Monthly Archives: March 2019

Tropicana Opens Swanky New Trago Lounge

Tropicana has opened its new Trago Lounge, and we had to swing by for cocktails, video poker, a live DJ and mostly that first thing.

“Trago,” of course, is the first person singular present indicative of “trazer” in Spanish. As if that weren’t obvious.

Trago Lounge Tropicana

Make sure to roll the “r” when you say Trago. It will make you seem worldly.

“Trago” means sip or swig. In Portugese, it means “to quaff.” And if that made you giggle, please grow up. It means “drink with enthusiasm.”

Nailed it on the name.

Trago will be open 24 hours a day, the way Mother Nature intended.

The new bar sits just off the casino floor, in the footprint of the former Tropicana Lounge (which closed Sep. 10, 2018), and the space has gotten quite the overhaul.

Trago Tropicana lounge

Trago’s exterior design is composed of 1,114 interlocking squares. Related: Admit it, you believed us for a minute. Um, hello, it’s a photo caption. On the Internet.

It’s a relatively small space by Las Vegas lounge standards, about 3,500-square-feet, and can accommodate 120 guests, which ups the intimacy factor.

Trago Lounge at Tropicana hits a lot of the right notes.

The vibe has a little touch of glamour, but without being pretentious.

The music level is refreshingly perfect. The night we visited, a Vegas fixture, Lydia Ansel, was doing DJ duty. Ansel is a classically trained violinist, and accompanies the music she’s playing. The violin is unobtrusive, and most guests weren’t even aware Ansel was playing live.

Trago Lydia Ansel violinist DJ

Some random anonymous dude just sent Lydia all those roses. Hint: It’s the violin.

We should probably get into the beverage aspect of the Trago Lounge before your head explodes.

The menu is fairly limited, but the drinks we tried were excellent. All are in the $16-18 range, which is the new normal for Strip casino lounges, so don’t freak out.

Trago Lounge Tropicana

The more you drink, the more interesting you become. To you, mainly.

A favorite was the Purple G&T (gin and tonic). We are not a gin or tonic person, but it was delicious.

It had Express gin, Italicus liqueur, fresh lime and Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic. Which is, apparently, a thing.

Trago Lounge

Young flowers should respect their elderflowers.

The Tropical Margarita was also top-notch, and should appeal to tourists looking for a drink that matches the hotel’s beachy theme.

The Tropical Margarita had Don Julio Blanco tequila, Contreau orange-flavoured triple sec liqueur, fresh lime, passion fruit and Red Bull Tropical Edition. Now, you know why we take photos of cocktail menus.

Trago Lounge cocktail

Party in a glass.

The drink menu also has “Bourbon and Whiskey” and “Scotch and Cognac” sections, as well as draft beer, craft bottle beer and wine.

Trago Lounge also offers bottle service for $250 a pop. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

Video poker fans will be happy to see the Trago bar lined with 22 machines, although we trust seasoned players will wince when they see the pay tables (6/5 Bonus Poker). Then again, seasoned video poker players wince at just about everything.

While Trago won’t comp signature drinks for video poker players, they do comp bottled beer and well drinks.

The pours are watched closely, so no free pours here.

We hear Trago will be getting an automated drink monitoring system, but at the moment, you can get a pretty steady supply of drinks if you’re playing at a reasonable pace.

A definite selling point: The servers, hostesses and bartenders are all very attractive, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Trago Lounge waitresses

Thanks for playing along, you two.

And while we’re on selling points: Tropicana still has free parking. Hang in there, Tropicana!

Plus, that glorious stained glass above the casino.

Tropicana stained glass

Glorious.

Trago Lounge is a refreshing addition to the offerings at Tropicana, and aims to appeal to a younger customer than has been typical at the Tropicana Lounge and resort overall.

It’s great to see Tropicana making moves, investing in new venues and making an effort to keep pace with other casinos in the neighborhood, while taking care not to rankle longtime customers, many of whom still regularly use the word “rankle.”

If you pop into Trago, let us know what you think.

Trago Lounge at Tropicana

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Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas Gets Light Show

The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas boasts some new bling. And, yes, we’re fully cognizant of the fact people haven’t used the word “bling” since 2008. You get the idea.

The Strip resort spent about $1.7 million installing lights on its Eiffel Tower replica in honor of the casino’s 20th anniversary.

The light show was unveiled with the requisite hoopla on Feb. 27, 2019, despite the fact the resort’s anniversary isn’t until Sep. 1. Paris opened on that date in 1999. Never let facts get in the way of a perfectly good hoopla!

Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower light show

The half scale Eiffel Tower at Paris has about 300,000 rivets. Yes, we counted.

The new light show runs every 30 minutes, from sunset to midnight.

The lighting system features “300 color washing Traxon ProPoint Wall Washer luminaires and more than 800 Traxon ProPoint Pixel luminaires.” In human words, that’s 300 colored lights and 800 strobes.

The lights are programmable and come in four colors (red, green, blue and white).

Check out our spectacularly slapped-together video of the new Eiffel Tower light show at Paris Las Vegas.


While the music in our video syncs with the light show, we aren’t entirely sure music accompanies the show at Paris. The best view of the light show is across the street at Bellagio, and they have their own music going to accompany the dancing fountains show.

And while we’re on the subject, it’s fairly obvious the Paris light show is meant to pull tourist eyeballs back across the street from Bellagio.

We’ve often talked about how surprising it is Bellagio’s Conservatory is still free, given trends toward casino cost-cutting, so it’s refreshing to see Paris creating a new free “attraction” for Las Vegas visitors.

The Eiffel Tower light show may not have the “wow” factor of the fountains (nothing does, really), but it’s a fun diversion and makes the most of a distinctive Las Vegas landmark.

Fremont Street Experience Announces Concert Series Schedule for 2019

Fremont Street Experience has announced its Downtown Rocks summer concert series schedule for 2019. Which we sort of just said in the headline, but we needed an opening sentence before the graphic, so there you go.

Fremont Street Experience concerts

The word “free” is music to our ears.

2019 Fremont Street Experience free concerts schedule:

googie May 24 – Good Charlotte
googie June 15 – Nelly
googie June 29 – Sugar Ray
googie July 4 – Eli Young Band
googie July 20 – Fuel, Toadies and Sponge
googie July 27 – Pop 2000 Tour hosted by Lance Bass, with O-Town, Aaron Carter, Ryan Cabrera and Tyler Hilton
googie Aug. 10 – Collective Soul
googie Aug. 17 – Buckcherry
googie Aug. 24 – Cheap Trick
googie Aug. 30 – The Wallflowers
googie Sep. 1 – I Love the ’90s featuring Vanilla Ice, Montell Jordan, All-4-One, Tone Loc and Coolio
googie Sep. 28 – Smash Mouth
googie Oct. 19 – Muddfest featuring Puddle of Mudd, Saliva, Trapt, Saving Abel and Tantric

Most of the free Fremont Street Experience concerts start at 9:00 p.m.

Fremont Street concerts

Free rocks. Shout-out to Mermaids.

When you’re visiting downtown for these free shows, look up. The Viva Vision canopy at Fremont Street Experience is getting a $32 million upgrade.

The upgrade is expected to begin in early May 2019, and will officially debut on New Year’s Eve. The light shows will continue to run during the upgrade, which will be done in eight phases, in 150-foot sections (starting at the west end of the canopy, near Golden Gate).

Here’s a look at what’s being replaced on the Fremont Street Experience screen.

Viva Vision LEDs

Fremont Street Experience debuted in 1995 and got an upgrade to its old-timey LEDs in 2004. They’re old-timey again.

Full disclosure: We work in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience as our day job. Our opinions are our own, despite the fact we haven’t really expressed any in this blog post. Though, we like Cheap Trick a lot. And that “All Stars” song from “Shrek.” And we are also a big fan of light shows.

Get details about the free concert series at the official Fremont Street Experience Web site.

Here’s the Latest From Resorts World

It seems Resorts World has moved on from its tiff with Wynn Resorts, and construction of the Asian-themed casino proceeds, albeit at an agonizingly slow pace.

Resorts World

Just don’t look directly into the…crap, too late.

Resorts World and Wynn Resorts got into a legal spat when the latter claimed Resorts World’s design was too similar to Wynn’s.

The parties came to a settlement, and since then Resorts World has been taking measures to ensure there’s no confusion between the hotels.

One of the noticeable changes is the horizontal bands of Resorts World, once cream-colored, are now being painted black.

Resorts World

Always bet on, well, you know.

For a minute, Resorts World tried turning its bands red, but apparently that didn’t pan out.

Resorts World

Red in mid-February 2019, black two weeks later. This is a fun game.

It seems Resorts World dodged an expensive bullet by not having to remove its bronze-colored windows.

Instead, in addition to the color change in the horizontal bands, the resort is brightening up its extremities with bright red flourishes.

Resorts World

Resorts World may be overcompensating a little.

The long-delayed Resorts World (it was supposed to open in 2016) continues to add floors.

Here’s a photo of Resorts World in Nov. 2018.

Resorts World

Returning all that glass would’ve incurred a huge restocking charge.

Here’s another from March 2018.

Resorts World

You should see the size of our monopod.

Yes, we do need to get a life.

We’re just so excited when anything happens on the north end of The Strip.

There’s lots of new stuff at Resorts World, despite our not knowing what it is.

Resorts World

Sort of praying this is the casino.

Given how visitation in Las Vegas has flattened out recently, we can’t really blame Resorts World for dragging its feet. Bringing thousands of rooms online now would be disastrous, so Resorts World is content with shooting for a 2021 opening.

The idea is by then, with the completion of Raiders Stadium and the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, visitation will presumably grow and Resorts World will be rolling in it. Presumably.

Resorts World

Bonus points if you can pick out the reflections of Wynn and Encore.

The plan is for Resorts World to be 60 stories (Fontainebleau, now The Drew, has 63), and it already looms large over The Strip.

We’ll keep you abreast of all the progress at Resorts World, so check back often.

And we would like it duly noted we did not resort to making an “abreast” joke. Because maturity.

MGM Resorts to Replace Bartenders With Machines (No, Really)

Can we write a sensational headline, or what?

Thing is, we’re not kidding.

Several sources inside MGM Resorts have confirmed the company will soon roll out automated cocktail dispensing machines in its service bars (also called “well bars”) in Las Vegas and across the country.

That’s right. All those stories you’ve heard about humans being replaced with robots is sort of coming true, and its happening by the end of August 2019, according to our sources.

Smartender

Science meets drunken gambling benders.

MGM Resorts has quietly been testing automated cocktail machines at casinos in other markets (specifically, MGM Springfield in Massachusetts and MGM National Harbor in Maryland). Now, MGM Resorts is bringing those automated bartenders to Las Vegas.

As you may have heard, MGM Resorts is in the first phase of a massive cost-cutting initiative, MGM 2020. The goal is to save $300 million, with $100 million of that coming from savings on labor costs.

MGM 2020 is a “company-wide, business-optimization initiative aimed to leverage a more centralized organization to maximize profitability and, through key investments in technology, lay the groundwork for the company’s digital transformation to drive revenue growth.”

There’s nothing sexier than leveraging, if you ask us.

Dozens of top level MGM Resorts executives are expected to take “voluntary resignation” packages, saving the company millions.

Also in the crosshairs are jobs that can be done through automation and technology.

Lago cocktail

Insert gratuitous cocktail photo (a machine can’t make) here.

While everyone involved with the roll-out of drink dispensing machines have been sworn to secrecy (suck it, NDAs), we’ve heard from several employees they’re bracing for what could be the first wave of machines replacing jobs traditionally done by humans.

It’s no wonder Las Vegas unions dug their heels in during the recent contract negotiations. One of the sticking points: Automation.

It’s clear the union knew changes were coming and did their best to ensure employees losing their jobs would at least be treated fairly. Union leaders and members have said publicly they are “legitimately worried” about touchscreen beverage ordering systems.

It turns out they had good reason to be worried.

While we haven’t been able to confirm who’s making the beverage system coming to MGM Resorts casinos in Las Vegas (a reliable source says it’s a company called Easybar), we found one that illustrates what these machines can do, from a company called Smartender.

Take a look.

Brilliant, really.

Is it wrong we sort of want one for our house?

Basically, a server will put ice in a glass, hit a button, add a garnish and deliver the drink, all without the involvement of a bartender.

Here’s the Easybar teminal.

Easybar

We hear the Easybar cocktail station costs about $30,000, or roughly half what a human union bartender costs.

Here are some of the selling points of the Easybar self-service cocktail station.

Easybar

Seriously, get us one for our birthday.

To be fair, given all the benefits to a business, it would be hard to fault MGM Resorts for making this move.

Among the benefits of these machines: They reduce “overpours” and waste, they’re accurate within 1/20th of an ounce, drinks are recorded in a database and there’s “total accountability” because a company knows precisely who served what and how often.

Also, the company will assert, these machines provide guests a consistent experience across all venues. (At least that’s what they said when we caught them reducing their standard pour size back in 2016.)

MGM Resorts statement

Proof we’ve been annoying MGM Resorts since at least 2016.

So, how much should we freak out?

Unless we’re a service bartender, probably not much. (Actually, the way seniority works, service bartenders are pretty far up the food chain, bartenderwise. So, as they get displaced, they’ll bump others from their positions, and so on, down the line.)

These machines aren’t likely to replace your favorite casino bartender, though. These machines will be used in service bars, bars behind the scenes churning out thousands of drinks for players on the casino floor.

We should mention there are service bars in restaurants, too, and our sources say those bartenders will be phased out as well.

If you tend to freak out about technology in general, well, that autonomous ship has already sailed.

Any number of casino and hotel jobs have already been affected by technology. Gone are the days when casino employees lugged around massive bags of coins, thanks to TITO (ticket in, ticket out) technology.

Recently, hotels have made hotel check-in available through smartphones and kiosks, slashing the number of front desk agents. (Example: Staffing at the front desk of Park MGM has gone from about 15 agents to three following the implementation of check-in kiosks.)

In Vegas, robot room service is a thing. Robots have also taken some concierge jobs.

Tipsy Robot Las Vegas

Robot bartenders at Tipsy Robot inside Planet Hollywood. They’re a hoot.

We hear, as part of MGM 2020, restaurant cashiers are likely to be a thing of the past at MGM Resorts casinos, too.

Some in the business estimate thousands of MGM Resorts employees will ultimately be affected by the MGM 2020 initiative.

Leveraging and optimizing come at a cost, of course.

You can bet MGM Resorts is looking at what’s happening at Caesars Entertainment and is highly motivated to avoid a similar scenario. (It’s looking more and more like Caesars Entertainment will be sold, or broken up and sold off in pieces.)

If you’re bored, watch us drop this scoop on KLAS, Channel 8 in Las Vegas.

There’s much more to come.

Update (3/6/19): Our story has been confirmed.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 94: Video Poker Secrets and Requisite Nonsense

Saddle up your ear holes for another episode of the Las Vegas podcast! Yes, your ears will have saddles on them, but let’s not let that distract from the crushing disappointment of this installment of the only Las Vegas podcast you can easily do without.

We’ve got all the scoop about what’s happening with MGM 2020, an initiative expected to save MGM Resorts $300 million. From executive departures to plans for replacing lots of humans with machines (no, really), this cost-saving program is already changing Las Vegas in a big, big way.

You’ll also hear more details about Elon Musk’s pitch to bring an urban loop system to The Strip.

Elon Musk Las Vegas loop

No, really.

There’s more news that you’ll be able to bear, including construction at Circa, Criss Angel’s new show at Planet Hollywood, a new observation deck at Strat, two big projects at Binion’s and more.

We also ask a video poker expert about the best video poker bars downtown, and her answers might just surprise you.

It’s news. It’s commentary. It’s incoherent rambling. It’s scoop you won’t hear anywhere else. Mainly because others are constrained by “standards” and “ethics.”

Take a listen and let Las Vegas waft past your antihelical fold and linger inappropriately on your concha, which, trust us, sounds a lot sexier than it really is.