Monthly Archives: October 2020

Circa Resort Opens in Downtown Las Vegas

It’s the best thing to happen to Las Vegas since thongs. Circa Las Vegas has opened downtown, and it’s straight-up glorious.

We already shared a metric hell-ton of preview photos, so check those out.

Vegas Vickie is back

Vegas Vickie’s back on Fremont and her hubby, Vegas Vic, is happier than a masochist in a cactus patch.

Circa provided all the hoopla befitting a Las Vegas casino opening celebration, and made sure to hit all the right notes, including a clever twist on a longtime Vegas tradition: The first craps roll.

Rather than inviting one Vegas heavy-hitter to roll the dice first, Circa’s owner Derek Stevens invited a gaggle of them.

Here are the folks around the Circa craps table for the first official dice roll: Ryan Growney, G.M. of South Point; Jonathan Jossel, CEO of Plaza; Scott Sibella, Pres. of Resorts World; Andy Abboud, V.P. at Las Vegas Sands; Chris Latil, Sr. V.P. of Golden Nugget; Terry Caudill, owner of Binion’s and Four Queens; Mike Nolan, G.M. of El Cortez; and Brendan Gaughan, grandson of Jackie Gaughan.

Vegas VIPs

We’re definitely not the one who’s going to point out nobody from Boyd was there. That would be awkward.

Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel snagged the honor after a draw of cards (he got an ace), and the first roll at Circa was a six. That tidbit will win you a bar bet someday.

Circa dice roll

That’s some Vegas immortality right there.

After months of anticipation, guests finally got their first in-person look at the newest casino in Las Vegas.

Circa features what’s billed as the world’s largest sportsbook, the “country’s largest destination pool experience,” a bevy of new restaurants and lounges and Nevada’s longest bar, Mega Bar.

Here’s a quick look inside Circa.

The centerpiece of Circa is a refurbished Vegas Vickie. She looks amazing, after a three-year absence from Fremont Street, and her leg is kicking again.

Also getting some buzz is the return of the 99-cent shrimp cocktail, once so beloved at Golden Gate. Circa owners Derek and Greg Stevens also own Golden Gate (as well as The D), so it was a natural to serve up the popular treat at Circa.

There are some caveats. The 99-cent shrimp cocktail is only available from 3-5 a.m. at Saginaw’s. To get the 99-cent price, you have to purchase a meal at the restaurants.

Outside those hours, the shrimp cocktail is $11. Hey, casinos don’t subsidize restaurants anymore, so not really surprising. Anyway, it’s there for nostalgia lovers.

Circa shrimp cocktail

Die-hard Vegas fans won’t want to miss this throwback drunchies shrimpfest.

The prices overall at Circa’s restaurants provide a bit of sticker shock to downtown regulars. We trust those will be adjusted based upon demand.

In the meantime, we predict Plaza’s Pop-Up Pizza stand is going to be overwhelmed.

You know we were excited for Circa to open because we wore a tux. No, not a tuxedo T-shirt, an actual tux.

A highlight of our evening was being “tiered out.” Circa’s One loyalty club just introduced tiers, and we’re a Maverick, as if you didn’t already know that.

Here’s more about the new One loyalty club tier system.

Circa Las Vegas tiers

We didn’t need a loyalty club to confirm our Maverick status, but we’ll take it. Free parking!

It’s worth noting two of the tiers get free self-parking. Circa does not validate as The D and Golden Gate do.

Parking in Garage Mahal is $4 an hour, with a $15 daily max. (Note: Parking is $5 at Plaza next door.)

There’s one tier that hasn’t been announced yet. It’s invite only, so fancy.

Garage Mahal Circa

We love the floor numbers at Garage Mahal.

Yes, we got closer. Do you know this blog at all?

Garage Mahal

The cars in the floor number sign are vacuum-sealed for freshness.

Overall, the opening of Circa was pretty much flawless, and it was great to see the enthusiasm for this new destination in downtown Las Vegas.

Downtown needed Circa, Vegas needed Circa, we all needed Circa.

Circa uniform

Circa’s dancing dealer uniforms look amazing. Yes, we had a chaperone.

Amidst so much bad news, Circa is a ray of hope. Derek and Greg Stevens have really done it right and this shiny new adult playground surpasses all expectations.

While it hasn’t been publicly announced, our sources say Circa cost $1.156 billion, and it shows.

Circa cage

You’re not supposed to photograph a casino cage. We don’t live by society’s rules.

If you’ve got a few spare minutes, hear some exclusive scoop about how Circa became a reality from the resort’s owner, Derek Stevens.

Circa’s elevated experience, and prices, are a bridge between downtown and The Strip. There’s nothing gritty or seedy here. Circa is Strip-style gorgeous with a downtown vibe. It’s the best of both worlds.

From the jaw-dropping video screens in the sportsbook and pool complex to the dancing dealers and free pours, Circa isn’t just the dream of the Stevens brothers, it’s the dream of everyone who loves casinos and downtown.

Circa sportsbook

Circa squeezes a lifetime of sports into every visit.

Circa is a dream made real, and you’re going to absolutely love it.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Canceled for Las Vegas Strip

This pandemic is really starting to get on our last nerve.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) has confirmed what many feared: Las Vegas won’t have fireworks on The Strip to welcome in 2021.

The annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display, typically attended by roughly a jillion people, has been nixed. The LVCVA says it has some “special things” planned for NYE, but let’s face it, they won’t be as special as fireworks.

New Year's fireworks

Sonofa.

In an unfortunate turn of a phrase, LVCVA president Steve Hill said, “Las Vegas has always been a bucket list New Year’s Eve destination, and we are going to make sure that remains the case.”

A pandemic is probably not the best time to be using that “bucket list” adage. Just saying.

Anyway, 2020 has scrod Las Vegas in so many ways, this is just one more slap to the nad.

Perhaps not surprisingly, upon hearing about the cancellation of New Year’s Eve fireworks on The Strip, dogs released a short statement: “We’re good with it.”

Las Vegas fireworks

This is so Photoshopped. We know, because we Photoshopped it.

While there won’t be an official fireworks display on the Las Vegas Strip, you can bet there will be ample illegal asshattery in local neighborhoods.

It’s worth noting downtown’s Plaza casino will have fireworks, albeit on a much smaller scale than visitors have come to expect on The Strip.

It’s unknown how Fremont Street Experience will handle the virtual fireworks shown each year on its Viva Vision screen.

We’ll be curious to see if off-Strip casinos also cancel their fireworks. Red Rock Station tends to have rather lavish fireworks displays. Here’s a look.

Lots of restaurants and lounges have been marketing NYE festivities, apparently undaunted by the cancellation of Strip fireworks.

While the cancellation of fireworks on The Strip is disappointing, there will still be lots of ways to ring in the new year in Las Vegas.

The celebration actually promises to be the most exuberant, ever, because while 2020 has been brutal, Las Vegas is known around the world for its happy endings.

Venetian, Palazzo and Sands Expo Convention Center Reportedly Up for Sale

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t possibly be jam-packed with any more WTF, Las Vegas Sands—owner of Venetian, Palazzo and the Sands Expo Convention Center—is reportedly exploring a sale of these beloved fixtures on the Las Vegas Strip.

Deep breaths.

According to Bloomberg, Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson is focusing on his true moneymaker, Asia, so he’s looking for a potential buyer for Venetian, Palazzo and the convention center.

The estimated asking price for these gems? About $6 billion.

Venetian Palazzo

We love certain kinds of change, but we’re not sure this is one of those.

Big picture, this makes a lot of sense for Sheldon Adelson, but that doesn’t make it any less upsetting.

We’re personally upset because Bloomberg reported this story before us, and we’ve broken the news of pretty much every Las Vegas casino sale in the last seven years. But it doesn’t always have to be about us. Probably.

It’s also upsetting because this potential sale says a lot. As Adelson looks to Macau and Singapore, he’s taking his eyes off Las Vegas.

Venetian Las Vegas gondola

Mr. Adelson, all due respect, but now may not be the best time to rock the boat.

It doesn’t take Sheldon Adelson’s keen foresight to see the convention business in Las Vegas isn’t coming back full force anytime soon, and that has been the bread and butter for Las Vegas Sands.

Las Vegas doesn’t really work without conventions, and things have been looking undeniably bleak due to the pandemic.

Adelson’s U.S. business only accounts for 15 percent of the company’s total revenue, so a sale won’t really move the needle for the bajillionaire one way or the other.

A sale could move the needle for fans of Venetian and Palazzo, however.

These hotels are reliably ranked two of the best in Las Vegas, and a change of ownership could mean a giant question mark for visitors.

Also a question mark is what happens to the MSG Sphere if Las Vegas Sands sells its casino and convention center.

MSG Sphere

Las Vegas Sands donated land for this new entertainment venue. So many questions.

Another aspect of a potential sale: Sheldon Adelson owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal. If he sells off his other business interests in Las Vegas, does he need to own a newspaper? Yes, there are still newspapers! Don’t be a smartass.

Another juicy question: If Sheldon Adelson sells off Venetian and Palazzo, what happens to his 12-plane whale delivery system and terminal at McCarran airport?

Bloomberg says the discussions of a sale are “very early” and the deal has not been finalized.

We’re actually a little unclear who might be in a position to buy these casinos at the moment.

While we love the drama of a casino sale (or two), we’re sort of secretly hoping Sheldon Adelson keeps “exploring” well into 2021 or beyond.

Behold the Biggest Circa Las Vegas Resort Preview Photo Gallery in the World

Circa Las Vegas, the first new downtown casino resort for decades, opens Oct. 28, 2020.

As usual, we couldn’t wait, so we’ve put together the biggest pre-opening photo gallery of Circa in existence.

Vickie Circa

Nearly done, but Vegas Vickie’s already a knock-out.

During our recent visits, we got the witness the resort putting the final touches on Circa (which is why you’ll see some ladders, exposed wires and plastic-covered tables in the pics).

We can’t thank Circa enough for letting us get an early look at this amazing new Las Vegas destination.

The bottom line: We loved every inch of the place. If you get our drift.

Circa

This isn’t even her best side.

We were literally breathless seeing Circa’s massive sportsbook for the first time, and we are not even a sports person.

Rumor has it the manufacturers of Circa’s sportsbook screen, upon seeing it for the first time, were equally stunned. And they made the thing!

Circa sportsbook

Come get your swoon on, sports fans.

Circa’s restaurants were cranking out delicious food during an employee play date as bartenders and dancing dealers were put through their paces.

Thanks to Circa owner Derek Stevens, we were given the honor of being the first to share Circa’s chips (photo below).

The reveal of the chips was topped by Stevens’ “secret” project, the creation of casino plaques. He was giddy to share these beauties he describes as “highly desirable.”

Circa's casino chips plaques

One of each of Circa’s chips and plaques, please.

There was some truly unique and remarkable moments at the Circa play date, as Derek Stevens actually got to gamble at his own casino, a no-no for owners when actual money is being wagered.

Stevens tried his hand at video poker, roulette and craps.

Derek Stevens slot machine

Top casino tip: You don’t have to be a casino owner to get freebies. Always use your players card.

Fun fact: Stevens and his wife Nicole won $183,000 in pretend money at dice thanks to his wise choice to find a “virgin” shooter, his executive assistant, Yivi.

Circa is as beautiful as the renderings, and Circa has pretty much delivered on the hype, much of it ours. Yes, we’ve been a Circa cheerleader. That’s because beyond loving what we’ve seen and consumed so far, it’s objectively awesome. Circa is also the good news Las Vegas could use right now.

Mega Bar

Let’s just say Circa isn’t “under-barred.”

The only asterisk is Circa’s much-touted “adults-only” status isn’t technically accurate. A contractual loophole means kids will be allowed into the resort’s steakhouse, Barry’s. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

The centerpiece of Circa features the long-awaited return of Vegas Vickie, an iconic Las Vegas neon sign which sat above the former Glitter Gulch strip club.

She is absolutely glorious, and Circa is making the most of this newly-refurbished blast from the past.

We are confident enough in our masculinity to admit seeing Vickie lit up for the first time was one of several times we started opening weeping during our initial visits to Circa. Ditto our first Captain Morgan and diet.

Circa cocktail

Seal broken.

There’s far too much ground to cover in one blog post, so we’ll set you on your visual journey through Circa via our photo gallery.

There, you’ll get an inside peek at Circa’s special places (hello, high limit slot salon), its restaurants and menus, its artwork and its casino floors.

Circa screens

Want behind-the-scenes? You’ve got it. This is the hidden area where technicians can replace modules in the sportsbook’s video screen without the use of cranes.

We’ve made no effort to hide the fact we’re smitten. We love what Circa co-owners Derek and Greg Stevens (more from the latter on our next podcast episode) have done downtown and Circa is the crown jewel.

Big socially-distanced hugs to Circa for letting us share these work-in-progress, unretouched, plastic-wrapped, home stretch blemishes-and-all images.

Circa casino

Nothing beats that new felt smell!

Circa has already exceeded expectations and it hasn’t even opened yet! Say “hello” to our new home away from home, Circa Las Vegas.

Related: We get the question about how much Circa Las Vegas cost often. Since we’re the only one with the answer, here it is: While it’s never been officially announced or confirmed, our information is Circa resort cost $1.156 billion to build.

Downtown Grand Offers $1 Blackjack, It’s Complicated

Downtown Grand is serving up a rare deal for its casino guests, blackjack with a $1 minimum.

Downtown Grand Tweeted the news on Oct. 16, 2020, along with the fact it’s the only downtown casino to offer $1 blackjack.

Downtown Grand $1 blackjack

How’s this for a little throwback action?

The response to this news has been counter-intuitive, to say the least. Responses to Downtown Grand’s Tweet include the following.

“Oh, dear.”

“That’s terrible.”

“That’s gonna reel in some quality patrons.”

“I feel for the dealers.”

“Poor dealers.”

That’s because $1 blackjack is a little, well, awkward.

Downtown Grand has struggled to be profitable for years, and offering $1 blackjack could be perceived as a little bit desperate.

The only other casino we can think of with $1 blackjack is Oyo, formerly Hooters.

The economics of a $1 blackjack table are such it’s pretty much a loss leader for a casino due to labor costs.

If everyone at a $1 table actually plays that amount per hand, a $1 6-to-5 blackjack table will only generate about $43,300 in an entire year.

A 6-to-5 $5 minimum blackjack table generates a meager $25 per hour in revenue, or $216,000 a year. A $5 3-to-2 table earns about $86,000 a year.

Now you know the answer to the question, “Why can’t I find any $5 3-to-2 blackjack tables?”

The general idea is to lure players into a casino for $1 blackjack hoping they’ll spend money on other games, whether at other tables or slots or restaurants or the bar.

blackjack

Fun fact: Playing blackjack is the closest we get to liking math.

While a $1 blackjack table may seem enticing, the games often have rules that hurt players.

For example, $1 minimum tables tend to be 6-to-5 payouts for blackjacks, rather than 3-to-2. (It’s worth noting a lot of higher limit tables are 6-to-5 as well.)

In low minimum blackjack games, dealers also hit soft 17, not optimal for players.

Value-seekers should take note of the $1 blackjack at Downtown Grand and enjoy it while it lasts.

We always enjoy Downtown Grand, as we like the generous video poker pay tables and frequent drinks (from the bottle, not the gun) at Furnace bar, and if you like a mellow, quiet casino, Downtown Grand’s hard to beat.

Also, one of our favorite restaurants, Triple George, is mere feet away.

Mesa Grill to Close at Caesars Palace, Amalfi by Bobby Flay Up Next

A longtime Las Vegas institution, Mesa Grill, will close on Nov. 14, 2020.

Bobby Flay fans shouldn’t freak out, though. The celebrity chef is replacing Mesa Grill with a new Italian concept, Amalfi.

Amalfi Caesars Palace

“Amalfi” in Italian means, “Some of these dishes will have eyeballs.”

The popular Mesa Grill had an amazing 16-year run at Caesars Palace.

Even we liked it, and we are not a Mexican food person.

Amalfi will debut in spring 2021.

Flay’s new restaurant is inspired by his visits to the Amalfi coast. The one in Italy. You need to get out more.

Damn, can you imagine the tough time Italians are having right now? Especially the Italians lining up for buses. They have zero concept of personal space. Social distancing could very well be the worst thing to happen to Italians since Alfredo sauce.

The news release about Amalfi has a lot of fancy food talk, but we tend to skip to the dessert part: “Dessert staples will include pistachio olive oil cake, pistachio butter, pistachio gelato, pistachio brittle and Amarena cherry sauce and a dark chocolate tiramisu.”

Breaking news: Bobby Flay clearly has a thing for pistachio.

Here’s another rendering from Bobby Flay’s new restaurant coming to Caesars Palace.

Amalfi Caesars lounge

We zoomed in, there’s Captain, we’re good.

According to the news release, “The entrance of the restaurant will serve as a gateway, enveloping guests’ senses from the moment they arrive.”

Oy, news releases.

Amalfi will have four spaces, the lounge, the main dining room, the market room and a private dining room.

Mesa Grill was a beloved go-to for lots of Vegas visitors, but in our opinion, you can never have too much Italian, so we’re looking forward to trying Amalfi.

You still have a few weeks of Mesa Grill, so stop by to say “adios” before saying “ciao” to Amalfi in the spring.

Mesa Grill Las Vegas

We’ve always thought the Mesa Grill logo looked like it had been vandalized.

“Ciao,” by the way, is pronounced “chow.”

Ah, the circularity of the universe.