Category Archives: Las Vegas Casinos

Confirmed: Total Rewards Will Become Caesars Rewards

Caesars Entertainment has been kind enough to confirm a story we first broke back in October 2018: The company’s loyalty club, Total Rewards, will be rebranded as Caesars Rewards.

We are not a psychic, we just play one on the Interwebs.

The switch from Total Rewards to Caesars Rewards will take place Feb. 1, 2019.

Here’s a look at the new Caesars Rewards cards.

Caesars Rewards

Caesars Entertainment is resting on its laurels.

Beyond the name change, Caesars Entertainment assures the program itself won’t change. “You will continue to receive all of the same great benefits with Caesars Rewards and more,” says the Caesars Rewards Web site.

Most Caesars Entertainment loyalty club members will barely notice the rebrand, and they can continue to use their Total Rewards cards until they take part in the time-honored casino tradition of forgetting them in a slot machine.

There are a couple of tweaks to the loyalty club for certain tier levels. For example, Platinum members will now get a free night in Las Vegas or Atlantic City (so, a free night in Las Vegas, because Atlantic City) for every 5,000 tier credits earned in 2019, up to seven nights.

Diamond tier members will get that new perk, plus they’ll get two free nights at the new Caesars Resort Dubai. Which is an inexpensive freebie for Caesars, as only four Caesars Rewards members are likely to take advantage of the offer, ever.

Seven Stars members, the folks who gamble the most at Caesars Entertainment casinos, already get some great benefits, and will get even more as the Caesars Rewards rebrand rolls out. Translation: Some of these folks might actually take Caesars up on its Dubai benefit.

That’s about it. It’s a name change.

It’s worth noting Caesars Entertainment spent about $40 million to relaunch its Total Rewards program in 2012.

Total Rewards Diamond

The Caesars Entertainment loyalty club, with 55 million members, employs an aspirational strategy designed to get players to seek higher tier levels. The higher the tier, the greater the level of ass-kissery.

So, why is Caesars Entertainment tossing a valuable and established brand like Total Rewards? We can only guess.

It’s likely the powers that be have simply decided to make the most of the Caesars brand. It’s the name on the company’s flagship casino resort in Las Vegas, and has international heft as well. Caesars has casinos on four continents.

The company’s most recent deals have involved slapping the Caesars name on non-gaming resorts like the aforementioned Caesars Resort Dubai and another in the works, Caesars Palace Puerto Los Cabos.

As the Caesars Entertainment business model moves from building and acquiring to licensing, the value of its Caesars brand is more important than ever.

Overall, Las Vegas casino companies are pivoting toward being perceived as entertainment companies rather than casino companies. Hence, it’s not Harrah’s Rewards or Horseshoe Rewards.

The outgoing CEO of Caesars Entertainment, Mark Frissora, has said we’ll be seeing more of the Caesars brand, including the possibility of adding “Caesars Entertainment presents” to the name of all its hotel-casinos.

So, get ready for Caesars Rewards!

Since you’ll be replacing your Total Rewards cards, it’s a great time to take another look at our 11 Alternate Uses for Your Casino Players Club Card. You’re welcome.

Player Hits Rare Sequential Royal Flush for $217,000 Jackpot

Lots of video poker players dream of hitting a royal flush. Some of us have even played on and off for, oh, 20 years and have never hit one.

Not bitter. At all.

One lucky video poker player at Red Rock Resort not only hit a royal, they hit a rare sequential royal flush.

The player’s $5 bet reaped an incredible $217,591.55 jackpot. And the Internet went wild.

Sequential Royal Flush

The stuff gambler’s dreams are made of. Photo Red Rock Resort.

We shared a photo of the sequential royal on our Twitter account, resulting in more than 130,000 Tweet impressions. This has nothing to do with the story, we just like to show off.

The sequential royal flush jackpot is remarkable for several reasons.

First, it’s remarkable we didn’t even know this existed.

Apparently, some video poker games require sequential royal flushes appear in order, left to right. The player at Red Rock nailed a “reversible sequential,” reading right to left.

Second, that’s a metric hell-ton of money.

Third, seriously, 20 years. Just saying.

The jackpot was won on a game called Video Poker Deluxe. Note to self.

How rare is a sequential royal flush? Well, the elusive royal flush (where cards can appear in any order) is 1-in-40,000. No small feat, obviously.

The odds of getting a sequential royal are about (wait for it) 2.4 million-to-1.

Or as we call it in Las Vegas, Saturday.

Defying the odds is what Vegas is all about. Well, that and cleavage. But mostly that first thing.

SLS Las Vegas Shares Peek at New Casino

SLS Las Vegas has taken down a construction wall enclosing a section of its casino, revealing a dramatically different look and feel the new owner and his management team hope will help change the fortunes of the long-struggling resort.

SLS casino renovation

SLS is getting it some fancy.

The new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has said he’ll invest $100 million in making over the former Sahara.

SLS Las Vegas

In Vegas, never don’t bling.

The new decor at SLS more closely aligns with what traditional casino patrons expect, veering away from a trendier look, including a fairly unpopular “unfinished” ceiling with exposed ducts.

SLS Las Vegas renovation

This was one of the few things in Vegas that didn’t benefit from exposure.

The new interior design at SLS will be familiar to those familiar with Meruelo’s other resort, the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno.

It’s expected SLS will be rebranded Grand Sahara Resort & Casino at some point.

The carpeting is also a distinct departure from the eclectic SLS design.

SLS renovation

New on the left, old on the right.

The new carpeting actually has a hypnotic effect if you look at it long enough.

SLS

It’s an urban myth casino carpeting is busy to force players to look up at the slot machines. They’re designed to camouflage stains.

One of our favorite features of the casino at SLS was the giant, high-resolution video screen over the center bar. The screen is known for featuring slick, 3-D animation.

The plug’s been pulled on the screen, but we’ve been informed it will be relocated elsewhere in the resort, near Bazaar Meat restaurant. So, there’s that.

SLS renovation

The screen showed 3-D legs, a duck and a human face.

Oh, like we were going to mention a freaky 3-D face and not actually show it to you? Do you know us at all?

We were going to spend more time talking about how much we like the direction of the SLS Las Vegas overhaul, but we were kicked out of the resort for taking photos. Buzzkill.

SLS

Look! It’s a photo we weren’t allowed to take! Suck it, The Man.

While overzealous casino security is an all-too-common phenomenon in Las Vegas, being kicked out of SLS raised some red flags for us.

See, SLS may not realize what it’s up against.

No matter what’s invested in the resort’s renovations (it won’t be $100 million), none of it will matter if SLS doesn’t differentiate itself with amazing service, a friendly, welcoming environment and a fun, lively casino.

Kicking out a casino guest for taking photos is a great example of the exact opposite of all that.

SLS renovation

A little compare-and-contrast action.

SLS needs word-of-mouth. SLS needs buzz. SLS needs to be a party. SLS needs to get its shit together.

SLS also needs to appeal to locals, and locals aren’t going to put up with poorly-trained staff or intrusive policies for one minute.

SLS needs to attract and retain every possible customer it can. If someone walks up to the casino cage and tries to rob it, SLS needs to offer the thief a line of credit.

We were taking photos. Of things the resort itself had shared in its social media channels earlier in the day. We posed no security risk. We weren’t taking photos of gamblers with their mistresses.

A simple request to discontinue taking photos would’ve been understood (yes, reluctantly, because such policies are outdated and idiotic) and accommodated. And we’d have gambled and had dinner at Cleo.

SLS

Spirals were engraved in Mayan temples. We’d show you a photo of one, but the Mayans had strict policies about such things. You see what happened to the ancient Mayans. Just saying.

Alienate guests without cause and word gets around.

Treat employees poorly, word gets around.

Breeze into our town (yes, it’s ours) and think you’ll succeed because you’re a big deal in Reno and you changed out some light fixtures—you’re destined to fail. And we’ll be there for a heaping helping of schadenfreude.

Give us a warm smile, decent odds, looser slots, great food (see the aforementioned Cleo) and make us feel welcome and respected and appreciated, you may just have a chance of success, slim as it is.

Resorts World is Making Striking Progress

After seemingly endless delays, construction at Resorts World is picking up steam.

Not only are windows being installed, but sources familiar with the project report the main hotel tower at Resorts World is growing by about a floor per week.

Resorts World

Object in photo is larger than it appears. By a hell ton.

As a basis of comparison, here’s a look at Resorts World in March 2018.

Resorts World

Resorts World was adorable as a baby.

Here’s a closer look at the windows being installed at Resorts World. Break out the squeegees!

Resorts World

The first references to squeegees, in the mid-19th century, referred to deck-cleaning tools for sea-faring vessels. Related: Writing photo captions isn’t easy.

Observers have noted the similarity between the look of Resorts World and that of Wynn and Encore, just across the street (see below).

We’ve heard Genting Group, owners of Resorts World, may make a play to purchase Wynn Resorts, so the similarity between the hotels could very well be intentional. Read more reckless rumors.

Wynn Las Vegas

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Wynn should feel very flattered right about now.

We went around to the back of Resorts World for a rare look at the side of the hotel tower facing Circus Circus. Windows are also being installed on that side.

Resorts World

We could’ve called this the north side, but we’re going with backside. Because we are 12.

Construction at Resorts World is no longer a laughing matter, as the hotel looms large at about 35 floors.

It’s hard to imagine, but the plan is for the tower to have 60.

Resorts World

It’s not just the height of one’s hotel that matters, it’s also the girth of one’s lens.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Resorts World, it sits on the former Echelon Place site. Which, we’re assuming, helps you not at all. Resorts World is between Circus Circus and the site planned for the Alon resort. Also not helpful, we get it.

If you’re a shopper, it’s just north of Fashion Show mall.

If you like Mexican food, it’s across the street from Tacos El Gordo.

If you’re sentimental, Resorts World is across the street from the former Riviera casino. It’s also the site of the former, legendary Stardust.

If you’re into antipodes, it’s roughly on the opposite side of the Earth as Madagascar.

If you’re an optimist, it’s just south and across the street from the future Drew hotel.

Resorts World

Genting Group was founded by Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, a name inspired by the sound a saucepan makes falling down a  flight of stairs.

Resorts World is slated to open in 2020, and the odds of that happening seem to improve with each new floor and window.

Given our saucepan joke, we assume we’re not invited.

(Update 12/14/18): It seems the folks at Wynn Resorts are no longer amused by how similar Resorts World and Wynn/Encore look. They filed suit against Resorts World, and it’s possible we were referenced in the lawsuit.

Wynn sues Resorts World

Thanks for catching our typo, Wynn Resorts legal team.

Now, we’re definitely not invited to the grand opening of Resorts World.

Lucky Dragon Gets Zero Bids at Bankruptcy Auction

An auction for the Asian-themed Lucky Dragon resulted in zero bids, so it will go to the failed casino’s primary lender, Snow Covered Capital.

The auction on Oct. 30, 2018, had a healthy turnout at the offices of Nevada Legal News in downtown Las Vegas. In fact, the auction was so well-attended, it had to be held in the building’s parking lot.

Lucky Dragon auction

Shout-out to all the Toastmasters who know that’s a lectern and not a podium!

Unfortunately for everyone involved, nobody in the crowd was willing to meet or beat Snow Covered Capital’s $35 million minimum bid, so the company will take ownership of the shuttered Lucky Dragon.

Not only did Snow Covered Capital not get the $55 million it needed to recoup its loan, many others are losing their shorts in the Lucky Dragon saga as well.

There’s a second tier of lenders who are likely to never see a dollar, as well as innumerable craftspeople who have yet to be paid for their work on the ill-fated hotel-casino.

Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon may not have been a success, but nobody can say it wasn’t pretty.

The bankruptcy of Lucky Dragon will be especially brutal for the 179 foreign investors who sunk a total of $89 million into the project. Those investors were promised green cards as part of the
federal EB-5 program, and are now what industry experts call “S.O.L.”

We’ve heard a class action lawsuit may be in the making.

Read more about how foreign investors got snookered.

So, what’s next for Lucky Dragon?

While Snow Covered Capital probably would’ve preferred a magical offer of $55 million falling into its lap, having the casino in its possession now means it can pursue a buyer unfettered by the pressures and time constraints of bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings.

It’s unknown what kind of business could make a go of Lucky Dragon, or whatever it becomes next.

Lucky Dragon

Lucky Dragon was one of our favorite Las Vegas casinos we almost never visited.

More development on the north end of The Strip would certainly make Lucky Dragon more appealing to a potential operator.

We’d love to see a new casino concept, preferably one that serves budget-conscious visitors. A boutique hotel-casino along the lines of Ellis Island could target an under-served customer
looking for a place to stay and play and gamble without being nickel-and-dimed.

In fact, now would be the perfect time for an enterprising operator to establish a casino-hotel built from the ground up to take advantage of growing frustrations about paid parking, resort fees and other irksome practices which have become common in Las Vegas.

Here’s the strategy, enterprising operator:

Swear we’ll never pay for parking, never pay a resort fee or concession fee or venue fee or convenience charge.

Ensure we’ll always get 3-to-2 on blackjack and one zero on roulette, with 100x odds on craps.

Pledge to loosen the slots. We don’t mind losing when we gamble, just make it take longer!

Make the food cheap, quick and a great value.

Pour the liquor brands we want from the bottle, not the gun, and get rid of machines that tell us  when we’re worthy of a drink. Oh, and give us a damn straw with our cocktail without having to ask for one.

Give us a “Do Not Disturb” sign rather than one that says “Room Occupied.”

Let us check in early and check out late.

And while we’re building a wishlist, bring back moving walkways. We loved those things!

Build it (or rather, rebrand it) and they will come.

Renovations Are Underway at SLS Las Vegas

The new owner of SLS Las Vegas, Alex Meruelo, has started what he says will be $100 million in upgrades and renovations to the north Strip resort.

Changes as SLS are already underway, including in the casino, as evidenced by a large portion of the floor being walled off.

SLS Las Vegas renovations

You go, SLS. We love that new casino smell.

It doesn’t appear the current renovations have had any impact on the restaurants, including one of our favorite in town, Cleo.

It’s anticipated most, if not all, of the current SLS dining offerings will be swapped out with new concepts as the resort overhaul proceeds. Restaurants like Katsuya, Umami Burger, Cleo and 800 Degrees Pizza are licensed from SBE Entertainment Group, a previous co-owner of the hotel.

We have heard Bazaar Meat will survive the transition, though, and even expand.

Sadly, the walled-off section of the casino floor does encompass the former party pit, just outside the Sayers Club.

SLS renovations

When you’re in this spot, look up. You’ll see a glorious chandelier made from door handles salvaged from the Sahara.

The renovations brush up against the popular center bar’s video screen.

A couple of signs on the construction wall give a glimpse into what’s to come for the SLS casino floor.

SLS Las Vegas

The casino at SLS never looked finished. Clearly, now it will.

Upgrades in the casino will include changes to the ceiling, carpeting and lighting.

Here’s another peek through the time portal into the future of SLS. Or something.

SLS renovations

Adios, exposed air conditioning ducts. And random monkeys.

By the time the renovations are done at SLS, it’s likely the resort won’t bear that name anymore. The most likely candidate is Grand Sahara, a throwback to the casino’s original name while integrating a brand owned by Alex Meuelo in Reno, the Grand Sierra Resort.

Oh, all right, nerd. The Sahara’s original name was Club Bingo. Just play along!

Beyond the casino, renovations to the resort will involve hotel room upgrades, the pool and entertainment venues. It’s all fairly amazing given the resort only opened as SLS four years
ago, on Aug. 23, 2014.

As far as we know, SLS hasn’t had a profitable month since it opened, and the hope is Alex Meruelo and his team can turn things around.

SLS renovations

The good news: SLS is one of the few remaining casinos on The Strip with free parking.

Meruelo’s team has already made dramatic moves to cut costs at the resort, including terminating a lease of a nearby employee parking lot that was rumored to be costing the company $40,000 a month.

A big change at the resort took place when W Las Vegas was shown the door in August 2018. Details of that deal are murky, but it brought back operation of the hotel’s Lux Tower (now called the Grand Tower) after the boutique “hotel within a hotel” concept opened in Dec. 2016.

Some of the changes haven’t been received warmly by employees (don’t get them started about the employee dining room), but in recent weeks we’ve found them to be in better spirits, and play in the casino seems to have picked up a bit.

Generous food comps and free play offers seem to be flowing freely, and that’s a great way to keep us coming back.

We’re looking forward to seeing how SLS Las Vegas revamps its casino. One change we’d love to see is a loosening up of the slots, as they clamped down tight a few months after SLS opened, presumably as a way to increase revenue when the anticipated crowds of cool kids from L.A. never materialized.

We’ve always liked SLS a lot. The restaurant mix is appealing, and we tend to prefer our casinos less crowded and rowdy. SLS qualifies.

The success of SLS Las Vegas could hinge on increased development on the north end of The Strip. If projects like Resorts World, The Drew, All Net Resort and Arena (don’t laugh, we hear there’s new funding) and the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion come online, there’s hope. And who knows, Lucky Dragon might re-open again in some form after its sale (Alex Meruelo was in the mix as a potential buyer at one point).

There’s also a rebrand in the works at The Strat, and much more activity at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds (site of the forgettable Rock in Rio music festival fiasco), just across the street from SLS.

In the meantime, eat as much of the Chicken Tagine at Cleo and take lots of selfies with the goofy statue in the hotel’s porte-cochere, while you still can.

SLS casino chip

This fake chip will soon be a collectible!

We’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s in store for SLS Las Vegas.