Monthly Archives: February 2021

Virgin Las Vegas Confirms Free Parking, Free WiFi, No Resort Fees

Virgin Las Vegas resort, opening March 25, 2021, has confirmed it will have free Wi-Fi, no parking fees and (wait for it) no resort fees.

The company has reiterated its brand-wide “No Nickel-and-Diming” policy, and has even said it will have “street priced” minibars (the drinks and snacks in your hotel room).

What? No $21 bottles of Fiji water? The audacity! (Looking at you, Aria.)

Virgin shout

Break out the cutlets, Virgin guests will have something to shout about: No resort fees.

That’s pretty much the most shocking news of 2021 so far, and we are a little concerned some Las Vegas visitors might go into shock due to the sheer lack of gouging.

We’ve been ranting about the nickel-and-diming thing for ages, and it was only a matter of time before a Las Vegas resort got a clue and dumped these annoying fees.

It’s a great marketing hook and, as the kids say, “market differentiator.” Hey, the kids are really dank with the marketing.

Now, more than ever, resorts need to make Las Vegas a value again.

We floated this wishlist awhile back, and it’s refreshing to see Virgin Las Vegas embracing this concept.

make Vegas a value

Sometimes, wishes come true.

While there have been one-off promotions touting no resort fees, very few Las Vegas casino hotels avoid them altogether. Four Queens and Hotel Apache (Binion’s) downtown, as well as Casino Royale on The Strip, spring to mind. Sadly, it’s not hard to memorize the list.

Some Vegas watchers may be wondering if Virgin’s no resort fees policy will stick, as they recall the Caesars Entertainment “Angry Showgirls” no resort fees fiasco. The company paraded showgirls down the Las Vegas Strip, but later jumped on the resort fees bandwagon. It was awkward.

No resort fees rally

Ah, no resort fees. Those were the good old minute.

The “Angry Showgirls” debacle topped our list of 10 Regrettable Las Vegas Mistakes.

In the case of Virgin Las Vegas, though, as we mentioned, the “No Nickel-and-Diming” policy is brand-wide. It’s sort of baked into the Virgin Hotels ethos, so it’s doubtful the resort would backtrack down the road.

Of course, fees don’t just magically disappear, and the room rates at Virgin will probably just have the resort fee folded in. It’s never really been about the actual cost of resort fees. Even with resort fees, Las Vegas has some of the most reasonable rates of any major destination in the world. It’s about transparency. Many travelers are just over fees they perceive as deceptive or “hidden.”

Virgin is done with that ridiculousness.

Virgin hotel Las Vegas

Tagline idea: “Resort fees suck like a Roomba on oysters.” You’re welcome, Virgin Las Vegas.

Free parking wasn’t unexpected, as Hard Rock had free parking, but it’s still a great selling point. At the moment, MGM Resorts casinos have free parking, but that’s expected to be temporary.

Free Wi-Fi, of course, will be a hit, especially if the promise is fulfilled with decent download speeds.

Kudos to Virgin for taking a stand on the issue of annoying fees. Other Las Vegas casinos need to pay heed.

Here’s what’s in store at Virgin. See a larger version on the Virgin Web site (.pdf format). You’re welcome.

We love Virgin’s commitment to “No Nickel-and-Diming” so much, we might even start referring to their rooms as “chambers.”

Wow, you totally fell for that. Do you know this blog at all?

Update (3/23/21): While self-parking will be free at Virgin Hotel, there will be a charge for valet parking.

Madison Square Garden Crew Hoists Huge-Ass Sphere Topper

It’s time we got around to a Sphere update.

Construction crews at MSG Sphere (that probably won’t end up being the name, as a naming rights deal is anticipated) recently lifted a 170-ton compression ring into place.

Our friends at Maverick Helicopter passed along some sweet shots of the Sphere.

Las Vegas Sphere

Get it? When we said “around” in that opening sentence, it was because the MSG Sphere is round. We’ve won a lot of awards for this crap. Srsly.

The Las Vegas Sphere (we like that a lot better than Miller Lite Sphere or whatever it’s going to be called) is an entertainment venue likely to cost more than $1.66 billion.

Yes, that’s a lot of money. It’s best not to ask too many questions.

Here’s a better look at the compression ring. The ring is 100 feet across and is 285 feet up.

Sphere

This isn’t the first time somebody in Las Vegas has put a ring on it.

To lift the huge-ass compression ring (340,000 pounds) onto the huge-ass temporary support tower, crews used a huge-ass crane, the DEMAG CC-8800.

Yes, there are crane nerds who actually care about that kind of thing. It’s possible we are one of them.

The Sphere sits behind (just east of) Venetian resort.

Sphere

It’s like a sports arena, but better because of the lack of sports.

It’s expected the Sphere will be completed in 2023, but trust us, given the project’s bumpy ride to-date (exacerbated by the pandemic), everyone’s fingers are crossed it will open period.

The Sphere was originally slated to open in 2020. Not so much.

Here’s one more look at the Sphere. Thanks, Maverick.

Sphere

A 1,000 foot bridge will connect the Sphere to the Sands Expo convention center. Bring your Birkenstocks if those are still a thing.

The Sphere project has faced a series of challenges, much of it glossed over, of course, because Vegas is always gonna Vegas.

The budget for the project has ballooned. In Feb. 2020, it was announced the cost of the Sphere would be nearly 40 percent more than initially announced. It was one of many “Nothing to see here!” moments related to the Sphere.

Construction on the Sphere was temporarily halted in April 2020.

In August 2020, MSG was hit by $3.3 million in subcontractor liens. Not a ton of money given the total budget for the project. Unless you’re one of the subcontractors, of course.

Back in December 2020, MSG took over construction of the Sphere from its general contractor, AECOM. Awkward.

Still, our bulbous entertainment auditorium continues to take shape. Here’s what it will look like when it’s done.

MSG Sphere Arena Las Vegas

“Careful.” ~The Globe Theatre

Setting aside one’s opinions about the potential financial success of the MSG Sphere (so much supply, so many questions about demand), it’s a wonderful and weird venture.

The Sphere will seat 18,000 people and its exterior dome will have 190,000 feet of LED lighting.

The interior will boast a 360-degree IMAX experience with four acres of high resolution video across the dome’s roof.

We saw this on a slot machine. Placeholder name! You’re welcome, Madison Square Garden Corp.

The space will have 157,000 speakers and some kind of acoustics technology that uses planar audio waves to direct sound to specific locations. For example, two people sitting next to each other could hear different audio without one sound bleeding into the other. Crazy talk.

It’s wild stuff and this project needs to reach completion, if you get our drift. Read more about the Sphere.

More to come!

Downtown’s Greyhound Station, Magnet for Crime, is Out

Downtown’s Greyhound bus station, a magnet for crime and vagrancy, has closed after 50 years.

The Greyhound bus station has been a thorn in the side of Plaza casino, as Plaza inherited a long-term lease in 2005. Let’s just say the lease wasn’t renewed.

Plaza and the station have been joined at the hip, and not in a good way. Here’s where the station formerly operated.

Greyhound station Plaza

No word yet on what Plaza intends to do with the giant red arrow.

Back in the day, the Greyhound station lease made a lot more sense. The idea was casino customers would be delivered to the Plaza’s doorstep. Lately, not so much.

The station closed on Feb. 23, 2021.

The lease was actually up in July 2021, but Greyhound closed the station earlier than expected.

That sound you hear is Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel dancing in the street.

Jonathan Jossel Greyhound

All due respect to Greyhound, but GTFO.

On a recent episode of the Plaza’s podcast, “On the Corner of Main Street,” Clark County Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo confirmed the bus station was a “negative draw” for the area.

The Greyhound bus station was responsible for the most police calls for service in the entire city.

Greyhound Las Vegas

The best bus stations are empty bus stations.

The sheriff also said bus stations are notorious for drawing shady characters looking to victimize those arriving by bus who are perhaps “wide-eyed” and vulnerable to hucksters.

Greyhound closed downtown Vegas

So many characters. So many stories. So much WTF.

The move of the bus station should eliminate a significant amount of crime from the Fremont Street area.

The Greyhound station is moving to RTC South Strip Transfer Terminal at 6675 Gilespie Street. Good luck with that!

Greyhound Vegas downtown

“Please leave us out of this.” ~Actual greyhounds

Despite the challenges of having the Greyhound station downtown, there was one noteworthy moment. The station was featured in “Bourne,” starring Matt Damon.

We caught an exclusive photo of the station being rebranded for the movie.

The downtown Greyhound station was renamed “Blue Line Transit” for “Bourne.”

Vegas Bourne movie

While “Bourne” sucked, we like exclusives, so we’ll take it.

Now that Greyhound has hit the road, Plaza has plans to develop the space.

Preliminary plans include restaurants, retail and an entertainment venue.

Greyhound station Vegas

There are still a few strays, but Greyhound’s out downtown.

Things are looking up for Plaza, as its new neighbor, Circa Las Vegas, has brought some new attention to the classic casino.

Plaza turns 50 years old in July 2021.

Downtown Vegas bus station

This is the sign outside the former bus station. Honesty required by law.

The closure of the Greyhound station at Plaza is sure to inspire glee among the security teams at Plaza, as well as Golden Gate and Golden Nugget just across the street.

While Plaza’s McDonald’s might take a financial hit, the bus station’s move could work wonders in changing how some perceive downtown Las Vegas.

Now, how can we relocate the Clark County Detention Center?

Magician Criss Angel’s Having a Garage Sale

Lovable lunkhead extraordinaire Criss Angel is doing some spring cleaning, putting up a number of his magic props and collectors items up for sale.

Items available in this “Everything must go!” sale include illusions and magic, which are apparently to different things in Criss Angel’s world.

Criss Angel garage sale

No word yet on when the bake sale and car wash will be. Image via Criss Angel on Facebook.

We josh because we love, but there are actually some pretty sweet items for sale.

At the top of the list is an true magic classic, Doug Henning’s original water levitation. The trick comes with “worldwide rights from Doug Henning.”

Henning’s signature floating ball illusion (well, a “duplicate” of it) is also for sale.

There are lots of other theatrical props and collectible items, and the descriptions alone are worth a look.

For example, there’s a pair of “Walking Legs,” described as “By far the best and most deceptive legs in the business.”

Fun fact: The name of our band in high school was Deceptive Legs.

He makes it way too easy. Image via Criss Angel on Facebook.

Another item, Criss Angel Metamorphosis, says, “Metamorphosis comes in a custom rolling case and sets up with just one person in 90 seconds and requires no tools!”

Well, if it’s Criss Angel setting this up, is that technically accurate.

Zing!

Criss Angel

We cannot confirm or deny if we wrote this entire article just to share this meme again.

One of the things that makes this sale even more intriguing is if you read the descriptions closely, you can learn a lot about magic.

For example, there are “Asrah forms” for sale. These wire frames are used when an assistant is levitated and made to disappear. Sorry, should’ve said “Spoiler alert.”

Here’s that guy who ruined magic for everyone.

The online catalogue of Criss Angel’s stuff is a fun read.

Interested parties can browse through a list of items up for sale on Criss Angel’s Web site.

Take a look and pony up some cash for a double barrel confetti cannon, the “No Feet” illusion, a trick called “Where the Ducks Go?” or even Lance Burton’s throne.

Cavalcade of Las Vegas Shows Return to the Stage

A sure sign Las Vegas is healing, a number of temporarily closed shows are again hoisting their curtains to the great relief of performers, techs and many others who rely on these productions to pay the bills.

Yes, curtains are hoisted. That’s the technical term for it.¬†We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stage hands shout, “Hoist the curtain, matey!” Look, it’s in a blog, so it has to be true.

For starters, “Absinthe” reopens March 17, 2021 at Caesars Palace. Two other productions from the same production company, “Opium” and “Atomic Saloon,” are still on hold.

Absinthe balancing act

Reopening shows is a balancing act, but we’re ready to awe again.

Live entertainment has been hard hit by capacity limitations. For several months, audience sizes have been limited to 50 people due to the COVID-19 crisis. This made profitability pretty much impossible, so shows decided to go dark.

Another deal breaker for many shows was a 25-foot “moat” required between performers and audience members. Don’t get us started.

Now, capacity limits are increasing, so shows are reopening, especially after March 15 when the next phase of loosening restrictions kicks in.

Several shows have already relaunched. Carrot Top and “Fantasy,” a pair of must-see shows, are already welcoming guests at Luxor.

Carrot Top

You can bet Carrot Top has some pent-up funny.

Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand reopened Feb. 15, 2021.

“Thunder From Down Under” at Excalibur reopened Feb. 15 as well.

“Piff the Magic Dragon” and “X Burlesque” are open at Flamingo.

Piff

Piff is thrilled to be back. Yes, this is Piff’s thrilled face.

“X Country” and “Tape Face” are tickling their respective fancies at Harrah’s.

As for what’s coming up, let’s go!

“Australian Bee Gees” are back March 15, 2021 at Excalibur. Just trust us and see this one.

Australian Bee Gees

The “Australian Bee Gees” are expert spirit-lifters.

“MJ Live” at The Strat is back March 18, 2021.

David Copperfield returns March 21, 2021 at MGM Grand.

Terry Fator’s limited engagement happens at New York-New York next month as well.

A number of shows in the V Theater are expected to return in early March, including “V, The Ultimate Variety Show,” Nathan Burton Comedy Magic and the beloved Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater (photo below).

Gregory Popovich

Dogs into it. Cats over it. Things are definitely getting back to normal.

Scheduling and capacities are still tricky with these shows, so plan ahead and reserve your tickets in advance.

All are adhering to the mask and social distancing mandates, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Nevada’s COVID-19 case counts have fallen dramatically in recent weeks, and it’s going to be a great summer in Las Vegas.

Live entertainment provides jobs for thousands of people, and it’s great to see the world of Las Vegas entertainment springing back to life.

The world is ready to let loose again, and Las Vegas is just the place to do it.

Unicoaster Roulette Is a “Game You Can Ride” and It’s Glorious

A company called U.S. Thrill Rides has designed an amusement park ride based upon a roulette wheel and it’s absolutely glorious.

The ride is “Unicoaster Roulette,” billed as “The Game You Can Ride.”

This thrill ride is presumably being pitched to Las Vegas casinos, as all the renderings have the Unicoaster smack dab in the middle of casino floors, surrounded by table games and slot machines.

Roulette roller coaster

Casinos don’t typically have splash zones, but there’s a first time for everything.

Isn’t it interesting how we use a phrase like “smack dab” all the time and never really think about what it actually means? Apparently, “dab” is a British term meaning skilled. “Smack” means to slap.” So, “smack dab” could be taken to mean “a skilled slap.” Which is awkward.

Moving on.

Here’s a sweet video of the roulette-themed Unicoaster in action, a skilled slap on a casino floor. Or something.

Thanks to our pal Marc Meltzer for passing along this gem.

Unicoaster is sort of the umbrella term for this ride, as it can be “skinned” or themed in any number of ways. That means it could also be craps-themed or blackjack-themed. Or even thong-themed. Just a personal preference.

While it seems wild to imagine a thrill ride on a casino floor, it does address a major challenge for casinos, namely, “How do you get the young people into casinos?”

Fewer people are gambling in Las Vegas casinos in recent years overall, and the youths are being especially difficult because for some reason they don’t find sitting in front of a slot machine for hours mindlessly pushing a button “entertaining.”

Rude.

Thrill rides make a ton of money in Las Vegas. The rides atop Strat are a huge revenue driver, and the SlotZilla zipline has changed the economic landscape of downtown forever.

A few years ago, casinos would never have considered giving up precious floor space for a thrill ride, but this one’s fairly compact and casinos have given up large swaths of space for much less lucrative ventures. (Rio devoted a large portion of its casino floor to timeshare sales.)

The ride is 57 feet wide and 18 feet tall.

Roulette thrill ride

It’s a single zero roulette wheel. We know how you are.

The ride can accommodate 16-24 people (it’s configurable), several of them not nauseated. (Note: We are not a thrill ride person.) The ride can handle up to 240 riders an hour.

The ride lasts about two minutes, or about the same period of time involved in making love to this blog.

The Unicoaster Roulette machine is touted as having a “$900 per square foot revenue potential.” Not too shabby. The last time we looked, the average slot machine makes about $400.

The roulette thrill ride would cost a casino $1.6 million, and the manufacturer says it would “return $930,000 in the first year at only 35 percent utilization.”

Those are some juicy numbers for casino executives. So, never say never.