Nick's Picks 2005: Interview with Nick Christenson from the Las Vegas Casino Deathwatch

Boom, Bust or Ba-Boom! - what's up in Vegas for 2005 and beyond

Posted by Chuckmonster

VT: The Aladdin is pretty much across the street, with the opening of PCC and the re-branding of Aladdin as a Planet Hollywood, not to mention the Paris Hilton ultralounge, could the Aladdin curse be broken or is that property destined for failure?

NPC: That's a good question. I think the "destined for failure" bit is harsh, Aladdin properties have also been interesting innovators. Historically, Aladdin failures have been due to a lot of different reasons, not always because the property wasn't viable. Basically, though, the place is not designed well. This needs to be fixed, and not with paint, new signage, and a few throw pillows. I'm not sure Planet Hollywood has the capital to really redo this place in the right way. My expectation is that it will languish. I hope they make me eat my words. There are things I like about this place.

VT: The San Remo is becoming a Hooters Hotel and Casino. We've always thought that the San Remo was an under-utilized property, but is this Hooters thing really gonna fly? Will this accelerate the decision to be made about the aging Tropicana?

NPC: I agree that the San Remo is under-utilized, but contemporary Las Vegas is all about capitalization. An entry-level "starter" casino carries a price tag above a billion now. It's hard for a place like the San Remo to compete. This is a dying breed. What about the Hooters idea? Meh, I've heard dumber ideas. It might breathe a few more years into the place. Also, I believe there is a market for it. I'm much more surprised in the success of a Monet exhibit than I would be in the success of a Hooters.

One of these years, probably this spring, someone will announce a major improvement plan at the Tropicana. Will they demo the whole thing? We'll see. I think it depends on how much cash Aztar can raise, unless they choose to sell it. However, I believe the "Hooters Remo" has essentially zero influence on the Trop. It's the MGM Grand, NY-NY, and Mandalay Mile that are driving the need to refurbish the Tropicana, as well as making it feasible to do so by increasing the value of the underlying property.

VT: Moving downtown, Harrah's is relinquishing operational control of Binion's to MTR in March (and taking the Horseshoe name and the World Series of Poker with them). We love Binion's. Is there any hope here?

NPC: I love Binion's too. It was the first Las Vegas casino I ever set foot in, and watching it over the years has been like watching a relative succumb to dementia. I still love it, but the decline has been hard to take. Is there any hope? Sadly, I doubt it. I just don't see what it has as a draw going forward, and I don't know how the facilities there can be updated economically. I don't know how long it has, but I just don't see a bright future for it.

VT: Tim and Tom at the Nugget. They sold the Laughlin Nugget to Barrick, what's goin on there?

NPC: Well, Tim and Tom wanted only the LV Nugget. MGM Mirage wanted to get rid of both the downtown and Laughlin properties, so they made it a package deal. Tim and Tom found someone to take the Laughlin property off their hands. Everyone's happy. This was absolutely part of the plan from the beginning, the only question was whether they could find a buyer for the Laughlin property. Barrick seems to be playing a game of Monopoly(TM) using the "buy at every opportunity" strategy. It's not a bad strategy in Monopoly(TM). We'll see how it works with Nevada casinos. I bet some folks in Reno would be willing to sell if they're interested.

The Golden Nugget is interesting. Here is a place trying to recreate the good parts of the "Old Vegas" experience. So far, they seem to have been modestly successful, but it hasn't become the new "it" place. That just shows that despite the lip service people pay to the old style, most folks would still rather visit Margaritaville than watch a high quality unknown lounge act. Me, not only would I rather see the lounge act, I'd rather undergo a root canal than visit Margaritaville, but I'm obviously not like most other people.

I like the GN a lot. I really like what they're trying to do. I wish them luck.

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Comments & Discussion

I work at Circus Circus, and it won't be getting demolished for sometime. Actually, there's enough cash flow to renovate the place into it's original decorating scheme (Circus Colors, pinks, whites, reds, purples) that it had before the 1997 renovations. And other than that, MGMMirage needs a mid-level resort to send their customers to, and thats exactly what Circus is.

We frequent Las Vegas 3 times a year. Tried many hotels. Our favorite hotel/casino is The Flamingo. Location is the key. Can you comment on any future plans for The Flamingo. It needs some upgrading particularly in the vent system The air does not circulate well enough to handle all the smoke in the casino. Hopefully something will be done to help this problem. Other than that we are happiest there.

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