MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
June 4, 2012
Rock of Ages Musical Set for The Venetian
The Venetian is going to be rocking in December with the arrival of the hit musical "Rock of Ages" now confirmed.
The announcement came during the opening of a new bar just off the casino called The Bourbon Room, which plays an important role in the musical.
"Rock of Ages" is what is known as a jukebox musical, featuring rock and heavy metal classics from the 1980s including "Just Like Paradise," "Sister Christian," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "I Want to Know What Love Is," "Any Way You Want It," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Oh Sherrie," and "Don't Stop Believin'" from groups and artists like Journey, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, and Bon Jovi. It has been playing on Broadway since 2009 and although it hasn't always gotten the best reviews it has been drawing big audiences. Those audience may get even bigger with the movie version of the musical starring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, which is set to hit theaters June 15.
The story takes place in 1987 and centers on an aspiring rocker working as a busboy in Hollywood's Bourbon Room (patterned after the Viper Room). He falls in love with a girl, loses her to a real rock star, and light-hearted drama ensues.
The other two empty theaters at the Venetian and Palazzo are rumored to be getting musicals of their own with "Book of Mormon" and "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" both expected to be announced soon. There are also rumors that country superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill will be setting up a residency, playing a few shows a year at one of the theaters when the main musical is dark.
New Twists on Old Games
Slot machines have been around for more than a century but today's games are much more than just putting in a coin and pulling a handle. The technological developments behind the one-armed bandits have been almost mind boggling as manufacturers try to keep them interesting and entertaining for a newer generations of players.
Now, table games are getting the attention with new versions of old favorites like blackjack, roulette, and three card poker promising even higher rewards (and requiring even higher bets).
The Station Casinos chain, which operates several casinos around town including Red Rock Resort, Green Valley Ranch, Sunset Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station, and others has introduced a new progressive version of Blackjack called Hit & Run. An extra $1 minimum side bet buys you a chance at a progressive jackpot that is related to the dealer's cards instead of your own.
If the dealer hits a blackjack, you will win 4-1 on your side bet, regardless of whether you win or lose your main bet. If the dealer draws between 5 and 7 cards, the table gets a small portion of the progressive jackpot split between all players who had made the side bet.
The big progressive pays if the dealer draws 8 or more cards and is also split between all players at the table who made the side bet.
There are two separate progressives; one for the double deck blackjack tables at all of the Station Casinos and another for those dealt with a shoe using multiple decks.
While the odds are definitely in the casino's favor, it is absolutely possible for the big jackpot to pay off. In fact, within a week of starting the company-wide progressive, the double deck version hit for $10,500 at Santa Fe Station and the show progressive hit for over $15,000 at Sunset Station. There was no word on how many players split the jackpots but since most blackjack tables seat, at the most, 7 players, that's as much as $2,000 for a $1 bet.
Roulette is also getting a makeover with a new version of the game playing exclusively at M Resort. Double Action Roulette basically doubles everything - there are two rings of numbers within the same wheel (turning in opposite directions), two betting fields, and several bonus bets. You can bet on either or both rings and if you do the bonus bets you can earn extra dough if the ball lands right. For instance, if you bet that both wheels will land on a red number, you win 3-1 instead of the normal 1-1 that betting red gets you. The big money payout happens if both wheels land on the same number. If you made the right bet you'd win 1200-1!
Double Action Roulette has been popular in Europe for quite some time but the M Resort game is the first time it has come to Vegas. Expect to see it in more casinos soon.
Three Card Poker has been getting the progressive treatment as well with two bonus versions now gaining popularity at Vegas casinos. The standard progressive requires an extra $1 minimum bet and pays bonuses based on your hand only. For instance, get a straight and you get 6-1 on your bonus bet in addition to winnings from your regular bets. The big jackpot pays out if you get the A-K-Q of spades (usually) and pays 10% of the progressive if you get the A-K-Q of any other suit. This is in addition to the 40-1 bet you win on your regular Pair Plus bet.
These progressive games have a fun feature called Envy, where you get paid 100-1 if any other player at the table (including the dealer) gets the A-K-Q of spades regardless of whether that player was participating in the bonus or not. This happened to me once at Treasure Island. A couple sat down at a table with me and both myself and the dealer explained the progressive bet but they refused to play it, saying it was only for "suckers." Three hands after they sat down one of them got the A-K-Q of spades and, because they weren't betting the bonus, lost out on over $10,000. I think I was more upset about it than they were but I got the $100 envy bonus so it made up for it a little.
The other Three Card variation is called 6 Card Bonus and while you may find it at various casinos in town, it is only at the Caesars Entertainment properties like Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah's, Paris, Bally's, and Rio to name a few where you can get a shot at winning $1 million.
The way it works is that your three cards are combined with the dealer's three cards to build a six-card poker hand. A $5 minimum bonus bet starts paying off at a three-of-a-kind (for instance three jacks in the six combined cards), which pays 3-1. Payouts go up from there with the big payout happening if, between you and the dealer, you have the A-K-Q-J-10-9 of diamonds. That sounds virtually impossible and it is, but it has already been won four times since the game started last year, twice in Atlantic City and twice in Vegas.
Wayne Newton Fights Back
Mr. Las Vegas was in court last week, fighting back against a lawsuit filed against him by the developer of a proposed Wayne Newton Estate Tour attraction. The singer filed a countersuit against the developer and got a restraining order preventing anyone from the development team from entering Newton's property until the whole mess is sorted out.
To recap, Wayne Newton entered into a deal with a museum and attraction development company to turn his Shenandoah Estate in the southeast part of Vegas into a major tourist attraction. It was to include a tour of the extravagant main house, animal exhibits, a classic car museum, a memorabilia museum, and a theater in which Newton would perform. Oh right... and a Wayne Newton themed car wash. Can't forget that.
The $50 million project was supposed to open late last year but kept getting delayed for reasons that no one was talking about until the developer sued Newton alleging, among other things, that the singer was blocking construction efforts, harassing at least one female employee, and letting the property fall into disrepair that was going to balloon the price tag to fix.
Newton's countersuit, filed last week, alleges that the development company, and specifically its manager Steve Kennedy, breached the original contract and committed fraud that created the construction delays. Newton also won a restraining order against Kennedy preventing him from coming within 50 feet of the entertainer or his property.
Regardless of the legal battles, this likely means that the current proposal to turn Newton's estate into a tourist attraction is dead. It could get resurrected with another developer but the big question if that happens is this: will there still be a Wayne Newton themed car wash?
If there isn't, I'm not going.
Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards
The John Montagu Award of the Week goes to The Palms, which will be getting a new branch of the Earl of Sandwich restaurant later this year. The first Earl, at Planet Hollywood, has been a popular and inexpensive spot for a quick bite since it opened. And if you don't know John Montagu, you are not allowed to eat a sandwich ever again.
The Keep on Dancing Award of the Week goes to the Dancing with the Stars Live show at the Tropicana, which has been extended through August and may become a permanent production at the hotel. The show, which features a rotating cast of "celebrities" that competed on the ABC hit and their professional partners, was originally only supposed to run for a couple of months.
The Even More Dancing Award of the Week goes to JabbaWockeeZ, the hip-hop dance crew whose show will be reopening in a temporary facility outside of Monte Carlo on June 8. The air-conditioned, tent-like structure will be their home until a permanent theater is ready for them in the old IMAX cinema space at Luxor this September.
The Peep-No Award of the Week goes to Holly Madison, the former Playboy Playmate, Hugh Hefner and Criss Angel girlfriend, and reality TV celebrity, who will be departing the role of Little Bo Peep in Peepshow at Planet Hollywood at the end of this year. Madison is planning a new show in Vegas but hasn't said what it is yet. No word on who will replace her in Peepshow.
More Downtown Development Planned
Downtown Las Vegas keeps getting more and more interesting with the addition of new hotels, restaurants, bars, and attractions, and soon will feature an expanded and enhanced district known as Downtown3rd.
Located, appropriately enough, on Third Street between Fremont and Stewart, Downtown3rd already has several interesting places to visit including the fantastic Mob Museum, the rowdy Hogs & Heifers bar, a couple of eateries, a weekly farmer's market, and more. Over the next couple of years though as many as a dozen addition restaurants and bars will be added including Pizza Rock, a rock and roll themed pizza joint going into the old Celebrity Theater space on the corner of 3rd and Ogden this summer. It's all leading up to the opening of the Downtown Grand hotel in 2014, a complete renovation and remodeling of the old Lady Luck hotel.
Downtown3rd joins the Fremont Street district with its classic casinos (The Fremont, Binion's, Golden Nugget, the revamped Plaza, and the new D Las Vegas among others), the popular Fremont Street Experience light and sound show, and the revitalized Neonopolis shopping center; and the East Fremont District with its fun and funky bars like Insert Coin(s), the Vanguard Lounge, and The Griffin as yet another reason to visit Downtown on your next trip to Vegas.
Nightlife Review: Mob Bar
A linchpin in the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas was the 2012 opening of the Mob Museum, a terrific interactive facility that traces the roots of the mafia in the United States and in Vegas. Of course one of the things that helped organized crime grow and expand was their monopolization of the illegal alcohol trade during prohibition so what could be more appropriate than a bar that gives a winking nod to the "good old days" when the mob ran Sin City?
It's a small space with a 1920's supper club theme complete with cozy booths, lots of rich wood, dark walls, and a big bar at which you can order any of their handcrafted cocktails. The period details extend to speakeasy style decor and the uniforms of the staff.
The prices are very reasonable for the kind of craft cocktails they serve, which use fresh ingredients and a mixology style of blending that goes way beyond booze in a glass. Drinks like this on The Strip would run you $20 easily but here they are half that.
They also have a limited menu of snacks and appetizers from the restaurant next door, most of which are under $10 so this would make a good place to go for a bargain drink and nosh.
It's not exactly a destination type of bar - it is simply too small and the mob theme, while cute, is not interesting enough to make it worth going out of your way for. But if you are out bar hopping in Downtown Las Vegas (and you should at some point), then this can be one of your many stops.
Restaurant Review: Ellis Island Restaurant
Las Vegas used to be filled with places like this: cheap, no frills 24 hour coffee shop style restaurants that serve hearty portions of American food at bargain basement prices. But as the celebrity chefs started to take over, classic diners went by the wayside and now there are very few left, at least anywhere near The Strip.
Ellis Island is a small casino, brewery, and motel located on Koval Lane, less than half a mile east of The Strip behind Bally's and Paris Las Vegas. The restaurant is definitely old school, with a decor that probably hasn't changed in 20 years or more, leatherette booths, and a bunch of tables crammed into a fairly small, dark space. If you want atmosphere, go to a restaurant on The Strip.
The menu is coffee shop classic - breakfasts with eggs, pancakes, omelets, French toast, bacon, pork chops, chicken fried steak, and more; appetizers like chicken fingers and wings, quesadilla, onion rings, fried mozzarella, fish and chips, and shrimp cocktail; a few soups and salads; sandwiches including chicken parm, BLT, French dip, club, and deli style meats; burgers; panzones; pasta from fettucine Alfredo to shrimp scampi; and full dinners that include prime rib, pork chops, steak, chicken, seafood, and more. They also serve BBQ ribs and chicken from an adjacent shop but only from 4pm to 10pm.
We went for lunch and had a sampling of various sandwiches, burgers, and the like. Everything was fine, generously proportioned, and satisfying in a food-as-fuel kind of way but it is definitely not going to win any culinary awards anytime soon.
The main lure is the prices. The most expensive thing on the menu is the king cut of prime rib dinner, which comes with a baked potato, soup or salad, and a glass of beer (or root beer) for $13. Most of the other items are below $10 and most come with sides like fries or cole slaw included.
The question become whether or not saving a few bucks is worth the trade off in terms of the quality of food. You could walk the half-mile and pay about $15 for a fully loaded burger, fries, a drink, and tip that would be "fine" or you could go to someplace like KGB and pay about $5-7 more for truly fantastic burger, fries, a drink, and tip. That's a question I can't answer for you but for me, the answer is fairly obvious. If you need me I'll be at KGB.
Ellis Island Restaurant