Category Archives: Las Vegas WTF

Stratosphere Executives Claim “We Were Robbed!”

High-ranking executives of Stratosphere Las Vegas have shocked industry insiders by demanding a recount in the recent “Best of Las Vegas” awards.

The Stratosphere executives have raised questions about “suspicious results” and have even gone so far as to suggest the awards are “rigged,” presumably preventing the hotel-casino from receiving innumerable awards it rightfully should have won.

The annual “Best of Las Vegas Awards” are hosted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and are based upon voting by the public. And possibly employees, bigtime.

Stratosphere

Apparently, Stratosphere takes its “Best of Las Vegas Awards” very seriously.

A Stratosphere spokesperson stated, “We’re obviously grateful to have been named ‘Best Strip Hotel,’ beating out wannabes Wynn Las Vegas, Cosmopolitan and Aria. But our meager 29 additional awards are a disappointment to our company, our executives, team members and guests, and we’re looking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal to rectify this travesty.”

Among Stratosphere’s unprecedented 30 “Best of Las Vegas Awards” were “Best Romantic Spot,” “Best Wedding Chapel,” “Best Shrimp Cocktail,” “Best Burger” and dozens of other accolades.

Stratosphere

This view from the Stratosphere is undeniably worthy of an award.

While the Stratosphere’s awards were expansive, one executive was quick to note “glaring omissions and oversights.”

“While many awards are subjective,” the executive said, “Stratosphere should clearly have won ‘Best Pet Groomer,’ ‘Best Tax Professional,’ ‘Best Waxing,’ ‘Best Senior Community’ and ‘Best Breast Augmentation.’ That’s just common sense.”

The exec continued, “And this doesn’t even begin to address the issue of award categories that should exist but, suspiciously, don’t. Where’s ‘Best Casino That’s Also a Phallic Symbol’ or ‘Best Hotel in a Crack House Neighborhood’?”

Best of Las Vegas legit

You can never have too many awards. Hey, just check our sidebar.

We inquired about the Stratosphere’s controversial allegations with the Review-Journal, but no official response was forthcoming.

An anonymous source at the Las Vegas Review-Journal did confide, “Our track record of integrity is impeccable and beyond reproach. So, slide me $50 and you’ll be ‘Best Las Vegas Blog’ in 2018. Done deal.”

Here’s a full list of all 30 “Best of Las Vegas Awards” won by Stratosphere Las Vegas, and congratulations to them for the three awards they actually deserved.*

  • Best Fine Dining (Top of the World Restaurant)
  • Best View (Top of the World Restaurant)*
  • Best Power Lunch (Top of the World Restaurant)
  • Best Romantic Spot (Top of the World Restaurant)
  • Best Date Night Spot (Top of the World Restaurant)
  • Best Attraction (Stratosphere Tower Experience)
  • Best Cocktail Bar (107 SkyLounge)
  • Best Happy Hour (107 SkyLounge)*
  • Best Martini (107 SkyLounge)
  • Best Specialty Cocktails (107 SkyLounge)
  • Best Late Night Eats (107 SkyLounge)
  • Best Hotel View
  • Best Strip Hotel
  • Best Staycation
  • Best Sports Book
  • Best Strip Slots
  • Best Strip Table Games
  • Best Valet
  • Best Shrimp Cocktail
  • Best Extreme Adventure (SkyJump)*
  • Best Amusement Ride
  • Best Player’s/Loyalty Club
  • Best Breakfast (Roxy’s Diner)
  • Best Burger (Roxy’s Diner)
  • Best Coffee Shop & Diner (Roxy’s Diner)
  • Best Wedding Chapel (Chapel in the Clouds)
  • Best Paying Slots (Silver Winner)
  • Best Steakhouse (Silver Winner)
  • Best Casual Restaurant (Silver Winner, McCall’s Heartland Grill)
  • Best Video Poker (Bronze Winner)
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Caesars Palace Reveals Addition to Iconic Fountains and Everything is Ruined

It’s either a creative way for a casino company to generate revenue from “unproductive” space or a swift kick to the groin with a steel-toed boot: Caesars Palace has unveiled a new addition to its iconic fountains and our Las Vegas WTF meter is about to have a meltdown.

First, let’s take a look at what was arguably one of the most spectacular photo ops in all of Las Vegas.

Caesars Palace fountains

Soak it in. Stunning, right? You might even say jaw-dropping. Now, take a deep breath.

The image above is one of the things that pops into our mind when people say “Las Vegas.” The other is boobs, but that’s probably just us.

On Sep. 28, 2017, Caesars Palace debuted a Samsung Galaxy Studio sitting atop its fountains. The fountains, we should mention, an estimated 20 million people a year stroll by along Las Vegas Boulevard.

Here’s a look at the Samsung Galaxy Studio that will reside on the Caesars fountains through the end of January 2018.

Caesars Palace fountains

We wish this has been done with Photoshop, but sadly “ani.” That’s “no” in Korean. Samsung is a South Korean company. Please try and keep up.

The Samsung Galaxy Studio is a place for guests to get “hands-on experience exploring the latest Galaxy products.” The pop-up shop has a virtual reality theater, offers customer care for existing customers, boasts interactive art installations and has a retail component.

This location is, honestly, possibly the best location in the world if you’re Samsung.

But here’s the thing.

Just because Samsung offered Caesars a metric hell-ton of money to have a store on their fountains doesn’t mean the offer had to be accepted.

Maybe we’re naive or overly romantic, but it feels like the Caesars bean counters have flagrantly shat upon the entire history of one of Sin City’s most venerable megaresorts? And how mad must we be to use the word “shat” for only the second time in the history of this blog?

What dollar amount has been assigned to an epic Las Vegas photo op that’s been taken and shared by millions of people around the world?

And, trust us, just because this particular use of the space is temporary, there’s no way this is a one-off.

Granted, we are a blog. We don’t have to pay salaries or answer to shareholders. Caesars Entertainment, owner of Caesars Palace, is slowly, finally emerging from bankruptcy. It’s a business. We get all that.

We also don’t have to like it.

Caesars

Why do you insist upon making us weep, Gaius? That’s really his first name, so spare us the hate mail.

It was all fun and games when an April Fools’ joke about Bellagio’s fountains being converted into retail space from our friends at Vegas Bright went viral. It was so believable, many reported the story as fact, and we even went on TV to talk about it.

The recent monetization (which we’re still not convinced is a real word) of “idle space” at Caesars is an illustration of how such stories can gain momentum. Because when things like this happens, in the words of Billy Crystal, “It’s not fun, it’s not funny.” If you think MGM Resorts hasn’t pondered a scenario similar to the one at Caesars Palace for its own fountains, we have a half-scale Eiffel Tower to sell you.

Update (9/30/17): Our friends at KTNV did a follow-up to our story, and included our thoughts, so it’s well worth a look, because you can never get too much us.

In the story, Caesars Entertainment says, “The Samsung Studio is a temporary structure where guests can experience the newest in Samsung products and an interactive virtual reality experience. With only five locations in the U.S., Samsung has selected Las Vegas for this surprise and delight attraction and Caesars Palace is excited about bringing this experience to its center Strip location. Additionally we are receiving positive feedback from our guests and passerbys.”

First, it’s “passersby.”

Second, claiming there’s been positive feedback from guests and passersby about a Samsung pop-up store is easily one of the most absurd things we’ve ever heard, and we’ve heard a lot of absurd things, trust us.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, even if you think we should get over it, so share a comment.

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Fremont Street Gains White Castle Restaurant, Loses Classic Trader Bill’s Sign

There’s been a lot of great buzz about a new White Castle coming to Fremont Street. We should know, we started it.

Recent developments at the site of the new White Castle, however, have been more buzzkill than buzz.

They involve a classic sign for Trader Bill’s.

Trader Bill's sign

Spoiler alert: Now would be a great time to start not getting emotionally attached to things.

For comparison purposes, here’s a look at the Trader Bill’s sign during the day, in other words, without its make-up.

Trader Bill's sign

That’s not old and faded. That’s character.

The first sign, ahem, of trouble came when we noticed the arrow on the Trader Bill’s sign being painted blue. All of the sign’s bulbs and neon were removed. (From what we can tell, the bulbs will be back.)

Trader Bill's

The journey of a thousand WTFs begins with one coat of paint.

The next day, workers began covering up the gloriously distressed sign.

Trader Bill's sign

The Trader Bill’s sign, redacted.

Within just a few days, the Trader Bill’s sign transformed into a White Castle sign, and everything was ruined.

White Castle Fremont sign

White Castle has but one location in Las Vegas, at Casino Royale. When it opened, the restaurant had to temporarily shut down due to overwhelming demand.

The conversion of the Trader Bill’s sign to a White Castle sign probably wouldn’t have been as jarring were it not for where the sign sits. For many who frequent downtown, the sign’s location is what amounts to the “entrance” to the Fremont Street Experience (where we work in digital marketing as our day job).

Once lit up, the White Castle sign is likely to be an eye-catching focal point for anyone looking down, or taking photos of, Fremont Street and what’s billed as the world’s largest video screen.

That’s great news for White Castle, but we’re not convinced it’s great news for our street. Yes, it’s ours, but we let millions of people borrow it each year.

For many, White Castle will now be the first impression visitors get of what the street is all about. Not the circus-like atmosphere of the Fremont district. Not the casinos and their neon facades. Not the history of “Glitter Gulch.”

Rather, a fast food restaurant.

White Castle Fremont Street

We’re going to need a lot of sliders to get us through this period of adjustment. It’s expected Fremont’s White Castle will open at the end of August or in early September.

This latest loss of a distinctive downtown sign follows on the heels of the removal of Vegas Vickie on the other end of Fremont Street. She’ll soon be followed by demolition of the Golden Goose, the Glitter Gulch sign and the baseball player statue atop the former Las Vegas Club.

On the bright side, Vegas Vickie is likely to return. That’s not in the cards for the Trader Bill’s sign.

In searching for some background about Trader Bill’s (it began operating at the corner of Fremont and 4th Street in the early 1930s), we came across an intriguing quote from an article written in 1997.

At the time, Trader Bill’s was transitioning from being a souvenir store to a jewelry store, and the then President of Fremont Street Experience, Mark Paris, is quoted as saying, “The thing that’s important to us is the streetscape—how it looks—and the owners of Trader Bill’s have maintained the neon and lights that we feel are in keeping with the spirit of Fremont Street.”

While a White Castle restaurant fits the “spirit” of Fremont Street perfectly, we can’t say the same for the White Castle sign.

We’ve said often in this blog that the only constant in Las Vegas is change. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

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Fontainebleau Las Vegas Finally Gets a Wrap

The abandoned Fontainebleau Las Vegas is a pig that’s finally getting some lipstick.

After years of prodding by Las Vegas officials, the bajillionaire owner of Fontainebleau, Carl Icahn, has dispached crews to install a wrap intended to make the second tallest building in Las Vegas less of an eyesore.

Fontainebleau wrap

Our apologies to pigs.

While “Fontainebleau” is a French word (the name was inspired by a French castle), pronounced “fonten-blo,” the brand is pronounced “fountain blue” in America.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas sits across Las Vegas Boulevard from Circus Circus. You sort of can’t miss it.

The site was formerly home to the El Rancho casino, and before that the Thunderbird and Silverbird. Ever since Fontainebleau’s plug was pulled in 2009 due to bankruptcy, you might say it’s been giving us all the bird.

The structure looms large on The Strip, and was to have 3,875 hotel rooms and condo units, as well as a whopping 24 restaurants and lounges.

The mind reels at what might have been.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas wrap

Fun fact: You can get a taste of what might have been at downtown’s Plaza hotel. Plaza acquired much of the furnishings in its rooms as Fontainebleau was selling off its assets.

Fontainebleau was about 70 percent complete when construction was halted, and it’s estimated $2 billion was sunk into the building.

Carl Icahn swooped in to buy the Fontainebleau in November 2010.

While there have been repeated rumors about potential buyers for Fontainebleau Las Vegas, nothing concrete has materialized. Rumors of a sale have intensified lately, mainly because we’ve been intensifying them. Word has it there’s renewed interest in Fontainebleau thanks to signs of progress at the nearby Resorts World.

Fontainebleau wrap

Fontainebleau was going to have 48 elevators, several of which may have even worked. It’s Las Vegas.

From what we hear, finding a buyer for Fontainebleau hasn’t been the crux of the problem. The real issue is the buyer must not only have the assets to acquire the project, but must also have the resources to finish it.

In June 2016, the asking price for Fontainebleau was $650 million.

It’s been estimated completing the Fontainebleau project (or whatever the new owners would call it) would run in the ballpark of $1.2 billion.

In the meantime, Las Vegas officials (Clark County officials, technically) have badgered Carl Icahn into spending about $500,000 to wrap some of the exposed sections on the west and south sides of Fontainebleau.

Installation of the wrap commenced on July 25, 2017. We’ll keep an eye on the place as the installation progresses.

This isn’t the first time a Las Vegas hotel has used a wrap to disguise unfinished construction. Most Las Vegas visitors breeze right by the stalled St. Regis Residences at the Venetian. Take a look.

St. Regis Residences at Venetian

This wrap at Venetian disguising unfinished construction illustrates things in Sin City aren’t always as they appear. Just ask Frank Marino.

It’s great to see Fontainebleau Las Vegas gussied up a bit, and not just because we’re a fan of gussying. Seriously, when was the last time you gussied something? We blame it on Millennials. Or possibly social media. Or possibly immigrants, who, we don’t have to tell you, are taking all our good gussying.

While wrapping the lower part of Fontainebleau is a welcome revulsion abatement strategy, we’re hoping rumors of an impending sale turn out to be based in fact.

Like the fact the Fontainebleau would’ve had 6,012 parking spaces, or about 2.5 times the number planned for the 65,000-seat Raiders stadium coming to Las Vegas.

Don’t get us started.

Update (7/26/17): Overnight, additional panels were added to the west side of Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau wrap

You’d think we have better things to do than monitor Fontainebleau’s wrap. You’d think.

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No Resort Fees Rally Tops List of 10 Regrettable Las Vegas Mistakes

Las Vegas gets a lot right. When it screws up, it does it in a big way.

The anniversary of a “No Resort Fees” rally by Caesars Entertainment reminded us Las Vegas isn’t perfect, so here are some of our favorite all-time Las Vegas fails.

1. No Resort Fees Rally

On July 21, 2011, Caesars Entertainment hosted a massive rally on The Strip to promote the company’s “No Resort Fees” policy. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Not long after, though, economic pressure forced the company to reverse its policy. The awkwardness lingers to this day.

No resort fees rally

The “No Resort Fees” rally featured a bevy of “angry showgirls.” Showgirls always travel in bevies.

2. Harmon Tower

In Las Vegas, it’s go big or go home. Few Las Vegas gaffes were as big as the construction, and deconstruction, of the Harmon tower at CityCenter. The building went up in 2008, and was supposed to be 47 stories tall. Construction defects caused the building to be capped at 26, and eventually the whole building was taken down, floor by agonizing floor, at the cost of millions. See the whole demolition of Harmon Tower, beginning to humiliating end.

Harmon tower

What goes up, in the case of Harmon tower, came right back down.

3. Skyvue Observation Wheel

Las Vegas was built on big dreams, but not all those dreams come true. Construction on the 476-foot Skyvue observation wheel, which was to be located across from Mandalay Bay, began in 2012, but the project was soon abandoned due to a lack of financing. To this day, two concrete towers serve to memorialize this Sin City folly.

SkyVue Ferris wheel

A Las Vegas monument to sad.

4. Lion Entrance at MGM Grand

Las Vegas mistakes are anything but a recent phenomenon. MGM Grand originally welcomed guests through the mouth of a massive lion. Only after the resort had been operating awhile did the owners realize Asian gamblers considered the entrance bad luck. The original lion’s head was removed and replaced with a lion statue.

MGM Grand lion

MGM Grand’s lion stands 45 feet tall and is the biggest bronze statue in the country. It’s also a reminder of one of the biggest Las Vegas facepalms, ever.

5. Imperial Palace Becomes The Quad

Speaking of ticking off Asian gamblers, the law of unintended consequences was in full view with Imperial Palace was renamed The Quad. The name was meant to evoke the fun, youthful spirit of a college social space. “Quad,” though, also represents “four,” considered an unlucky number by Asian gamblers. In 2013, we were the first to share The Quad would be renamed, at substantial cost, to The Linq.

The Quad

The paint barely had time to dry before The Quad was renamed The Linq.

6. Bill’s Nearly Named Gansevoort

When Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon closed for a major renovation, it was supposed to re-open as Gansevoort. The casino owner, Caesars Entertainment, had to make a serious course correction when it was discovered by gaming regulators that a Gansevoort investor was connected to Russian organized crime. The renovated boutique hotel opened as The Cromwell in 2014.

Gansevoort

Gansevoort always sounded like the noise resulting from an intestinal disorder, so it all worked out for the best.

7. Sam Nazarian Abandons Ship

SBE Entertainment CEO Sam Nazarian had dreams of running a Las Vegas casino and seemed ready to do just that when the Sahara transformed into SLS Las Vegas. Nazarian ran into trouble when he applied for a gaming license, though. The Nevada Gaming Control Board dug into Nazarian’s past and what they found wasn’t pretty. Nazarian ended up selling his 10% stake in SLS and bailed on his fleeting plans to become a Las Vegas casino mogul. Side note: Nazarian recently announced SBE would merge with Hakkasan. We’ve heard that deal has fallen apart, so Sam Nazarian’s run of bad luck in Las Vegas appears to be ongoing.

Sam Nazarian

Fail: Gaming license. Win: Supermodel wife.

8. Stardust Imploded for Echelon Place

It’s a chapter in Las Vegas history many would like to forget, but one of our favorite Strip resorts, Stardust, closed on Nov. 1, 2006 and was imploded on Mar. 13, 2007, to make way for a $4 billion resort, Echelon Place. The economic downturn caused that ambitious project to be abandoned. On the bright side, the bones of the Echelon project will serve as the foundation for a new Las Vegas resort, Resorts World. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Resorts World crane

There’s a lone crane at the former Echelon site, so hope reigns.

9. Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas

The unfinished Fontainebleau Resort is easily the most visible sign of an epic mistake in all of Las Vegas. That’s because while Fontainebleau never opened, it’s still the second tallest structure in Las Vegas. In an all-too-familiar scenario, construction of Fontainebleau was halted in 2009 when the project went into bankruptcy. Rumors persist a new owner has taken interest in Fontainebleau, but we’ll believe it when we see it.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

Las Vegas is always throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Sometimes, it’s really, really expensive spaghetti.

10. Skill-Based Slot Machines and eSports

The final entry on our list of Las Vegas mistakes remains a work-in-progress. Casinos, in a desperate attempt to remain relevant to younger gamblers (especially those pesky Millennials), are betting on skill-based slot machines and eSports to save the day. This miscalculation has resulted in skill-based slots nobody’s playing and a disaster-in-the-making; Luxor recently announced its closed LAX nightclub will be turned into an eSports arena. Let’s just say we’re going to need more faces and more palms.

eSports Arena Las Vegas

Downtown’s Neonopolis already has an eSports arena, pictured above, and Downtown Grand has an eSports lounge in its former Commissary restaurant space. Unjustified optimism is utterly adorable.

If you love Las Vegas, you also have to embrace it glorious blunders past, present and future.

Have a favorite Las Vegas mistake that didn’t make our list? Please share!

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