Category Archives: Las Vegas Hotels

Hard Rock Las Vegas to Close Four Months During Transition to Virgin Hotel

As we were the first to report via the Twitters, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will close entirely for four months next year as it transitions to Virgin Hotel Las Vegas.

Specifics of the hotel’s rebrand were shared with hundreds of employees on Dec. 19, 2018.

Hard Rock’s overhaul will start around Labor Day of 2019 and will last a total of eight months. The full closure will happen during the last four months of that renovation window.

Virgin Hotel Las Vegas will debut in the early part of 2020.

Virgin Hotels

It’s unclear how long Virgin will stay that way when it gets to Las Vegas. Because Las Vegas.

The hotel’s new owners say every part of the resort will be touched by the renovation and rebrand.

The upgrades will include: newly-designed Virgin rooms, new bars and restaurants, a redesigned pool deck, a new hotel exterior and landscaping, an expanded and redesigned casino floor, upgraded and expanded event space and new security systems.

Hard Rock Center Bar

The original Hard Rocks Center Bar was around for 20 years. The current one is likely to go away after just four.

Virgin Hotel will have a sports book, described as “a food and beverage sports viewing environment with app-generated gaming.” It’s unknown who will operate the sports book, or if it will continue to be “powered by CG Technology.”

Owners also mentioned the Virgin rebrand will bring with it “powerful loyalty programs,” including hotel, gaming and event customer databases.

The importance of this element of the evolution of the hotel and casino can’t be overstated, as it shows the new owners understand it takes more than resort improvements to succeed, especially in a challenging location.

It sounds like the Hard Rock’s ownership is addressing another key component needed for future success: Union negotiations.

Back in Sep. 2018, the Hard Rock’s new owners took the fairly uncommon step of signing a “card check neutrality agreement,” a contract between unions and an employer where the owner agrees to support the union’s attempt to organize workers. Hard Rock employees voted to unionize, and negotiations are currently underway.

The resulting union contracts are expected to take effect in early 2019. Read more.

Virgin Las Vegas rebrand

We hear the new owners of Hard Rock loved our Virgin rendering, complete with chastity belt. They were probably just being nice.

The renovation will also include a modernization of The Joint, the hotel’s entertainment venue.

Owners mentioned to employees plans for a “huge act” to perform at The Joint in June, a symbolic send-off to Hard Rock and a nod to the metamorphosis to come.

The act has not been named, but an announcement is expected around the time of the Super Bowl (early February).

Hotel ownership has said it has gone to great lengths to assist employees with the disruption caused by the renovation and temporary closure. There will be incentives for staff members to stick around until the hotel shutdown, and those wishing to return following the rebrand won’t have to apply again.

Estimates of the investment in Hard Rock’s rebrand to Virgin range from $50 million to “hundreds of millions.”

While the Hard Rock’s new owners—including Juniper Capital Partners, Bosworth Hospitality Partners, J.C. Hospitality, Dream Alternatives and bajillionaire Richard Branson—haven’t shared many details of what’s in store for Virgin Hotel Las Vegas, the brand has been described as “disruptive.”

Here’s a snappy video that highlights some of the things Virgin considers brilliant and “unbrilliant.”

They had us at “beds that do tricks.”

While we’re in the vicinity, there was some recent news about Pink Taco (which currently resides in Hard Rock) and the aforementioned J.C. Hospitality which we didn’t understand, but maybe you will.

Because we have to make everything about us, here’s us talking about plans for the Hard Rock on Channel 8.

We look forward to watching what Virgin Hotel Las Vegas has in store. As you might suspect, we’re a big fan of disruptions.

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.

Wynn Resorts Pulls Plug on Paradise Park Lagoon

Wynn Resorts has confirmed a story we were the first to share, that it’s pulled the plug on its Wynn Paradise Park lagoon project.

While Wynn started tearing up grass on its golf course several months ago in preparation for the lagoon, it will now redesign and open the 18-hole course again with the assistance of designer Tom Fazio.

Wynn golf course

Here, you can see the partially torn up Wynn golf course. If only golf courses had an undo function.

The lagoon project was considered a longshot from day one, a vanity project of disgraced former CEO Steve Wynn.

With Wynn out of the picture as a result of his sexual misconduct scandal, there was no champion of the lagoon project at Wynn Resorts, and it simply didn’t pencil out.

The project was supposed to feature not only the 38-acre lagoon (with water skiing, paddle boarding and parasailing), but also bumper cars, a boardwalk, carousel, ziplines, a nightly Carnivale parade (with a dozen 30-foot floats) with fireworks and even an animatronic King Kong.

Yes, that’s a lot of whimsy. Then again, it’s Las Vegas.

Wynn Paradise Park

What might have been.

During an earnings call, Wynn Resorts said that since closing the golf course, the company has lost out on $15-20 million in revenue.

The Wynn golf course closed on Dec. 22, 2017.

Here’s a look at the Wynn golf course before it looked rode hard and put up wet.

Wynn Golf Club

You can’t afford it, so don’t bother drooling.

While Wynn Resorts confirmed the lagoon project would be nixed on Nov. 7, 2018, we shared the story during a Channel 8 segment and on Twitter back in October. Because our tipsters are badass, bro.

The Wynn convention center is expected to proceed as planned, but the hotel tower at the canceled Wynn Paradise Park appears to be shelved.

It’s unclear what, if anything, will happen with the former Alon site, just across the street from Wynn and Encore. Wynn officials have said they expect it to take two years to design and develop a plan.

Don’t be surprised if the current Wynn leadership isn’t around to see whatever it’s going to be come to fruition. The development of the Alon site won’t even start until 2019.

Alon site

It seems the Alon site will remain empty for at least two years. Sigh.

While Wynn Paradise Park seemed overly ambitious and slightly nutty, Las Vegas could use a little more of that at the moment.

It feels like Vegas has traded in audaciousness for prudence, boldness for pragmatism. Prudence and pragmatism might pay some bills, but they don’t exactly scream excitement.

Las Vegas could use less corn hole and more giant King Kong, less sure thing and more Hail Mary.

While Wynn Paradise Park won’t be happening, it felt like something fresh and fearless, and we feel a tinge of sadness at its demise. Big ideas don’t come along every day, and Wynn Paradise Park was just that.

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.

Lego Las Vegas Skyline Goes on Sale

Lego has released its much-anticipated Las Vegas skyline set, easily the most interesting edition of its Architecture series.

Lego Las Vegas Architecture

We’ve never been so excited to experience severe foot injuries.

The new Lego Architecture Las Vegas set has 501 pieces (shout-out to all our fellow OCD sufferers) and sells for $39.99 on Amazon.

Which is where you should purchase the set because if you click through to Amazon via our link we get a little piece of the action. Hey, this Captain and diet isn’t going to pay for itself.

The Las Vegas skyline set features a number of immediately recognizable buildings, including Bellagio, Luxor, Encore, Stratosphere and the Fremont Street Experience.

The set also boasts a miniature “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

Lego Las Vegas Architecture

Fun fact: We work at Fremont Street Experience as our day job, so we wrote that portion of the booklet which accompanies the Las Vegas skyline Lego set. You should buy it, anyway.

As we’ve shared previously, Bellagio wasn’t originally in the set, but replaced Mandalay Bay following the tragedy of Oct. 1, 2017.

Another adjustment was made to the Las Vegas Lego set in that an early version of the collection identified Encore as Wynn. It’s believed that switch was made in the aftermath of Steve Wynn’s sexual harassment scandal.

Hey, it wouldn’t be a Las Vegas Lego set without a little drama.

Here’s a look at the set being assembled, for whatever reason.

The swap-out of Mandalay Bay for Bellagio means the set is somewhat out of whack in terms of geography, but at least the thing has been released.

We’ve ordered ours, so order yours, and expect an update with photos of our completed Las Vegas skyline sometime in 2022. We are a blog, not an AFOL.

Yes, there’s a name for Lego fanatics. AFOL stands for “Adult Fan of Lego.” Apparently, that means we’re an AFOLV.

We’ll wait.