MORE VEGAS INFO
VEGAS4VISITORS.COM WEEKLY COLUMN BY RICK GARMAN
June 15, 2015
The Countdown: Top 10 Vegas News Stories of the Week
10. You Might Be Paying More for Entertainment in Vegas
Ticket prices for shows in Vegas are already pretty high but some may be getting even higher now that the state has approved changes in the "live entertainment tax" system. Before the changes, the amount of tax levied could go from zero up to nine percent based on the size of the venue, whether it was in a restaurant or not, whether it was indoors or not, and so on. The new rules say 9% for everything. Most of the big shows in Vegas were already at the 9% rate so it won't have an effect, but for smaller shows and outdoor festivals like the Electric Daisy Carnival, the new rules will add a few bucks to ticket prices. Read more about Vegas entertainment.
9. Caesars Renting Private Pools
So you're tired of fighting for that perfect chaise lounge at the Vegas pool and you think, wouldn't it be nice if I had my own private pool? At Caesars Palace you can... but it's gonna cost you. The hotel is offering up rental of their Bacchus or Jupiter pools (pictured), which have room for you and 119 of your friends with lounge chairs, cabanas, daybeds, and your own suite inside the hotel. You can have it catered, of course, and why not throw in a DJ with a PA system? The cost? About $13,000 plus tax and gratuities once you add it all up. And yes, people do this. People with way too much money, that is. Read more about Caesars Palace.
8. Major Road Construction Project Will Make Driving in Vegas Better... Eventually
The Nevada Department of Transportation is calling it Project Neon and it is intended to relieve, or at least ease, the mind-numbing traffic jams found on Interstate 15 near Downtown at the so-called Spaghetti Bowl interchange. They are going to add new lanes including a dedicate car pool lane, redo interchanges, and more starting in 2016. The $1.5 billion construction effort is the largest transportation project in the state's history and will take up to 20 years to fully complete, although most of the major work will be done by 2020. Of course while they are doing the construction... well, think about staying off the freeway for a while. Read more about shortcuts in Vegas.
7. Imagine Dragons Do Stratosphere Rides for Video
The new video from Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons goes where no bands have ever gone before - to the top of the Stratosphere to brave the extreme thrill rides. Much of it is shot with GoPro style cameras on helmets that capture the reactions of the group as they do the Big Shot Insanity, X-Scream, and SkyJump. Be sure to watch all the way through for some priceless shots of what at least one of them thinks, which is something like "this was the dumbest idea we ever had." Read more about the Stratosphere Thrill Rides.
6. How Do You Have a Burlesque Club Without the Burlesque?
By removing the world Burlesque from its title, apparently. 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque at Mandalay Bay has gotten rid of the peek-a-boo dancers and retitled the place 1923 Bourbon Bar. It'll still have its speakeasy theme - you enter through a bookcase - but the dancers and the club music will be gone in favor of background jazz. This will be the third removal of words from the name of the club after it started as Holly Madison's 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque but was shortened when Madison left in a dispute that is still working its way through the courts. Perhaps the next version of the bar will just be 1923? Read more about Mandalay Bay.
5. Linq Showroom Makeover Displacing Civillico & Divas
The two primary shows at The Linq Las Vegas - Jeff Civillico and Divas Las Vegas - are going to be finding new homes this summer as the hotel continues its transformation from the days when it was known as the Imperial Palace. A complete overhaul of the main showroom is underway that will bring it more inline with the rest of the updated hotel. The theater was one of the "classics," dating back to the 1980s with traditional semi-circular booths and tables with buffet style chairs and will get a modern makeover with movie theater style seating, new decor, updated technology, and more. While I always hate to see bits of history go into the trash can, the Linq showroom was, by far, one of the most uncomfortable places to see a show in Vegas so this is long overdue. Civillico's show will move to the Flamingo in the Bugsy's Cabaret Theater from June 14 through September 6 while Divas will move to a different, smaller space within the Linq. Read the reviews of Jeff Civillico and Divas Las Vegas.
4. No New MGM Resorts Planned in Vegas
MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said something pretty important in an interview recently: the company has no plans to build any additional casino resorts in Las Vegas and most likely won't any time in the foreseeable future. In the interview, which was featured in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Murren basically said that Las Vegas has plenty of hotel rooms and more than enough casino space and doesn't need any more. Instead, MGM is focusing on adding value to its existing properties by expanding the restaurant, nightlife, and entertainment offerings as they are doing at The Park, a big new development in between New York-New York and Monte Carlo that will include a 20,000 seat sports and event arena. Monte Carlo may be getting a complete overhaul and a new name to boot but other than that, it seems like you can put to rest rumors that the company will be doing something big like tearing down Excalibur and starting over (which has been circulating in the gossip mills for years). Check out reviews of the MGM Resorts hotels including Bellagio, Aria, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Mirage, and Circus Circus.
3. Mob Museum Starting Film Noir Series
What better place to watch old gangster movies then at the Mob Museum in Downtown Las Vegas? The facility is going to have a Speakeasy Cinema series in July with films every Wednesday including "The Captive City" with John Forysthe and "Dark City" with Charlton Heston among others. The screenings will be held in the old courtroom inside the building that housed the famed Kefauver hearings in Vegas in the 1950s on organized crime. Seating is limited and the tickets are $15. Read more about the Mob Museum.
2. Wayne Newton Ranch May Open This Summer
The idea of opening Wayne Newton's ranch Casa Shenandoah as a tourist attraction has been around for years and in fact sent the singer and the people bankrolling the project to court a while back. It seemed as if the whole thing was dead but now, maybe not? Word is that a scaled back bus and walking tour of the estate, located on the southwest side of town, could be opening as early as this summer. There's a fancy tease website and everything and they are hiring staff to run it. Check out the teaser website here.
1. Vegas Gears Up for Frank's 100th
This December will mark what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday and the city that he loved will be going all out to celebrate. According to a story by Robin Leach, Steve Wynn is planning an all-star tribute concert at Wynn Las Vegas that will be broadcast live on CBS on December 12. Details of who will be performing have not been revealed but expect to be star-studded. Sister property Encore will also be hosting a week of special meals at its Sinatra restaurant. And of course there is the Frank Sinatra tribute show running at The Venetian, which has just been extended through December. Read more about Wynn Las Vegas.
Resort Fee Update
I have decided that resort fees are like ants. No matter how much you try to get rid of them, they just keep coming back and when you aren't paying attention the problem gets worse.
Such is the case with six Las Vegas hotels that have all raised their nightly resort fees while I wasn't paying attention. It has been about three months since I did full scrub of all of the hotels and apparently that's too long to ignore the problem and hope to keep current. Where's the Raid?
We start at Circus Circus, which has the highest, and probably the most insulting, jump in fees. They were at $16.80 per night and have now gone up almost $6 to $22.40 per night, including tax. Note that this is the fee you pay on any room in their inventory, including the less-than-desirable Manor rooms, which go for as low as $27 per night. Yep, they are basically doubling the cost of your room with the resort fee.
Sister hotel Excalibur went up by the same amount but it was already at $22.40 - now it's it $28 per night including tax. I found a room in June at the hotel for $29 per night, which almost removes the "basically" from the "basically doubling" statement above.
Other hotels in the MGM Resorts family also raised their fees since I checked last including New York-New York, which is now playing in the Bellagio and Aria neighborhood with a $32.48 per night fee including tax (up from $28) and Four Seasons, which is also up to $32.48 from $28.
And it's not just hotels on The Strip. Hooter's, located on Tropicana Avenue, has jumped from $15.95 plus tax to $17.95 plus tax per night. And Silver Sevens, formerly Terrible's, has gone up from $10 plus tax to $12.99 plus tax.
I couldn't find any other increases but I did find some things worth shaking my head about.
As I was checking rates online to find out the resort fee at all of these hotels, I randomly picked a date, which often happened to be June 24 for no good reason. At the D Las Vegas and sister hotel The Golden Gate, they were offering rooms on that night $19.. plus a $20 resort fee!
And I have to give a big "Booooo!" to The Plaza, which has continued to hide the fact that they charge a resort fee while making an online booking. All other hotels list it and include it in the total before you book. Not only does the Plaza not list the fee in the total, they don't even say that they charge a resort fee except in the LAST paragraph of their Terms & Conditions on a completely different page from where you book your room. Sorry, but that's pretty scuzzy.
The good news is that no new resort fees have been added since I last did a full report. The hotels that haven't been charging one are still fee free as of this writing including The California, The Cannery, the Eastside Cannery, The Four Queens, The Fremont, M Resort, and Main Street Station. How long they will hold out is unknown but I expect at least a few these to succumb to the lure of resort fee revenue this year.
The big increase in the fee at Circus Circus means that The Stratosphere now claims the (very dented) crown for lowest resort fee on The Strip at $18 per night. The highest still goes to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, which is the only one charging $30 per night before taxes.
I've talked about the "Why?" of resort fees before, but just in case you need a primer, there are two main reasons. The first is obvious - the money. We may whine about them and say we hate them but we keep paying them because we don't have a choice, at least not if we want to stay at a casino-hotel on The Strip. Those fees are expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue for the hotels that charge them not just in Vegas but around the world.
Second is because of the advertised rate. The D Las Vegas can say on their site and resellers like Travelocity that their room rate is $19, making it show up at the top of the results when sorted by price lowest to highest. If they said they were really charging $39, they would show up further down on the list and that would affect their bottom line. So second is also about money, but just in a different way.
You can get a full rundown of all the fees charged at all of the major hotels on the Resort Fees page on Vegas4Visitors.com.
7 Unusual Gambling Spots in Vegas
Now that there are casinos almost everywhere in the United States, the lure of the slot machines and blackjack tables has been replaced by the call of nightclubs and shopping malls. Today, Las Vegas makes more money off of the stuff around casinos than the actual casinos themselves. As a result, the size, scope, and often the location of where you can gamble in the city has been getting smaller even as more and more visitors come to the city each year.
But for a long time gambling was the primary draw in Vegas. You couldn't swing a dead Elvis impersonator without hitting a slot machine in this town and the casinos put the one-armed bandits and gaming tables anywhere that they could fit. Over the years, this resulted in some unusual places where you could place a bet. Here are a few, most of which still exist today but for how long?
At the Airport
Most of you regular Vegas visitors have gotten blase about it, but for anyone who is new to the city one of the first things they remark upon are the slot machines in the airport. There are currently about 1,500 slot machines scattered throughout the terminals and near the gates at McCarran International but according to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, revenue from them is dropping as people spend more time on their phones and tablets while waiting for their plane to leave than gambling. Could this mean that gambling at the airport could someday be extinct? Probably not. But it is likely that there will be fewer and fewer places to play and more and more restaurants and bars. By the way, in case you are wondering, there are no table games like blackjack or craps at the airport - only slot machines and video poker.
At the Car Rental Center
When they first built the consolidated car rental center, there was a big conversation about whether or not they should have slot machines, with the people backing it saying "no, no way, it'll never happen" or words to those effect. And when it opened it didn't have any. Flash forward to today where there are a bank of machines sitting in the main lobby that I have never seen being played. Do they make any money? Probably or they wouldn't be there, but this is one that seems like one that could some day be a memory.
Convenience Stores/Gas Stations
Let's just put it all out there... if you do anything more than slip a buck into a slot machine at a convenience store or gas station out of sheer boredom because of a line of people waiting to pay for their Slim Jims and cigarettes, you have a problem. They used to be everywhere but these days at least seem to be a little more rare. Many of the newer gas stations don't have them at all and several of the companies that manage the machines for the individual stores have been in financial trouble. Could this mean that someday you will just go into a convenience store to spend an outrageous amount of money on milk rather than on gambling? Maybe.
Gambling in Vegas has historically been an indoor sport, with very little if any natural light interfering with the brightly lit slot machines or causing any card glare. But over the years, several places have tried, with varying degrees of success, to move the betting action into the great outdoors. You can often find a gaming table or three out near pools in Vegas and at least one Downtown casino, the Downtown Grand, has tried putting blackjack tables along the sidewalk on Third Street. I have to say it's a weird experience to play cards out in the sun but others seem to like it so you'll probably continue to see that in Vegas.
In a Pool
If gambling by the pool isn't enough for you, how about doing it while you're actually in it? Swim up blackjack tables have popped up at the Tropicana and the Hard Rock Hotel to name a couple and there are old photos of The Sands pool that had a slot machine on a mini-island in the middle of it. These are rare, though, and probably will always remain so.
The Top Floor
Most casinos go out of their way to make sure that you can get easily from the outside to the places where you can start losing money, but over the years a few places have tried putting the gambling up on top of the buildings so you could get a view with your wagers. Examples include the long-gone Landmark Hotel & Casino, which was located near the Convention Center, and featured a casino at the top of its observation-style tower, and the original MGM Grand, now Bally's, which had a high roller casino on the top of its hotel tower back in the 1970s. More recently, The Palms experimented with a Playboy Club branded gaming parlor near the top of one its buildings. That none of these exist today should tell you a couple of things. First, putting things like elevators in between people and the games they play doesn't lend itself to high foot traffic and second, it's a complete waste of a really killer view on people who are paying more attention to the reels and cards than they are to what's outside.
From 1932 to 1967 the Nevada State Prison in Carson City, Nevada, had its own casino. Known as the Bullpen, it was sanctioned by the state and the prison as a way of keeping the inmates docile and to provide a way to monitor what they were going to be doing in secret anyway. Inmates with enough money to bankroll the games were given the rights to run card tables and the other inmates could buy bronze gaming tokens, stamped with "Nevada State Prison," to wager with. They even had sports betting! The casino closed after a new warden came in and decided it was a little too wicked for his tastes and replaced the games of chance with things like bridge, chess, and volleyball.
Vegas4Visitors Museum Special: The 60th Anniversary of The Dunes
In case you didn't know, it gets a little hot in Las Vegas sometimes. The average high temperature in July is 105 degrees - that's average, folks. 110 degree days are not uncommon during the summer in Sin City and the hottest temperature every recorded is 117 degrees, reached in June of 2013.
Of course if you're not a fan of hot weather, you could simply not visit from June through August, but what you miss out on is traditionally the slowest time of the year in terms of the number of people coming to town. Fewer people means lower prices and shorter lines, so if you can put up with the heat, you can often get some really good deals and have to fight fewer people to use them.
Here are some summer safety tips that will help you survive the next time you visit Vegas in the summer.
Get Up Early, Stay Up Late
If you understand the basics of weather, it should come as no surprise that the peak temperature times come in the afternoon so plan your outdoor activities for early in the morning or after the sun sets. For instance, if you want to get in a round of golf, most courses have early-bird tee times and if you want to soak up some sun by the pool, most are open by 9am and not only will you have less sizzling temperatures, you'll probably have a better selection of lounge chairs (and shade, if there is any). Planning on strolling The Strip? Do it at night when it is cooler, both in terms of temperature and attitude.
Water, Water Everywhere
One thing that a lot of people don't do enough of while in Vegas is drink water. It's easy to get distracted by the general hubbub and the constant on-the-go nature of the town and people don't remember to drink as much water as they should, especially when it gets hot. Shockingly, I've heard a few of you may have an alcoholic beverage or two while you're in Las Vegas, which only dehydrates you more. Be sure to mix it up with a bottle of water here and there, especially if you are planning on spending significant time outdoors.
Know Where You Are Going
Do it right, and you could visit almost every single hotel/casino on The Strip without spending more than a few moments outside. For instance, start at Mandalay Bay and then take the indoor walkway across the Mandalay Place shops to Luxor and then the indoor walkway from there to Excalibur. Spend a couple of minutes outside as you cross the pedestrian bridge to New York-New York and go through that casino to the north end and outside briefly until you get in to neighboring Monte Carlo. Take the enclosed walkway at the back of that property through to Aria and then right into Crystals at CityCenter mall. Take the monorail from there to Bellagio and cross through that property to the north end through the Via Bellagio shopping gallery. From there it's a quick jaunt across the pedestrian bridge to Caesars Palace. Take that all the way through the Forum Shops and you are just steps from the moving sidewalk into The Mirage and from there you could take the tram connecting it to Treasure Island and then the pedestrian bridge to The Forum Shops. I have just gotten you from the south end of The Strip to the north part of it and you will have spent maybe 15 minutes outside.
Let Someone Else Do the Work
You may be tempted to walk from wherever you are at to wherever you want to go, but consider taking cabs, monorails, or buses more often when it gets really hot. Yes, it'll cost you a few extra bucks but it'll be worth it in the long run.
The Layering Effect
As hot as it gets inside, it can actually get chilly inside as most of the hotels, casinos, restaurants, attractions, and showrooms have their air conditioning systems set on frozen. If you are at all susceptible to wildly changing temperatures, you may want to carry something with you that you can slip on once you get inside so you won't be sweating one moment and shivering the next.
Sunscreen. Wear it. Always. Even if you are going to be outside for only a few minutes, it can protect you from burning or worse.