Category Archives: Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas is a quirky alternative to the Las Vegas Strip, with good gambling, a grittier vibe and a diverse collection of restaurants, bars and casinos. Downtown Las Vegas isn’t for everyone, but many locals and tourists enjoy it for the value, authenticity and lively atmosphere.

18 Fremont Update: Vegas Vickie Relocates, Last Hurrah at Mermaids and Las Vegas Club, Demolition News

There’s a lot going on at downtown’s 18 Fremont block, and we’ve got all the latest scoop you won’t find anywhere else.

The 18 Fremont block is home to the closed Las Vegas Club, Mermaids casino and Glitter Gulch. The entire block is being demolished to build a new casino-resort.

First up, the iconic Vegas Vickie sign was removed from the infamous Glitter Gulch strip club facade.

Vegas Vickie removal

We trust those feelings you’re having are nostalgia. Freak.

Vegas Vickie was installed in 1980, the brainchild of Las Vegas character Bob Stupak. She was the counterpart to another great neon sign, Vegas Vic. The duo were symbolically “married” in a ceremony in 1994 to mark the construction of the Fremont Street Experience.

While Vickie’s name has been spelled in a variety of ways over the years (Vicky, Vicki), Vickie is, indeed, the proper spelling.

Vegas Vickie

Seriously, what is wrong with you?

It’s been widely misreported Vegas Vickie was originally called Sassy Sally. First, the Sassy Sally’s casino was half-a-block away (where Mermaids now sits) from Vickie’s perch. Second, Vickie was installed a year before the Sundance West casino became Sassy Sally’s.

Vegas Vickie’s suffered a good deal of damage over the years, so it looked like she might be demolished with the surrounding buildings. The new owners of the sign, Derek and Greg Stevens, decided to invest in safely removing her, anyway.

Removal of Vegas Vickie alone is said to have cost in the range of $11,000.

The plan is to keep Vegas Vickie in storage so she can be restored and mounted again, all due respect.

Vegas Vickie's leg

Vegas Vickie’s once-kicking leg left on its own truck. The leg stopped kicking about six months after she was installed. It was never repaired.

We’ve heard estimates for Vegas Vickie’s restoration are around $125,000.

One of the biggest mysteries has been where Vegas Vickie will ultimately end up.

Early in the design process of the 18 Fremont project, it was thought Vegas Vickie might be integrated into the resort. Her imposing size, 25 feet tall, made that impractical.

Vegas Vickie

‘Til we meet again.

One of the options considered was the site of a “Welcome to Fabulous Downtown Las Vegas” sign that was destroyed by a reckless driver. That location, at South Fourth Street and Las Vegas Boulevard North, is a fairly crappy one and would make for a poor, and potentially dangerous, photo op.

Here’s a look at Vegas Vickie as she rides off into the sunset. For now, anyway.

Any number of entities have shown interest in Vegas Vickie, but we’re hearing the most likely scenario is she’ll return to Fremont Street.

We’ve got exclusive renderings of where Vegas Vickie is most likely to end up, on a landing platform for the SlotZilla zipline, just a few feet from the new resort at 18 Fremont.

Vegas Vickie

This is one of two possible positions for Vegas Vickie when she makes her return to Fremont Street. The new resort will be in the direction her leg is pointing.

In another rendering, we can see how Vegas Vickie will look if she’s positioned to jut out over Main Street.

Vegas Vickie

Vegas Vickie will soon be back, alive and kicking, at least metaphorically.

There’s no timeline for when Vegas Vickie might be back, but casino executives are working with the City of Las Vegas and Bob Stupak’s son, Nevada Stupak, to bring her back to Fremont.

As for the other classic signs on the site, like the Golden Goose and Glitter Gulch signs, their fate will lie in the hands of the demolition company. They will ultimately decide if the signs can be salvaged, and can give them away or sell them at their discretion.

It’s believed the facades of these buildings will stay up throughout the demolition process. They’ll keep the street from looking like a construction site, as well as helping to block dust from the demolition.

18 Fremont demolition

Dibs on an egg.

See the photo gallery at the bottom of this story for more photos of Vegas Vickie’s removal.

While Vegas Vickie has grabbed much of the spotlight at 18 Fremont lately, there’s a lot more going on.

While the Las Vegas Club and Mermaids casinos closed back in June 2016, a quirky gaming license regulation resulted in them opening up again recently. For eight hours each.

Las Vegas Club temporary casino

Eight hours of casino is better than zero hours of casino.

That’s right, both Las Vegas Club and Mermaids opened for a few hours on June 27 and June 28, 2017.

To satisfy the gaming regulation, and maintain the gaming licenses for the sites, the casino hired a third party vendor, United Coin Machine, to set up 16 slot machines inside the physical footprint of each casino.

Las Vegas Club temporary casino

Enjoy. It’s the last time you’ll get to see inside the Las Vegas Club.

It’s hugely expensive for a casino to go through this silly exercise (think five times more than it took to remove Vegas Vickie), but rules is rules.

Ironically, despite the cost, the owners of the casino don’t get to keep the revenue generated by the “pop-up” casinos. It doesn’t amount to much, but still.

Mermaids temporary casino

Ditto Mermaids.

We had to try our luck at each of the pop-up casinos, of course, and are pleased to report we bucked the odds and hit four-of-a-kind at the Las Vegas Club.

Las Vegas Club four of a kind

Mojo is mojo, no matter how brief.

In the words of our attendant, “You’re the last person to ever win money at the Las Vegas Club.” Immortality ensured. (Although, it was arguably already ensured when we had the very last deep fried Oreos ever served at Mermaids.)

If you’re a Las Vegas casino nerd, you’ll be interested to know the temporary casinos don’t use a TITO (ticket in, ticket out) system, but rather accept cash and pay jackpots in cash.

Mermaids temporary casino

Our last fling at Mermaids.

This practice of temporary casinos is a time-honored, masturbatory ritual in Las Vegas. It’s sort of like smog checks. Everyone knows it’s a racket, but nobody seems to know how to make it stop.

Up next at 18 Fremont: Demolition.

We recently laid out the way the demolition will happen, in phases, with the entire block eventually being leveled, including the Las Vegas Club’s two hotel towers.

18 Fremont demolition

Destruction will take place in this order: 1. Granite Gaming office. 2. Mermaids, Glitter Gulch. 3. Las Vegas Club casino. 4. Parking structure. 5. Old tower. 6. New tower.

The first building to be demolished in this phase of the process is the former office of Granite Gaming (see below), the previous owner of Mermaids and Glitter Gulch. That demolition begins July 17, 2017.

Preparation for the demolition has been in the works for months, including a key step recently, as utilities were capped off. You can see traces of that work on the street between Binion’s and the Granite Gaming building.

Bid farewell to that little building on the upper right.

Demolition of the block actually began back in February 2017, but now the project begins in earnest.

In case you missed it in the photo caption above, each building on the 18 Fremont block will be meticulously taken down, with Mermaids and Glitter Gulch next (late July), then the Las Vegas Club’s casino (early August), the parking garage (late August), then the two hotel towers (starting in early September). It’s expected the demolition will be complete by the end of 2017.

Sorry, no implosions. All the structures will be taken down with demolition equipment, including the largest crane of its kind in the world.

Update (7/17/17): Demolition crews wasted no time in taking down the Granite Gaming building.

18 Fremont demolition

Given the time it took for this building to disappear, we predict this demolition is going to be way ahead of schedule.

Here’s a better view of the demolition on July 17, 2017.

Update (7/19/17): Crews appear to be ahead of schedule, as Glitter Gulch has already bitten the dust.

Glitter Gulch demolition

The demolition of Glitter Gulch strip club is the Silkwood shower we’ve all been looking forward to.

While we’re in the neighborhood, it’s probably a good time to check in on the expansion at Golden Gate, just across Fremont Street.

Golden Gate has announced the expansion to its casino, in the former La Bayou footprint, will debut on August 25, 2017.

Golden Gate expansion

The expansion at Golden Gate will blend seamlessly with the existing building, the oldest hotel in Las Vegas.

We’ve heard some juicy details about the Golden Gate expansion, including the fact the new space will feature a chandelier made up of dozens of video screens.

(Update 7/20/17): Here’s a first look at what the Golden Gate’s new facade will look like, including a peek at the video chandelier.

Golden Gate casino expansion rendering

Golden Gate is going to need to hire someone just to keep track of all the remotes.

The first floor of the expanded space will add another 100 slots to the casino. Golden Gate currently has 361 slots. The second floor of the expansion will be used for storage and distribution of liquor to the casino, expected to save the casino about $100,000 a year.

Golden Gate expansion

You thought we were going to do this entire story without a security breach? Do you know this blog at all?

There’s a metric hell-ton going on downtown, and the demolition and construction of the new resort at 18 Fremont will be fun to watch.

And watch we will.

Check this blog often for all the latest news. It’s not like you’re all that into your job, anyway.

Vegas Vickie Relocated, More at 18 Fremont

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Free Downtown Loop Shuttle Service Launches

There’s a new way to get around downtown Las Vegas, and it’s free.

The Downtown Loop shuttle service is a six-month pilot program paid for by the City of Las Vegas.

The service runs daily, and bumps uglies (probably not the official term) with seven stops in downtown Las Vegas.

Downtown Loop Las Vegas

The folks at Pawn Plaza and the Mob Museum must know a guy.

The Downtown Loop stops at Bonneville Transit Center, The Arts District, Pawn Plaza, Fremont East (on Las Vegas Boulevard, south of Fremont Street), the Mob Museum, Fremont Street Experience (Main Street, south of Fremont) and Las Vegas North Premium Outlets.

The free shuttle runs from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 3:00 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sundays. The 19-passenger buses hit their stops about every 20 minutes.

The new shuttle is a great way to explore parts of downtown you might not otherwise venture to, especially Fremont East, the Mob Museum and Pawn Plaza.

The shuttle costs a pretty penny, $550,000 ($275,000 for the first six months with an option to extend), but would likely be continued if deemed successful, based upon ridership and economic impact.

It remains to be seen what the interest level is. It’s likely the City of Las Vegas will want businesses benefiting from the shuttles to pay for them if they become a permanent offering.

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Austin “Chumlee” Russell’s Candy Shop Opens at Pawn Plaza in Downtown Las Vegas

Austin “Chumlee” Russell, one of the stars of the Las Vegas-based “Pawn Stars” reality series, has opened a new candy store, Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard.

The candy shop is located in Pawn Plaza, a shopping complex adjacent to the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop made, y’know, world famous, on “Pawn Stars.”

During our recent visit, Chumlee himself was greeting fans at the shop and said he expects to do so often.

Chumlee candy shop

Chumlee’s candy shop features classics like Turkish Taffy, Astro Pops and Niklnips, at least one of which sounds like a stripper name.

The shop is co-owned by Chumlee and his brother, Sage Russell.

Chumlee’s candy shop is diminutive, as it inhabits a shipping container, but has a solid collection of sweets, including many retro candies sure to strike a nostalgic chord with guests.

The candy selection reflects Chumlee’s personal favorites such as Bottle Caps and Razzles.

Chumlee candy shop

It seems somebody’s lollipop has delusions of grandeur.

The prices are a tad on the steep side, so don’t think of it as “candy,” per se. The candy is just an excuse to rub elbows with a reality TV star. They aren’t candy cigarettes, they’re “Pawn Stars” mementos, emphasis on the Mentos. Which we don’t recall seeing at the shop, but just play along.

Oh, that’s right, we went for the candy cigarettes ($2). We also snagged SweeTarts ($2.75, deep breaths), Red Vines ($2.45), Pop Rocks ($1.85) and candy buttons ($1.97).

Chumlee candy on the boulevard

Don’t judge us. It’s Las Vegas.

Chumlee and his brother Sage were helpful and friendly, indulging requests for autographs and selfies.

Our receipt said “Cashier: Austin Russell,” but his brother was actually the one pulling cashier duty.

There was a short line outside the shop during our visit, mainly because the store can only accommodate six guests at a time.

The shop is open noon to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday).

Chumlee candy shop

The “Boulevard” in the name is Las Vegas Boulevard, the most glorious of all thoroughfares.

Pawn Plaza has had quite a bit of turnover in recent months, so it’s gratifying to see another new tenant in place.

We quite like the nearby Jared’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs & Hamburgers, as one does not live by candy buttons alone.

Here’s hoping Chumlee and his brother can make a go of Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard. It’s unknown if “Pawn Stars” will be picked up by the History network for a 15th season, so it’s an ideal time for the show’s stars to explore other ventures.

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Derek Stevens Land Buy Opens Up Possibilities for Downtown Vegas

While Vegas-watchers had their eye on a classic neon sign, Vegas Vickie, coming down on Fremont Street, they missed news of much greater significance.

Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new resort on its way to the former Las Vegas Club site (referred to as “18 Fremont”), recently closed a land deal that opens the door for dramatic changes to downtown Las Vegas.

Stevens purchased a site known as P/Q, part of Symphony Park. Here’s a look at the parcel from a perspective you know you’re only going to get on this blog.

PQ site Derek Stevens

Pretty much the first dirt lot that’s ever made us giddy. Just keep reading.

Symphony Park is a rather nebulous name for a district downtown Las Vegas has long had high hopes for. Symphony Park home to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Discovery Children’s Museum and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The roughly 6.4-acre site sits behind the Plaza casino, not far from another parcel Stevens purchased in October 2016. That parcel sits between the Plaza and Main Street Station casino. Vegas-watchers missed that sale, too. Hey, we do what we can.

Here’s another look.

The more you know about the latest land purchase, the more intriguing the possibilities become.

Here’s a useful map to help sort out what’s where. At left, the latest acquisition. The land in the center, next to Plaza, will be used for parking for the new resort at 18 Fremont. The new casino at 18 Fremont will be connected to the parking structure by a bridge.

Derek Stevens land purchases

Remember how we kept calling the purchase next to Plaza casino “strategic”? We’re not just randomly typing words, you know.

Derek Stevens has shown he has a vision for his business ventures and downtown Las Vegas, so it’s not surprising these purchases aren’t random.

For now, the new parcel will serve as a “laydown” yard during the construction of 18 Fremont, a place for construction materials to be delivered and set out before being used in the resort. The lot next to the Plaza would seem to be a good staging area, but it’s expected a parking structure will be built simultaneously to the new resort, so the P/Q parcel will serve that purpose.

Several trailers are already in place at P/Q, and those will be offices for the companies doing demolition and construction on the 18 Fremont project.

18 Fremont laydown yard

Stick with us and we’ll help you impress your friends with terms like “laydown yard.”

But, wait, there’s more.

It’s interesting to note the site purchased by Derek Stevens is the only parcel in Symphony Park zoned for gaming.

That’s worth repeating. The land recently recently purchased by the owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new casino resort at 18 Fremont is zoned for gaming.

If you’re thinking that’s the point in our story that gets us giddy, you’d be right.

While plans for the land, beyond its utilitarian use during the construction of the 18 Fremont project, haven’t been specified, there’s no denying it’s a strategic move and one that could very well mean much, much bigger plans are in the works.

But, wait, there’s more.

In all the plans for Symphony Park, a 61-acre district that stalled during the economic downturn, the parcel abutting the P/Q lot has been slated for a sports arena or, most recently, soccer stadium.

Plans for a stadium have not taken off, but if such a stadium came to pass, it would mean Derek Stevens, his brother and business partner Greg Stevens, and their company, are in the best possible position to take advantage of that development and any resulting boom in business.

downtown arena

Let’s just say the Stevens would probably not be disappointed if someone built a stadium 15 feet away from their newly-purchased site.

If you look closely at that map, you’ll see the P/Q site was previously supposed to be the Forest City Casino-Hotel. The best laid plans and all that.

But, wait, there’s more.

We’ve learned Stevens’ company has invested millions in lobbying efforts toward to the creation of a new off-ramp that will lead from the nearby U.S. 95 freeway directly into W. Ogden Ave.

Apparently, the lobbying has paid off because the off-ramp project is happening.

That’s right, the road that runs along the P/Q site, past the parking structure next to Plaza and right to the back door of the new 18 Fremont hotel and casino. You can see Ogden emerging from a tunnel to the left of the shaded area (the parcel owned by the Stevens), below.

Stevens parcel

Maybe we just like putting shaded areas on things.

Freeway off-ramps are powerful and transformative things, and have helped shape the economic futures of more than a few American cities.

All this from a land sale that’s flown largely under the radar. Until now. You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: Our day job is in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience, the marketing arm of a group of casinos, including The D and Golden Gate. Our opinions are our own.

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Downtown Grand Snafu Reaps Big Wins for Players

It’s a Las Vegas story almost too good to be true, but it happened, and it’s sure to become the stuff of casino legend.

Recently, an error in Downtown Grand’s loyalty club system resulted in thousands of dollars in unearned free play for customers and tens of thousands in losses for the downtown casino.

Here’s how it went down.

On Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, guests using their player’s cards noticed something strange when they accessed their Downtown Grand Rewards loyalty club accounts.

Rather than the typical free play offered by the casino, customers realized they were being given hundreds of additional dollars in free play for no apparent reason.

Ultimately, a system glitch resulted in each slot player receiving nearly a thousand dollars in free play ($970, to be exact), irrespective of their previous level of play. Or, to put it into the parlance of casino management, “Aieeee.”

Downtown Grand $1,000 rebate

They weren’t kidding.

Word of the snafu spread quickly, with customers alerting friends and relatives by phone and text so they, too, could take advantage of the administrative fluke.

While casino free play has no cash value, players are allowed to keep winnings resulting from the use of free slot play.

Downtown Grand’s incident (most likely caused by human error, according to casino insiders) resulted in players cashing out for substantial sums as a result of the gaff.

There’s no way to know how many players took advantage of Downtown Grand’s mistake or how long the glitch was in effect before casino management rectified it, but it’s safe to say the casino took a hit for tens of thousands of dollars.

One customer inquired about the abnormally generous free play and a Downtown Grand employee claimed a similar aberration had transpired a week prior, but players had mistakenly received free play in the $100 range.

Downtown Grand

We totally got a photo release from this guy and his suspenders, so no worries.

While magical for gamblers, errors like the one at Downtown Grand can do serious damage to a casino’s bottom line. Casino computer systems are sophisticated, but remain vulnerable to human fallibility.

The good news is Downtown Grand seems to have found its footing in recent months. We’ve heard the resort’s room bookings are strong and there are plans to add more room inventory soon.

The resort has also announced it will transform a nearby parking structure into The Quad (don’t get us started about the name), an entertainment district featuring a tavern, concert venue and fitness center. Read more.

Downtown Grand The Quad

Yay, new.

Here’s a better look at the plans for The Quad at Downtown Grand.

So, here’s the question: If you realized you were getting a thousand dollars in free play you hadn’t earned, what would you do? Would you keep playing or report the error to casino officials?

Let us know. We’re a Las Vegas blog, so we won’t judge. Probably.

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Details Emerge of Las Vegas Club, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch Demolition, Plus Vegas Vickie’s Fate

There’s a lot going on at the Las Vegas Club site in downtown Las Vegas, and we’ve got all the skinny about the upcoming demolition set to clear the way for a new hotel-casino.

Demolition of a one block site at Fremont Street and Main, informally called “18 Fremont,” will begin on or around July 15, 2017.

All the structures on the block will be taken down to ground level, including the closed Las Vegas Club casino and its two hotel towers, Mermaids casino and Girls of Glitter Gulch strip club.

At one time, it was believed the older of the two Las Vegas Club hotel towers would be imploded, but it’s now been decided no implosion will take place.

Las Vegas Club

If you’re a fan of things being “blowed up real good,” sorry. The Las Vegas Club hotel towers are coming down with a whimper, not a bang.

Demolition in mid-July will begin with a small office structure once used as the management offices of Granite Gaming, owners of Mermaids and Glitter Gulch. Removal of that building, along with a couple of smaller buildings (one a power house, another an “annex”), will make way for some heavy duty demolition equipment to set up shop in the middle of the block.

One of the cranes which will be moved into the site is said to be the largest demolition crane of its kind in the world.

Next, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch will bite the dust.

Mermaids casino

This makes Mermaids prettier than it actually was, trust us.

The owners of the property, Derek and Greg Stevens, along with their team, have devoted an extraordinary amount of time creating an inventory of the signage on all the structures involved in the demolition.

Vegas Vickie, for example, will be removed from the Glitter Gulch facade on June 12, 2017.

It’s estimated the Stevens will invest $11,000 just to remove the iconic sign. There are questions as to whether Vegas Vickie can even be removed intact given her deteriorated condition.

Vegas Vickie

It’s unclear whether Vegas Vickie’s removal will necessitate a divorce from Vegas Vic. They were married in 1994. Not kidding.

Vegas Vickie will ultimately be restored and put on display. Exactly where Vickie will end up hasn’t been decided, but early word is that it will most certainly remain in downtown Las Vegas and is expected to be even more accessible for photo ops.

In the meantime, she’ll be packed up and kept in storage until details of a new location can be sorted out.

It’s estimated the cost of restoring Vegas Vickie could be as much as $100,000. Talk about high maintenance.

There are dozens of other signs in and around Las Vegas Club, Mermaids and Glitter Gulch, including another classic sign, a neon beauty which reads Golden Goose.

Golden Goose casino

Golden Goose opened as the State Cafe. Then it was was Buckley’s Casino, and later the Mecca Casino. Oh, like you’re going to remember all this.

Many of the signs will be salvaged prior to the demolition, and Derek Stevens has said some signs and other fixtures in and on the buildings will be given away in casino promotions. Listen to our recent podcast to hear more.

We’ve learned exclusively the giveaways will begin in August 2017, and players will have a chance to win letters from the various “Las Vegas Club” signs at the site. There are 24 letters up for grabs.

Las Vegas Club sign

Dibs on a “V.” Because Vital Vegas. Please try and keep up.

The demolition will continue around the site, with the Las Vegas Club’s street level casino next on the chopping block.

Then, it’s on to a parking structure on the northeast side of the site.

Finally, the older of the two hotel towers (14 stories) will be taken down, then the newer tower (15 stories) will meet its end. The buildings won’t be taken down floor by floor, but in “columns.”

Here’s a look at the various phases of the demolition project at 18 Fremont.

18 Fremont demolition

Here’s the plan. 1. Granite Gaming office. 2. Mermaids and Glitter Gulch. 3. Las Vegas Club casino. 4. Parking structure. 5. Old tower. 6. New tower.

By the way, the band names on the rooftops are remnants of a video used to promote the Life is Beautiful music festival back in 2015.

That’s Fremont Street Experience in the upper right of the photo, where we work in digital marketing as our day job. The D and Golden Gate, part of the Fremont Street Experience, are owned by the Stevens.

If all goes as planned, demolition at the 18 Fremont site will be completed in November 2017.

In an intriguing twist, it’s been announced slot play will return to Las Vegas Club and Mermaids for eight hours each on June 27-28, 2017.

A quirky (and costly) gaming rule requires that slot play be made available to the public for at least eight hours every two years. Yes, it’s a deeply stupid rule, but hey, this blog loves it some quirky. Check out our visit to another temporary casino, Moulin Rouge.

temporary casino

Yeah, not exactly your typical flashy Las Vegas casino. The worst part: No cocktail service.

One of the stranger aspects of the whole temporary casino nonsense is casino owners don’t keep the money played on the machines. The whole operation is set up by a vendor, United Coin Machine.

So, that should provide some idea of what’s going down at the former Las Vegas Club at 18 Fremont. The official name of the new resort has yet to be announced, but trust us, we’re doing a lot of poking around.

The Las Vegas Club opened in 1930 and had the second neon sign in all of Las Vegas (the first at a casino). The Las Vegas Club closed at midnight on August 19, 2015. Glitter Gulch closed on June 27, 2016. Mermaids closed on June 27, 2016.

There’s lots of new and shiny on the way, but first there’s some serious house cleaning to do.

Expect more photos, drone footage and security breaches in the months to come. Allegedly.

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