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Random Vegas Photos and Observations 12.2009
CEO "Rocket Boy" 12.29.2009



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Back to Bellagio
Bellagio hasn't changed much since it opened, and it doesn't need to. Nothing about it was trendy when it opened, so the newer hotel-casino-resorts on The Strip haven't made Bellagio look outdated. Bellagio is future-proof because it's a simulation of old-world luxury.

You could argue that there have been two new generations of Vegas hotel-casino-resorts since Steve Wynn opened Bellagio in 1998. Seven years later he opened Wynn, and once again upped the ante for top-end Strip properties. The level of luxury was raised to a new level, with a Ferrari dealership and golf club on the property.

But more significant are the things Wynn lacks. No mockups of existing world-famous landmarks. No naval battles or dancing fountain attractions for tourists on The Strip. No more kid-friendly distractions like rollercoasters. The disarming Disneyland-ishness of the previous generation was replaced by straightforward opulence.

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Joe Sebok, CEO of Poker Road, and poker reporter Lacey Jones discuss their TV show Poker2Nite
(Photo by BJ Nemeth of The World Poker Tour)


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Bellagio lobby


The Next Generation
The grand opening of City Center introduced yet another generation of mega-projects on The Strip. And it will be a generation of one until Echelon Place is finished. This will be a similarly high-end mega-complex, but with greater emphasis on convention facilities than City Center. Echelon has been delayed for several years due to Boyd Gaming's declining profits and partners' difficulty in securing loans.

The cost of constructing a Vegas-sized block of ultra-modern skyscrapers, simultaneously, is too high for the currently contracted luxury real estate market. As we've seen, the economy can collapse faster than anything the size of City Center or Echelon can be built. But eventually Echelon's demographic of high rollers will come flooding back in to Vegas. The question is when, and the answer is "Years from now."

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Mandarin Oriental, Aria, Veer Towers, and The Crystals as seen from across Las Vegas Boulevard


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New pedestrian walkway over Las Vegas Boulevard at Harmon


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The tram pulling in to the Monte Carlo station


As Big as it Looks
Approaching City Center, the overall effect is that of institutional vastness. There are seas of cold hard concrete, asphalt, and glass. It's like walking through the financial districts of many large cities, but even less organic.

The other large buildings on The Strip are designed to look smaller than they really are. Bellagio has oversized square windows that actually span two floors each. It looks like it's only 15 extra-tall floors high instead of its actual 30. The massive Augustus Tower of Caesar's Palace uses the same multi-story window trick to hide its true floor count.

But City Center's architects made no attempt to hide the number of floors in any of its buildings. In fact, the floor count is exaggerated by the lighting scheme at night, increasing the buildings' perceived height. Older hotel-resorts reduced their visual mass to make visitors feel less like they were contributing to the bottom line of a mega-corporation. Instead, City Center's exaggerated size hints at targeting jet setters who want to play at, stay at, and own condos in the newest and most impressive property on The Strip.

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Aria's precisely lit façade: the massive towers achieve a certain graceful lightness at night


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Interior of The Crystals: inconveniently vast, relentlessly obtuse, airy yet oppressively heavy


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Ooh la la! Kiki de Montparnasse in The Crystals


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High-end champagne in the fridge at Aria's gift shop


Only One Casino
I really like Aria's casino. It's big and fancy but not too showy. Hip but not too trendy. (With large portraits of Christopher Walken displayed, inexplicably, at the entrance to the Deuce lounge.) It's like an expanded version of Palms' casino. The only problem is that the lower limit area of the poker room is right next to some very loud slot machines.

A potential problem for City Center is that Aria's casino is the only one in the complex. The Mandarin Oriental, Vdara, and Harmon are all proudly non-gaming. Fine, but that might mean less revenue from gaming than could have been made if there were more than one casino in the complex. Players seeking a change in scenery or luck will leave City Center entirely to get to another casino. If the Mandarin Oriental or Vdara had their own casinos, players switching casinos could at least stay within City Center property.

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Cool automated waterfall at Aria's porte cochère, thankfully with some real live plants


Bad News for the Old School
All this new hotness center Strip is making older properties up north less relevant. The Sahara, Binion's, and the Riviera have all announced closures of large blocks of rooms or entire towers. Unusual, since the winter holidays are a peak period in Las Vegas.

It feels like cost-cutting to improve the bottom line. To make the properties more attractive to potential buyers. Maybe this is Harrah's chance to increase their footprint on the east side of The Strip.

Next time: Bay 101 WPT...

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