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October 6, 2014

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December 16, 2012

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December 14, 2012

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December 9, 2012

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Verbs of virtue: I validate.

December 9, 2012

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The New York Times puts the tit back in titillation

August 25, 2007

It’s the newspaper of record, so you know it’s gotta be important:

In recent years the Mirage, Wynn Las Vegas, Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay have introduced what they call European sunbathing. It takes place in sequestered pools, often requires an additional admission, and men always pay more than women (as much as $50 a day, and with day beds or cabanas, costs can easily reach $1,000 for an afternoon). The policy is part capitalism and part crowd control. As one pool manager says, during the busy Cinco de Mayo weekend, “I turned away $15,000 worth of business because we didn’t want too many guys in here.”

At the Mirage, the top-optional pool club is known as Bare. There, one weekend afternoon, the N.B.A. star Devon George hung out with friends in an elevated V.I.P. area with its private, glass-walled pool while, on a nearby lounge, a half-dozen out-of-town girlfriends debate doffing their tops.

One of them casually takes the plunge, and others follow. The lone holdout, Libby Chansky, of Santa Cruz, Calif., who is here on vacation, suddenly finds herself in what resembles a female rugby scrum. She emerges topless. Looking slightly abashed, she says she hasn’t had any work done so told her friends that she didn’t want to remove her top. Pointing to the ringleader, she says, “But my friend whipped it off anyway.”

As potential visitors are endlessly told, being a little naughty is part of Sin City’s allure, and Las Vegas’s pool scene works hard to feed into that.

“Las Vegas is about creating experiences that people cannot have at home,” says Scott Sibella, president of the Mirage and the force behind Bare. “You see the girl next door here and know that she would not go topless at home.”

Toplessness may be the latest tactic in the Las Vegas pool wars, but not for all. Palms and Rehab have never gone that way (“I like having something left to the imagination,” says Mr. Pallas); Tao Beach did it for a while before retreating.

The manager of a rival pool maintains that Tao’s new modesty stems from the fact that it stays open after dark as part of Tao Nightclub and that it was hard to persuade guests to cover up after sunset. “The way it was going, they would have had to change their designation to topless bar,” says the competitor.

Mr. Wolf explains it differently: “We ultimately decided that it would be better, in terms of being a classy, fun, hip beach-club, to not be topless. It was a hard decision but it was a good decision.”

Whatever the case, it apparently has not hurt business. As Sunday evening encroaches, Rehab winds down and the party kicks up at Tao Beach. A drummer from “Stomp” plays on top of a D.J.’s beats, and a trumpeter roams among the Buddhas meant to imbue an exotic air. A bride-to-be in a monokini rubs lotion into a muscle-boy’s biceps, and Mr. Wolf marvels over a man with the Tao logo tattooed on his stomach.

For the people behind this pool-club-cum-disco, it all adds up to profits. But, looking around, even among the fabulousness, a pall sets upon Mr. Wolf’s face. What’s wrong?

“I’m noticing that as it gets later on Sunday, the crowd shifts,” he says. “It seems that we have more guys and fewer girls. And, to be honest, it concerns me.”

Then he bucks up and declares, “But, don’t worry, I’m going to fix it.”

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The high art of losing slowly: Station Casinos says it shouldn’t suck to be a sucker

August 25, 2007


Station Casinos starts a marketing campaign this weekend for a new video-poker format that industry executives say will change the way video poker play is bought.

Marketed as “Guaranteed Play,” the format allows players a certain number of hands no matter how badly play goes.

A player buys 75 hands for $20 or 200 hands for $40, but it still pays out on the same 25 cent, maximum bet, pay table.

The format is also available in the $1 denomination.

“People who gamble want to be entertained,” said Jay Fennel, Station Casinos’ corporate director of slot operations. “When video-poker players play, they are going after that royal flush, the big payout. It’s getting guaranteed play time to try to get that big hit.”

Research shows that most video-poker players play on a certain budget no matter how long that budget lasts, Fennel said.

Instead of paying for hands transaction by transaction, where a maximum-play hand costs $1.25 on a quarter machine or $5 on dollar machine, the player is guaranteed a certain number of hands at a set price.

Playing by traditional video poker, $20 gets the player 16 maximum-bet hands. To play longer depends on three variables; play of the player, how the game is playing and what game is being played.

David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the format could move video poker away from coin-operated amusement to more of a form of entertainment.

“If it is done with discipline, it is another way for customers to limit losses,” Schwartz said. “Often the goal of the customer is time playing and limit losses.”

Not often. Always. Sophistication in a gambler begins with the idea that the objective is not to win but to lose slowly.

Luck is short-term, but the long-term is governed by the rock-solid certainty of math. Video poker is the sucker bet of choice for Las Vegas locals, the pay-back plan for those juicy union contracts.

Even this “Guaranteed Play” idea is just more sucker-bait: Station Casinos is admitting that you can’t win even as it gives you that precious incentive to lose slowly on a schedule. As Penn Gillette says, “Bad math is a renewable resource.”

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Selling 8-track tapes in an iPod market: Golden Gate embraces the future with a slot club, ticket-in/ticket-out technology

July 22, 2007

When you’re 101 years old, people will forgive you for taking things a little easier. But the dowdy old Golden Gate at Fremont and Main is ready to take on the challenges of a new century: Ticket-in/ticket-out slot machines and a brand new frequent player’s club:

The very first player’s card for Club 1906, bearing the number “1,” was presented by Brandenburg to one of the Golden Gate’s oldest customers, 94-year-old Alma Margaret Creel. Ms. Creel, a local who has been patronizing the Golden Gate for more than 30 years, tearfully accepted the new card. She noted that she would miss some of the old slot machines, but she stated, “The Golden Gate has always been my favorite casino.” She loves the Golden Gate and is delighted to be a founding member of Club 1906. When presented with the card, Ms. Creel said, “I am shocked. I am so surprised. This is a great honor.”

I’m thinking Alma’s heirs might be shocked, too, when they go downtown to visit their legacy. Even so, you don’t need a big inheritance to enjoy the luxury of the last great talisman of old Las Vegas: The Golden Gate’s famous 99 cent shrimp cocktail.

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Last words on the New Frontier: “It’s unbelievable what he’s done with the place falling apart”

July 14, 2007

The New Frontier goes the way of all frontiers sometime this weekend, no one knows quite sure just when. The RJ has an encomium, along with a think-piece on what might happen to bull-ridin’, mud-wrestlin’ Gilley’s, the prime attraction of the fly-blown barfly on the Strip.

The second-oldest of the old joints, the New Frontier was built in 1942. It was sold as dirt — the structures will be imploded and replaced by a new multi-use resort themed after New York’s Plaza Hotel. But the dirt sold for $34 million an acre. They should mount doomsday clocks at the Sahara, the Riviera and Circus-Circus. Two seemingly more likely candidates for reinvention, Casino Royale and Bill’s Gambling Hall (nee Barbary Coast), have the advantage of bookending the Harrah’s Empire, so they may hang in there a little longer.

Even so, the Strip is shipping the low-rollers elsewhere. It would be nice if Downtown could pick up the slack, but it’s probably off-Strip resorts like the Gold Coast, SouthPoint and the Orleans that will benefit.

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What should be done about the perpetually unprofitable Las Vegas Monorail?: “Push the company to get rid of it before they’re too broke to tear it down”

July 12, 2007

The show normally runs for only two acts. And like a Las Vegas showroom extravaganza, it never really goes anywhere.

Act I: A financial oversight firm downgrades the bonds of the Las Vegas Monorail.

Act II: Flak-catchers at the Las Vegas Monorail dismiss the criticism, insisting that this or that innovation will turn things around any day.

And this is where the curtain normally drops.

But not this time. From today’s Las Vegas Review Journal:

In near time, the public finally will begin to recognize another giant failure in our midst. And by then, it will be too late to do anything about the four miles of monorail tracks looming behind the Strip like an ugly path for a ghost train.

Fitch Ratings says financial default is “probable” for the little engine that can’t, otherwise known as the $890 million Las Vegas Monorail.

But the blind mice running the junk-bond machine aren’t thinking of default or the so-called fund they could tap to tear down the structure. No, they want to spend another half-billion dollars to run the trains to the airport, where someone might actually choose to ride it.

Even then, though, there’d have to be a special car to haul luggage. And those riding the monorail would still probably have to hail a cab to get to their hotel from whatever station was closest.

It’s time for county transportation officials to admit the inevitable — the little mass transit experiment has gone on long enough.

It’s time to put one of the trains in former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren’s yard as a museum piece and sell the others.

And it’s time to take the tracks down.

Fitch, a New York City-based credit rating firm, already junked the monorail’s bond status. Now the firm thinks the monorail has cash reserves to take it to 2010 — at best.

The Review-Journal’s Omar Sofradzija reported Wednesday that Fitch can already see the pending financial breakdown.

As recently as last year, the monorail’s cash was supposed to last till 2012. But the cash will fly out the door “slightly more rapidly than was previously estimated,” Fitch reported.

The monorail’s got about $69 million left, according to Fitch. How much is it going to take to tear down the tracks? The monorail claims it has a separate contingency fund for that.

The Catch-22 for the monorail is that it has to reduce fares to increase ridership. But ridership has to really pick up to make up for the loss in revenue. In 2006, the monorail took the opposite route — increasing fares to $5 from $3.

Having actually paid $5 to ride it, I can assure you it would have to cost $2 or less for me to ride it again. (And that would only be because my son digs any form of transportation that isn’t a car and is already asking when we can go to Japan to ride a bullet train.)

It’s time for the good folks at the Regional Transportation Commission (which, in theory, is a separate entity from the monorail) to realize they have helped spell the train’s doom.

A monorail down the center of the Strip (however unsightly) would be a tourist train, the same way the RTC’s double-decker bus, the Deuce, is ridden by the camera-toting set.

And that route would actually afford passengers something to see. The current path takes you to the back of the house, over crappy motels with emptied pools.

Bailing out and tearing the tracks down is the best option.

Instead, the monorailers are dreaming that the new attempt to link up with hotels through the Internet will be the train’s saving grace.

Just because the monorail has transported 24 million people during its plagued history does not mean it should be a part of the region’s long-term transportation solution.

Just because I once drank at Neonopolis doesn’t mean I have returned to drink there again.

There’s a certain charm in the train that visitors might find interesting the first time they come to Las Vegas. After all, it’s a train with cool wraps that make it stand out above the street. There’s also a great curiosity about monorails for anyone not from Seattle.

Anyone who’s used the monorail system at Disney World or the much smaller version at Disneyland has a certain nostalgic admiration for the technology.

But the Las Vegas Monorail is not that quaint. It may be the only mass transit system that has to work to convince people it’s safe to ride it. There’s even a Reason to Ride section on its Web site. The very first reason (Cruise the Strip in just under 15 minutes) is patently false unless you consider Paradise Road the new Strip.

It’s time to call the monorail what it really is — an absolute failure — and push the company to get rid of it before they’re too broke to tear it down.

It was obvious to me when the Monorail was still being built that it could not work. It’s good to see the idea catching on.

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“It’s one of the things you do in Vegas — go to the Strip, check out shows, go to Fremont, pummel an armed robber”

July 12, 2007

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — more’s the pity. When vacationing Sooners throw caution to the wind, the bad guys quiver and quake. From KLAS-TV.com:

A black eye was not the kind of souvenir Air National Guardsman Evan Skinner planned to take back to Oklahoma.

Evan Skinner explained, “When he pulled the gun out he just had it right to my forehead and said, ‘Hey give us all over your cash.’ And I was like we don’t have very much. And he just went like that quick and clocked me. And I was like okay, that’s fine.”

But it wasn’t fine for one of Evan’s friends who didn’t want the suspect to get away with it. The suspect started to leave with a mere $30, that’s when Evan’s friend tackled the 21-year-old suspect.

Skinner continued, “Frank had his right arm under control. James is laying on top of him. He had his forearms on the guy’s throat and I’m laying on his left arm and just punching him.”

The suspect continued to fire his gun.

James Wolff said, “Above all I think we got really lucky. Police told us the gun jammed after the second shot.”

In this case, it was suspect Anthony Westby’s luck that ran out.

“He was bleeding out of his nose, his eyes, his mouth. They had to put him on a stretcher in a neck brace,” Skinner described.

Westby was taken to University Medical Center and is now at the Clark County Detention Center.

“It’s one of the things you do in Vegas — go to the Strip, check out shows, go to Fremont, pummel an armed robber,” Wolff added.18

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