Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

More Las Vegas Casinos Coming Back Online Sooner Than Expected

While Vegas isn’t completely back, it’s getting there.

Strong demand is causing major casinos to scrap their worst-case-scenario reopening schedules.

Among the recent announcements, MGM Resorts says it will open Excalibur on June 11, 2020. It was originally slated to open July 1.

Excalibur Las Vegas

Welcome back, you kitschy thing, you.

Luxor opens June 25, 2020, along with The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay Place.

Aria, Mandalay Bay and its hotel-within-a-hotel Four Seasons, reopen July 1, 2020.

Already open in the MGM Resorts family are Bellagio, MGM Grand and New York-New York.

Bellagio Conservatory

Bellagio reopened with yet another badass new Conservatory display.

On the Caesars Entertainment side, the company said it will open the casino at Linq on June 12. Linq’s hotel and parking garage will remain closed for the time being.

Already open are Caesars Palace, Flamingo and Harrah’s.

Las Vegas casinos reopened on June 4, 2020, a day that will be remembered as the one where we cashed in our 401(k) to support all the casino employees out of work for 78 agonizing days.

And that’s the story we’re sticking to.

As more casino resorts come online, there are still a lot of questions about demand.

While the opening weekend was strong, there are substantial challenges related to the lack of conventions and international travel. We talked about opening weekend on Fox Business News.

Scott Roeben Fox Business News

Yes, we were on Fox Business News. We’re a pretty big deal, and it’s rude of you to suggest otherwise.

Las Vegas is feeling more like Las Vegas with each passing day. Visitors just need to adjust their expectations, as not all offerings (like restaurants, nightclubs and shows) will be available just yet.

We can’t wait to play at our favorite places again, so it’s great to see so many casinos reopening sooner than expected.

Park MGM to Be First Entirely Non-Smoking Resort in Las Vegas

Park MGM, formerly Monte Carlo, is reportedly going to break new ground when it reopens. Word is Park MGM will be the first completely non-smoking casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

Yep, the casino, the hotel and pool. The whole nine.

Boom.

Park MGM

The time for a non-smoking Vegas casino may have finally arrived.

There’s been a lot of buzz about Las Vegas casinos possibly going non-smoking (including a rumor about Planet Hollywood which Caesars Entertainment quickly denied), but popular wisdom has been a non-smoking casino in Vegas is doomed.

We beg to differ.

Park MGM is the perfect casino resort to take the smoking ban leap.

While the timing is related to the COVID-19 crisis, a smoking ban is going to be a huge market differentiator for Park MGM. That marketing hook is needed more than ever, especially because the hotel has not met expectations since the Monte Carlo rebrand. Ditto the resorts hotel-within-a-hotel, NoMad.

The goal for Park MGM has always been to appeal to younger customers (or any customers, really). The “bold” move to ban smoking is certain to be a draw for customers who may never have been to Park MGM, or Monte Carlo for that matter.

It seems likely the smoking ban at Park MGM will be presented as “temporary,” but if it results in pulling in new customers, it may end up being the beginning of a trend for Las Vegas casinos, despite the vocal opposition to such a cultural and business shift.

Interestingly, former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren may have tipped the company’s hand about a smoke-free Vegas casino, without ever mentioning a specific resort.

In an interview with Fox 5 Las Vegas, Murren said he believed over time Las Vegas casinos will “gravitate” toward being smoke-free.

Another breadcrumb MGM Resorts would make this move? A survey sent to loyalty club members specifically asked if enforcing non-smoking policies would increase their chances of returning sooner. Somebody, apparently, answered “yes.” See more from the MGM Resorts survey.

smoking casino COVID-19

The survey question that launched a thousand blog comments.

We’ve hear there are a lot of MGM Resorts executives who are very nervous about this decision, and if the rumor pans out, we look forward to seeing how this surprising twist unfolds.

The best players at Park MGM are already being contacted by their casino hosts to make sure they’re cool with the smoking ban.

There’s been no official announcement from Park MGM about the rumored smoking ban or a reopening date. We’ve heard July 1, so let’s go with that.

Plug Pulled on The Drew, Project in Default

Back in March 2020, we shared that The Drew project had been suspended indefinitely. Now, the embattled project appears to be in default.

The embattled Drew was formerly the embattled Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau wrap

Just when we thought we’d expended all our sad.

Fontainebleau sits across from Circus Circus and was abandoned in 2009 due to the financial crisis.

In 2017, the unfinished Fontainebleau was sold to Witkoff Group for $600 million.

We’re now learning more about the investors in The Drew. A group of South Korean companies have sunk about $490 million into the project.

According to “Business Korea,” the investors include Mirae Asset Daewoo, NH Investment & Securities, Hana Financial Investment, Kangwon Land and a Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary.

Apparently, principal and interest payments have been suspended since May 8, 2020.

One of the securities companies claims the project is not in default yet, but a “deferment request has been made in relation to local conditions.”

As recently as January 2020, Drew owner Steve Witkoff believed he would close on a $2 billion construction loan. While we appreciate whimsy, it didn’t look good. Then coronavirus hit the fan.

The Fontainebleau/Drew saga has been a roller coaster ride. If roller coasters went through active volcanoes and minefields.

Everyone’s rooting for The Drew, but bringing the abandoned hotel back is expected to cost billions, and there were questions about the viability of The Drew even before the COVID-19 crisis.

The hope was The Drew would open by November 2022, but reality is likely to prevail over whimsy. Again.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 110: Let’s Vegas Again

Let’s talk about the reopening of Vegas, finally!

There’s so much good news, we’re going to have our podcast let out. What does that even mean? Who the hell knows? The bottom line: We get to gamble again!

In this episode, we chat with Derek Stevens, owner of The D and Golden Gate, about giving away 2,000 free flights to Las Vegas.

Derek Stevens

Thanks to Derek Stevens for being on our podcast and sorry about the parts where we talk.

We also get a sneak preview of plans for Ahern Hotel, formerly the Lucky Dragon.

Chef Marc Sgrizzi talks about his new restaurant, Chef Marc’s Italian Steakhouse, and also tells us how to pronounce his name.

Chef Marc's Italian Steakhouse

Ahern Hotel has some sexy stuff in store.

We’ve got all the latest scoop you won’t hear anywhere else, and some scoop we heard elsewhere but changed just enough to avoid getting into too much trouble.

Don’t miss our hastily slapped-together listicle, “11 Things We’re Doing on June 4.” Hint: They all involve gambling and drinking. Shocker.

It’s the podcast your mother would’ve warned you about if she weren’t so busy reading your diary.

Take a listen!

All Fremont Street Casinos Open June 4, Fremont Street Experience on June 3

All the casinos along Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas have confirmed they’ll open on June 4, 2020.

That sound you hear is this blog becoming fully engorged.

Fremont Street

Let’s Fremont again.

The casinos along Fremont Street are The D, Golden Gate, Plaza, Golden Nugget, Fremont, Binion’s and Four Queens.

Just-off-Fremont Downtown Grand and The Cal will also open on June 4.

In the case of some casinos, not all dining options or other amenities will be available upon reopening. The casinos and bars are really the important things, anyway.

As for the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall, officials say they’ll be open on June 3 at 9:00 a.m.

Fun fact: Virtually no one has ever gotten up early enough to see Fremont Street Experience at 9:00 a.m. If they have, they’re doing Vegas wrong.

Fremont Street closed

There’s a light at the end of the sad.

At the moment, the newly-renovated Viva Vision video screen, is playing a countdown to the reopening of casinos downtown and on The Strip. Specifically, June 4 at 12:01 a.m.

While the Fremont Street Experience mall opens June 3, it will do so without its signature live bands. Announcement of the venue’s free summer concert series was derailed by the COVID-19 crisis, and there’s been no word as to whether any of the planned concerts will happen this year.

In related news, the SlotZilla zipline will reopen on June 4 at 4:00 p.m.

SlotZilla Las Vegas

Time flies when you’re in lockdown. Welcome back, SlotZilla.

Demand is expected to be strong downtown (including ours) upon reopening. The buzz is hotels both downtown and on The Strip are receiving unexpected levels of room bookings, despite the fact hotels and casinos are currently limited to 50% occupancy.

Downtown Las Vegas is much less reliant on conventions and Asian visitors than The Strip, so it’s expected downtown could recover more quickly than other destinations.

We are personally going to leave our stimulus money in a variety of slot machines and bars along Fremont the minute they reopen. You know, to support Las Vegas. We’re selfless like that.

Casino Owner Gives Away 2,000 Free Flights to Las Vegas

Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and the under-construction Circa Las Vegas, gave away 2,000 flights to Las Vegas to help kick-start visitation and support airline travel following the COVID-19 shutdown.

Las Vegas casinos have been closed since March 18, but many will reopen on June 4, 2020.

Stevens initially offered up 1,000 free flights on May 27, 2020, but those were snatched up within a couple of hours. Another 1,000 flights were made available later in the day. Travelers grabbed those almost immediately as well.

Derek Stevens

Derek Stevens just sort of gets it.

Derek Stevens made it clear those who took advantage of the free flights did not have to stay at his Las Vegas casinos, although many booked rooms at The D and Golden Gate.

Reservation lines were overwhelmed, and many folks on the company’s player development team (VIP hosts) took to the phones to assist reservations staff. They still couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Demand, of course, has been a big question of late. Casinos across the country have seen record revenue since they’ve reopening, but some have questioned how quickly Las Vegas visitation will recover, or if it will at all.

Given our own level of pent up demand, we suspect Vegas will see a healthy level of visitation right out of the gate. Hotels, casinos and restaurants will be limited to 50% capacity, however.

Here’s one last look at an empty Longbar at The D. Let’s hope we never see this again.

Longbar empty

The end of the sadness is near. Or “nigh,” if you’re fancy.

We did a complete walk-through of The D’s empty casino, so check it out.

While our usually reliable contacts at The D aren’t talking, we’re putting the over/under for the 2,000 one-way flights giveaway at $250,000.

As for the nearby Circa Las Vegas resort, it’s looking gorgeous.

Circa Golden Gate

Downtown’s oldest casino, Golden Gate, blends seamlessly with Circa, the newest. Bottom line: We should win far more awards for this blog.

Construction of Circa, set to cost in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion, has continued throughout the shutdown, so the new resort is on pace to open as planned in December 2020.

Circa’s floors are about two thirds built out, and it’s already the tallest structure in downtown Las Vegas.

Circa Las Vegas

Our future home away from home, Circa.

It now appears the majority of casinos in downtown Las Vegas will open June 4, 2020.

The D’s hotel will open June 3, with the casino opening one minute after they’re allowed to, per Derek Stevens.

We’ll see you at Longbar one minute after that.