Category Archives: Las Vegas Casinos

Circa Resort Construction is Halfway to Completion

Circa Las Vegas has made impressive progress during its first year of construction, and we’ve got a look at the current state of the new hotel-casino downtown.

The $1.2 billion Circa is expected to open in December 2020. The project broke ground on February 19, 2019.

Circa Las Vegas construction

Downtown’s about to get some new shiny.

Here’s an amazing fun fact about Circa: Since Oct. 3, 2019, Circa has been adding a floor per week.

The 44-story, 500-foot-tall Circa will eventually have 777 rooms, but will open with closer to 500 rooms, plus 71 suites. The final mix of rooms and suites will be based upon demand.

Among the new resort’s features will be what’s billed as the “world’s largest sports book.” Gird your loins, Westgate.

Here’s a look at the space where the sports book will reside when it slides into home. Or something.

Circa sports book

They’ll probably spruce it up a bit before opening day.

The three-level Circa sports book, expected to cost about $20 million, will have a 78 million pixel high-definition screen.

Here’s a rendering of the finished product for comparison purposes, reversed angle from the perspective above.

Circa Las Vegas

Consider it spruced.

The jewel of Circa will be its rooftop pool complex, with six pools open 365 days a year. It’s projected the pools will be able to serve about 4,000 people a day.

The video screen at the pool will have 14 million pixels.

Here’s the owner of Circa, Derek Stevens, showing off his baby. Stevens and his brother Greg also own The D and Golden Gate.

Circa Las Vegas Derek Stevens

We were the first to quote Derek Stevens as saying, “Downtown is under-pooled.” He’s determined to remedy that.

Here’s the rendering of what the pool deck will look like when it’s completed.

Circa Las Vegas

Good luck escaping the sports at Circa.

It was a blast being among the first to walk around the future Circa casino, where we fully anticipate making regular donations.

Circa will have 1,350 slot machines and 49 table games.

Here’s a “before” shot of Circa’s casino!

Circa Las Vegas casino

Savsies on Wheel of Fortune.

During our tour, we spotted an area we’re pretty sure will be the home of Vegas Vickie upon her much-anticipated return to Fremont Street. She is set to be a featured part of Circa’s
lobby.

Circa

The Circa lobby will have a moon roof.

From what we can tell, the Vegas Vickie sign is so tall (40 feet), she’ll actually extend beyond the ceiling of the casino, protruding through an opening in the ceiling.

We couldn’t help but create this weak and entirely speculative image of where Vegas Vickie might go at Circa.

Vegas Vickie Circa

When we asked a friend at Circa which way Vickie’s leg will go, the reply was, “We don’t know.” If they don’t know, we sure as hell don’t.

Our mole got some sweets shots of Vegas Vickie during her renovation at Yesco Signs. She’s got a fresh coat of paint!

Vegas Vickie renovation

If you love classic Vegas signs, this photo gives a whole new meaning to “halfway to completion.”

Across the street from Circa is another key element of the project, deemed Garage Mahal.

The nine-story Garage Mahal structure will hold about 1,200 vehicles, but the big selling point is it’s the first parking garage in Las Vegas to be built around catering to rideshare services like Lyft and Uber.

Garage Mahal

In Persian, “Mahal” means mansion or palace. Because writing photo captions is hard.

More fun facts: More than 10.75 million pounds of rebar (emphasis on “bar,” because Vegas) have been installed at Circa to-date, as well as 12.2 million pounds of structural steel (emphasis on “pounds,” because you know how we are).

Circa is set to announce more about its bars and five restaurants in the next couple of months. Let’s just say the mix of cuisines will augment the already popular options at The D. Hint: Think “east,” both “coast” and “far.”

We haven’t heard much about non-sports entertainment at Circa, although a stage production called “Circa du Soleil” would have been absolute gold, marketingwise.

How is Circa coming along so quickly? Credit has to go to the stellar efforts of Steelman Partners (architecture and design), McCarthy Building Companies (general contractor) and Tre Builders (construction manager).

Oh, and the construction folks, of course. The total number of construction workers on Circa and Garage Mahal is about 600. Note: Safety vests are hawt. Are we right, ladies?

Circa

Oh, like we were going to write this entire story without a single use of the word “erection”? Do you know this blog at all?

Disclosure: We work in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience as our day job, and The D and Golden Gate are member casinos of that organization. Our opinions are our own.

Update (1/7/20): The first windows have been put into place at Circa.

Circa windows

No panes, no gain.

Enjoy a few more photos of Circa’s construction, several of which are accidentally in focus.

Update (1/14/20): On Jan. 14, 2020, the pedestrian bridge between Circa and Garage Mahal appeared overnight, literally.

Circa

Overnight Bridge would be a decent band name.

Tropicana Looks to Be First Las Vegas Casino Sale of 2020

Our sources are awesome, and three tell us Tropicana Las Vegas is being sold.

We expect Tropicana to be the first big Las Vegas casino sale of 2020.

Tropicana hotel

The Trop cost $15 million to build. That hefty price tag (at the time) earned it the nickname “Tiffany of The Strip.” Seems appropriate a Las Vegas casino would have a stripper name.

The Tropicana is owned by Penn National Gaming, the same company that owns M Resort.

The COO of Penn, Jay Snowden, shared back in October 2019 the company had received unsolicited bids for the Strip resort. At the time, executives claimed a sale wasn’t “imminent.”

Now, we hear one of those offers has been accepted and the sale is under way.

Translation: The sale of the Trop is “imminent” AF.

The sale of Tropicana would fit into the recent trend in Vegas casino companies monetizing assets, as MGM Resorts has with Circus Circus and Bellagio, and Caesars Entertainment has with Rio.

The sale of Tropicana, predicted to be in the $700 million range, would take a nice bite out of Penn’s long-term debt of about $11 billion.

Tropicana Las Vegas

Trop has gotten some upgrades, but still has a touch of old-school Vegas.

Penn National Gaming paid $360 million for Tropicana in August 2015. The Trop was previously owned by Onex Corp. and Alex Yemenidijan.

When Penn purchased Tropicana, it nixed a planned $100 million expansion called “The Shops at The New Tropicana Las Vegas.” Some projects are better off nixed. Because shopping, meh.

What might have been. And what might have failed, miserably. Good call, Penn.

We quite like Tropicana, and recently enjoyed a visit to the Oakville Steakhouse and the new Trago Lounge.

It’s unknown what plans are in store for Tropicana following the rumored sale. All we know is if they screw with the stained glass ceiling in the casino, we riot.

Well, we riot on Twitter. You know, not real rioting. We have a tear gas sensitivity.

Front Yard at Ellis Island Is Worth the Wait

It’s taken a minute, but Front Yard at Ellis Island is ready for its debut. The new restaurant and bar opens Dec. 6, 2019.

Here’s a first look inside. Although, if you follow us on Twitter, it’s a second look inside, but let’s not get bogged down by details.

Ellis Island Front Yard

You know we like a place if we like it even when sports are on.

The Front Yard was announced all the way back in July 2017 and broke ground in April 2018.

We’re pleased to report it was worth the wait, as Ellis Island’s new venue offers top-notch food, ample booze and great values. So, it’s pretty much Ellis Island, expanded.

You sort of can’t miss the Front Yard. First, it’s in front of Ellis Island. Second, the exterior of the
Front Yard constantly changes colors, a clever marketing tool sure to catch the eye of drivers-by.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Ellis Island just got 400% more fleek or whatever the kids are calling it now.

The Front Yard is a two-story affair described as an “outdoor dining, drinking and entertainment venue.” It’s a temperature controlled structure with a fabric roof and capacity of about 300 people.

Front Yard boasts two bars (one with 15 video poker machines) and approximately 4,700 televisions.

One of the TVs is roughly the size of Lancaster, Michigan and nearly blinded us when hockey was on the screen.

A cocktail or three helped us recover. The Welcome to Jamrock cocktail features Bacardi Silver rum, Malibu rum, melon liqueur, pineapple and cranberry.

Front Yard Ellis Island

These are better by the half dozen.

The signature cocktails at Front Yard will run $8-12, with big-ass shared drinks (for 2-3 people) a bit more. For context, a Captain and diet in the casino is around $5, a freakish anomaly for a casino on or near The Strip.

The food at Front Yard continues the Ellis Island tradition of hearty, approachable, old-school offerings including bar food, sandwiches and burgers.

Nothing fancy, everything satisfying. Yes, Ellis Island, feel free to put that in your advertising.

We dove headlong into the chicken wings appetizer.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Fun fact: The average American eats 90 chicken wings a year. Not so “fun” for chickens, probably, but don’t be a buzzkill.

The Front Yard burger was awesome, too, and bacon fanatics will not be disappointed.

Front Yard burger

Ellis Island’s burger game is strong.

As for the food prices, still being finalized, we’re talking $6-10 for appetizers, $16-20 for main courses, with flatbreads (that’s pizza to us regular folk) in the $12-15 range.

Ellis Island is known for its beer, much of which is brewed on the premises.

While we are not a beer person, we know a value when we see it. During our visit, prices weren’t available, but if the cost of beer inside the casino is any indication (in the $2 range for a massive glass), beer lovers are in for a treat.

And speaking of the casino, Ellis Island continues to offer some of the best gambling near The Strip, and there’s easy access to and from the Front Yard.

Oh, and there’s free parking.

Ellis Island Front Yard

Hit the second floor so you can say you did a stair workout in Vegas.

You know we got a panorama of the second floor, so check it out.

Our love of Ellis Island is fairly obvious, due in no small part to the above-mentioned values, but also the absolutely charming family behind Ellis Island. The Ellis family, in case that wasn’t clear.

A family-owned casino is a rare breed and Ellis Island’s unpretentious vibe, and commitment to great fun at a great price, make it a Las Vegas must-visit in our book.

For the record, Ellis Island is a block east of The Strip, just off Flamingo on Koval Lane.

Front Yard Ellis Island

Front Yard at Ellis Island is our new favorite hang.

We’re excited about the long-awaited opening of the Front Yard and Ellis Island has a winner on its hands. Be strong, liver, be strong.

Updated (11/29/19): We went back to Front Yard and the restaurant is officially open. We got a look at the menu, and you can click here for the Front Yard food menu and drink and dessert menu. Prices may change, so don’t get emotionally attached.

Front Yard Ellis Island menu

Please don’t try and read this, it’s for illustrative purposes only. Click on the links.

We also discovered another surprise at Front Yard. The restaurant’s sound system is connected to the Rockbot app. That means you get to be the DJ at Front Yard.

Front Yard Ellis Island

Oh, yes, there was a hell-ton of Duran Duran.

Guests get to add their favorite songs to the queue, and give the whole venue an interactive vibe. Give it a try, it’s free.

Here are more photos from Front Yard at Ellis Island.

Resorts World Drops Asian Theme, Pushes Back Opening Date to 2021

The long-awaited (understatement of the year) Resorts World rolled out some new renderings and moved back its opening date to summer of 2021.

In other words, Resorts World is set to open four years after its groundbreaking in May 2015.

Here’s a look at the latest iteration of Resorts World Las Vegas.

Resorts World Las Vegas

It’s about time Vegas got some new sparkly.

Please refer to that photo if anyone ever asks, “Hey, what does a $4.3 billion resort look like?”

It’s worth noting Cosmopolitan cost $4.18 billion.

Fluid budget and sliding open date aside, Resorts World is looking pretty slick and has released more information about its amenities.

Here’s a look at Resorts World’s pool complex.

Resorts World pool complex

There will be no shortage of breast strokes at Resorts World.

The pool complex will be a Vegas-sized 220,000-square-feet, including an 1,800-square-foot infinity pool. In the parlance of pool construction, that’s one big-ass pool complex.

Here are some other numbers of interest about Resorts World:

googie 110,000-square-foot casino
googie 5,000-seat theater
googie 70,000-square-feet of retail space
googie 350,000-square-feet of meeting and banquet space
googie 200,000-square-feet of restaurants and bars
googie 27,000-square-foot world-class spa
googie 14,000-square-foot race and sports book and live entertainment venue
googie 10,000-square-foot marquee
googie 50-foot diameter video globe

Because this blog is of the male persuasion, we perked up when we heard the side of the hotel’s west tower will have a 100,000-square-foot LED screen, making it one of the largest LED screens in the country.

Resorts World

We are confident enough in our masculinity to swoon at a video screen bigger than a football field. A football field is 57,600-square-feet.

There are some concerns about Resorts World, including that the resort says it will have a “75,000-square-foot nightclub and dayclub concept.”

That trajectory seems a holdover from a pre-Kaos era in Las Vegas. The nightlife business model has been described as broken, and not just by us. Listen to us talk about the state of Las Vegas nightclubs on KNPR.

The bigger concern, of course, is Resorts World is set to come online with a ton of supply (3,500 rooms) at a time of uncertainty about demand, as Las Vegas visitation is essentially flat and drive traffic from California has dropped significantly due to increased competition.

Lots of hopes are being pinned on the expanded Las Vegas Convention Center and Raider Stadium. It remains to be seen if those projects move the needle, and by how much.

Still, Resorts World is sparkly and we love new Las Vegas things.

Resorts World

So pretty, but if you’re headed to the hotel or casino, you’re in for a schlep.

The new Resorts World renderings serve to confirm why Wynn Resorts dropped its lawsuit asserting Resorts World was copying its “trade dress.”

Modesty precludes us from mentioning we were mentioned in that lawsuit, as well as the fact Resorts World has officially confirmed our story about smartly dropping the resort’s Asian theme.

You know we’ll be keeping an eye on Resorts World, and we can’t wait to take her for a test drive when she’s unveiled in 2021 or whenever.

11 Reasons You Need to Visit The Strat Again

There’s a lot more to love about The Strat since the last time you visited.

Golden Entertainment bought Stratosphere back in 2017, and a $140 million renovation and rebrand ensued. Now, Stratosphere is The Strat, which totally spoils the surprise of item number one on our list. Oh, well.

Please enjoy our hastily slapped-together list of wildly compelling reasons you need to go back to The Strat.

1. Stratosphere is The Strat

Stratosphere became The Strat in Feb. 2019. Lots of folks already called it The Strat, but the rebrand made it official. Golden Entertainment saved a ton of money by giving Stratosphere a streamlined name rather than having to start from scratch with an entirely new one.

Strat casino sign

The Strat’s official new name is The Strat Hotel, Casino and SkyPod. The “SkyPod” is just the tip. And, yes, some photo captions write themselves.

2. Sexy New Chips

Along with the resort’s new name came a roll-out of some fancy new casino chips. We love them, and yes, we understanding loving a casino chip is a little weird, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Worth noting: Your previously-issued Stratosphere chips expire on Dec. 9, 2019, so cash ’em if you got ’em.

Strat chips

We can only afford to collect the $1 chips. We are not an Adelson.

3. Sparkly Table Games Area

Golden put its money where its casino is with the unveil of a new casino table games area. We hit the new table games area on the day it opened, being the first person to roll the dice on a beautiful new craps table. Over the next 24 minutes, we personally contributed financially to the renovation of The Strat. Note: We’ve since made it back, and much more, on video poker.

Strat casino

Light blue is associated with health, tranquility, understanding and doubling down on blackjacks, or at least those first few things.

And adjoining section of the casino has a different look. We try not to play favorites.

Strat casino

The Strat has its groove back.

4. Enlightened Selfie Policy

While The Strat has a lot of great changes happening, this is one of our most beloved: You can take photos in the casino. Shocker, right? The Strat is one of the few casinos in town that has an actual clue when it comes to allowing guests to take selfies at the tables. It says so right on the felt, and it’s a huge step in Las Vegas casinos moving away from outdated policies that only serve to annoy customers. Bravo, bigtime, Strat.

Strat selfie

Common courtesy still applies, of course. No photos of guys with their mistresses.

5. Blvd. & Main Taphouse

We’ve been working our way through the menu at Strat’s new Blvd. & Main Taphouse restaurant and we’ve yet to have anything that wasn’t great. We look forward to tapping that again soon.

Strat Blvd. & Main

The fish and chips are consistently fleek. Stop rolling your eyes, we’re using “fleek” ironically.

6. View Lounge

We’re not entirely sure how the new View Lounge became one of our favorite places to play in all of Las Vegas, but it has. This casino bar and lounge not only looks great, but the machines feel loose, the bartenders are top notch (and visually appealing) and you can get anything on the Blvd. & Main menu at the bar. There’s honestly no reason to leave View Lounge, ever.

View Lounge Strat

Your video poker and hooch needs are handled: It’s View on The Strip (at The Strat) and Vue downtown (at The D).

7. Remix

As if one great casino bar and lounge weren’t enough, The Strat built two. Behold Remix.

Remix

You can never have too many casino bars. Or just bars, come to think of it.

Remix made its debut very recently and, again, the video poker machines feel generous and the drinks are far better than they have to be. The signature cocktails are well worth exploring, including this gorgeous purple thing called the Jumping Empress.

Remix

The sacrifices we make to bring you all the latest cocktail news.

8. Top of the World Revamp

The Top of the World restaurant at Strat has long been on the short list of must-do restaurants in Las Vegas. The restaurant recently got an overhaul, including an entirely new menu. Combined with the stunning views, and Messermeister steak knives (whatever those might be), Top of the World isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience, and it’s not to be missed.

Top of the World

Our photography is so good, we should start a blog of some sort.

9. “Celestia”

Simply put, “Celestia” is a Cirque-style show without the Cirque-style price (tickets start at a ridiculously low $29). This show, in a 30,000-square-foot tent, features dozens of acrobats and variety performers and bendy people. It also has the “Wheel of Death,” which is worth the price of admission on its own. The show has mercifully little clown, is unburdened by a plot and is a great night out for the whole family. Here’s the official Web site.

 

10. Free Parking

No, free parking isn’t new at The Strat, but it’s worth mentioning because, well, free parking.

Strat free parking

The Strat’s doing a lot right, and it starts and ends with free parking.

11. Make Sahara Mad

This reason to visit The Strat isn’t something new, it’s just something fun. See, Sahara has started positioning itself as one end of The Strip. They’re even using a new tagline, “The Strip starts here.” Hooey. The Strip isn’t based upon legal boundaries, it’s based upon what structures are depicted on keychains. The Strat is part of The Strip. So, when you visit The Strat, you’re sending a clear message to Sahara (formerly SLS) to get over itself. We love that.

Strat Las Vegas

Sorry, Sahara, The Strip begins (or ends) right here.

While our list covers our favorite new things, there are actually quite a few more.

The resort unveiled its “Elevate” room, a complete remodel of 311 rooms with new decor, furniture and amenities.

Strat also recently opened Strat Cafe & Wok, its 24-hour restaurant which replaced Roxy’s Diner.

Strat Cafe Wok

Roxy’s had singing. ‘Nuff said.

The Strat also has a shiny new sports book, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Also new is The Strat’s Link Lounge, named for Aristocrat’s “Link” game series, which will make fans of Lighting Link, Dragon Link and Liberty Link very happy.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention 108 Eats and 108 Drinks, two new venues on the hotel’s 108th floor. These spots are courtesy of chef James Trees, our culinary hero because of his Esther’s Kitchen downtown and Ada’s in Summerlin.

Oh, and we can’t forget the Strat’s sweet new carpeting. We probably should’ve done a top 20 list, but we are often both drunk, lazy or both.

Strat carpet

One for the casino carpet fetishists, and they are legion.

The bottom line: It’s time to visit The Strat again. Let us know what you think of all the upgrades and we’ll see you at The Strat.

MGM Resorts Sells Bellagio to Blackstone Group

MGM Resorts has sold the iconic Bellagio resort in Las Vegas to Blackstone Group (technically, Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust) for $4.2 billion.

The Bellagio sale is what’s called a “lease-back” deal.

While Blackstone owns Bellagio, MGM Resorts will continue to manage it and will pay Blackstone $245 million a year in what amounts to “rent.” MGM Resorts will get a 5% ownership stake in Bellagio as well.

Bellagio art

For $4.2 billion, you also get some sweet artwork.

The sale of Bellagio is believed to be the biggest sale in Las Vegas history.

There are a couple of questions most people seem to ask about the sale of Bellagio.

First question, why did MGM Resorts sell Bellagio?

Answer: It’s a lot of money. The sale will allow MGM Resorts to pay down some of its massive debt.

Second question, how will the sale affect the typical guest?

Answer: Not at all, really.

MGM Resorts announced the sale of Bellagio at around the same time it announced the sale of Circus Circus for $825 million to TI owner Phil Ruffin.

Circus Circus Lucky clown

MGM Resorts has sold off its pride and joy as well as its red-headed stepchild.

The sales of Bellagio and Circus Circus are expected to close by the end of 2019.

That’s a lot of change in Las Vegas casinoland in a relatively short period of time, but even more Las Vegas resorts are expected to change hands in the near future.

It’s been reported MGM Grand is also likely to sell (another leaseback), and MGM Resorts has also said it’s considering selling Aria and Vdara.

Strap in, there’s more to come.