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Trip Report - Labor Day Weekend

Last edit: andybflo on Wednesday, 14th September 2016 1:33 pm
Last response by Heresiarch 19th October 1:25pm

As usual, my wife, myself and a group of friends went to Vegas over Labor Day weekend (Sep 1st-6th.) We were scattered at a few hotels around the strip. Mostly Caesars and Bally's.

When we landed on Thursday (landed at 9:35A), I've never seen McCarran so dead. Stone dead. Nobody in baggage claim, and we walked right up to a Taxi. The rope rodeo didn't have a soul in it. Odd, and a theme throughout the trip.

Checked in to CP, where they wanted to charge $40 for an early room. Thanks for the idea, MGM PGP. Check-in was buttery smooth, and love the CP/50 vibe going around my favorite joint on the strip. She wears her age well. Far better than I do at 40. :)

There was no wait to check-in for CP, nor my friends at Bally's. No lines. Anywhere. I take this flight from Buffalo every time, there's always traffic at the hotel and casino.

Met some friends for breakfast at Hash-House at the Linq. Met up at Bally's and walked over. I'm mentioning this because on the walk over we passed (and I counted; four of us are Vegas regulars, and were stunned) eight other people on the strip between Cromwell and Linq. Eight. On the Strip.

I know 10:15 AM on a Thursday isn't peak traffic (it's my 21st visit), but holy hell... Brings new meaning to dead in Vegas.

Traffic picked up a little by Thursday evening, but was insanely slow for a Thursday/Fri/Sat/Sun. We never waited for cabs. Never failed to find table games. Never found a casino floor with all it's tables open on the strip (Downtown was at capacity, but that's easier to achieve.)

We booked a Cabana at Vdara, as we have for the past few trips, and hung out with the same hostess we always do. Tiffany (request her, if you ever use the pools at Vdara, it's worth it.) We got there late (bad server at breakfast), and usually have to fight for one of the larger cabanas. This time only 2 of the ten were booked; we had our choice.
We've gotten to know her over the years, and I bluntly asked her... Is it dead, or just me? She mentioned the whole summer has been slow; and that week was exceptionally so. She had gone home a few days, this summer she mentioned, without getting a single cabana. Something that hasn't happened in her 4-year tenure prior to this season.

Playing blackjack at Mirage, I asked the same of a person who was a dealer for 40 years (and opened Mirage in 1989), she said that the Mirage *was* slow, it wasn't just me. She had heard 8% since last year from her boss, but didn't know if that was table revenue, visitors, rooms, whatever. Just down 8%.

Heard (and saw) similar stories across most of the strip properties. Cromwell is back to it's Bill's Gamblin' Hall friendly $10 Blackjack, except at peak weekend hours ($15.) Apparently the "boutiquing" of Barbary Coast hasn't propelled minimums or gambling levels up. I still miss Bill's/Barbary, but like the new vibe as well. It's a nice place overall.

Downtown looked the opposite. Playing at ElCo, 4Q, Binion's, The GG and the D were busy, upbeat, and happening. It wasn't jammed, but it was busy. Enjoyably so.

Perfect meals as always at Rao's, Heritage Steak, and Homestead.

Overall my impressions weren't great this trip. The casinos are all starting to blend together in modern-esque styling. Same pay rates. Same vibe. Same experience in each one. I could be here in Niagara Falls, and get the same gaming experience. Say what you will about the dirty-ass Circus, but at least it has soul, unlike what the IP has become. Another generic casino.

That manifests itself into my next thought. Where does Vegas see itself? Based on the feedback I got from employees out there it *is* slower than previous years. If that's happening, the whole town is built on churning in massive amounts of visitors, so... What's next? Is PGP/squeezing the consumer finally catching up? It's starting to turn me a little bitter; nothing new to see, no real comps, and everything in MGM and CET land is starting to look a little shop-worn.

The wife and I used to go three times a year. Then twice. Now we're down to once a year, and beginning to question that. I'm not trying to sound pessimistic, but the homogenization of casino themes is a little bland, combined with a "we're gonna tighten gaming, and screw you on experiences/purchases/rooms" attitude, it's getting tiring.
I enjoy gambling in Vegas. I enjoy the experiences that i used to have. I'm just not sure there's enough of it left to keep me coming back. My friends and I are planning a guys' trip out in spring, probably staying at the GN. Let's see if making it downtown-centric, and visiting the strip once or twice makes it better.

On a PGP parking update, too, employees are now facing tighter parking restrictions. By the end of the month, employees can only get free parking at the strip casino they *primarily* work at. So, if a NYNY employee picks up a shift at say, Mirage, his parking badge scan will only get him free parking at NYNY. When he parks at Mirage, he'll have to pay as of October 1st.

Way to take care of your employees, MGM.

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 johntree responded on Wednesday, 14th September 2016

Thanks for the update. I think part of it is the dollar, making more Canadians stay home. Local casinos seem to be doing brisk business. I agree, based on the last couple of visits, to the seeming loss of excitement. Like it's just not as vibrant as before. We managed to squeeze this trip out despite the dollar hah! Will let you know if traffic has picked up by months end.

 hail2skins responded on Wednesday, 14th September 2016

Thanks for the report. I've been to Vegas at least once per year since I've started going in 1992 and love to monitor developments in the city and always root for it to flourish. However, the trend that has taken place on the Strip with pay for parking at MGM places and not being able to play real blackjack for under $25 has really turned me off. Pretty much been an exclusive downtown customer for the past decade (I do stay at Wynncore for a night if my wife and I fly into Vegas enroute to driving somewhere else) and like that Fremont Street is getting some love.

I'd like to see progress made on Alon and Resorts World, but knowing that by the time they open that they'll probably have pay for parking and crappy table rules, I wonder why I should get so excited.

 jimmybond responded on Wednesday, 14th September 2016

great trip report, thanks. Agree with other commenters here that Canadian dollar taking a hit on Vegas visitors...keep in mind that Canadian carrier WestJet is (was?) the single largest source of international passengers into McCarran airport. From personal experience I haven't been down in over a year after going down 3-4x yearly before. paying 1.35x your USD resort fee makes it a very expensive proposition. Western Canada has been hit hard with the oil downturn so there are tons of desparate flight deals from airlines who previously raked it in on the routes to Vegas from Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Kelowna, etc. That large carrier WestJet recently offered CAD$82+tax one way which is pretty damn cheap for a 2.5 hour flight (60 bucks plus tax, in US dollars!)

glad the minimums are coming down a bit, sorry to hear of the generic nature of the place though. hopefully Resorts World can jazz it up a bit if they ever build more than their parkade!

please do a trip report for your GN guys trip with Strip 'excursion'...have been thinking of doing the same and would be great to get a take on it.

 andybflo responded on Thursday, 15th September 2016

I hear you on the Canadian dollar; I'm just over the border in a suburb of Buffalo, and spend a fair amount in Southern Ontario. It's been a good time to do so, not quite as good as the early 2000's, but not bad either....

Never thought of the Canadian angle; but makes sense. Close commute time. Weak CAD. Perfect storm.

 KickedBoar591 responded on Friday, 16th September 2016

Thank you for the trip report! Well written!

It's funny. And excuse me for not doing a long-winded trip report after two trips this summer, but yours is kind of striking. Mostly because I stayed at the Golden Gate both times and felt like Fremont had never been busier. You can barely walk down Fremont Street at night. You now have to walk behind Las Vegas Club, Binion's, Fremont, etc. to get anywhere. It took me a half-hour one time to get to the Container Park from the Golden Gate. It was insane.

All of the tables were jammed packed. I didn't get a chance to jump on one of the Golden Gate tables until around 2:30 each night. The Cal and MSS were rather open, but that's to be expected.

Shoot. Even the Downtown Grand had people in their casino at night. On the tables and everything. Even one of the hosts at the Golden Gate was surprised about that. (Heck, it's funny the pool at the DTG was kind of happening, too.)

I found a Las Vegas that was booming. I would surmise it's the Strip that's failing. Maybe it's anecdotal and I'm just seeing things. But damn, I came away from my two summer trips more impressed than ever. Plus there are going to be some great things on the horizon with the Golden Gate expansion (I assume since Bayou has been knocked down). And something cool must happen at the Las Vegas Club, or so I hope.

Damn, even the Cal looks super nice right now.

I don't know, maybe you should stay at the Golden Nugget next trip just to see if it gooses you into more excitement. Can't hurt, right?

 warrenslo responded on Saturday, 17th September 2016

Non gaming and convention revenue are currently the growth point in Las Vegas, with a lesser unknown of the potential growth of new live/fantasy gaming within casinos. The vast majority non gaming revenue is at the nightclubs where patrons are out until the very early morning. These spenders no longer occupy the strip in the late morning as you have mentioned. Las Vegas a changing city, and, in my own opinion, the internet has ruined prior gaming odds, everyone knows them now, now profits are based on other "tricks" (nightclubs, new games, tighter rules on existing games, etc.) That's how business works. Additional hope is with the new nonstop flights from China (Hainan) and other locales, but those long distance travelers typically are higher end customers and are not occupying a common American's chair... In addition, these travelers don't want to see a casino (they have local access to one) they want something special, Las Vegas has the capability and opportunity to provide this!

 jucifers responded on Thursday, 22nd September 2016

Lots of good info here! Thanks for posting this.

 wpsteel66 responded on Saturday, 1st October 2016

Thanks for your comments...always interesting to read other's opinion...each Vegas trip for me this year had very healthy crowds.. Although I had no issues trying to find a spot to play in the casino...Vegas still has an appeal to me to return.

 Heresiarch responded on Wednesday, 19th October 2016

"Come stay at [any casino that's opened in the last 10 years]! It's the best antiseptic medical center at which you've voluntarily stayed a night!" Concrete, steel, and glass are cheaper than other decorations, but I'm sure they paid the designer the same amount. I'd rather stay somewhere with character. You won't get the Old Faithful Inn in Vegas, but Aria doesn't excite me.

By which I mean: nice trip report!

I enjoyed playing downtown this most recent VIMFP and was impressed by how busy FSE was. Lower limits, better rules, and staff that seemed happy to see customers. Pay-for-parking pissed me the fuck off. $7 for 90 minutes? I decided to go to Bellagio for breakfast. You can't get in and out of one meal in under an hour (which is free), but $7 to stay less than two hours? There's two ways to make money: provide a better product that brings out more customers (or gets them to pay more), or nickel and dime them to death. PGP is Murren's admission that he doesn't have any ideas for how to attract customers.

I loved playing at Golden Gate and The D, knowing that if I lost my money was going to a businessman that I didn't despise. I'm ... I'm not there yet, though. Seriously considering staying downtown next time, instead of my usual MGM residence.