Cantina, Senor Frog’s and Rhumbar. We’re just saying what does this have to do with casinos?

CNF charges are a restaurant thing, so while sneaky, they’re not casino-related.

Las Vegas CNF fee

CNF charges are the ugliest kind of gratuitous fees, but they’re not a casino thing.

10. Casino Players Clubs Are Somehow Sneaky

Thrillist says casino players clubs are “the club you don’t want to be a part of,” then the article goes on to say “joining a players club at casinos will earn you ‘cash back’ and ‘players points,’ the more you gamble the more perks and points you get.” Well, they got it half right.

Getting perks and cash back for your play certainly sounds sneaky, doesn’t it?

Then Thrillist goes off the rails, stating “these clubs are designed to keep players at the tables and slot machines longer.”

How do we put this diplomatically? WTF are they talking about? Here’s the truth: Casino players clubs exist to track play and reward loyalty. They’re a marketing tool.

Loyalty clubs are like frequent flyer miles, and in fact, casino loyalty clubs were pretty much lifted from airline reward programs. Are airlines being “sneaky”?

Players club frame

Bonus: Players club cards make excellent picture frames. See our list of other alternate uses for your loyalty club cards.

Loyalty clubs offer players perks they wouldn’t get if a card weren’t used. So, it’s sort of the opposite of a sneaky way casinos take our money. It’s a way to give loyal customers something back.

Again, many of the misconceptions and myths in the Thrillist article are common.

But the bottom line is casinos don’t have to be sneaky to make money. They have two things on their side: Math and time.

For every bet made in a casino, the house gets a piece. When you lose, they get your money. If you win, they take a commission by paying out slightly less than the odds would dictate.

Roulette

A straight up bet on roulette should pay 37-to-1 based upon the odds, but pays 35-to-1. That difference is called the “vig,” or “juice.”

Every for-profit industry tries to make the most of things that trigger our biases and motivations. Casinos aren’t any worse or better than the others.

If you’re going to go after casinos for trying to make money with design or psychology, you also have to go after breakfast cereal companies for placing products at the eye level of kids.

Articles like the one on Thrillist perpetuate the myth casinos are somehow trying to hoodwink us. The truth is the casino industry is one of the most-regulated industries around.

Casinos and Las Vegas deserve better. Dig deeper, ask questions, don’t perpetuate myths. (No, oxygen isn’t being pumped into casinos.)

The Thrillist article is still worth a read. It’s true people bet more when using chips than cash, and the article also gets it right that “there’s no such thing as free booze.”

If you want to learn more about how casinos use light, sound, interior design and ergonomics to keep the money rolling in, read “Addiction by Design” by Natasha Dow Schull. We’d love to hear your take on all this.

It should be noted we’ve worked at, and for, casinos during our time in Las Vegas. We used to write the blog for Caesars Entertainment, and our current day gig is at Fremont Street Experience, which is financially supported by its member casinos. That said, we have a pretty good history of calling out casinos when they’re doing something we don’t like (which happens far too often, actually). As with anything you read on the Internet, question everything and decide for yourself who gets it right.

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How to Park Free at MGM Resorts Casinos in Las Vegas

Just about everyone had a freak-out when MGM Resorts announced it would begin charging for parking at its Las Vegas resorts.

Paid parking has been rolled out at most MGM Resorts casinos in Las Vegas, and the world has not ended, but it’s still an irksome charge most would prefer to avoid.

Paid parking MGM Resorts

You are one or two more sentences away from rendering this question moot.

Thankfully, there’s an easy way one can park free at any MGM Resorts casino. It’s the new M Life Rewards MasterCard.

The new M Life Rewards MasterCard was unveiled when MGM Resorts relaunched its M Life players club as M Life Rewards.

When you get an M Life Rewards MasterCard, you’re automatically upgraded to Pearl tier status. Those who achieve that status can self-park for free at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas.

M Life Rewards Cards tiers

They had us at “no annual fee.”

MGM Resorts owns a metric hell-ton of Las Vegas casinos, and parking fees run about $10 a day, so this perk is a pretty big deal. See specifics about the parking fees at MGM Resorts.

MGM Resorts casinos include Bellagio, Circus Circus, Aria, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Mirage, Monte Carlo (soon to be Park MGM) and New York-New York.

MGM Resorts parking kiosk

We’re pretty sure paid parking kiosks are how Skynet got its start.

Free parking is just one of the benefits of snagging an M Life Rewards MasterCard. Cardholders get Rewards Points and Tier Credits for each dollar they spend using the card. Those with Pearl status get priority check-in and buffet line passes.

Oh, and the M Life Rewards MasterCard has no foreign transaction fees, whatever those might actually be.

All the details about the new MGM Resorts credit card can be found at the official site, and don’t say we never did anything for you.

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Stewart + Ogden Closes at Downtown Grand, Freedom Beat Already in the Works

As first predicted by our seemingly clairvoyant Twitter account, Downtown Grand has closed the doors to its Stewart + Ogden restaurant.

The hotel’s 24-hour cafe closed July 5, 2016.

Stewart + Ogden closed

Downtown Grand was formerly the Lady Luck. Stewart + Ogden now also falls into the “former” category.

Construction of a new restaurant, Freedom Beat, is already underway.

The new offering will expand the restaurant’s footprint to include another closed restaurant at Downtown Grand, Red Mansion.

Stewart + Odgen

With construction walls, all things are possible.

Word has it Stewart + Ogden has already been gutted, a good sign the restaurant will get a significant overhaul rather than a superficial revamp.

Staffers at the hotel say the renderings for Freedom Beat are impressive.

The menu at Freedom Beat will be American, although details haven’t been released yet.

It bodes well for the menu that “Hell’s Kitchen” winner Scott Commings is helping to build the new restaurant’s menu. Commings won season 12 of the popular cooking competition show, and took the reins as Executive Chef at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace.

Guests seeking sustenance at Downtown Grand aren’t without options. A temporary restaurant has been set up inside the hotel’s Art Bar, near the registration desk.

Art Bar is replete with the former restaurant’s chairs, mainly because we think “replete” makes things sound fancier.

Freedom Beat

We’re always up for a better experience, especially if there’s liquor involved.

The Stewart + Ogden menu has been slimmed down slightly, but there’s still a solid selection of breakfast dishes, salads, burgers and sandwiches.

Most dishes run in the $10-12 range. Take a look.

Stewart + Ogden closed

There’s still a functioning bar at Art Bar. Don’t freak out.

Much as the rebrand of its pool complex to Citrus has livened things up at Downtown Grand, a change-out of its hotel restaurant could be a welcome addition. We hear there will be an entertainment component to the new restaurant, an intriguing prospect. (Please, no dueling pianos! That did not go well at the closed Mob Bar.)

Across the street, Pizza Rock and Triple George are doing brisk business, but The Commissary continues to struggle with its challenging location. It’s expected that restaurant will close soon as well. There’s been no word on where the Commissary’s collection of 100 tequila varieties will end up, but we have some suggestions.

Staffers say Freedom Beat is being fast-tracked, and should be open for business in a mere month or two. The new restaurant hasn’t even been officially announced, but that’s never stopped us before.

We’re always up for something new, so we can’t wait to try the new restaurant at Downtown Grand!

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Lucky Dragon Defies the Odds, Shows Progress

It looks like Lucky Dragon, the new Asian-themed hotel-casino just off the Las Vegas Strip, is making good on its promises.

Evidence suggests construction is again under way on the project, and developers claim Lucky Dragon will open in late 2016.

Lucky Dragon construction

In Chinese mythology, dragons have 117 scales. Of those, 81 are of the yang essence, 36 are of the yin essence. Coincidentally, one of our favorite colognes is Essence of Yang.

Plagued by financial troubles, Lucky Dragon’s backers appear to have found the millions needed to resume construction.

Lucky Dragon’s casinos structure has been draped in cloth for a number of months now, but no more. The once-stalled project is showing signs of activity, inside and out.

Lucky Dragon Las Vegas

At left, the Lucky Dragon hotel, with 204 rooms. Center, the Lucky Dragon casino. At right, the Allure condominium tower, which is just happy to see you.

We’re setting our skepticism aside and rooting for the boutique hotel to open on schedule, at least according to its revised timeline.

Lucky Dragon is located near the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue, close to the Bonanza Gift Shop and SLS Las Vegas.

Lucky Dragon

It looks like Lucky Dragon is back to being a thing again. Fingers crossed.

If and when Lucky Dragon opens, it will be the first Las Vegas casino to be built from the ground up since the Cosmopolitan opened in 2010.

Among Lucky Dragon’s distinctive features will be signage in Chinese first, English second. The resort’s casino will emphasize games popular with Asian players such as baccarat, pai gow poker and sic bo, whatever that might actually be.

“The best player in the world right now is the Chinese gambler,” says the project’s CEO, Andrew Fonfa. Lucky Dragon will have a tea garden as well, hosting traditional Chinese tea ceremonies.

It’s great seeing renewed activity at the Lucky Dragon site, and assuming things proceed according to plan, we look forward to having a new resort offering in Las Vegas where we can order food we have no idea how to pronounce.

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The Riviera’s Casino Is No More

The iconic casino at Riviera Las Vegas, featured in films like “Casino” and the upcoming “Jason Bourne,” is no more.

Riviera demolition

Now you know why casinos call it a “pit.”

The best way to view the ongoing destruction at the Riviera site, which now includes the obliteration of the facade along Las Vegas Boulevard, is by air.

Your wish is our security breach.

The area currently being demolished at Riviera was formerly an abandoned rooftop pool, the casino itself and a below ground self-parking garage.

Riviera demolition

Stop looking for your favorite machine. All the Riviera’s slots were purchased by Derek Stevens, owner of downtown’s The D and Golden Gate.

A number of small rise buildings have been demolished across the Riviera site, and one of the hotel’s towers has been imploded.

The Monte Carlo is being prepared for implosion. It’s been completely wrapped in plastic as crews make a valiant attempt to do asbestos abatement.

Riviera Las Vegas

Shout-out to everyone who found this blog post by searching “Las Vegas latex bodysuit fetish” in Google.

The Riviera closed May 4, 2015. The aging hotel was sold to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a convention center expansion.

Remember the Riv’s food court? Gutted.

Riviera food court demolition

It’s possible the Riviera’s demolition has actually saved lives. Just saying.

Stop by and bid farewell to the Riviera. You can smell the history. No, really.

Riviera demolition

This is the exact spot where Jason Bourne’s car rode a SWAT truck into the front door of the Riviera’s casino, piggyback. We are not making this up.

Expect another tower demolition in August 2016. The 26-acre site will be completely flattened within a few months, and the space is already booked for the Con-Expo/ConAgg trade show in March 2017.

More demolition porn below.

Riviera Demolition Update: July 4, 2016

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[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/riviera-demolition-update-july-4-2016/thumbs/thumbs_riviera_demolition_070416_3.jpg]35330
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/riviera-demolition-update-july-4-2016/thumbs/thumbs_riviera_demolition_070416_12.jpg]33750
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/riviera-demolition-update-july-4-2016/thumbs/thumbs_riviera_demolition_070416_13.jpg]32860
[img src=https://vitalvegas.com/wp-content/flagallery/riviera-demolition-update-july-4-2016/thumbs/thumbs_riviera_demolition_070416_15.jpg]31530

 

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