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Here's where we present news and Information you should know before you go to Las Vegas or any gaming resort. And if you have some things you'd like to share, tell us about them in our Las Vegas discussion Forum.  Please click here to go to our Forums.

And please click here to go to our new "Vegas Happenings" page which has information about new shows, restaurants, clubs and events. We have other pages with Vegas and gaming information including: California Casinos News, Casino Gaming Tips, Casino Public Restrooms with information on the best public restrooms, and we have a page devoted to the subject of craps games, and a page on poker, and many pages on video poker.

THE VENETIAN AND THE PALAZZO HOST A $350,000 SLOT TOURNAMENT

Update August 13, 2017  The casinos at The Venetian and The Palazzo in Las Vegas are hosting a $350,000 slot tournament the weekend of October 5th. The grand prize is $150,000 in cash. That's significant because some casinos pay their winners in "slot play" and not actual cash. This event is limited to 50 players and unlike other big slot tournaments which are for "invited guests" this one is open to the public. But the catch is there is a $5,000 buy-in.

So, do you want to enter the tournament for $5,000 for a 1/50 chance to win $150,000 which is 30-times your tournament fee? The casinos say your odds of winning the entry fee back or winning even more than the entry fee are greater than 1 in 4. In addition, each of the entrants gets at least $1,500 which in effect lowers the fee to $3,500.

If you're interested in the tournament and to get accommodations contact host Ed Ford who is the Executive Director of National Marketing at 702-414-1768.

IN 'N OUT BURGER OPENS AT THE LINQ IN LAS VEGAS, CHANGES PART OF ITS RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

Update January 30, 2017  One of the things that loyal customers loved about In 'N Out Burger was that the chain was consistent. The high quality service was consistent at every restaurant. The high level of cleanliness was consistent at every restaurant. The delicious food was consistent at every restaurant. And the prices were the same (excluding sales tax) at every restaurant -- until now.

When In 'N Out opened its newest restaurant at The Linq shopping area on the Las Vegas Strip, In 'N Out was forced to change part of its recipe for success. In 'N Out had to charge higher prices at the new Las Vegas Boulevard location at The Linq. We can only assume that the reason for the price increases was the higher rent and operating costs that the restaurant chain is facing at the new location.

The price increases are significant. The popular Double-Double costs $4.70 including tax at The Linq location but at the restaurant nearby on Dean Martin Drive the same item is $3.89 including tax. Usually I order a double burger with double cheese with pickles (no onions, thank you) plus a medium soft drink and at The Linq that would cost me $8.98 while at the Dean Martin Drive location the cost would be $7.60 and those are prices with the current Las Vegas sales tax included.

I wouldn't blame In 'N Out for this. They put their newest restaurant on some of the most expensive real estate in the world where the most common denomination of money carries the portrait of Ben Franklin.

VEGAS ROOM TAXES GOING UP, AND THERE'S GOING TO BE A NEW STADIUM.

Update October 14, 2016  Soon, the hotel room taxes for Vegas visitors will be going up and it's to pay for a new domed stadium that just might house the Raiders football team. Earlier today the Nevada legislature approved legislation for the higher tax that paves the way for the stadium and new construction space.

$1.4-billion dollars will be spent on 600,000 square feet of new meeting space and tax money will be used to contribute to a $1.9-billion, 65-thousand seat stadium. The Clark County room tax will go up by 0.5-percentage point for the convention space, and it will go up 0.88-percentage point to contribute to the stadium. The Raiders could play in Vegas in 2020.

SAVE $50 ON YOUR FIRST FLIGHT FLIGHT WITH OUR PROMO CODE
 
Update July 2, 2016  You can save on the new JetSuiteX charter flights between Burbank and Las Vegas and its other destinations. Click here to make a reservation and save $50 on your first flight when you enter "BestBuys" as the promo code. Remember to enter "BestBuys" in the promo code box on their website. Read more about JetSuiteX charter flights below.

NEW CHARTER JET SERVICE BETWEEN BURBANK AND VEGAS

Update May 24, 2016  There is a new charter jet service that is starting a regular schedule for travel between Burbank and Las Vegas in just a couple of days. JetSuiteX is the name of the charter service and its flights will start on May 26 with regular fares starting at $129 each way. As I wrote this article I found Southwest Airlines charging as much as $149 for one-way flights during June.

JetSuiteX says it wil connect Burbank's Bob Hope Airport with McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas with three daily roundtrip flights on Embraer 135 aircraft. JetSuiteX is a new charter company that started a month ago with flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This charter company is different from other charter services because passengers do not need to sign-up for a membership plan or pay a monthy subscription. What will appeal to many tavelers is that as a charter company, JetSuiteX flies from private jet facilities so there are no long security lines and easy parking, too.

To purchase tickets go to their website www.jetsuitex.com or calling 800-435-9579. There are also plans for private jet membership and additional information is available on the company's website at www.jetsuite.com.

This appears to be the first LA-to-Vegas alternative that might really "work" since the X-Train tried to re-establish passenger train service. It appears the X-Train idea is no where close to becoming a reality and the company has "changed tracks" to provide travel services and luxury private passenger train cars in certain markets. You can read our reports on the development and downfall of the X-Train on our "Travel / Vacation" page and below you can see a video report we had on our TV show when the X-Train first announced its plans. We should mention that a second LA-to-Vegas passenger train project that another company wanted to develop also appears to have been abandoned. And a proposed high-speed train between Southern California and Vegas also has run into problems so it's prospects also appear to be, excuse the pun, a losing bet.

For those of you who forgot about the X-Train idea, below is the report we did about about six years ago.

We'd still like to see a railroad option, because not everyone enjoys flying even if this new charter jet service can eliminate the parking and security headaches that air travelers have now.

WHO DO THE CASINOS CATER TO?

Update April 22, 2016  It's interesting what you can find out when you look at the job openings for casino companies. The job descriptions can give you some insights into how the casinos operate and how they treat you, the customer, when it comes to service and perks. For example, look what I found in the job description for a gaming analyst with Caesars Entertainment:

Caesars Entertainment gaming operations manages over 54k slot units and nearly 3000 table games. These operations generate over $4B in gaming revenue annually. These operations are further supported by the contributions made by our VIP customer, who although they account for roughly 5% of our overall guest trips, generate over 40% of our gaming revenue.

This is why there are special lines and special perks for Seven Stars and Diamond players in the Caesars Total Rewards system -- because they generate over 40% of the gaming revenue.

Also consider that these highly-rated players only account for 5% of guest trips. The way I interpret that, 5% of the hotel rooms generate more than 40% of the casino business. That's an interesting problem for Caesars: they must find a way to generate more revenue from the other 95% of hotel rooms.

How do you generate revenue from the other 95% of hotel rooms? You be sure they shop, or go to clubs, or go to restaurants and shows, and yes you want them to gamble, too. You also want them to be part of conventions that use ballrooms for convention meetings and dinners and parties because that also contributes to the bottom line.

But in the casino, just a few are responsible for so much. Remember that when you see an extra window for the Seven Stars and the Diamond players at the casino cage, and there is a special line at restaurants so these players can eat and get back to playing faster.

STATION CASINOS ADDING COMP AND OFFERS SYSTEM TO 19,000 SLOT MACHINES

Update April 6, 2016  IGT, the biggest manufacturer of casino slot and video poker machines, today announced that the Station Casinos group will be adding its system to 19,000 machines that will allow players to view comps and offers and access them while playing. This will allow players to stay in their seats to redeem free play offers and to view new offers and comps that are being earned while they play. Systems like this literally keep players in their seats longer because players can now access comps at the machines rather than walking to a separate redemption kiosk or to a Players Club desk. These systems can literally prevent extended "down time" or "away time" from slot and video poker machines and they remove a reason for a player to get up from the machine.

You'll still have to walk to an ATM in Nevada because the Nevada Gaming Commission has denied a plan to have players access their plastic cards at the machines they play. I'm not sure any casino has ever offered to dispense cash payouts at slot and video poker machines -- and I think the casinos want you to walk to a ticket redemption machine hoping that you'll play-off the remaining coins or dollars you have.

WE GO TO VEGAS FOR THE SOAP AND SHAMPOO

Update March 10, 2016  Not everyone travels to Las Vegas for the gambling or the shows or the restaurants. Some go for the soap and the shampoo and they bring home as much of it as they can. Below is a photo of a friend's haul from Vegas casino hotels including soaps, shampoos, lotions, shower caps, mouthwash, and hair sprays and other sample size convenience size bathroom essentials. This haul includes goodies from The Rio, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Red Rock, The Wynn and other Las Vegas hotels I can't identify from the product wrappers.

Why not take the stuff home? You paid for it, one way or another. Most of the Vegas hotels eliminated a reason for taking home towels when they removed their names and logos from the linens. Hotels such as Caesars Palace have eliminated bathrobes so you can't take them anymore as a souvenir.

If you order in-room dining and don't use the small bottles of ketchup and mustard and packs of sugar and sweetener you might as well take them home also. I don't think it's appropriate to bring home the dinnerware and tableware, nor is it appropriate to take a flat screen off the wall and take that home.

But do guests take home TVs? Of course they do. I recall the first New Year's Eve for the Augustus Tower at Caesars Palace. Over the New Year's holiday the new, flat screen TVs from about a dozen rooms disappeared. Hotel managers and security believe the new flat screen TVs were taken out in large boxes and luggage by guests.

Casino soaps, shampoos, lotions and more.
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From Caesars, Bellagio, Wynn, The Rio....

Of course there are other things you can take home from Vegas resorts and casinos and some of them are designed for you to take home. Some casinos have magazines that promote the resort and their chains and they want you to take those. Casinos used to give you postcards in your room hoping you would mail them to friends and relatives and that was a marketing goal. There are pens and envelopes and sometimes note paper and I think casinos would like you to take home the pen because each time you use it you will see the casino or resort name, and the same goes for the note paper.

Some of the hotels have very nice clothes hangars in their closets but it's gotten difficult to take these for home use because the rails in the closets are smaller than when you probably have at home and the hooks on the hangars are made for those smaller hotel rails and now what you have at home.

Don't take the Gideon Bible and yes I still see Gideon Bibles in some casino hotel rooms.

Some casino companies think you will like the bedding so much they include a price list for the beds and mattresses and pillows so you can order them new and have them delivered to your home.

If you are really lucky, you might be in the casino when they are changing the layouts on a gaming table. Layouts on craps tables, blackjack tables, roulette and other table games have to be changed every so often because of wear and tear and stains. My son and I were playing craps at Caesars Palace some years ago when the layouts were being changed on the craps tables. My son asked the installers if he could have the old layout from one table and they gave it to him and that was quite a souvenir.

For some Vegas travelers it's become a game and a challenge to see just what you can take home with you. For others it's not a game at all but a real financial necessity because they consider what they can take home as part of their "return" as a gambler. These players actually add in the value of soap and shampoo with the value of free show tickets and free meals into their equations for figuring if they have a profit or not gambling. I can't consider soap that I take home as part of my gambing dollar return, but I do value a nice bar of pricey soap that I can take home with me. 

FLY OR DRIVE FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?

Update February 23, 2016  I still choose to drive to Vegas rather than drive from Southern California and the reason is convenience. It's still more convenient to drive from various parts of the Los Angeles area than to get to any local airport, clear security checkpoints, wait to board, board and fly, then arrive and get in a taxi or limo with luggage for the ride to a casino or resort.

Besides avoiding the hassles of TSA checkpoints and the restrictions on carry-ons and what can be packed in checked luggage, when you drive you have the freedom of deciding when you want to leave home for the drive to Vegas and more importantly when you want to leave the casino to go home.

What is the biggest problem visitors to Las Vegas casinos have? It's the inability to quit with a profit. One of the reasons players will play "a few more hands" or "another half hour" is that they have time before their dinner reservation or time before their show starts. You can lose a lot of money in that half-hour, can't you? Now, add up the money you could lose waiting a few extra hours before you leave for the airport! And what if you hit a big jackpot? Can you fight the temptation of playing some more after a big win, or would you rather have the convenience of having your car at the valet and immediately driving home with the cash or the big check?

And if you don't win? Do you want to be "stuck" in Vegas for another day and another night without cash to play? Or, would you rather get in your car, call it quits, and go home while staying within your loss-limit for the trip?

Having a car in Vegas also has another advantage besides helping you to manage your bankroll and your wins and losses better. Having your car allows you to drive away from the casinos to enjoy non-casino restaurants and activities in the Vegas area. Now, it's true that you will find slot machines just about everywhere in Vegas including gas stations and supermarkets and convenience stores and restaurants and diners -- but there are still places in Vegas that are slot machine free.

So when I add up the advantages of having my car -- driving to and from when I want to, avoiding the time and headaches of airport travel and security and taxis, not being trapped in Vegas when I've lost my limit or hit a big win, being able to get away from the casinos -- I'd much rather drive than fly.

CONSIDER A LIMO FROM YOUR CASINO INSTEAD OF A TAXI

Update February 23, 2016  Instead of waiting in line for a taxi, when you are staying at a casino resort in Vegas and you are a member of the casino's player's club, ask if a casino limo is available? Casino limos usually have discounted prices and many have flat rates good for anywhere in the Las Vegas area. There can also be preferred rates for members of player's clubs so be sure to mention your club membership or ask your casino host if you have one. I've used casino limos to pick up friends living in Vegas to bring them to the hotel for dinner and then had the casino take them home, all for a low price.

MORE DELAYS FOR THE X-TRAIN BETWEEN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND LAS VEGAS

Update November 10, 2012  It appears that the X-Train, the Las Vegas Railway Express, will not be starting its train service until the Fall of 2013.  Back in 2011, company officials were hoping to start service in June or July 2012, and then they were looking for a start in late 2012 perhaps in time for New Year's travel.  But recently, the company revealed that building permits had not yet been obtained for renovation of the old railway station behind The Plaza in downtown Las Vegas -- which the X Train will be using -- and that it has not yet purchased enough rail cars or started to refurbish them for the X Train luxury model.  Investors were told recently that a start might come in the Fall of 2013 but that further delays were possible.

Our information from company insiders are that these delays are normal in the course of business -- and this will be a big business -- and complications can be expected.  Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was Caesars Palace which is still reinventing itself with new additions, and nor will a successful passenger train system between Vegas and Southern California.  You might say it takes time to do it right.

When you think about it, if the X Train service is launched in late 2013 it might be even more successful than if it were launched right now.  In late 2013 the economy might be better and so there will be more demand for travel between Las Vegas and Southen California, and given the rise of inflation and oil prices and air fares and gasoline, the train's ticket price might appear to be an even better bargain.

NEVADA'S NEXT MEGA CASINO

Update June 21, 2012  Nevada is likely to open a new mega casino soon and you will be able to play there -- but only if you live in Nevada.  The new mega casino will be an online casino offering poker and the Nevada gaming regulators today took another giant step in bringing the online mega poker casino to reality.  The Nevada Gaming Commission gave IGT, the giant slot machine manufacturer, the OK to proceed with its plans for online gaming within the state.  Several brick and mortar casino companies in Nevada as well as in California have already announced their intentions to develop online poker.  While online poker across state lines needs Congressional action, the 50 states could create intra-state networks without federal approval or regulation.

IGT issued this press release today:

LAS VEGAS, June 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- International Game Technology (NYSE: IGT), a global leader in the design, development and manufacture of gaming machines and systems technology, today was granted licenses for online gaming by the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC).

IGT's interactive gaming service provider and manufacturer licenses allow the Company to partner with Nevada casino operators to provide online poker to their players.

"This is an exciting day for interactive wager-based gaming," said Patti Hart, IGT chief executive officer. "We are honored to be granted the opportunity to support our customers as they further expand their operations to include online play in the State of Nevada."

IGT is a natural for this project because it already operates intra-state networks for its wide area progressive slot machine games including Wheel Of Fortune that links jackpos among many casinos all over Nevada.  IGT also has the technology for developing online poker.

In California more than two dozen brick and mortar casinos want to partner in an online poker casino within California.  It is not clear if there would be a partnership among Nevada brick and mortar companies or if the casino companies will slug it out in cyberspace just as they do along Las Vegas Boulevard.

It is also ironic that the brick and mortar casinos are entering the online gaming arena as it could draw customers away from their brick and mortar casinos.  Not all Nevada gaming companies are interested in online gaming, and Las Vegas Sands is one company opposed to it.  While online gaming might be able to cater to the gambling whims of thousands of players it does nothing to boost hotel occupancy, ro retail sales, or the sale of show tickets and it certainly doesn't help to employ human dealers and human casino staff.

THE X-TRAIN BETWEEN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AND LAS VEGAS WILL NOT HAVE GAMBLING

Update January 2, 2012  Michael Barron, the Chairman of the Las Vegas Railway Express, sent me a text message this morning to say that the X-Train will not be offering gambling when it starts service.  "We are not providing gambling nor proposing it," he told me.  He made the statement after a comment was posted on a YouTube.com video report we did about the X-Train.  You can see that video report here on our "Travel / Vacation" page.

When we first reported on the X-Train they had an idea about operating perhaps some kind of onboard gaming such as poker games, blackjack or even slots.  The company realized that in California they might be limited to classes about gambling and perhaps free poker games or limited poker or tournaments in accordance with California law.  The original idea was that maybe once the train was in Nevada, other gaming might be available.  But now, the Las Vegas Railway Express says gambling is no longer part of their plans.

Still on the table, from what we understand, is onboard entertainment, a sports bar to watch games, fine dining at a budget price, and a relaxing travel experience in first-class seating that will allow visitors to and from Las Vegas to beat the traffic headaches.  Even without gambling on the train the idea of a low-priced train trip that beats the I-15 traffic snarl and boredom still makes a lot of sense.

Onboard entertainment could range from TV movies, performances by comedians and magicians, even business meetings for business groups traveling to Vegas.  And don't forget the dining options that will be available.  The last we heard is that the start of train service will be this summer, June or July 2012.

DID THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REALLY OPEN THE DOOR TO ONLINE CASINOS?

Update December 25, 2011  Over the Christmas weekend there was a lot of buzz about a memo from Department of Justice in Washington that might open the door to online gambling including online poker, lottery ticket sales and maybe even online casinos.  Some news operations are quoting experts who say the memo might even allow the states with legalized gambling to join together to offer online gambling networks linking those states.  Our understanding is that the memo from the Department of Justice simply clarified a previously announced position that each of the 50 states can have online gambling within their own states-- and that's always been the case.  In fact, there are casino and other gaming interests in various states that would like to see intrastate gambling, and within California there is support for intrastate online poker sites from a group of casino operators and from some state legislators.

Recently, Nevada gaming regulators opened the door to online poker rooms in that state and we believe the real intention of that was to allow Nevada casinos to prove their ability to run a Nevada-only online poker site with the goal of letting the Nevada casinos run nationwide online poker when and if that is legalized.

Even if no state is about to throw the switch to open an online poker site or online casino, the momentum is building for someone to open up the first intrastate online poker site.  Right now, California and Nevada will probably be the first two states.  But be sure of this: once one state does, every other state will.

But will we see full, interstate online poker, online casinos and online lottery sales?  That will still take federal legislation and if it does happen I hope Congress sets up solid controls as well as competing online franchises because only competition in the online casino market place can hope to give the players and consumers the best bets for their money.  Even if Congress decides to set up one online casino operation that is shared by several operators it would be a mistake.  The operators of any online gaming operations -- whether they be intrastate or interstate -- should have open competition and the sites should be owned and operated by publicly traded stock companies to provide an extra window for public scrutiny.  And if you think only two or three online competitors is enough you are terribly.  Even on the Las Vegas Strip look at the problems for workers and players caused by only two major competitors (Caesars and MGM) plus the other smaller operators.  I hope to see at least five competing sites, each independently owned and operated by publicly traded companies that pay U.S. taxes and have 100% of their online gaming operations here in the USA.

CAESARS IS SMART ABOUT OCTAVIUS TOWER

Update September 18, 2011  Caesars Palace will open its new Octavius Tower on January 2nd and that is an excellent idea.  It means that if there are any headaches and glitches that accompany the opening of the new tower they will happen after the Christmas and New Year's rush during January, when business is usually a bit slower than during the peak holiday travel week.  Every new tower, and new hotel, runs into trouble of some sort when they first open and that is to be expected.

The other smart decisions about the Octavius Tower include these:

Caesars delayed the opening during the worst of the recession and controlled operating costs by not having a tower that probably would not have had enough visitors to fill it.

By delaying the completion they probably saved some money with prices being lower now for labor and some materials -- but that's my own guess because that's usually what happens in a recession.

And the other smart decision that Caesars management made was choosing the name Octavius for its new tower.  Octavius can be translated to mean "eighth" as in "eighth child" and eight is a number meaning prosperity for Asians and Octavius could become the tower of choice for Asian players.  It wouldn't surprise me if there are Asian cultural accents added to the Octavius Tower design and decor.  The Octavius Tower might be the choice for players seeking prosperity.

I don't know if Caesars just got lucky choosing the name Octavius so it would appeal to Asian visitors, or if it was planned.  But Caesars does have a history of carefully choosing its primary name of Caesars Palace.

Indeed it is called Caesars Palace and not Caesar's Palace because this it is supposed to be a palace for all of its visitors -- all of its Caesars -- who come there.

KISS MONSTER MINI-GOLF COMING SPRING 2012

Update December 15, 2011  The latest word is that the opening of the Kiss Monster Mini-Golf facility in Las Vegas won't happen until spring and probably in Mid-March.  About three months ago we reported here that progress was being made on the construction and opening of the KISS Monster Mini-Golf event center that is coming to Las Vegas.  This is miniature golf plus a whole lot more indoors.  About the only thing that will be traditional about this mini-golf course is that there will be holes to putt your golf ball into.  The rest of it will be unique with a theme that follows the KISS musical group set with glow-in-the-dark decor with a live DJ and party rooms for private events including weddings.  The event center will be across from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino  at the Shoppes at Harmon Square.  It is expected to open now around March 15th.

"The custom-designed, frightfully fun course will feature animated KISS and monster props lurking in all 18 fairways," according to the company.  "A live DJ will rock the raucous house with continuous KISS music, trivia, contests, and prizes.  A gift shop will offer unique KISS and Monster souvenirs.  And for party monsters, one-of-a-kind KISS themed event rooms will host KISS and monster-themed parties, events and wedding celebrations."

It certainly makes sense that a KISS-themed mini-golf center would be located near the Hard Rock.  And you can expect to hear more about the opening soon as the prominent Las Vegas PR firm Preferred Public Relations is now connected to the project.  Combining the KISS brand with a miniature golf course that features monsters near the Hard Rock Hotel just seems to be a perfect combination.

HOTEL BUSINESS, REVENUE PICKING UP IN VEGAS 

Update August 25, 2011  Applied Analysis,  the research firm in Nevada, is reporting that every major hotel operator on the Las Vegas Strip – and nearly every property – reported improvements in net revenues and average daily rate (ADR) during the second quarter of 2011.  The firm is also reporting that occupancy was also up in most cases compared to a year ago and that also meant an increase in average revenue per hotel room for almost every major operator.

According to Applied Analysis, "some properties attributed the improvements to increased business from convention and group visitors, while others reported benefitting from an increasing number of international customers."

The report quotes the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that there were seven percent more visitors in June compared to a year earler, and gaming revenue for the Strip "increased a dramatic 32.3 percent."

Hotel room rates also went up with the average daily rate up 13% while the occupancy rate was up a bit more than 6-percent.

THE NEW PLAZA HOTEL HAD ITS SOFT OPENING ON AUGUST 24TH

Update August 25, 2011  The newly refurbished Plaza Hotel has reopened in downtown Las Vegas, and had its soft opening on August 24th. The Plaza Hotel and Casino officially reopens in September after a makeover that involved some big changes inside this 40-year old downtown Las Vegas landmark.  Reservations for the night of August 24th are now being accepted on The Plaza's website and we saw rates at $35 a night with a two-night minimum for a deluxe room.

Earlier this summer we got a sneak peek inside the new Plaza and you can watch our video report below.  We got a very good look at what some of the hotel rooms and suites will look like when guests arrive.  The Plaza was able to get many of the interior furnishings of the abandoned Fontainebleau Hotel and these include room furniture, flooring, tiles, marble, bath fixtures, wallpaper, carpet and more.  This makeover just might make the jewel of downtown and certainly will raise the stakes for other casino hotels near the Fontainebleau once the Plaza opens in September.  There will also be new restaurants and former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will open Oscar’s, a steakhouse, inside the iconic dome of the Plaza Hotel and Casino overlooking Fremont Street.

Expected to open later this fall, the new fine dining restaurant will serve dinner nightly and a Sunday brunch.  “I can’t wait to open Oscar’s – my own steakhouse – that will have the charm and glamour of the Las Vegas that I love,” said Goodman. “Many people may remember that I once called for the Plaza to be torn down, but the much-needed investment by its committed owners has transformed it into the coolest place in Vegas.”

Adjacent to the steakhouse will be a new Italian restaurant and speakeasy – paying homage to Goodman’s years as an advisor and private attorney representing high-profile clients that played a role in making Vegas what it is today. Serving the customers of both restaurants will be a new bar and lounge that will serve a variety of cocktails, including martinis, the former mayor’s signature drink.

The Plaza just might become a transportation hub for Vegas in the future with the Bus Station next door and the trains running behind the property.  On our Forum you can talk about The Plaza by clicking here.  And you can go to their website www.plazahotelcasino.com for more information.

JULY 2011 BUSINESS TRENDS FOR THE CASINO COMPANIES AND ROOM RATES IN JULY

Update August 1, 2011  The Applied Analysis Company which tracks business conditions for the Vegas casino companies is out with its report for July.  If your room rates are more than expected, some of this information contained in their latest report might explain it.  At the Venetian and Palazzo resorts, the room occupancy rates slipped to 88% but the average room rate rose to $200 a night.  At the Wynn properties the room occupancy rate fell by 3.4-percentage points from the second quarter of the year but the average daily room rate rose by 22.1-percent. 

While we haven't seen reports for the MGM properties, we suspect that there is a city-wide attempt to raise room rates even while occupancy has declined.  There are no figures for the Caesars properties as Caesars is privately owned.

DOG FRIENDLY CASINO RESORTS ARE GIVING PUPS A HOT TIME THIS SUMMER

Update June 27, 2011  Several of the Las Vegas Casino and Hotel resorts are now dog friendly allowing pet owners to bring small dogs into the hotel and their rooms.  Caesars Palace, for example, has set aside an entire floor as "pet friendly" and Caesars management told me that these rooms are carefully cleaned between visits to be sure no doggie residue is left behind.  In fact, we understand that these pet friendly rooms get a more extensive cleaning than other rooms in the hotel and the extensive cleaning means a thorough cleaning of the carpet between guest visits.

As part of its pet friendly policy, Caesars Palace also has a small dog walk area but there is a problem with this.  The dog walk area is made with artificial turf.  Anyone who has ever been on artificial turf knows that it gets very, very hot on hot, sunny days.  And now I'm hearing that some puppies literally can't walk on the artificial turf in the dog walk area because it is just too hot.  This means that dog owners have to find another resource during hot days and some dog owners confess that they are walking their dogs on the natural grass lawns outside Caesars.

We suspect the artificial grass cools down in the evenings and at night, but Caesars should invest in some regular grass to keep its customers -- two legged and four legged -- satisfied.  I know that Caesars does a lot of surveys of its guests -- perhaps it should survey its four legged guests about those hot paws and hot times.

WAS THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2011 THE TURNING POINT FOR VEGAS RESORTS?

Update June 19, 2011 The Las Vegas real estate and business research and consulting firm Applied Analysis says the first quarter of 2011 might have been the turning point for the casino and resort industry. The latest report from Applied Analysis says the major Las Vegas Strip operators all had significant improvements in the average daily room rate. "Several operators attributed the growth to improvements in convention mix as well as overall growth in meetings and conventions, while others noted that higher quality customers and rated players were contributing more to their bottom lines."

FACTS ABOUT LAS VEGAS THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW

Update June 9, 2011  I met with a business associate yesterday in Las Vegas and while discussing the economy and tourism he volunteered some "facts they don't want the public to know about Las Vegas."

I was unable to confirm these "facts" but since I trust my source, I'll present them here:

First, about 25 persons a year hang themselves in Las Vegas hotel rooms.  We know that most hotel rooms have sealed windows to prevent suicide by jumping,  And we know that it is difficult to carry gun, own a gun, or quickly get a gun.  So hanging has been the method of choice for a final exit.  I tried to find the statistics on suicide in Nevada and Clark County which is where Las Vegas is, but the latest report on suicides I could find goes back to 2007.  And those statistics report that 59% of the suicides in Nevada used a handgun which means that hanging probably is used a lot of times.

Among the statistics I found in the 2007 report:  Nevada has the nation's second highest suicide rate and suicide is the sixth leading cause of death for Nevada residents.  Seniors over the age of 60 have the highest suicide rate in the nation which is double the national average for that age group.  And I was very surprised to find out that more Nevada residents die by suicide than are murdered or die in auto accidents or from HIV/AIDS.  And what I think is missing from these statistics is the number of visitors who are suicides in Nevada every year.

The second fact they don't want you to know is that about 45 pedestrians each year are killed by vehicles crossing Las Vegas Boulevard.  I think it was a great idea to build those pedestrian bridges over the Strip, and they need more of them around center strip between the Flamingo and Caesars and near CityCenter and its properties.

CHANGES AT CAESARS PALACE

Update May 31, 2011  There have been some changes at Caesars Palace.  The Augustus Cafe, the 24-hour restaurant near the reception desk, has been closed and a new restaurant called Central 24/7 is supposed to open by August 15th.  Table minimums for craps have been lowered to $10 and this makes the table minimums at Caesars match the $10 minimums available at Bellagio next door.  For years Bellagio has offered $10 minimums at some of its craps tables while Caesars was mostly at $25 but sometimes offered $15 minimum bets.  Caesars hasn't had $10 minimums in about a decade.

REMEMBER SILVER STRIKE SLOT MACHINES?  DID YOU KEEP THOSE SILVER STRIKES?

Update May 10, 2011  Silver Strike slot machines used to be very popular among tourists because if you hit a certain combination on the slot machine reels, your prize would be a "silver strike" which was usually a casino token about the size of a silver dollar that came in a plastic case.  These Silver Strikes were collectible and the casino wanted you to take them home as a souvenir though they did have a "face value" of $10 or $25 and you could redeem them for cash if you wanted to.

Well, lucky for you if you did take them home because today you could sell those silver strike tokens for much more than their face value because of their silver content.  That is, of course, if you have the original silver strikes that actually have silver in them.

You see, a traditional $10 silver strike had six-tenths of an ounce of silver, and the rest was brass.  When silver was at $5 an ounce, a silver strike had three-dollars of silver in it; the cost of minting the silver strike was a couple of dollars -- so giving it as a ten-dollar prize made it a very profitable venture for the casinos.

But now (updated May 10, 2011) the price of silver is about $38 an ounce and that means the traditional $10 silver strike with six-tenths of an ounce of silver has silver content worth $23 -- more than twice the face value of the strike itself. 

And it's almost impossible to find the "real silver strikes" in those slot machines now, because when you add in the cost of minting the token, which is another couple of dollars, traditional silver strikes with real silver become a losing proposition for the casinos.  So, the casinos are making some changes.

First, a lot of casinos have eliminated silver strike slot machines.  Second, some casinos have replaced the traditional silver strikes that were made with 6-tenths of an ounce of real silver with tokens that look like silver but have no real silver content.  When you win one of these "non-silver silver strikes" you are still getting a souvenir, but you are not getting the precious metal.

So if you still come across a silver strike slot machine, ask if the tokens inside contain real silver before you play -- or if you don't care about the real silver content and just want the souvenir then knock yourself out at the machine.

And if you happen to have some of the real silver strikes laying around that you don't want anymore, any neighborhood pawn shop, gold and silver buyer, or eBay user would be happy to take them off your hands.  But be careful before you sell -- prices can change daily and pricing can vary among stores and buyers.  And most important, be sure that you are not selling a rare silver strike that might be worth much more than what the silver content is worth.  While nearly all silver strikes say "limited edition" there are some silver strikes that are really limited and can be worth much more because of their rarity. 

THE VEGAS "X" TRAIN HAS A DEAL WITH THE PLAZA HOTEL IN DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS 

Update April 30, 2011  Officials of both the Las Vegas Railway Express which plans to operate the "X" Train and The Plaza Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas have confirmed that there is a deal for the X Train to use the old railroad station at The Plaza.  The train station at Plaza used to be used by Amtrak when it ran passenger train service through Las Vegas from the Southern California area through to Utah.  The Amtrak route was abandoned a few years ago but the railroad tracks and the train station remain.  A spokesperson for the marketing department at The Plaza told me that there is a deal for the X Train to use that station and rails and that The Plaza will be involved in sales and marketing of the train service and train tickets.  The Plaza says it is also involved with a plan to rebuild the rail system so that a high speed train service can also use its downtown Las Vegas train station.  The X Train company -- Las Vegas Railway Express -- confirms that it has a deal to use the train station at The Plaza which is ideal for the idea of passenger train service from Southern California.

If their plan is successful, we might see a highly decorated train, reflecting the Vegas theme, and no doubt there will be cocktail waitresses in appropriate "Vegas dress" and I wouldn't be surprised if there were even entertainers on board to complete the party atmosphere.  Too bad, slot machines on board would not be allowed in California and I doubt they would have them for the short ride while in Nevada-- even if they were allowed.  But the last I heard is that they won't be allowed.  There will, however, be various cars on the train with various themes including a sports bar, and there might be a car just for quiet time or snoozing, as well as a car where you might be able to get some gaming instruction from experts or even to play cards.

The train ride is expected to take five hours, and for those of us who regularly drive either the 15 or Pearblossom Highway, five hours by train sounds like a wonderful idea, especially if we don't like to fly and having to put up with troublesome security checks.

The stock is now public trading under the symbol XTRN. 

For our TV report about the X Train go to our "Travel / Vacation" page and for information about the stock of Las Vegas Railway Express go to our "Vegas and Casino Stocks" page.  The www.xtrainvegas.com website has the company information.

HARRAH'S RINCON IN SAN DIEGO ADDS VIDEO POKER TO ITS DIAMOND LOUNGE.  IS THIS A NEW TREND FOR CAESARS?

Update February 7, 2011  The Harrah's Rincon Casino operated by Caesars (formerly Harrah's) for a California Indian tribe has been a "test casino" for some of the new ideas for the giant casino company.  The Harrah's Rincon Casino was the first to have touch screens on slot machines and video poker terminals that allowed players to order drinks, to download free play promotions, and to check on comps and to even order entertainment tickets and make reservations.  The initial test was a success at Rincon, more services are being added to the touch screen system, and these are supposed to be added to other casinos soon.

Now, Harrah's Rincon has added video poker terminals to its bar inside its Diamond lounge.  To the best of our knowledge this is the first of the Diamond lounges to actually have gaming.

Until now, the Diamond Lounges were a place to get away from gaming, and in some jurisdictions -- to get away from smoke and to have a drink, grab a complimentary snack, and maybe use a complimentary computer.  However, Rincon's new video poker terminals at its bar inside the Diamond Lounge might signal that more "boutique gaming" might be coming to other Diamond Lounges at other Caesars-owned casinos.

For some players, this actually might turn out to be very popular.  At Rincon, for example, we noticed that the pay tables on the video poker machines were actually better than on some of the terminals on the regular casino floor.  Also, you will find some games in the Diamond Lounge terminals that are not available on the main floor.  Also, if you want to get away from the smoke, the Rincon Diamond Lounge is a perfect place to play because smoking is not allowed inside the Diamond Lounge -- though there is a patio for smoking nearby.

Perhaps the best feature of playing at the video poker machines inside the Rincon Diamond Lounge is that there are always plenty of complimentary snacks being served and free soft drinks.  And the nicest restrooms in the entire casino area are only a few steps away within the Diamond Lounge.

As you probably know, the Diamond Lounges are not open to the general public.  Players must have a Diamond Card or a 7 Stars Card through the Total Rewards program, which indicate a certain level of play.  See the photos below.

The photo below shows the new touch screen display that allows players to order drinks, download free play, accept comps that are awarded and other features that are being added.  When you order a drink, the order is placed at the bar and a cocktail server will bring the drinks directly from the bar to the player at the machine.  There is a detailed drinks menu on the touch screen device.

THE NEW COSMOPOLITAN CASINO 

Update January 9, 2011  I stopped in the new Cosmopolitan Casino on The Strip in Vegas very early this morning -- at about 1-AM.   This is the casino/hotel between Bellagio and the CityCenter project.  Right now, it is independently owned and it does not have a players' club program that is connected with any other casino.  But I don't think that mattered to the clientele who were there late Saturday night and early Sunday morning when I walked through.

Frankly, it is more of a "club scene" than a casino.  The first thing you see when you enter from the north side of The Strip nearest to Bellagio is a giant bar with several bartenders (I think there were at least three) and the first thing you hear is very, very loud music.

The Cosmopolitan has the look and the feel of a party, a club, with an "under-40 year old crowd" dressed in "clubbing outfits" including lots of short black sequined dresses and party attire for the young guys.  You've probably heard about the "chandelier bar" well it wasn't that impressive. 

The alcohol was flowing, the party was wild and loud, and the pricey table games were packed with young playing playing $25 per bet and higher craps, and $50 and $100 per hand blackjack.  The slot machines were mostly empty which told me that the "players" were there for "social gaming" and not the isolated gaming that slot machines and video poker machines offer.

This was a party crowd in a casino built and decorated for parties and the club scene.

I was impressed with one new feature of casino design that the Cosmopolitan is using: instead of large gaming areas, the slot sections are divided into smaller areas and there is a reason for this.  Studies have shown that players like smaller gaming areas where they can feel more secure and relaxed than instead of being in a big, expansive room sitting in long rows.  The Cosmopolitan also does not have long, straight walkways.  Instead, the paths through the casino have turns and this also adds to the concept of smaller, intimate gaming areas.

While I am not an expert on selection of slot and video poker machines, it appeared that the selections were limited.  But, like I said, this was a casino built for a party -- not as a slot joint and it wasn't built to cater to video poker players either.

I'd like to hear other reactions about the Cosmopolitan and its new next door neighbor the Aria which is far more subdued and offers a better selection of lower limit games than Cosmopolitan has.  Please post on our Forum.

ANTHONY CURTIS OF THE LAS VEGAS ADVISOR OFFERS TIPS, JULY-AUGUST 2010

In late July, 2010 I interviewed Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and www.lasvegasadvisor.com and publisher of many gaming books under Huntington Press based in Vegas.  Anthony Curtis is an expert on Las Vegas gaming (he was once a professional blackjack player) and he is an expert on travel deals and bargains and getting the most for your vacation dollar. 

Anthony Curtis of the Las Vegas Advisor is frequently seen on TV shows about Vegas, and interviewed for news reports about Las Vegas tourism and gaming and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for two segments on my KABC 790 Radio Show "Best Buys, Deals & More."  Below is the audio of those radio segments, along with some video from a previous TV interview that I did with Anthony.  

In these radio interviews conducted in late July, Curtis discusses the business climate in Vegas, how it affects tourism and prices, and book sales, and how his newsletter and website businesses help consumers save money.  We also talk about the importance of knowing the games in a casino before you bet and how his Las Vegas Advisor newsletter can also help tourists stretch their vacation dollars with a special value book with several thousand dollars of money saving Vegas coupons including two-for-one specials (two fers) for famous Las Vegas buffets and shows.  Perhaps the most famous coupon is the $50 "Comp" at the Palms which you'll hear about in this interview. 

The radio interview with Anthony Curtis of the Las Vegas Advisor is presented here in two segments as it was broadcast on KABC 790 in Los Angeles.

WHAT'S YOUR GAMBLING BUDGET -- $500 OR $3,600 ??

This is not an off-the-wall question because Vegas tourism officials report that the average visitor comes to Las Vegas with a gambling budget of about $500, but gaming book author Victor Royer says by the time that average visitor leaves Vegas he's lost $3,600 gambling.  Below is my interview with Victor H. Royer who is known as "Vegas Vic" and has written many books on gambling.  His latest is called New Casino Slots and he gave me some tips for visiting and gambling in Vegas.  Watch my interview, recorded on the Las Vegas Strip, below.

CELINE DION RETURNS TO CAESARS PALACE

Update April 30, 2011  This website was among the first (if not the first) to report the talk that Celine Dion would return to Caesars, and now Celine Dion is back at Caesars.  However, Celine's schedule is not what it was when "A New Day" was being presented, and that's because Celine has her kids and she has cut back on performances.  Still, it's a big boost for Caesars and for Vegas.  And Caesars has no trouble finding other headliners for Celine's off days.

The rumors and speculation about Celine Dion returning to Caesars Palace started on the Internet months before the actual announcement that she would return.

The rumor that we heard months ago was spread by the staff at the Caesars beauty salon.  The talk in the salon was that Celine's hairdresser was slated to return to Caesars Palace and that was the giant clue that Celine Dion herself would return.  Well, we know ladies who wouldn't go anywhere without their hairdresser in tow-- so it made about as much sense as all of the other rumors we'd been hearing.

(I have a confession to make: Celine's hairdresser used to cut my hair at the Caesars Salon.)

What did make sense all along is that Celine Dion had a consistently sold out show at Caesars Palace, so why not bring her back if the management at Caesars could get her back?

Jerry Seinfeld is performing on a regular basis and other major headliners stop in from time to time.  Caesars has the best venue in town for stage shows and if Celine had any ideas about returning to Vegas, Caesars Palace is definitely the place to do it.

Personally, I love that Celine is back.  I'm a true fan, and saw "A New Day," Celine's original show at Caesars no less than ten times.  Really, I saw "A New Day" ten times.  And I also played craps with Celine's husband at least ten times.  And the truth is, Celine is a much better performer than her husband is a craps player.

THE GREAT BELLAGIO CHIP HEIST OF DECEMBER 2010

Updated June 27, 2011  The Great Bellagio Chip Robbery case is now the courts system after an arrest was made.  And now a guilty plea has been entered.  If you recall, the robbery was pulled off by a lone motorcyclist who parked his bike at the entrance of the Bellagio, walked in wearing his full helmet with the faceplate covering his face, went to a nearby craps table, pulled a gun and just as quickly walked out with something like $2-million in Bellagio chips.  Is he the next Bonnie & Clyde folklore hero of casino heists or was he just stupid?

Well, it looks like he won't be much of a hero.  Police said they recovered about two-thirds of chips allegedly stolen, and from the accounting that police made shortly after the arrest, only a few hundred thousand dollars worth of chips are unaccounted for and were presumably cashed, played or laundered.  And he is likely to get a long vacation away from the Strip in a state run hotel with secure locks on every door.

Well, anyone who tries to get away with a crime like walking into a casino is stupid by definition.  But in the hours after the robbery, the questions seemed to center around what is he going to do with the chips, some of which include $25,000 chips?  We now know that most if not all of the big chips were never "moved."

First of all, it's not easy to play or cash $25,000 chips.  Most casinos want to know who you are before you play them.  And if you try to cash one at the cage, they are likely to ask for identification and then will try to verify that you played them at a game and aren't trying to launder money for another winner or hide drug money.  Yes, the casinos are required by law to know who is passing big money in their establishments.

The crook in a big chip robbery could fence the chips but only a high roller could get away with passing the chips.  Would a high roller buy the chips for pennies on the dollar?  It would make a good story, a good book and a good movie, wouldn't it?   But in the case of the Bellagio heist, shortly after the robbery, a legal notice was posted about Bellagio recalling its $25,000 chips.  And now it appears few if any were ever fenced and passed and cashed.

You see, as soon as the heist happened, the crook knew that time was not on his side because the casino started to "demonetize" those chips or cancel them.  This is allowed under gaming regulations and casinos frequently will require all chips of a certain denomination to be redeemed so that new chips can be circulated to replace them.  Usually, this demonetization of chips is done to thwart counterfeiters who are able to duplicate a series of chips in use.

There has also been discussion that the $25,000 chips might have RFID chips in them which are identifying computer chips that send out a signal with an ID code.  Even if the chips do have RFID in them, the chances are the casino doesn't know exactly which $25,000 chips were at that table.  RFID chips are more frequently used to authenticate chips -- though tracking of chips is possible.  I have been trying to confirm that Bellagio has the RFID system, and so far I have been unable to confirm that it does.  I do know that Aria and Wynn do have RFID chips.

I've been around casinos enough to know something about how security works and why this heist -- while it made headlines -- is really no big deal in the overall scheme of things for Bellagio and parent company MGM.

First of all, two million dollars isn't so much of a big deal at a craps table.  Many of the casinos on the Vegas Strip can have a couple of million dollars or more on each craps table.  Consider this: in the center of each table the chips are in stacks of twenty.  Next time you go into the casino count how many stacks there are of $100 chips and $500 chips and $1,000 chips and even $5,000 chips and you'll know what I'm talking about.  I've seen craps tables with ten stacks of $5,000 chips.  At Caesars they are brown with black markings and appropriately called "chocolate chips."  Each stack of chocolate chips at Caesars (20 X $5,000) is worth $100,000 and as I said, I've seen ten stacks on a table worth a total of one million dollars.  Then there are the $1,000 chip stacks and $500 chip stacks and you get my point.

So how is it the bad guy made it out of he casino so quickly and without security jumping all over him?  Well, I'm sure Bellagio has excellent security but I think that as soon as they saw he had a gun they let him take the money and run -- and he literally did run out.  The last thing security wants is a confrontation with an armed robber.  By the way, have you noticed that few if any guards in a casino carry guns?  It's because two million dollars in chips -- or in cash -- is not worth the risk of a bullet hitting an innocent bystander, gambler or employee.  Let the guy take the cash -- the cameras have got him, and the police will get him.  By the way, I was told that Bellagio has a particularly sophisticated camera system which monitors all traffic driving up to the casino, including images of license plates and facial recognition software.  Ahh, but in this case our robber did have his helmet.  Well, the cameras will know exactly which model helmet he was wearing and probably they'll be able to determine the exact store it was sold in.

The bottom line is that the alleged robber was stuck with a glorious set of chips that he couldn't sell, couldn't pawn, couldn't launder -- and if not recovered probably would have ended up buried in his back yard that someone will dig up a hundred years from now.  Or, he would have had a great set of chips for a home game.

But there are other uses for these chips.  Some chips -- with a little modification -- might pass for chips in other casinos.  Wow.  Don't tell a stupid crook that.  I don't want to give a stupid person any smart ideas.

Anyway, I'm sure that Bellagio's security department handled this incident correctly.  The important thing is that no one got hurt.  It's only chips -- and heck chips are not real money, are they?  If they were real money, would players really throw those $1,000 chips on the table just to see a couple of cards dealt, or the dice roll?  Nah.  You wouldn't do that with real money -- so that's why casinos use chips.

Oh, and one more thing about casino security.  I know that some casinos have undercover, plain clothes security people at high limit tables playing with the casino's money to insure that things are safe for all players.  One night I was at Caesars when a player who was a little tipsy started to push a dealer and within seconds two undercover security men at two blackjack tables were on their feet and had that tipsy player restrained.  It made me feel good to know casinos have that kind of security.

Stupid robbers might think they're smart, but I guarantee you the security people are smarter.

IGT INSTALLS NEW SERVER-BASED CASINO FLOOR AT ARIA IN CITYCENTER

Server-based technology is here.  What it means is that every table top machine in a casino can be changed to accomodate the player's choice of games or it can be changed to accomodate the casino's choice of games.

For example, if you like to play bonus poker at the 25-cents level, you no longer have to search the casino floor for this game.  Instead, you can sit at any terminal and choose the game you want to play from the terminal's menu.  Or, if you are a casino operator, and a busload of low-limit slot players has just arrived at your casino, you can revise the play levels to eliminate the $5 slot games and replace them with more one-cent and five-cent versions.

IGT has installed its server-based technology at the Aria in CityCenter.  Here's what IGT says about its system:

"When the player inserts his players club card, a special "window" slides the game screen over, providing a menu of information and services the player and operator can customize, all designed to improve the player experience.

"sbX(TM) Floor Manager allows access to the IGT game library, letting operators reconfigure a casino floor with the touch of a button.  And no longer will casino patrons have to comb the floor for their favorite games - this gives more options at the players' fingertips, all on one machine.

"sbX(TM) Media Manager enables targeted messages and services to the Service Window. Casinos have a new, more effective way to market to players and differentiate their property with sbX(TM).

"sbX(TM) also serves as a yield management system, allowing operators to notify patrons of specials and offers throughout the property, helping move inventory."

THE GOLDEN NUGGET IS AT IT AGAIN TO WIN OVER YOUR BUSINESS

Update May 10, 2011  The Golden Nugget has been doing this almost regularly.  The casino marketing department sends out "free play" offers to players at other casinos offering those players 150% of the free play amount that they get from their usual gaming destinations.  So, as the Golden Nugget mailers explain, if you have a $500 free play offer from your regular casino, The Golden Nugget will give you $750 of free play,  Free hotel accomodations are usually included.

We heard from a player who has a $2,500 free play offer at Caesars Palace and got the offer from The Golden Nugget which would be worth $3,750 at the downtown casino.  The Golden Nugget offer includes the usual free stay offer that this player also gets from Caesars on The Strip.  "I think I might try downtown," he said.  "It's worth an extra $1,250 of free play."

But The Golden Nugget isn't targeting only high rollers with this promotion.  We heard from another player who usually only gets $150 of free play from his regular casino, and this offer from The Golden Nugget would be worth a total of $225 for her, with a free room included.

So where did The Golden Nugget gets this mailing list from?  The players list at any casino or casino company is closely guarded.  Perhaps this was an inside job?

Also, we've been hearing about many casinos cutting back on their free play and cash offers because of the slowdown.  The Golden Nugget is doing just the opposite -- spending more.

But before you jump at this promotion, consider the "strings" that may be attached.  We've checked with the GN and were told that all of the free play is not given in one day and can be spread out over three days.  This keeps you from showing up on one day, using their free money, and leaving.  They want to keep you there following the strategy that the longer you are there, the more you will play, and the more you will lose. 

GETTING COMPS IN A HIGH LIMIT ROOM

It comes as no surprise that players in high limit rooms at casinos get all sorts of comps, or complimentaries, or free things.  Drinks are, of course, free.  And players in the high limit areas also get the premium drinks, and the premium bottles of water with the "high end" brands -- not the "casino labeled" bottles of water that are given out in the rest of the casino.  High limit players also can get free cigarettes-- and that's also no surprise.

But what is a surprise is that some players in high limit rooms who do not smoke will still take offers of the free cigarettes because they give the packs of smokes to friends in the casino who do smoke or they simply bring them home for friends.  You can't blame them because a pack of cigarettes is expensive.

So taking those free packs of cigarettes by non-smokers for their friends who do smoke is another way that high limit players stretch their casino privileges.  And as I've told you before, there are other perks for playing in high limit rooms including upgraded bathrooms, sometimes snacks and buffets, and certainly better attention from cocktail waitresses.

And there is another trick that casino players use.  They might sit at a slot machine in a high limit room -- but that doesn't mean they put much money into that high limit slot.  One or two spins here or there just might be enough for that drink service or pack of cigarettes.  And honestly, anyone can use the rest rooms in the high limit areas.

A LITTLE BIT OF GAMBLING IRONY

I found this to be ironic:  Legendary baseball player Pete Rose signs autographs at The Field of Dreams sports collectible store in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace on a regular basis -- usually on Saturday afternoons.  Among the balls he will autograph and sell is the ball that says "I'm sorry I bet on baseball."  Imagine, someone being sorry for betting -- and making the apology in Vegas.  Oh, if you're interested Pete Rose will inscribe the ball and sign it for you -- live and in person -- for $299.  A "regular" Pete Rose autographed ball sells for $99.  Yes, Pete is a regular at the store.  I haven't seen him in the sports book though.

SHOULD WE DRIVE OR FLY TO VEGAS?

I hear that question -- "should we drive or fly to Vegas?" -- more than I hear "should I stand on 15 when the dealer is showing a 12?"  Well, I don't know much about blackjack, but I am familiar with the drive from the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas -- and I am familiar with the flight schedule from the Los Angeles and Orange County airports to Las Vegas, so I can offer some opinions here.

Personally, I'd rather drive because then I am not stuck with an airline's schedule.  If I run out of money I can leave early.  If I am having the gambling run of a lifetime and my wallet is stuffed with winnings, I can stay longer (wishful thinking, however).  The reality is, flying is a pain.  You have to arrive at the airport here in the Los Angeles area early and endure the security checks.  You have to wait for your plane.  You have to get off the plane in Vegas and if you have luggage you have to wait and wait for it.  If you just have a carryon, then you only have to get on that endless taxi line.  Unless you have a limo waiting for you from the hotel/casino where you are staying.  Check into the limo option as you might find the charge for the limo is about $35 plus tip.  A taxi ride plus tips will probably cost you $15 to $20 depending on where you are are going.

If you are driving you have several routes to take including the 10 to the 15 north, or the 210 to the 15 north, or the 405 to the 14 east and the back road Pearblossom Highway route to the 15 north.  Depending on the weather and the time of day or night, I prefer the Pearblossom Highway route but you might find the highway routes safer especially at night or when there is weather to deal with.

Baker is a nice stop for food and refreshments and it's about 90 minutes south of Vegas.  But don't buy gas in Baker -- it's about fifty cents a gallon cheaper in Barstow or Victorville.

Driving to and from Las Vegas gives you one more option that flying can't give you-- you can make the stop at the casinos at State Line (Primm, Nevada) for an early try on the way to Vegas or "one last try" on the way home.  And at Primm you can always check out the outlet mall and do some shopping.  Yes, you promised yourself you would shop while you were in Vegas, but you didn't, right?

I will say this about flying to Vegas-- if you can fly from Burbank.  Many times I flew out of Burbank to Vegas.  It's a much smaller airport than LAX or John Wayne or Ontario and for that reason it is easier to get through.  Parking is a breeze -- and it's even easier if you use the relatively low cost valet parking.  There is a garage directly across from the terminal.  The terminal is small.  Southwest has lots of flights from Burbank to Vegas, and I never had a problem with security at Burbank-- they are quick and efficient at Burbank.  I've also flown out of John Wayne and it's almost as good as Burbank.  Nope, never flew out of Ontario, but Ontario is also on the small scale which  must make it better than LAX.

MORE CASINOS OFFER "FREE PLAY" GIVEAWAYS, AND HOW YOU SHOULD PLAY THEM

You are likely to see more "free play" promotions from casinos, especially this summer.  With most "free play" promotions, you will get a certificate that is awarded by the casino based on your previous betting level.  Let's say you get $500 of "free play."  But you might find that the free play promotion is for a certificate for slots, and you are a blackjack player.  What do you do?  Well, the first thing is to ask the casino (ask your "host" if you have one) if the slot promotion certificate can be exchange for table play -- that's your best option.  If that can't be done, then play your slot certificate "carefully."

What does "carefully" mean?  Well, it means this: if you get a $500 certificate you can't cash in the certificate, and you must play through the entire $500.  But you don't have to play anymore than the original $500.  So find yourself a slot and keep track of your bets.  As soon as you have bet all $500, you can keep whatever is left which are your "winnings."

Some casino slot machines might be set up so that you can push the "cash out" button after each win and collect that winning amount, while you leave the promotional value of your promo certificate still in the machine.  This eliminates the need for counting the number of bets you have to make to exhaust the value of your promo certificate.

VEGAS RESORT REALITY CHECK

Prepare yourself and your budget for that trip to a Strip casino in Las Vegas.  A lot of casino resorts are offering free and deeply discounted rooms.  But are you prepared for the cost of food and dining and room service?  Here's a reality check -- the receipt for a room service late night delivery for two people on May 4, 2009 at Caesars Palace.  They gave me their receipt, so these amounts are the real thing:

Their late night room service snack included a Pastrami sandwich for $14 and a Club Sandwich for $16.  Ice teas in a bottle were $4 each and they ordered two for a total of $8.  They also ordered two bottles of Ginger Ale at $4 each for a total of $8.  They shared a slick of chocolate cake for $10, and had the foresight to order a blueberry muffin for breakfast for $6.

The subtotal was $63.  But hold on.  Caesars automatically adds on a "gratuity" (a tip) of $11.16 -- and that's about 18%.  There is also a "service charge" for room service of $5.  Tax adds $5.19 and the whole bill came to $83.35.

But wait.  If you don't read the bill that is presented to you for your signature, you might not notice that it says "An 18% Gratuity has been included in your bill," and right under that is a blank line that says "Additional Gratuity (Optional)."

WHAT CASINOS ARE DOING TO BOOST BUSINESS.

Update May 10, 2011  Everyone knows just how poorly the casinos in Vegas and even in California have been doing because of the tough economy.  Well, the casinos are now offering some richer cash incentives to get players to show up.  The cash incentives include "show up money" as well as money for shopping sprees and gift cards.  There are even promotions for free slot play.

In the California Indian casinos, players are getting monthly mailers with free slot or free table play.  Harrah's Rincon and Pechanga both send out the monthly mailers for free play, and Harrah's Rincon is also sending out "mystery" vouchers that players can insert into a slot machine for free play.  You don't know how much money you get until you show up at the casino.  Harrah's Rincon is also sending out bonus "checks" to players each month with a bounce back offer -- cash to play on the next visit.

And what else are the casinos, especially in Vegas, doing to boost traffic?  Well, many casinos are now cutting their room rates.  As one host told me, "I can stay in a strip hotel for a month for less than what my mortgage payment costs me."  And then there are the obvious cutbacks in spending.  When it comes to cash promotions, some players are finding their promotions are not as generous as in years past.

THE SINGLE BIGGEST SLOT MACHINE PROGRESSIVE

Update May 10, 2011  There are two mega jackpots waiting to be hit in Las Vegas and they are both on single slot machines.  One is at the MGM Grand and it's called the Majestic Lions slot -- it's a $1 machine and the jackpot is more than $2-million dollars but you have to bet several dollars to win the jackpot.  At Caesars Palace is the other mega jackpot on a single machine and this is a red-white-blue slot machine with a jackpot of about one-half million dollars.  The Caesars machine is also a $1 game but needs three coins.

In both cases, these are the last machine from a number of progressive machines that were linked together.  Under Nevada gaming regulations, the progressive jackpots must be hit -- so the single machines remain until someone gets very lucky.  There is another option for the casinos but after many years they haven't elected to use this option yet: they could spread the progressive jackpot amounts on other slot games.

The regulations say the progressive jackpots represent player contributions to the jackpot pool, and the jackpot pool must be returned to the players -- or to one lucky player in the case of these two games.

DINING AT JOE'S SEAFOOD AT THE FORUM SHOPS

This article isn't about gaming, but it is about the "games" that a restaurant or a waiter can play with you when you are out having a grand old time.

A while back, three of us were dining at Joe's Seafood in The Forum Shops which is adjacent to Caesars Palace.  We had a delightful time, and we enjoyed the stone crabs, steaks and seafood.  Then, when our meal was complete, instead of the waiter asking us about dessert or presenting a dessert menu, the waiter approaches the table with a slice of key lime pie and a slide of some cheesecake something-or-other and places them on the table.

After running up a dinner bill of about $300, my party and I figured the deserts were complimentary.  Well, we were wrong.  When we finished the desserts and enjoyed our coffee, the check came -- and the desserts were there on the check.  I was kind of stunned but since we had a guest with us at dinner, I decided not to make an issue of it-- I paid the check and we left.

But all I can say is -- shame on Joe's Seafood.  It was enough to make me not go there again.

CAESARS STARTING NEW SLOT MACHINE VIDEO SERVICES

Update May 10, 2011  Around the country, Caesars (formerly Harrah's) has started new high tech links on slot machines that will allow slot and video poker players to order drinks, redeem cash offers, order show tickets, check offers for shows and rooms, and a lot more things that will save time and money.  The system is called "Total Touch" following the theme of Caesars "Total Rewards" concept.

The new system got its first test at Harrah's Rincon Casino in San Diego and now it is being installed at other Caesars casinos outside of Nevada.  Eventually the system will be in place in Nevada as well.  The Harrah's Rincon casino is known as an "alpha casino" because it is used to test many new systems before they are used in Las Vegas and in other markets.  I tried it and it works-- I've downloaded free play and ordered drinks and summoned help when the machine I was on had a malfunction.  Frankly, I prefer the old way for getting free slot play offers when you are given a slip to insert into the machine just like inserting a $20 bill.  With the Total Touch System at Rincon you have to insert your player's card (no problem) and then punch in the exact promotion code.  Punching in the code can take time, and sometimes you have to do it several times to redeem all of your free play offers.

The system will require that new video display screens are installed on slot machines and video poker machines.  Players will use their video display screen to order drinks directly from the bar, and once the drinks are prepared a server will deliver them to the player.  This will eliminate the need to find a cocktail server to order -- the player will order their drinks directly.  The video display system will also "store" information about what drinks players like-- so a player could simply indicate "send another" and the bar's computer will have the player's "favorite" already in the system.

The video display system main purpose to to have the player's promotions.  For example, if a player has an offer for $50 of free play, the player will be able to access that free play directly at the machine -- and there will be no need to visit the players club or, in the case of Caesars, the Total Rewards desk.

Players will also be able to use the video display screen to check out their offers for shows and events, and even to order tickets.  Caesars hopes this will cut down on phone calls to the Total Rewards departments at its casinos, and will also save time for players as well as its personnel.  And the video display screens will also remind players about what "offers" they have for future stays or that current visit to the casino.

Of course the "personalized information" will be dependent on the player inserting their "players card" or Total Rewards card into the machine's system.

Employees at the Rincon Casino have been trained and know the system well, and when a "bug" in the system develops they know how to fix it.   "Once we get the bugs out of the system," a Rincon manager told me in mid-March of 2010, "the system will be installed in Vegas."

So just imagine -- no more searching for a cocktail waitress.  In the future you'll click on a drink (yes you might even be able to order a Martini with extra olives or order a coffee with Amaretto without whipped cream, or click "send another" and it will be deliverd to your slot or video poker machine.

CAN THE iPHONE HELP YOU COUNT CARDS IN BLACKJACK?

Update May 10, 2011  It was about a year ago that Nevada gaming regulators have warned the State's casino operators that there is an application available for the iPhone that can help iPhone users count cards at blackjack.  Counting cards by itself is considered a skill, and counting cards by itself is not a crime -- but casinos can ban players who do count cards.  However, if a player uses a device to help him count cards at blackjack, then the use of that device makes card counting a felony under gaming regulations in the State.

But then we heard from some gaming experts that the iPhone blackjack card counting application is not all it's cracked up to be.  In short, it doesn't turn any player into an expert card counter.  The problem is that the iPhone card counting program not only is not complete, but it also does not include many of the other variables that a true card counter and expert blackjack player would take into consideration when counting cards and betting.

The "bottom line" say these experts is that people might think they are really "counting cards" when they use the iPhone application or "app," but in reality the app isn't helping them at all.  One gaming expert referred to the iPhone app for counting cards as nothing more than a "toy" and not a real threat to the casinos.

But the threat to players is real.  Casinos just might bar players, or even arrest players, who are seen with an iPhone at a blackjack table fearing they are using the card counting app.  And if the app is indeed loaded on the iPhone, gaming experts fear that players might indeed be prosecuted for a felony even if innocent-- even if the app is not in use and over the last year more casinos including California casinos are barring iPhones and all sorts of phones from being used at blackjack games.

CHECK YOUR HOTEL ROOM CHARGES CAREFULLY

When you are in Vegas hotels, and use "room service," check the bills you are presented carefully.  Some hotels are now including tips in the actual room service bill -- but they also have a blank line on the bill for a gratuity.  This would actually represent an "added gratuity" since the basic bill already includes a "tip" of 15%.  Since many travelers are not aware of this change, they automatically add a tip amount to the room service bill but what they are really doing is "tipping twice."

WATCH THOSE ATM FEES IN VEGAS RESORTS AND CASINOS

Those ATM fees in Las Vegas casinos and resorts and hotels can vary widely.  It's a good idea to check with your own bank about the location of their branches.  Some casinos have a flat fee of $4.99 for using their ATM so if you are making a $100 withdrawal from your checking account, that is almost a 5% fee on your transaction plus whatever fee your own bank might charge you for using a "foreign ATM" as they call it.   The worst thing you could possibly do is to make several small withdrawals-- it is far better to make a larger withdrawal that would cut the percentage of the fee.  For example, instead of five withdrawals of $100 each, make one withdrawal of $500 which cuts the percentage to about 1% on the ATM charges.

But if you are at Caesars Palace and you're a customer of Bank of America, go to the Forum Shops where there is a BofA ATM machine.  BofA customers would not face any fees at this ATM, and if you are a customer of another bank, you might find that the overall fees for using this ATM are less.

BofA also has an ATM on the 4th floor of the M&Ms exhibit building on the Vegas Strip near MGM.  The M&Ms exhibit also includes a store featuring M&Ms products and collectibles and candies, and the ATM makes shopping a bit more convenient there.

Here on our new media website "Moneyman" Alan Mendelson who is the original Best Deals TV Show reporter on KCAL9 and consumer advocate, shows you the best deals on TV, and the best buys, bargains and where savvy shoppers go to save, and how to get the most for "your money" with the best of Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County.  Our Best Buys TV Show has the best TV deals and is the only regularly scheduled weekly best deals TV show in Southern California.  We show you the best buys and best deals on TV and more deals and bargains on www.alanbestbuys.com and www.bestbuystvshow.com and watch for our Las Vegas TV show Vegas Best Buys.  Some of the content can come from paid advertising and from our advertiser paid TV infomercial programs.  The Best Buys TV Show is a paid infomercial program which may also include news and information which is not sponsored or paid for by advertisers.  AlanBestBuys.com has the highest ranking among competitive sites in Southern California according to the independent website ranking companies Alexa.com and Quantcast.com and our Best Buys TV Show is the most watched shopping and consumer information show in Southern California.

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