Boom, Bust and BA-BOOM - Nick's Picks 2006

Dr. Death Watch Returns For Las Vegas' Annual Physical

Posted by Chuckmonster

VT: Barrick Gaming's operations downtown seem to have imploded virtually overnight. They poured quite a large amount of capital and effort into The Plaza, Las Vegas Club and the Western only to jump ship mid-race. What happened? Can these downtown properties survive this turmoil?

NPC: You're full of tough questions this year. I really don't know what happened here. It seems like they bought these places, announced really ambitious plans, and then almost immediately ran out of money. It seems kind of hard for me to believe that this could have taken the folks on the inside by surprise, and that makes me wonder what's going on. I don't have any information on what's happening behind the curtain, but I bet it would make an interesting story.

VT: Binion's lost it's lucky Horseshoe but got itself some botox and a round of dialysis. Whats the prognosis doc?

NPC: I still love Binion's. I love the folks there. I also like some of the small but meaningful changes they've made of late. MTR brought back the hamburger grill at the east snack bar and the good (but not as good as they used to be) deli sandwiches at the west snack bar. They brought back some good video poker machines. They improved their table games. Their poker room is still the best one downtown and one of the top five in town. These are meaningful, but are they enough? I'd like to say so, but I can't in good conscience. I hope they can hang in there, but I really can't seem them getting really healthy again.

VT: Lady Luck has closed for a year for construction. Is this a still a viable site given the questionable future of downtown?

NPC: They announced they're closing for renovations for a year. This sounds suspicious to me. Nobody has done this in recent memory. Everyone has either gone for the "rolling upgrade" option, like you noticed at the Hooters Remo, or has gone for the "clean slate" approach. I wonder if they really plan to reopen in a year. Its upgrade and reopening would be a good sign. If that doesn't reopen, it may be indicative of a disease that I'm afraid might be contagious.

VT: Has the Fremont Street Experience helped or hindered? Will it survive until 2015?

NPC: I think the FSE has been a help. Is it a huge help? No, but it's a help. Will it be around in 2015? I think so. It got a big upgrade last year. In another decade it will need another one, but it will still be providing some shade in 2015. I like some of the things they've been doing downtown, the music shows, etc.. This is part of the solution set for downtown, but not sufficient all by itself.

VT: Condo construction sites have popped up along the strip this year like mushrooms out of cowshit. Obviously most of these projects are not going to see grand openings, which of these condo projects do you feel are the most viable and will actually see the light of day.

NPC: Do mushrooms grow in cowshit? I'm more used to seeing them grow out of rotting wood, but I'm not a mycologist, so what do I know.

Anyway, as I recall, over 100 high-rise condo/timeshare/whatever projects have been filed with the county. Only a fraction of them are going to happen, and hardly a week goes by without hearing about a new one that has "reconsidered" their plans.

The big problem with these projects is the shortage of experienced construction crews and materials. There was already a tight market for construction in Las Vegas, but with the new boom and the consequences of the hurricanes this summer, it's gotten a lot more expensive to build than most of these places have budgeted.

As far as which ones are going to succeed, I don't know. They all look alike to me.

VT: Thanks Nick, for taking the time with us again this year to recap and prestidigitate about the future of Las Vegas. Until next year, take good care.

NPC: It's always a pleasure to talk to VegasTripping. I wish your site good luck over the next year as well. It will be a fun one to watch.

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