Weekly Column by Rick Garman

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? You've come to the right place.

Each week you can come here to get the latest news, the juiciest gossip, and the best reviews for the most fabulous city in the world, Las Vegas. Hey... it says "fabulous" right on the welcome sign!

The latest weekly column will always be on this page, but you can go back through the archives (all the way back to 1999!) or take a look ahead and what's coming up next for Vegas by using the navigation on the left hand sidebar.

Thanks for visiting! Enjoy!



Vegas4Visitors 2012 Top 10 Awards: Reader's Choice

It's almost time for my annual year-end picks of my favorite Las Vegas hotels, restaurants, shows, attractions, and more with the 2012 Top 10 Awards and once again this year I'm giving you a chance to make your voice heard with the Vegas4Visitors Reader's Choice. And to make it even better, this year's Reader's Choice votes come with a chance to win!

You can weigh in with your opinion in one of two ways. First, you can go join our Vegas4Visitors Facebook group ( where we'll be having what I hope are lively discussions about your picks. I'll post a question (ie: What's your pick for the Best Las Vegas Hotel of 2011?) and all you have to do is reply in the comments to that post. They will be posted on Facebook starting Monday, December 3rd, 2012.

If you are not on Facebook, you can also send me a quick e-mail with your choices at

Here are the categories:

  • Best Hotels
  • Best Shows
  • Best Attractions
  • Best Restaurant
  • Best Buffet

You can send me your picks via Facebook or e-mail any time before Saturday, December 15th at 12:01am Pacific Standard Time.

Everyone who votes in one of the categories will be automatically entered to win a autographed copy of my new Frommer's Las Vegas 2013 guide book. You can only vote once per category but each of those votes count as a separate entry and I'm going to give away 3 of the guide books!

I'll be unveiling your choices for those categories and my picks for those and several other categories in a series of special columns starting in a couple of weeks. The winners of the drawing will be announced just before Christmas.

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The Best of Las Vegas


Bill's Gambling' Hall to Close February 4

We already knew that Bill's Gamblin' Hall was going to go away with a $185 million remodeling aimed at turning it into a hip, happening, boutique hotel but what we didn't know is how soon and how drastically.

Instead of remodeling while keeping the property open (as they are doing with the Imperial Palace to Quad renovation), Caesars Entertainment has announced that Bill's will close on February 4, 2013 and not reopen until the construction is (mostly) done in the spring of 2014. It will be a top to bottom overhaul, making over the casino, the restaurants, and all 200 rooms plus adding a rooftop pool and nightclub. The latter will come online by summer of 2014.

The hotel will have a new name although no one is saying what it is yet. There is some speculation that it could be associated with Victor Drai, the namesake of Bill's fancy restaurant and the person who will oversee the development of the new pool and nightclub. Drai, who used to produce movies like "Weekend in Bernie's," has remade himself as a Vegas nightclub impresario having worked on Tryst and XS at Wynnand Encore. Whether or not they will go so far as to name the whole thing Drai's is not yet known. Whatever it is, I just hope it's better than the god-awful Quad name they are slapping on the IP. I can't be the only person who thinks that's stupid.

Bill's opened in 1979 as the Barbary Coast, the first hotel/casino from Michael Gaughan, son of casino legend Jackie Gaughan who made his fortune with hotels like The Plaza and El Cortez. Michael parlayed the Barbary Coast's success into the Coast Casinos empire, which eventually included Orleans, Suncoast, and South Coast (now South Point). Boyd Gaming bought Coast Casinos in 2005 then traded the Barbary Coast to Harrah's Entertainment (now Caesars Entertainment) for the chunk of land that used to be home to the Westward Ho, which was incorporated into Boyd's now mothballed Echelon project.

Harrah's changed the name of the property to Bill's in 2007.

The new property will be aimed at a much different audience than the one it serves now, attempting to basically be a miniature Cosmopolitan or Palms with a cool, sexy vibe and lots of nightclub ambience.

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Bye Bye Bill's


Bill's Casino


Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Still the One Award of the Week goes to Shania Twain, who opened her exclusive engagement at Caesars Palace over the weekend. The country music legend will be performing more than 60 shows a year into 2015.

The Trouble With Moose & Squirrel Award of the Week goes to Encore Las Vegas, which will open a new bar at the end of the month called VDKA. It will serve over 150 different varieties of gin... no, I'm kidding, it's vodka, including ones that are infused with interesting flavors like bacon and cinnamon. It'll open December 28th near the Surrender nightclub.

The Ballroom with a Wrench Award of the Week goes to Scarlet, the new bar planned for The Palms that will specialize in craft cocktails. It will be an intimate space... only 200 square feet in the room that used to be a sundry shop near the pool. It's scheduled to open by the end of the year as well.

The Down Under Award of the Week goes to Human Nature, the Australian doo-wop group, whose show at The Imperial Palace closed last week. But fans of the Motown sound may be in luck... there are rumors that the group will be announcing a new two-year deal at a much nicer showroom at The Venetian.

The Putting on the Ritz Award of the Week goes to the Kam Sang Company out of California, which bought the former Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas (now known as Ravella) and the adjacent Casino MonteLago last week for about $47 million. They have no plans on major changes to the properties right now with the Dolce Group continuing to manage the hotel and Intrepid Gaming staying on for the casino.

The All that Glitters Award of the Week goes to Landry's, the parent company of The Golden Nugget, which has just purchased the Isle Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi and plans to remodel it into a Gulf Coast sister for Downtown Vegas' Grand Dame. The Golden Nugget Biloxi is expected to be completed by spring of 2014 and will join the Las Vegas, Laughlin, and Atlantic City Golden Nuggets in the Landry's family.

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Welcome to Vegas


Venetian Bound?


Hotel Review: The D Las Vegas

Contributing to the renaissance of Downtown Las Vegas is The D, the latest and perhaps greatest incarnation of a Glitter Gulch stalwart that has been pulled into the 21st century with a new look, a new attitude, and a new energy.

The property started life in 1979 as The Sundance and became the "Luck of the Irish" themed Fitzgerald's Holiday Inn during the 80s, complete with a kissable blarney stone inside and a giant leprechaun outside. Most of that silliness went away in the early Y2Ks along with the Holiday Inn designation and the property became fairly bland and innocuous until its 2012 renovation into The D Las Vegas.

There is nothing bland about The D. The exterior along the Fremont Street Experience features giant LED screens, a street-facing bar with award-winning flair bartenders, and an interactive video display that reacts to people passing by. It's all motion and action and while a bit frenetic, perhaps, it is certainly more eye catching than the neon rainbow that was there before.

Inside the main floor casino has been completely revamped to feature modern furnishings, slot machines, and tables all surrounded by a dark grey and red color scheme. The aptly named Longbar stretches almost the length of the casino and has video poker and lots of TV screens. A high-limit area, sexy dancers in the pits in the evenings, and pop/rock music on the sound system complete the transformation.

The upstairs casino has a similarly modern look and feel but goes completely old school with the game offerings with all of the slots accepting and dispensing coins. There's even a stand with plastic coin cups to complete the retro feeling. The centerpiece of this area is a restored Sigma Derby machine; a simulated horse-racing game that encourages crowds of people to stand around and cheer the little plastic horsies.

The rooms have received an overhaul, turning them from bland, floral, and forgettable into more modern digs both from a design and amenities perspective. A red accent wall and accents dominate the visuals with modern furnishings, cushy pillow-top mattresses, a flat screen television, and other contemporary niceties.

It is worth noting that they had to stick with the bones of the hotel when making the upgrades so the rooms are a bit smaller than what you may have grown accustomed to on The Strip and there are some old-school remnants like a noisy, wall-mounted air conditioning unit and less-than-modern fixtures in the bathroom. But these are minor concerns especially when you look at the rates - more on that in a moment.

Other bits of new around the property include upgraded lounges and bars, a revamped lobby and valet area (nice, although a bit dark for my tastes), revised dining options, and more. The pool will get a revamp in time for the 2013 swimming season.

Of course the big question on many people's minds is how all this new, upgraded, modern stuff has affected the room rates. A quick check of their rate calendar shows a minimal impact with costs during the week through March 2013 in the $34-$49 range and on weekends rarely going above $100 and sometimes as low as $59.

The D is a Delightful aDDition to Downtown's Display of Diversions.

PS: BTW and FYI, the D doesn't really stand for any one thing... it is a combination of the D for Downtown, the first letter of one of the owner's first name (Derek), and the city from which the owners hail from, Detroit. Just thought you'd want to know.

HighsA major renovation has given the former Fitzgerald's some new life.
LowsLoss of "classic" Las Vegas.
Location7Right on the Fremont Street Experience.
Price8Usually very affordable to stay here
Value7They've packed a lot into this place.
Rooms7Nice but a bit on the small side.
Casino6Revamps are nice
Amenities7Rooms have enough to get you by.
Facilities7Pool, entertainment, dining, and more.
Service7Very friendly and efficient.
Fun8Lots of entertainment and gaming action.
Bonus6Bonus points for something new.
Vegas4Visitors Rating: 70

The D Las Vegas
301 Fremont Street
Las Vegas, NV 89101

  • 638 Rooms
  • $36 and up double
  • Avg. $50-$100 per night
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    The D Las Vegas


    The D Las Vegas Facade


    The D Las Vegas Standard Room

    Restaurant Review: Culinary Dropout

    The gastropub trend has been hitting Vegas hard lately, perhaps a little bit behind the curve but gaining ground rapidly with places like Public House at The Venetian and this place at the Hard Rock. I'm usually not a student of trendy restaurants but if they were all as fun, casual, and good as Culinary Dropout I'd be staying late after class every day.

    The concept comes from James Beard Award finalist Sam Fox and is a sister to the Scottsdale, Arizona restaurant of the same name. The guy behind the grill, Executive Chef Eric Suniga, is a veteran of such big name foodie havens as Thomas Keller's Bouchon in California and Seablue in Las Vegas.

    Casual is the watchword here, from the unfinished industrial decor to the staff uniforms, which are non-existent. No, they aren't naked, but rather dress in their own street clothes, something that probably makes them more comfortable, which in turn probably improves their general level of service. Most of the wait staff is young and edgy, with tattoos and piercings, a nice change of pace from the cookie cutter blandness at most Vegas restaurants.

    The menu starts with a do-it-yourself antipasti bar, allowing guests to select from dozens of meats, veggies, and cheeses. We sampled a couple of different prosciuttos, some sweet roasted tomatoes and crunchy grilled asparagus, and several creamy cheeses and loved almost every bit. Warning... the costs add up fast here so watch how much you are ordering.

    There's a raw bar with mussels, king crab legs, shrimp, and oysters and some starters that include burrata with chimichurri, soft pretzels with a provolone fondue, and house made potato chips with onion dip.

    The sandwich section has a couple of burgers plus a warm Italian grinder with salami and ham, a prime rib dip, a pork belly cubano with pickles and Swiss, and more while a half dozen salads include chopped vegetable, seared tuna, gorgonzola chicken, and a "cheap house."

    Main courses offer a little something for almost every taste. Consider rainbow trout, beef stroganoff, shrimp and chicken jambalaya, steak and fries, chicken curry, fried chicken, pork ribs, and more.

    What we ate... the beer battered fish and chips, which were more fish than batter for a delicious change and came with a cole slaw that was declared "the best I've tasted in a long, long time." The grilled cheese sliders were three mini-sandwiches on sourdough with bacon and sweet tomato and were perfect when they first hit the table hot but got a little less interesting as they cooled off. The meatloaf with potatoes and gravy was the clear winner on a table full of them, zesty but not too much so and topped with a subtle tomato sauce that paid it a perfect compliment.

    Desserts are limited so let's just skip to the best thing they offer: monkey bread. The sticky pastry is served with a delicious cinnamon sauce and topped with vanilla bean ice cream and was, without question, the highlight of our night

    Prices are almost shockingly affordable with starters in the $7-$13 range, sandwiches and salads mostly under $15, and most entrees in the $16-$24 range. If it hadn't been for us overindulging in the antipasti selections, we probably would've done dinner for three for under $75.

    I normally don't give restaurants grades anymore, but I'm going to make an exception here just because the place seems to demand it: Culinary Dropout gets an A+ in my grade book.

    Culinary Dropout
    Hard Rock Hotel
    4455 Paradise Rd.
    Las Vegas, NV 89169


  • Mon-Thu 5pm-12am
  • Fri 5pm-2am
  • Sat 9am-2am
  • Sun 9am-12am
  • Restaurant Type:

  • American/Gastropub

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    A Look Back: 600 Weekly Columns & 2004

    In a few weeks I will be writing my 600th Weekly Column!

    The Vegas4Visitors Weekly Column debuted in September of 1999 and I have been averaging about 45 of them a year, every year since. The one you are reading today is the 596th so if things go according to plan we'll see 600 right around the start of 2013 (which, by the way, marks the 15th Anniversary of

    In case you've been following along and are wondering, the reason I said last week's column was the 594th and this is the 596th is because as I was going through 2004 I found a column that I hadn't counted... so I'm closer to 600 than I thought!

    Every week from now until 600, I'm going to rerun some of my favorite pieces from columns of days gone by. This week it's time to look back at 2004, which was a big year for the casino companies in Vegas with several huge mergers (MGM got Mandalay, Harrah's got Caesars, and Boyd got Coast); I heard from Queen (the famous rock band not the ruler of England); we heard the names Palazzo and CityCenter for the first time; Binion's closed and then reopened without a Horseshoe; and the Las Vegas Monorail finally debuted... and promptly became one of the biggest embarrassments in Las Vegas history.

    January 12
    Roy Goes Home
    More than two months after a tiger attack that left illusionist Roy Horn in critical condition, Seigfried's partner has come back to Las Vegas to continue his recovery at home. Horn spent the first few weeks at a Las Vegas hospital and was then transferred to a special facility at University of California, Los Angeles. Seigfried and manager Bernie Yuman continue to make appearances talking about how Horn is improving dramatically, giving the impression that it is only a matter of time before he's up and frolicking with the white tigers again. However, insiders quoted in everything from the Las Vegas Review Journal to the National Enquirer say Horn's injuries were so severe that a full recovery is doubtful.

    Being on the S&R press list got me one of the much-coveted 2004 calendars, produced before the October incident, that features a centerfold of Montecore, the tiger responsible for the attack on Roy Horn. It also has this quote: "Animals are reliable, full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal." Sing it with me: "It's like rain on your wedding day. A free ride when you've already paid..."

    January 19
    Binion's Closed
    After more than 50 years as a Downtown Las Vegas landmark, Binion's Horseshoe Casino was forced to close last week after US marshals arrived with a court order to seize nearly $2 million in debt owed to a union. Days later, Harrah's Entertainment stepped in and purchased the property and plans to reopen the casino at least temporarily.

    Officials moved swiftly through the casino on the night of Friday January 9th telling gamblers to cash in their chips and leave. Within hours the doors were closed. Since then the hotel has remained operational but the casino and all of its attendant neon have been dark, leaving a gaping hole in the bright lights of Fremont Street and nearly 1,000 people unemployed.

    Rio Rides High
    The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas recently agreed to move forward with negotiations with Voyager Entertainment International, Inc., to build "The World's Tallest Observation Wheel." The 600-foot structure (150 feet taller than the Masquerade Tower), which will feature 30 "Orbitor" cabins and a 20,000 square foot nightclub, will be positioned on the Southeast side of the Rio parking lot, visible from the Las Vegas Strip and Interstate 15.

    Similar to, but larger than the famed London Eye Ferris Wheel in Great Britain, the new attraction will be a little more than half the height of the Stratosphere Tower and will loom large over most of the hotels in the area.

    January 26
    Binion's Sold to Harrah's
    The deal is done on the buyout of the shuttered Binion's Horseshoe Casino by gaming giant Harrah's entertainment. The 50-year-old legendary home of the World Series of Poker was forced to close suddenly a couple of weeks ago after federal officials seized funds owed to a union. Harrah's stepped in a few days later and announced they were buying the joint for a reported $50 million in assumed debt. The papers were signed late last week but the casino remains closed and approximately 1,000 employees are still out of work. No reopening date for the casino has been announced but both companies and the Nevada Gaming Commission are expected to expedite matters so they can turn the lights back on as soon as possible, probably by the middle of February.

    February 2
    Castaways Closes
    The Castaways Hotel and Casino was forced to shut its doors Thursday, January 29, the second closure of an historic Las Vegas hotel in less than a month.

    Late Thursday afternoon, officials with the company holding the mortgage on the bankrupt Castaways property received approval from the bankruptcy judge to seize all assets from the owners VSS Enterprises. Officers from both companies along with representatives of the Nevada Gaming Control Board entered the casino and began shutting down operations. Gamblers in the casino were told to stop and paid out their accumulated winnings while guests of the hotel's 450 rooms were told to pack their bags and leave.

    February 16
    Boyd Snaps up Coast
    Casino analysts had been predicting a wave of mergers between big casino companies and the first sign they were correct was announced last week with the merger of Boyd Gaming and Coast Casinos. The $1.3 billion deal blends two very distinct but smallish companies into a gaming behemoth that could very well compete with the big boys.

    The merger will make Coast a subsidiary of Boyd Gaming so you'll still be seeing the Coast name on properties and business cards around town. Once you put the two together, you're talking revenues in the billions of dollars and 17 hotels and casinos across the country, including partial ownership of the new Borgata Resort in Atlantic City.

    February 23
    Queen is Not Amused
    I wrote this in relation to the rumors of hit London musical making its way to the Paris Las Vegas stage:

    I don't know enough about the show to make a real judgment call on this one yet, but I'm worried that while ABBA's music is bubbly enough to support a lightweight musical like "Mamma Mia!" the same can't really be said of Queen's music, "Bohemian Rhapsody" notwithstanding. If the musical is at all serious, I will have the same reservations as I do about "Phantom." I also think the folks at Paris Las Vegas should be concerned about bringing in another big budget musical that has not proven itself to American audiences. The debacle of "Notre Dame du Paris," the smash hit French musical that opened shortly after the hotel did would make me a little gun shy about the whole thing.

    A couple of days after the story was published, I received this e-mail from Brian May himself:

    "Dear Mr. G .

    Brace yourself Rick - if you think We Will Rock You is ANYTHING like Mama Mia or Phantom, far less "Notre Dame" (!) , you're in for a wonderful shock!!!

    Our show has packed London's huge Dominion Theatre (2,100 seats) for two solid years already - that's a nearly million and half happy kids of all ages from 8 to 88, and there has NEVER been a night without a massive standing ovation at the end. (Plenty of Americans in there too!)

    And don't forget you're looking at ROCK music here, and from a band who toured the USA constantly through the 70's and 80's - and topped the charts many times along the way. We do not forget, and nor have, I believe, those kids who still rock to Champions, Rock You, Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites the Dust, Crazy Little Thing .... need I say more????

    It's no idle promise, folks of beautiful Las Vegas - We WILL rock you !!!

    See my website - - for details of auditions starting this coming week.

    Brian May
    Feb 17th 2004"

    March 1
    Monorail Delayed
    There's been a slight delay in the opening of the Las Vegas Monorail project, now scheduled for late March instead of this week as originally planned. Operators of the monorail system will only say that "additional testing" is required and it has absolutely nothing to do with the January 5th incident where the driveshaft fell out of one of the monorails being tested and fell on the pavement beneath. Just smile and nod.

    March 15
    Sirens Pans
    I got so many e-mails regarding my review of the Sirens at TI show a couple of weeks ago I lost track of them all. Interestingly, almost every single one of them agreed wholeheartedly with my "F" grade of the show, especially since other websites merely regurgitate press department fluff and call the show "exciting" or "sexy." No, you're going to get opinion on and we're not afraid to tell you what we think of things, which was, in this case "Bleah."

    The only people who didn't agree with me were some folks associated with the show somehow (although they left their exact affiliation unmentioned), who wrote to say I was being unfair. To that person who used a fake e-mail address I will say this: "Bleah."

    Just days after my review ran on our nationwide syndicated affiliate sites the TI announced it was trimming six minutes from the 24-minute long show. Keep going guys. Trim another 18 or so and you'll fix the whole thing.

    April 5
    Binion's Reopens
    There was no April fooling last Thursday as a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the reopening of Binion's Horseshoe casino in Downtown Las Vegas. The legendary hotel closed a few months ago after money troubles brought in the Feds to seize assets and lock the doors but new owners (including Harrah's) managed to get the place up and running again in a remarkably short time period. Champagne, cake, the mayor, and a few showgirls greeted the throngs that packed the redecorated casino. More on the reopening next week.

    April 26
    Construction Starts on Red Rock
    Construction on the newest Station casino is officially underway with a groundbreaking ceremony recently on Red Rock Station in the Summerlin area, northwest of The Strip. The $450 million project will feature 400 rooms, an 87,000-square-foot casino, restaurants, movie theaters, and more all wrapped up in a super-luxurious package intended to act as the flagship of the Station Casinos portfolio. The groundbreaking was viewed as an effort by Station to put behind them the contentious licensing phase on the hotel that brought out strong protests from future neighbors of the resort who objected to the size and scope. The new hotel is expected to open in early 2006.

    May 31
    New Station Hotel Announced
    The seemingly unstoppable force that is Station Casinos has unveiled plans to build yet another resort and this one will be their biggest, most expensive, and closest to The Strip. The new hotel will feature over 1,000 rooms and will be built on the site of the Wild Wild West hotel and casino at Tropicana and Industrial Roads, just on the other side of the freeway from New York-New York and Excalibur. At an expected cost of nearly half a billion dollars it far exceeds the size and scope of the neighborhood casinos the company has specialized in before. You'll have to wait awhile to visit though... they probably won't even start on the thing until they finish Red Rock Station, due to open in 2006 so figure 2008 at the earliest.

    New Hotel/Entertainment Complex Set
    "A lifestyle center." That's what the developers of a new 1.2 million square-foot retail, entertainment, and hotel complex for the far south end of The Strip are calling the project. Town Square will be the official name for the project that will feature stores, shops, restaurants, a multiplex movie theater, and a 200-room boutique hotel. Notably absent from the list of amenities is a casino. Instead the developers plan on marketing the project as a family destination. It's all going to be built on the site of the former Vacation Village hotel, near the intersection of Interstates 15 and 215 about two miles south of Mandalay Bay. Construction should begin in early 2005 and be completed sometime in 2006.

    June 14
    Desert Inn Tower to be Imploded
    Implosion fans take note: the last remnants of the Desert Inn will be imploded sometime before Halloween, although no specific date has been set yet. The building was the newer of the two room towers at the old Desert Inn and has been housing administrative offices and the Wynn Art Gallery since the DI closed several years ago. It is being removed to accommodate the expansion plans for Wynn Las Vegas - yes, expansion plans for a hotel that isn't even open yet. Figure that one out. The older of the two towers was imploded quietly - well, as quietly as you can blow up a building - in the middle of the night in late 2001, done with absolutely no fanfare since it was so soon after the horror of September 11th.

    The Algiers To Close, Be Demolished
    Just shy of its 50th Anniversary, the Algiers motel on the north end of The Strip will be meeting the wrecking ball. The small property is one of the last few remaining motor court style motels from the era but it has been sold to a company in Florida who plans to tear it down and build a $400-million, 450-room condo and hotel complex in its place. There are no details about the project other than that but the Algiers is expected to close by the end of the summer and the new place is scheduled for a summer 2006 debut.

    MGM Makes a Move on Mandalay
    In a surprise move, MGM MIRAGE, one of the largest gaming companies in the world, has made a $7.65 billion bid to buy Mandalay Resorts, one of the other largest gaming companies in the world. If it goes through the combined company would not just be one of the, but THE largest gaming company in the world with 33 casinos and nearly $7 billion in annual revenue.

    June 21
    Revamped Fremont Street Experience Debuts
    A $17-million upgrade to the light show at the Fremont Street Experience debuted last week with a big party featuring celebrity guests, food, and entertainment designed to celebrate the high-tech upgrade. "Vegas Vision" is what they are calling the new show in the sky, a dazzling display of 12.5 million light-emitting diode lamps - up from the 2 million light bulbs it had previously - on a canopy over Fremont Street and a new 550,000-watt audio system. The result of the upgrade is remarkable, with near digital television quality allowing the broadcast of everything from the animated light and sound shows visitors have enjoyed for years all the way up to actual live video feeds. In fact, they showed the debut of "The Casino," the new Fox Network reality program filmed at The Golden Nugget, conveniently located right there on Fremont Street.

    Mandalay Accepts MGM Moves
    It's official. After a week of intense negotiations Mandalay Resorts Groups approved a buyout offer from MGM MIRAGE that would create the biggest gaming company in the world, one that could very well have an enormous impact on Las Vegas.

    The final deal was worth a reported $7.9 billion, up from the first offer of $7.65 billion, which Mandalay Resorts rejected over a break-up clause it says could've cost it $100 million if things didn't work out. The final deal includes $4.8 billion in cash, $2.5 billion of assumed debt, and $600 million of what is known as "convertible debt" - bonds that can be cashed in for stock.

    July 19
    Harrahs to Buy Caesars
    In a city that delights in having the biggest, fastest, and tallest of pretty much everything people can think of, it's no great surprise that just weeks after the announcement of the MGM-Mirage-Mandalay merger, a $7 billion deal that made them the biggest casino company in the world, comes news that Harrah's Entertainment is going to buy Caesars Entertainment for $9.5 billion creating the... you guessed it... biggest casino company in the world.

    When complete the new company, most likely to retain the Harrah's Entertainment name, will control more than 50 casinos in four countries producing annual revenue in excess of $9 billion. By comparison the MGM-Mirage-Mandalay combo features just over 30 casinos with revenues in the $7 billion range.

    Las Vegas Monorail Opens
    The Las Vegas Monorail is officially up and running. After a big splashy party on July 14th with celebrities, politicians, and the requisite showgirls, the monorail began shuttling regular folk on July 15th. The completely automated system whisks riders from the MGM Grand at the south end to the Sahara at the north in about 15 minutes for a $3.00 fare. Along the way there are stops at Bally's and Paris, The Flamingo, Imperial Palace and Harrah's, The Convention Center, and the Las Vegas Hilton. The monorail will operate from 8am until midnight every day for a few months but hours will eventually be expanded to 6am until 2am daily. You can get more information on ticket prices, see pictures, and more at the official website at

    New Mega-Resort Planned
    By now you may have heard about Palazzo, the new mega-resort being planned as an expansion (of sorts) for The Venetian. Well, we now have an opening date (of sorts): early 2007. How's that for specific? Of course when you're building a $1.6 billion-dollar, 3,000-suite hotel with a 105,000-square-foot-casino and a 375,000-square-foot-mall coming up with an exact date and time three years in advance is probably not a realistic expectation. The new hotel was originally conceived as a second phase of The Venetian but now will be attached but run as a stand-alone property much in the way Treasure Island was originally supposed to be part of The Mirage. No other specific details have been released on the project but we do know at 52-stories it will be the tallest occupied room tower in Vegas, just beating the new Wynn Las Vegas next door by one or two floors.

    August 8
    Phantom of the Venetian
    It is official: there's going to be a "Phantom" roaming the halls of The Venetian. Hotel officials have finally gone public with details of the long rumored production of the Andrew Llloyd Webber musical "Phantom of the Opera" being developed for property. The space once occupied by the Guggenheim Museum (the big one in back by the parking garage, not the small one up front by the lobby, which is still in operation) will get a $25 million overhaul, turning it into a state-of-the-art showroom, designed specifically for the new Vegas production. The show will be shorter than the long-running Broadway version, clocking in at a sleek 90 minute with no intermission. Construction on the new theater will begin later this year and the show is scheduled to debut in early 2006.

    Rio To Add Women's Room
    The Rio has announced plans to build a new facility dedicated to the ladies called "The Ultimate Girls' Night Out." The 21,000-square-foot complex, scheduled to open in December, will feature a 400-seat theater for their very popular Chippendales show, an ultra-lounge with a walk-up bar, a retail area offering Chippendales merchandise, lingerie, and make-up, and a plush ladies' room complete with a "gossip pit." Regarding the latter, senior VP Marilyn Winn said in a press release, "We paid particular attention to the design of this facility, knowing women want a private, comfortable place to freshen up their appearance, exchange fashion advice and tell secrets."

    The hotel is also reportedly working on a companion "Ultimate Guys' Night Out" complex featuring a bathroom with a "scratching and spitting pit."

    No, no... I just made that last part up. But the rest is true. I swear.

    Trump Coming to Vegas
    Real estate tycoon, casino mogul, and reality TV star Donald Trump has announced plans to start construction of a Las Vegas version of his gleaming Trump Tower on the Las Vegas Strip in 2005. The 64-story hotel and condominium complex will be built adjacent to the New Frontier and Fashion Show Mall and will be the tallest occupied tower in Las Vegas, besting rivals Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson's projects (Wynn Las Vegas and Palazzo) by about ten stories.

    What is it about men and the size of their towers?

    August 16
    Mr. O'Lucky Lost in Tragic Fire
    A small blaze last week claimed one of Las Vegas' most beloved figures: Mr. O'Lucky. The good news is he didn't suffer. After all, he was made of fiberglass. The giant leprechaun statue had been an iconic figure on Fremont Street for years, presiding over the entrance to Fitzgerald's Hotel & Casino since the 1980s. He was removed during a remodeling project a few years back and has been taking up residence in the Neon Boneyard ever since, relaxing on his back, enjoying the warm Las Vegas sun. The early morning fire is suspected to have been started by homeless people who often camp in the fenced off lot containing the remains of classic Las Vegas neon signs. By the time firefighters arrived, Mr. O'Lucky was fully engulfed and could not be saved.

    August 23
    Hooters Casino Hotel Set for Vegas
    There's going to be a full-bodied change happening at the San Remo, the small casino hotel behind the Tropicana just off The Strip: it's going to become the first ever Hooters Casino Hotel.

    It's moments like these I need to find something cool to rest my head on.

    For those of you unaware, Hooters is a chain of restaurants and bars featuring scantily clad waitresses with... um... ample assets (that's a polite way of saying they have large breasts).

    The San Remo will be remodeled to feature a Hooters restaurant and another from Dan Marino of Dolphin's football fame. There will also be a revamped pool area dubbed the Hooters Beach Club. And of course the so-called "Hooters Girls" will be omnipresent throughout the property, serving drinks and food to what will undoubtedly be the most testosterone-heavy clientele in Las Vegas history.

    The hotel will remain open during the transition expected to be complete by fall of 2005, at which point anyone who tries to argue with me about Las Vegas still being a family-friendly destination will be laughed at.

    August 30
    Holy Cow: Tallest Tower in Vegas Planned
    This is getting old. Okay, first Steve Wynn crowed about building the tallest occupied tower in Vegas with his 50-story Wynn Las Vegas. Then Sheldon Adelson said, nope... I'm going to build the tallest occupied tower at Palazzo, a 53-story hotel going up next door to The Venetian. Next came Donald Trump who said "hold on there partner" (or something like that) and went on to unveil his plans to build a 64-story hotel and condo tower near The New Frontier, making his the biggest in Vegas. And now a pair of Australian developers has announced plans to build... wait for it... the tallest occupied tower in Vegas with a $700-million, 73-story condo complex called The Summit. The condos will be built just north of The Sahara at the corner of The Strip and Sahara Avenue on land currently occupied by the now (sadly) closed Holy Cow Pub and Brewery. The Summit will feature 960 units ranging in price from $600,000 to $35 million for a 15,000-square-foot penthouse. Yes, $35 million. Construction could begin before the end of the year and would be complete in 2007.

    September 20
    Monorail Update
    If you're heading to Las Vegas in the next few weeks, don't bother counting on the monorail for your transportation. The system was shut down last week after two separate incidents of parts falling off the trains. While officials with the monorail are not giving specifics, they are indicating the line will be shut down for weeks as they try to figure out what is going on with the thing. Note weeks, not days, meaning October, November, or perhaps even later. Operators of the system want to make sure, well, that things stop falling of the trains I suppose, so they are hiring independent consultants to look at every inch of the system including mechanics, maintenance, and operation.

    The bad news continues on the financial side, not just for the monorail company itself but for the company that built it. Bombardier of Canada has seen its stock value decline and one of its biggest clients, US Airways, just filed for bankruptcy. This could spell trouble for future development of the monorail into downtown and to the airport.

    New Hotel, Condo, Casino Project Proposed for Strip
    Yet another high-rise hotel-casino project is being proposed for The Strip, this time near Bellagio. A group of developers has submitted plans to the county calling for a 53-story tower at the northwest corner of The Strip and Harmon Avenue (that's just south of Bellagio, across from the Aladdin). The project would include 2,400 condos and hotel rooms, a 70,000-square-foot casino, and nearly half-a-million square-feet of entertainment, retail, and convention space in a u-shaped building erected around the existing Jockey Club time-shares. If everything goes according to plan the $1 billion project will open in 2007 or 2008.

    October 4
    Hard Rock To Get $1 Billion Addition
    At just under 700 rooms, the Hard Rock is relatively small by Vegas standards but it's going to get significantly bigger according to owners with a $1 billion, 1,500 room expansion. A group of four new buildings will be constructed on Harmon Avenue just west of the existing hotel and will include a mixture of hotel and condo units, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping outlets, a health club and spa, pools and other recreation facilities, and a host of other features. It is unclear at this time whether the new addition will also feature more casinos space and whether it will act as a formal expansion to the Hard Rock or its own independent facility. Regardless, it will continue to be marketed toward the younger demographic the Hard Rock has been dominating for years.

    Wet n Wild Closes
    After twenty years of slipping and sliding, Wet 'n Wild water theme park has officially closed its gates for the last time. The property located on the north end of The Strip next to The Sahara has been sold to a company that plans to build a 3,250-room mega-resort in its place. Although no official plans have been released, there is a bit of irony in the fact that it has been rumored the resort will feature a water theme. The Wet n' Wild folks, who had been leasing the land, will be trying to find a new location in or near Las Vegas but if that happens it will be at least a couple of years before you'll be able to ride the rapids again. As for that mystery mega-resort, construction is expected to begin sometime next year.

    October 18
    Mirage Picks The Beatles
    It had been rumored for quite some time but now its official: The Beatles are coming to Las Vegas.

    Officials with The Mirage announced a partnership with Cirque du Soleil and Apple Corps LTD, the company created by The Beatles to manage their catalogue of music. The end result of this partnership will be a $100 million show at The Mirage in the former Siegfried & Roy showroom featuring Beatles songs wrapped up in a Cirque du Soleil style production. It is currently scheduled to debut in 2006.

    October 25
    Forum Shops Expansion Opens
    The grandest of the Strip shopping malls got a little grander over the weekend with the opening of the new 175,000 square-foot addition to the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. The $139 million expansion will add nearly 60 stores and restaurants to what is already considered to be the most successful retail complex (in terms of revenue per square foot) in the United States.

    If you remember, there was an entrance facing The Strip at the north end of Caesars near The Mirage. You had to go up an inclined moving sidewalk to the doors located quite away back from the sidewalk.

    Now that entire area has been replaced by the new three-story addition, with new stores and restaurants surrounding a courtyard that will feature entertainment. Although there is no new fountain to go with the animated shows happening elsewhere in the mall, there is a feature in the new area destined to become an attraction of its own: a circular escalator. It's just like a regular escalator only it goes in a circle and is one of only two in the United States.

    November 15
    MGM Mirage Plans Megaproject
    Steve Wynn is spending $2.5 billion on Wynn Las Vegas. Shrug. MGM Mirage can top that. How does $4 billion sound?

    The mega company has announced plans to build a mega-project between Bellagio and Monte Carlo that will not only change the face of Las Vegas but could be a blueprint for future development on and around The Strip.

    Project CityCenter, as it is now being called, will eventually be a massive 66-acre development with a first phase calling for 18-million square-feet of hotel, casino, entertainment, retail, and residential space. To put that into context, The Venetian claims to be the largest hotel in the world in terms of square-footage and it has about a third of what's going into Project CityCenter. And that's just the first phase!

    December 6
    Future of Stardust Dims
    Boyd Gaming, owners of the venerable Stardust among others, have been pretty open about their desire to redevelop the property where that particular hotel has stood since 1958. Looks like those desires are getting closer to a bigger reality with the announcement that Boyd Gaming has purchased the Budget Suites and surrounding 13 acres that adjoin the Stardust property for $43 million. This gives Boyd control of 63 acres of prime North Strip land, just three acres shy of the area on which MGM Mirage plans to build a $4 billion complex of hotels, casinos, condos, and entertainment venues. Although the folks at the company aren't giving specifics about what and when, it seems pretty obvious that at least one or two new mega-resorts will replace the Stardust along with some sort of residential component, the latest new wave in Strip development. Most analysts expect an announcement about what they'll do sometime immediately after Wynn Las Vegas opens across the street in April of 2005. Both the Stardust and the Budget Suites will remain "as is" until then.

    Las Vegas Monorail Update
    There once was a man from Yale
    Who went to Vegas yearly without fail
    As he walked to and fro
    He simply wanted to know
    When are they going to reopen that stupid monorail?

    No time soon. Sorry.

    2004 Top 10 Hotels

    1. Ritz Carlton Lake Las Vegas
    2. THEhotel at Mandalay Bay
    3. Paris Las Vegas
    4. Green Valley Ranch
    5. The Mirage
    6. Golden Nugget
    7. New York-New York
    8. The Palms
    9. Bellagio
    10. Las Vegas Hilton
    2004 Top 10 Shows
    1. Mystére
    2. Mac King
    3. Second City
    4. Lance Burton
    5. Rita Rudner
    6. Blue Man Group
    7. Penn & Teller
    8. O
    9. Mamma Mia!
    10. Folies Bergere
    2004 Top 10 Attractions
    1. Fremont Street Experience
    2. Bellagio Fountain Shows
    3. MonteLago Village
    4. Stratosphere Thrill Rides
    5. Casino Legends Hall of Fame
    6. Liberace Museum
    7. Mirage Dolphin Habitat
    8. Eiffel Tower Experience
    9. Tribute to Heroes
    10. Richard Petty Driving Experience

    return to the top


    Vegas 2004


    Roy Horn Pre Tiger


    Binion's Post Horseshoe


    Castaways Pre Implosion


    Coasting to Boyd


    Not Amused


    Things Went Downhill


    Bring Back the Real Pirates


    The Finished Product


    Town Square


    The Desert Inn


    MGM Makes a Move




    Harrah's Empire


    Up and Running... But Not For Long




    Phantom of The Venetian


    Size Envy


    RIP Mr. O'Lucky


    It Really Happened


    Or Not


    It Became This...


    Billion Dollar Baby


    Yeah, Yeah, Yeah


    More Empire


    It Wound Up Costing About $11 Billion




    Best Hotel 2004


    Best Attraction 2004