Monthly Archives: February 2017

How People Started Sitting at Slot Machines in Casinos

For the longest time, slot machines were the red-headed stepchild of casino gambling. They were the thing casinos had to offer to keep the wives of table games players (“real gamblers”) occupied.

It may sound absurd now, but in the early days of casino slot machines, players stood while they played. Which sucked in a number of ways.

Slot machines

Back in the day, everyone stood at slot machines. Probably because Top Dollar and Wheel of Fortune hadn’t been invented yet.

It’s believed a major turning point in how slot machines are played came about because of our human need to urinate. See, after feeding a slot machine for a period of time, players didn’t want to leave a machine to use the restroom for fear of losing their impending jackpot to another player.

Clever players began stealing chairs from nearby table games and took to leaning them against the slots to save their spot. This is a practice that continues today, despite it being incredibly annoying.

Slot machine leaning chair

On the Annoyance Scale, this is right up there with resort fees and cigars. Just stop.

It didn’t take long for customers to use the chairs to sit and play, thus changing the culture of slot machine play forever. Today’s slot machine chairs are plush and ergonomic, and many feature sophisticated sound systems and vibration functions to keep players engaged and entertained.

The folks at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas claim they know the exact moment the practice of sitting at slot machines began.

In 1956, the Birdcage Casino opened at the corner of 1st Street and Fremont. The casino began offering customers a 10-cent keno slot, and the machines started raking it in. In response, Binion’s offered its own bank of 10-cent keno slot machines to compete with its neighbor.

It was inside Binion’s the practice of sitting down at slot machines began.

Today, slot machines account for as much as 85% of a casino’s revenue. One of the biggest measures of a machine’s profitability is known as “Time on Device,” or TOD, or the average time a gambler spends on a given slot machine.

Suffice to say, “Time on Device” has been increased immeasurably by the fact customers sit as they play.

Here’s another fun fact about Binion’s: It was the first downtown casino to get carpeting. How’d that happen? Presumably, a gambler ran up some debt with the casino’s owner at the time, Benny Binion, and repaid his debt by carpeting the joint.

Now you know!

Lucky Dragon’s Doing the New Casino Shuffle

In a refreshing turn of events, Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, the newest casino on the Las Vegas Strip, put out a news release sharing some changes happening at the resort. Typically, such changes have to be ferreted out by visitors and bloggers, but in this case, Lucky Dragon was the source of the scoop.

Yes, there was a bit of spin involved, but it’s still a rare case of a casino getting ahead of the conversation, so credit where it’s due.

Lucky Dragon is doing some shuffling, and we’re not talking cards here.

We’d heard the resort had closed its Pearl Ocean restaurant, but it’s still humming along. The night we visited, CEO Tony Hsieh was in the house.

Pearl Ocean

Please don’t try to spot Tony Hsieh, you’ll herniate yourself.

The resort has closed its entire first floor Dragon’s Alley food court temporarily and the space will soon get a new Dragon’s Alley noodle bar. Noodle bars are springing up in casinos across the city, so this is probably a smart move.

Lucky Dragon Dragon's Alley

Dragon’s Alley will soon be home to a noodle house. At nearby SLS Las Vegas, Ku Noodle tanked. Hey, casinos aren’t IKEA furniture, they don’t come with instruction manuals.

Apparently, a portion of Dragon’s Alley will be the new location for Pearl Ocean, and the Pearl Ocean space will be used to expand Lucky Dragon’s VIP Gaming Lounge. That’s sort of the spin part, mainly because it seems unlikely there’s been a huge influx of high rollers to a resort with relatively few amenities high rollers demand, but let’s just go with it.

Lucky Dragon VIP salon

The Macau-style VIP Gaming Lounge would be even cooler if we knew what Macau-style meant.

Pearl Ocean will stay open while Dragon’s Alley is being renovated.

No date has been set for when Pearl Ocean will close in its current location, or when the new noodle bar will open.

Pearl Ocean

How do you say, “Damn it, now we have to change all the signs!” in Chinese?

All this is pretty much par for the course when a new casino opens. It takes a little time to figure out the right mix of offerings, and changes are made to adjust to demand (or lack thereof). It remains to be seen if Lucky Dragon can thrive despite its awkward location. Lucky Dragon is near the intersection of Sahara Ave. and Las Vegas Blvd., between the Bonanza Gift Shop and Golden Steer Steakhouse.

During our visit (on a Thursday night), the table games area was pretty much empty, but there was a fair amount of slot machine play, and the fast-casual Bao Now restaurant was packed. (The closed Dragon’s Alley was at full capacity with a private event for an Asian tour group, so we expect they stuck around to play.)

While this is all very interesting, following up on this news gave us an excuse to visit Lucky Dragon again, and we have a story to share, so gird your loins.

So, we hit Lucky Dragon’s loyalty club desk to get a replacement card. The attendant, Ellie, informs us we have “eight lucky dollars in free slot play.” This is awesome, of course, because eight is super lucky in Asian cultures, so we say, “Look, that’s lucky, so we’re going to split our jackpot with you.”

Ellie laughs, because it seems she’s heard this kind of thing before.

We say, “All right, not 50-50. But how about 90-10?” She laughs and says “fine.”

We immediately proceed to play Wheel of Fortune, and after a few minutes hit the 2000 quarter jackpot. It’s Vegas, no big deal, five hundred clams, baby.

Wheel of Fortune

Remember, a great story is always, always more valuable than a little cash.

So, we head back to the loyalty club desk to find Ellie and give her the “commission” we promised, and she seemed somewhat shocked, very appreciative, but repeatedly declined her well-deserved $50. Eventually, she caved.

She said, “Customers say things like that all the time, but nobody comes back.”

This news made us a little sad. Look, in a Las Vegas casino, it’s all about mojo. Keep your promises, take care of the crew and don’t screw with Lady Luck.

Here’s hoping the changes at Lucky Dragon are just growing pains. It’s a great little resort and “evolution” is preferable to “flounder” any day of the week.

Du-Par’s Restaurant at Golden Gate Closes Abruptly

A beloved downtown Las Vegas fixture, Du-par’s Restaurant & Bakery at Golden Gate, has closed.

Employees were informed of the closure mid-afternoon on Feb. 7, 2017, and the restaurant shut its doors permanently at about 6:30 p.m. the same evening. It was originally announced Du-par’s would close at midnight, but the plug was pulled early, probably due to drama surrounding the closure.

Du-par's Golden Gate closed

You broke the first rule of Las Vegas, didn’t you? You got emotionally attached!

The closing of Du-par’s is particularly shocking given its colorful history and ongoing popularity.

Du-par’s opened at Golden Gate in 2010.

Biff Naylor, son of “Tiny” Naylor (one of the 22 partners who purchased the Sal Sagev in 1955 and changed its name to Golden Gate), is the restaurant’s current owner. Rumor has it Naylor has bumped up against the IRS in a serious way, so the restaurant won’t be back.

Du-par's closed

Business tip: You don’t get to charge a sales tax, then keep it. The government’s picky like that. Bonus tip: It’s not particularly cool to give employees two hours notice they’re being cut loose.

In a short statement, the management of Golden Gate said, “A leased tenant of the historic hotel, Du-par’s had struggled with payments over an extended period of time.” Diplomacy at its finest!

The owner of Golden Gate, Derek Stevens, Tweeted he’s “sad/pissed” about the closing, and clarified the “financial reasons” for the closure have “nothing to do with the rent.”

Du-par’s has frequently been named as having the best pancakes in Las Vegas, and the restaurant’s shrimp cocktail is the stuff of Las Vegas legend. Golden Gate began serving its famous 99-cent shrimp cocktail in 1959.

Shrimp cocktail Du-Par's

The price crept up to $3.99 in recent years, but that didn’t make it any less devoured.

Du-par’s at Golden Gate was open 24/7, and won numerous accolades for its fare.

The closure of Du-par’s puts Golden Gate in a tight spot because Du-par’s was the hotel’s only dining option. The casino is wasting no time seeking alternative restaurant concepts for this sweet location at the west end of Fremont Street.

Du-par's closed Golden Gate

And, yes, we’re getting a little choked up writing about Du-par’s in the past tense. Don’t judge.

We’d suggest a rebrand to “Golden Gate Grill” until a new restaurant partner can be found. There’s nothing magical about shrimp and cocktail sauce!

No matter what’s next, Du-par’s will be missed by legions of fans who will have find at new way to wrangle their drunchies and get their pancake fix. (There’s Hash House a Go Go at Plaza and Denny’s just to the east, for starters.)

Du-par's pancakes

There were times we had to choose between sex and Du-par’s pancakes. The pancakes were delicious.

There’s another Du-par’s location at the off-Strip Suncoast casino. The fate of that location is unknown at the moment, mainly because we’re currently too drunk to call and ask. Word has it, though, the Suncoast location will remain in operation.

Update (2/9/17): In just 24 hours, all traces of Du-par’s are gone at Golden Gate.

Du-par's disappeared

The only constant in Las Vegas is WTF.

Share your Du-par’s memories in the comments, and not just because it creates the illusion people actually visit and read this Las Vegas blog. Probably.

Amorino at Linq Promenade is Destination Gelato

Linq Promenade has had a recent string of successes with openings including In-N-Out and Gordon Ramsay’s Fish & Chips. A new gelato shop, Amorino, could end up stealing the spotlight, though, especially when summer rolls around.

Amorino Gelato Linq Promenade

An “amorino” is a cherub, also known as a “chubby male child who has had a few too many servings of gelato.”

Amorino is a gelato brand already familiar to Europeans, and now the delicious Italian ice cream has made its way to the Las Vegas Strip. (There’s another location at the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets, but this one’s better because, well, The Strip.)

Amorino replaces a failed gift shop, Koto, adjacent to Chayo Mexican Kitchen.

Guests will immediately notice Amorino’s signature offering, cones with gelato scooped to resemble flowers.

Amorino Gelato Las Vegas

Everything’s better with a macaron stuffed in it.

Thank you, tourists, for letting us take photos of your gelato flowers, which definitely sounds dirtier than it is.

Amorino also offers a wide variety of gelato-filled macarons, sweet, meringue-based confections that definitely aren’t the same as macaroons. Thanks, Wikipedia.

Amorino Gelato Las Vegas

The ruffled circumference of a macaron is called the “foot,” so when you have one, you’re putting your foot in your mouth. Bonus: Ruffled Circumference would make a great band name.

Amorino’s gelato comes in a dizzying variety of flavors, including our personal favorite, stracciatella.

Fair warning: Strip pricing is in full effect at Amorino. A small cone will run you $5.50, the large (“Classic”) will set you back $8.50. Gelato is also available in cups, running from small ($5.50) to the Maxi ($14.00). It’s great gelato, so it only stings for a minute.

Amorino gelato Linq

Pay no attention. You’ll get it back at Wheel of Fortune.

The “Macarons al Gelato” are $2.50, but you can save a couple of bucks if you get them in bulk. Twelve cost $28.50, 24 cost $56.

Also available in the 1,500-square-foot shop are several items we didn’t pay nearly as much attention to as the gelato, like specialty coffee, crepes, waffles, hot cocoa and chocolates.

Amorino gelato Linq Vegas

Worth the wait, worth the price and worth enduring bloggers taking photos of your gelato. Probably.

The world of frosty treats center-Strip has been in turmoil of late, with our favorite ice cream place, Ice Pan, closing at Harrah’s. Amorino is worthy successor, so be sure to put your tongue on it. Unless that makes you feel uncomfortable, then definitely do it. You’re in Las Vegas.

Amorino Gelato at Linq Promenade

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Las Vegas Chick-fil-A Restaurants Are a Monster Success

It’s been just a couple of weeks since two Chick-fil-A locations opened in Las Vegas and both joints are, as predicted, enjoying a mind-boggling level of success.

The two restaurants have been at virtually maximum capacity since opening on Jan. 26, 2017. According to a law enforcement official, one Chick-fil-A location (9925 S. Eastern Ave., Henderson) served a staggering 70,000 customers in its first four days of operation.

Chick-fil-A Las Vegas

Get in our belly.

The massive demand for the best chicken sandwiches on Earth has led to some impromptu measures on the part of management. Numerous Henderson police officers have been brought on (with Chick-fil-A picking up the tab, of course) to redirect an influx of vehicular traffic.

Why all the cars? About 60% of Chick-fil-A’s business happens in the drive-through.

Below is a bird’s eye view of one Chick-fil-A location. The line of cars waiting for drive-through snakes out of Chick-fil-A, down an access ramp, down the street, around a corner and along the back of a nearby Lowe’s. It’s a jaw-dropper!


Chick-fil-A is at left, everything else is drive-through line. We are not making this up.

While lines are long, service times remain surprisingly short. (We haven’t tried it yet, but the Chick-fil-A app is said to help cut wait times.)

A quick flight over the Eastern location shows both the drive-through line and a crowd gathering
outside the restaurant. Those dining in can expect a wait of about 15 minutes. It’s longer for
drive-through (Chick-fil-A’s goal for drive-through service is three minutes per car or less), so
park and dine inside (or take your meal to go).

Chick-fil-A has service down pat. Employees work the line with tablets, sending orders wirelessly
to the kitchen. This advance ordering system means once a guest pays, the order is already in the works or even done by the time payment is made. So, don’t be discouraged if you see a line.
Chick-fil-A has got this.

As we’ve said all along, there’s a lot of pent-up demand for Chick-fil-A in Las Vegas, and it’s likely the long lines and extremely high demand will mellow out with time, especially as other locations open.

A key location appears to be progressing quickly, so we stopped by there, too.

The next Chick-fil-A will be at the corner of Sahara and S. Rancho Drive, right across the street from Palace Station.

Chick-fil-A Sahara Rancho

The Chick-fil-A at Sahara and Rancho was built from scratch. See our “before” photos here, you freak.

We got a look at some external signage awaiting installation.

Chick-fil-A Rancho

The current Chick-fil-As are 15 minutes from The Strip. The Sahara location is two minutes. According to our calculations, this third location will make about infinity dollars in its first week. Conservative estimate.

As our love for Chick-fil-A knows no bounds, we couldn’t resist getting a better look at the new

After multiple Chick-fil-A visits since the Las Vegas locations opened, we’ve yet to have a
disappointing experience. You’d expect employees to be frustrated with the crush of customers, but they are universally friendly and cheerful.

The food is consistently hot and fresh, and there’s no sign resources or supplies are under
any strain.

We’ll be checking back often at Chick-fil-A, you know, for blog research. If you’re hungry for some insider skinny about Chick-fil-A, check out our interview with a Chick-fil-A franchise owner on the Vital Vegas Podcast.

Major Overhaul of Palace Station Casino Commences

There are big things in the works for the off-Strip Palace Station, and some of those plans are well under way.

We popped in at Palace Station, but won’t be able to share any photos because, according to a security guard, “Photos of the construction site aren’t allowed.”

Palace Station construction

Suck it, asshats. All due respect.

Seriously? The site is readily viewable by the public, 24/7.

Well, we’re nothing if not respectful of authority, so we’re not going to share more than a dozen or so photos of the site.

Palace Station construction

Looks like somebody’s getting a fancy new video screen.

Oh, and here’s some video of the construction, mainly because our contempt for overreaching casino security guards is exceeded only by our aversion to casinos that swap out our liquor brand.

Palace Station, owned by Red Rock Resorts (also known as Station Casinos), is currently adding a new porte cochere and bingo hall to its casino, and they’re just getting started.

Improvements will include a new, 27-floor hotel tower, a movie theater, bowling alley and upgraded pool area. It’s believed the hotel’s railroad theme will go away in favor of a more modern design. (Think Red Rock Resort, which is a good thing.)

Palace Station trains

Time to bid farewell to the choo-choos.

In a future phase of the transformation, Palace Station is expected to also add a new buffet and two additional restaurants, as well as additional convention space.

Yes, convention space is incredibly boring, but it’s also lucrative, so expect to see more. Aria even closed a Cirque du Soleil show, “Zarkana,” to make more room for conventioneers, and Riviera was demolished to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Thanks to our friends at Eater Vegas for ferreting out all the details of the changes at Palace Station.

Palace Station construction

Why all the additional space for bingo, you ask? Station Casinos has a long history with bingo, and Palace Station originally opened as Bingo Palace in 1976.

Misguided security guards aside, Palace Station remains a great place to play. Despite being five minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, it tends to appeal to locals, which means better table minimums, better odds and better overall value.

Enjoy a few more photos of the construction happening at Palace Station, which we definitely didn’t take after being informed photography isn’t permitted, because that would be wrong.

Palace Station Renovations Begin

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