Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Slots for Florida - Cali Votes Tuesday

In a major victory for slots manufacturers, Floridians voted for more slot machines.

In an overwhelming vote of 63 to 37%, the Miami area is cleared for 6,000 additional slots in horse and dog racing facilities.

This article reveals that non-Indian gaming facilities in Florida pay 50% tax on slot profits -- Wow!!! I'd steer clear of those slots, I'll bet they are pretty tight.

Here in Nevada, casinos pay 6% taxes, and you can be darn sure with our state budget deficit ever growing, that upping that tax is hotly debated.

Meanwhile in California, next Tuesday's voting will determine if a select group of Native American casinos can add more slots paying 25% in taxes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Wander the MGM Casino in search of Oz

Last night after a trip to the Palazzo to visit Barney's NY (more on that later) I headed over to the MGM Grand to see if they had any Wizard of Oz slots.

Makes sense, right? Oh sure, I know MGM doesn't own the film anymore, but still history links the MGM brand and the Wonderful Wizard forever in our memories. So, it would follow that the humongous MGM casino would have a few of these slots on the floor.

Unfortunately, no. The MGM has plenty of slots, mostly old, and outdated. The whole trip depressed me, and I left without wagering a single penny.

The Casino Giveth and the Casino Taketh Away

I was pleased to get two free buffets in my birthday month from Silverton Casino. However, when my monthly flier arrived in my mailbox yesterday I was dismayed to see that Silverton had cut my free play down from $10 to $5 a week.

You would think that if my play was waning, they would want to pump it up, not cut it back.

Fact is, I'm bored with the slot selection, and bored with losing.

Do you HEAR that Silverton, and Rampart, and just about every other casino in town?!!

Get new slots, loosen then up, and send me more free play. Get me in the casino, and you'll still get my money, trust me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Giving Atronic Games a Chance

Last night I was Silverton (free play and buffet) and I decided to give a bank of new Atronic games a shot.

Atronic games are best recognized by their unique cabinets that have a button on either side that raises or lowers the screen.

The games themselves are graphically crude and uninteresting.

I tried "Champagne and Roses" a penny nine liner, on the premise I couldn't lose too much.

I couldn't win anything either, and was quickly bored.

I moved over to some roman themed game with 25 lines and quickly lost $10 with no bonus round in sight.

Nobody playing at the bank should have clued me in to the popularity of these games -- they're dogs.

I have no idea why casinos continue to buy Atronic games.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My First Big Line Pay!

$100 is not the most I've won on a slot machine, but for a line pay with a 20 cent bet, it isn't bad.

Last night I was playing WMS' "The Great Wall of China" at Red Rock Casino.

Red Rock has a few banks of "Cash Blitz" machines that randomly pay out one of three progressive amounts. I was sitting next to a woman playing "Super Jackpot Party" who won a Cash Blitz of $11. She didn't know what had happened, so I explained it to her.

As we continued to play she mentioned she'd like a bonus round, and I agreed as I hadn't hit one, though a $8 line pay kept me going.

I was about to give up on my machine when I got a two Great Wall symbols and two wild symbols. I was hoping to get another wild symbol to head to the bonus round, but got another Great Wall. The line pay paid $100. I was naturally thrilled, and my neighbor was impressed. I checked the pay table and 10000 credits was the best line pay. She checked her pays on her machine and it's best line paid 5000 credits.

I had invested less than $5 in the machine, but had been playing a while on my little wins.

As this was my first machine of the night, I knew Red Rock would be getting some of the money back as I continued to play.

I moved on and played for about another hour, before leaving the casino $60 richer.

I can't remember ever winning the best line pay, so all in all a good day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Free Buffet for my Birthday

Yesterday I got another mailer from Silverton Casino. I get at least one a week from Silverton, they really know how to get suckers, um, I mean players in the door.

This new offer was for two free buffets (breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner) in the month of my birthday. I love getting free food or play offers in the mail, so this was great.

The Silverton has a pretty good buffet that was remodeled this year. Design wise, it is an amazing mixture of modern elements, very cluttered with stuff that is usually associated with modern spa like joints. You just don't know what to look at next, the bank of video screens showing ever changing nature shots, the fountain, the ceiling, the branch like doodads . . .

The weirdest thing is the elevated tables and booth on the south side. There is no easy way to get to them. If you use the ramp you risk colliding with servers from the kitchen, if you choose to step up, good luck finding a suitable opening not blocked by metal bead curtains or furniture.

The food is better than average, with impressive little dessert thingies. The salad bar is small, and there are no Mexican selections -- Italian, Chinese, American and Seafood are pretty well covered, but don't look for any guacamole or refried beans.

On free buffet nights, when player's get their offers in the mail, get there early (4pm) or late, or you'll be waiting in line forever.

I'm looking forward to Silverton expanding their casino, currently it is rather depressing -- very dark with a slot selection that leaves a lot to be desired.

In terms of free buffets, free play, and free giveaways, however -- Silverton is hard to beat.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Ultimate Player's Card - Rock Royalty

The uber celebrity gossip/sighting/news website TMZ has revealed a Player's Card so exclusive it has only seven members -- The Rock Royalty card from Hard Rock Casino.

After clicking to see I think I recognize 50 cent, Brittany Murphy, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Black and John Legend. Oops that is Billy Morrison (who the heck is he?) not Jon Bon, Maria Bell0 (yeah, I never heard of her either), and Diego Luna (???) -- what a weird list of folks who don't Rock Hard.

I'm guessing these sorta-celebs don't play the penny slots, but Hard Rock has an opportunity to promote their (apparently) tiered club, and this is the result?

Here is the online sign up for the Rockstar club -- it doesn't seem to offer many perks for the locals player. I think I'll pass. The Hard Rock casino is small, and they took out their Jimi Hendrix and Sex Pistols Quarter slots with the guitar handles for pulls. Those were cool.

Hot Slots at the Monte Carlo

Okay, I know that was a bad title, but I couldn't resist. At least I didn't call the reservations desk yesterday and ask if they had any smoking rooms.

The fire at the Monte Carlo casino in Las Vegas was mostly on the roof and under control in about an hour. Everyone was evacuated and only a few minor injuries were reported.

That said, it could have been worse, much worse.

The material that burned brightest was dryvit covered styrofoam exterior decorative stuff. Check out the comments connected to this Las Vegas Sun story and you'll get the drift that this building material is popular and dangerous.

Look at this photo from the Monte Carlo website and you will see the trim along the roof and below what I believe are the High Roller Suites -- compare that with photos of the fire and it shows just how highly combustible this substance is.

Also the evacuation procedures eerily echo the tragedy of 9/11 with guests being told to stay put, until the source of the emergency is located.

In retrospect hundreds of people died in the twin towers because they obeyed orders and didn't get the hell out of dodge.

I'm the kind of traveler who likes to stay on high floors in hotels, because they are quieter, usually more luxurious if you get upgraded, and provide better views. I'm an idiot.

It is obviously safer to stay on lower floors near exits.

I love a hot slot, but when the roof is on fire, it is time to leave.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Viva Laughlin! Comps are Better Off Strip

This article in the Las Vegas Sun entitled "Gamblers’ best bets for free drinks, meals in Clark County are Laughlin, that other Strip" shows in hard numbers the facts.

If you want to get comped steer clear of the Las Vegas strip.

Locals' casinos and apparently Laughlin are generous with the perks. Could be that they're number two and they have to try harder.

As a local, I can pretty much get a free meal any old day, but boy do they cost me.

I used to figure walking in a casino would cost me about $50 at my rate of play. I've had to up that amount to $100. A free buffet and a few drinks does little to eleviate the sting of the losses.

Still, for the casual gambler, it's definitely worth looking beyond the Vegas Strip for a good time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The R Word -- are Slots really RECESSION Proof?

There I said it -- we are in a RECESSION. The R word used to mean Retirement, especially when posed to famous athletes and such, but it's a brand new scary day, and we are in a RECESSION.

It's not that we all didn't see the writing on the wall. The Real Estate bubble has officially burst, and the fallout has hit the world stock markets hard.

A certain friend of mine was screaming and yelling "The Sky is Falling!" a year ago, so he must be pretty proud of himself now.

But what about Casinos -- are they worried?

Here in Vegas, not much. . . yet.

But check out this NYTimes article from 1992 entitled "Long Viewed as Safe From Slumps, Las Vegas Finally Feels the Recession". Remember 1992? Yep, me neither. My life has changed little from year to year, boom or bust, my lifestyle is about the same. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not freaking out, either. I'm proud to say I've never even considered declaring bankruptcy, and with the recent law changes I probably never will.

That said, it seems in 1992 Vegas was worried.

But that was then, and this is now. So today Sin City references glowing articles about the new (ho-hum) Palazzo written by folks from Chicago who don't even gamble.,CST-NWS-vegas0123.article

"I'm no gambler, but I'll bet the Palazzo won't have a hard time filling those 3,068 suites. Neither will the neighboring Wynn resort, currently building a second hotel tower, or MGM Mirage's CityCenter, a massive mixed-use development well under way.
"Every time a new hotel goes up here, people say the same thing, 'They'll never fill it,' " said Darcy Nielson, a Vegas native who manages the Christophe Salon in the MGM Grand. "And somehow, they always do."

So will history repeat itself, or will history repeat itself. . .

Vegas has done an amazing job at establishing itself as the world's premiere escapist fantasy, largely by selling the sizzle. The steak has always been gambling, and it always will.

Today, gambling revenues are driven by slot machines, roughly 70% of casino profits come from slot machines, and that figure is likely to grow. When casino operators have a cash cow, they milk it.

Machines are getting tighter and tighter, as casinos become resorts, and sell the overall experience of escapism.

To sum it up, plan on your Vegas trip costing you more and more in the RECESSION, if you are an avid slot player. Call it trickle down economics, but you will have to pay dearly for your experience.

Remember the Golden Rule is the House always wins, and the construction is not going to grind to a complete halt due to the RECESSION.

They don't build these pleasure palaces on people's winnings.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Estate Planning for the Slot Player

So, I'm reading the fine print on my "Club Coast" Rules Card, and this little tidbit catches my eye.

"In the event of the death of a member, redeemable cash back points may become the property of the member's estate."

Wooo Doggie!!! That gives a whole new wrinkle to the reading of the will. . .

To my beloved Ellen I leave the house, the cars, and the stocks.

To my eldest son Jack I leave $25,000 and my golf clubs.

To my daughter Karen I leave $15,000 and the time share.

To my youngest son Seth, who I always told to step away from the buffet, I leave my slot points.

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Boyd Slot Club a Bust

This holiday weekend many casinos in town are offering good point multipliers, and I was lured to the Orleans by 7x points plus a bonus of 1,000 points (sent to me in a mailer.)

It gave me an opportunity to see if any new machines were on the floor, and to check out their new players' club.

I was underwhelmed on both counts.

While the folks in front of me were offered a free buffet for signing up, I received no such offer for surrending my new card. I have about 12,000 points, and I forgot to ask about the cash back (I think it is $1 for every 1000 points, but I'm not sure.)

I did grab a flyer with the rules on it, but nowhere did it mention cash back.

Today I went to the new club's website and I couldn't find cash back levels there either.

I was also disappointed that the downtown properties (The Cal, Main Street Station, and the Fremont) are not yet linked to the card.

Boyd does have a slot finder similar to Harrah's on the club website, but it is not completely up to date (I spied two Wizard of Oz machines at the Orleans not listed in the slot finder for that property.)

The slot finder is a valuable tool for me, mostly reminding me why I don't visit Harrah's or Boyd properties often. The slot selection is just not up to snuff, and neither is the slot club.

Boyd and Coast (they are the same company) isn't all bad, with a little tweaking they could really compete with Stations for the locals market, but for the time being, I'm not impressed.

There's Gold in Them There Slots!

Those of you familiar will WMS' "PayDirt" game will recognize the title of this post.

I'm writing again of the California Indian Slot Intiative. This article from the San Francisco Chronicle takes a good stab at covering the issue.

What these articles never seem to address is the slot player's losses on these machines. I haven't really crunched the numbers, but it appears to be massive. So what about the real losers? The players!

So Ahnold wasn't able to keep the state out of the red, so he makes side deals with the redskins (sorry, I couldn't resist a very un p.c. pun -- actually the California Indians on the whole have very little Native American blood in them.)

Honestly, as a single person with no children and no mortgage who uses very little social services, and never gets any tax breaks -- I really don't care about the quality of public education and fire services in California. I was born and raised there and they got plenty of my money in the process.

I do care about the return on slot machines.

Any moron could read between the lines and know that in California the slots will not be kind.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Hillary Hits the Slots

I hate Hillary Clinton. I hate what she says, and how she says it -- her deep measured voice is more annoying than nails on a chalkboard. She says stupid things like "I ain't no little ole woman standing by my man and baking cookies" and then she does exactly that. She's a first class bitch, and a liar . . . oh, did I mention I hate her?

So you can imagine my chagrin when I read this headline in the Las Vegas Sun -- "See Clinton victorious, right by the slot machines"

Nowhere in this article does it say Hillary actually played the slots, but it does say that the Clintons were staying at the Bellagio -- well, la de da.

If Hillary wanted to connect with the common man and woman (and child), she should have stayed at Circus Circus and played the penny machines. That's where the Latino families she appears to be so popular with stay. But no, she's Hillary, she stays at the Bellagio. Did I mention I hate her?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New from IGT -- the World's Most BORING Slot!

I read yesterday that profits are down at IGT -- no surprise there.

Perhaps it is because they continually churn out BORING slot machines. There I said it. Dull, dull, dull. . .

To prove my case I thought I would play one of their new slots - Three Pandas - last night at Red Rock.

Okay, the name says it all. If you get three pandas you get free spins. No stacked wilds, no fancy graphics, just three pandas. I never got three pandas so I can't tell you if the bonus round is any more exciting than the base game.

Now granted it's not the the ugliest slot I've ever seen, just boring. IGT really needs to ditch or revamp these Aussie import "Lightning Box" games they are producing.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the stock analysts really need to get out of the office and actually wager some money on these slots before rendering their verdicts and predictions. IGT will not get back on track with losers like "Three Pandas."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Strip Revenues Up, Downtown Down

Today's article in the Review Journal is certainly a good news/bad news sorta deal depending on what side of the Las Vegas city limits you do business.

At first blush "GAMING REVENUE: Casinos post record net income Report puts figure for major Nevada resorts at $5.8 billion" sounds great, but as I read through the figures some disparity rose its ugly head.

"A breakdown shows resorts on the Las Vegas Strip had gross revenues of $15.8 billion and a net win of $1.66 billion, up 33 percent. Downtown Las Vegas resorts reported revenue of $1.1 billion and net win of $64.6 million, down 54 percent."

Wow, for the downtown casino operators, that's gotta hurt.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New MONOPOLY Slot -- Up, Up and Away!

I was pretty excited the other day when I spied one of the new WMS slot machines I saw at the Global Gaming Expo on a casino floor.

Unfortunately, that casino was the Four Queens. The Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas cleverly disguises itself as a mid-level value joint, but don't let that fool you. The slots are extremely tight. I don't think I have EVER won anything there. The slot selection is pretty good if you want to try out new games, but don't expect to play long.

When I saw the Monopoly "Up, Up and Away!" at the trade show, I could have swore it was a "Transmissive Reels" game, but I think WMS has finally gotten the message and scaled back this technology. It just didn't fly, and "Up, Up, and Away!" is now the follow-up to Super Grand Hotel.

I ran through $30 in less than ten minutes and only got the bonus round once. Instead of all sorts of possible bonus games I came up short with only 100 credits. It was a miserable experience.

I may play this game again, and I'm sure it will be around as it fits into the Super Grand Hotel bank of machines . . . only NOT at the Four Queens.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Don't you Love Best/Worst Lists?

Oh sure you do, almost as much as top ten lists. One day, I might actually write one, but until then I guess I'll just comment on others.

I give you . . . drumroll please . . . the TRIPPIES!

Yeah, I'm a bit underwhelmed myself, but where Vegas is concerned I'm going out on a limb to say the Trippies is as good as any other Vegas website attempt at grandiose posturing, and "we're cool like that" critiques.

The funny thing about the 2007 Best/Worst Trippie awards is that the same entity might win both best and worst in the same category. What sort of twisted minds vote for this stuff?

No matter, its Vegas, its online, its something to do while I'm not constantly checking the Britney updates on TMZ. Shameful I know, but I didn't really care until she got the collagen in her lips, that's when I knew she had really lost it. Even Britney must have been aware of the ramifications of bad lip collagen, i.e. Trout Pout. But, I digress . . .

So, where was I? Oh yes! the Trippies -

Who has the best slot machines in Vegas? Survey says Main Street Station!

"The readers of VegasTripping have voted Main Street Station as having the best slots in Las Vegas. While Main Street has been known for having great excellent casino play overall for the past 5-10 years, in the last six months, they've dumped their full pay Video Poker, tinkered with some of the blackjack rules and ratcheted down on slot payouts. From a 'gaming business' perspective, it makes sense though. Main Street's owner, Boyd Gaming, needs to make up for some of the income lost from the closure of the Stardust. Hopefully when Echelon opens in 2010, Main Street will loosen up again. "

Well, okay -- that makes absolutely NO sense. They've tightened up, but they still have the best machines.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Main Street Station for many reasons -- beautiful authentic decor, great buffet, reasonable and redecorated rooms, but honestly, their slot selection, and slot club stink!

Let's see what the editors of the Trippies think - Who has the best slot machines?

They All Suck!

"Has anyone other than us noticed that the machines in Vegas are getting less and less playable by the month? Seriously, there used to be a time when you could throw a $20 in and play for a good hour before being broken. Nowadays... a $20 gets you 40 spins on a 2 credit machine and thats it. Sayonara and goodnight gracie. Boo on you Vegas."

Wow! They guys are pretty smart -- I couldn't agree more! They do indeed all suck. It's sad, but true.

Okay, on that note, let's see who has the worst slot machines in Vegas -- what do want to bet they all do!

Readers say -- Harrah's!

"The readers of VegasTripping have voted Harrah's as having the worst slots in all of Las Vegas. Statistically, the worst slots in Las Vegas are found at McCarran Airport, followed by local stores like 7-11 and then the casinos on the Strip. Harrah's (and, for the most part all other properties owned by Harrah's Entertainment) slots suck donkey balls. Yes... you will get decent comps. Eventually. But if you're going to Vegas hoping to have 'fun' burning through a hundred bucks at the slots here or there, you best stay away from Harrah's."

Hey, I'm beginning to think these readers aren't so crazy after all.

So what do the Editors think?

Jeez these editors are about as unpredictable as the readers -- instead of sticking with "they all do" they chose to make Carrot Top and Steve Wynn jokes --

Worst slot machine award goes to Treasure Island --

"With slots these tight, you might think you're putting quarters into Carrot Head's mouth. Y'know Steve Wynn's facelift is pretty bad too. Oh right, we're talking about tight slots... not tight slits! Well, TI-Treasure Island has the worst in the world... they're almost as bad as going to a Tribal casino. Not only that but the machines are old (still) the reels are faded from the lightbulbs inside and there is never an ashtray around when you need one."

Boy, I'm wore out and I've just covered one category.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Atlas Shrugged -- Then Ordered a Grand Slam Breakfast

Okay, I know it sounds odd, but in Vegas where low brow meets high and everything in between is fair game, I feel compelled to comment on this story from the L.A. Times about an architectural gem (or lump of coal depending on your perspective) facing demolition -- a 1964 Denny's restaurant.,1,4791364.story

Of course in Vegas, this would all be a mute point and that diner would be gone faster than french fries.

The funny (or not so if you're starring at the Hilton) part is that crack "I pass the building every day, and I think it's ugly and depressing," said Louie Richmond, spokesman for the Rhapsody Partners development company."But we understand art is very subjective. Some people think Barry Manilow is a great artist."


In Vegas, architecture is really just icing on the cake (or ketchup on the aforementioned fries) -- the cake of course being slot machines.

Sin City has destroyed some amazing buildings without batting an eye, in fact it is a sort of celebrated sport.

The Denny's reminds me of the ill-fated Kahiki restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Even a designation on National Register of Historic Places didn't save this amazing building. The owner (who was rumored to have gambling debts) sold it for $1 million dollars and now a Walgreen's stands in it's place. We gave the old girl a great going away party, though --

The next day I flew to Las Vegas to stay the last night in the Desert Inn, another doomed institution. The mood at the DI was much more somber.

As for the Denny's in Seattle it has a good chance of survival simply because it is in artsy wacko liberal Seattle. From this article the locals seem inclined to keep a quirky piece of the past standing in face of modernization. How quaint.

Boyd and Coast Players' Clubs Finally Merge

Thankfully, I'll be able to retire a few Slot cards from the ever growing pile in my wallet. Boyd and Coast Casinos merged years ago, and now their Players' Club is finally following suit.

I'm not too big on the tier levels, at my level of play I find it rather depressing, but I do welcome the fact that that my points from Coast will work downtown and vice versa.

Downtown Las Vegas is unique in the close proximity of casinos to each other. Two Boyd Casinos -- MainStreet Station and the Cal -- are even connected by a walkway. I can use the same card at both, but I can't carry my TITOs (slot ticket money balances) back and forth. That is definitely frustrating and something Boyd should look into.

They have the opportunity to break new ground with this aspect of slot playing. Shouldn't my money credit balance from one Boyd machine be good on another? It probably has something to do with tracking the take from each casino, but I'm sure they could easily code the transactions.

Slots May Not Be So Harmful To Your Health After All

Well, I know I've certainly been a Debbie Downer when it comes to the effect slot machines can have on your health -- what with nasty germs, viruses, and other critters lurking on the surfaces to the danger of exploding oxygen tanks, not to mention second hand smoke, and the serious mood swings a date with Lady Luck can cause. . .

So let me pass on this stunning bit of good news from the Review Journal -- Heart attack sufferers' best odds may be in casinos! That's right folks, your odds of surviving a heart attack are twice as good in a casino, as -- brace yourself -- a HOSPITAL!!!

Yep, none other than the New England Journal of Medicine has decreed that casinos (and airports) are safer than hospitals in the event of a heart attack. I found this link to the abstract though I couldn't get access to the full report.

I tried to make some sort of twisted sense out of this odd fact; surely, there are likely to be more people around to help you quickly in a casino, but what about the delay the vast area of the resort and the surrounding traffic could cause the paramedics?

Apparently the report is relying on the use of defibrillators, and it seems we have Boyd Casinos to thank for their presence on the casino floors. And in more Boyd related news . . .

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Sun Also Rises -- A New Look for an Old Favorite

I was in for a shock when I went to the Las Vegas Sun's website today bearing a whole new look a la the New York Times!

If you've clicked on any of the links I've previously posted to the Las Vegas Sun you'll see just how rudimentary their website was, they wouldn't even add photos (kinda like me) -- merely a link to a photo (um, I guess they were one up on me).

But that's all changed now, everyone's favorite crazy opinionated newspaper that was independent and then started getting distributed inside their RIVAL'S paper, is getting rather aesthetically spiffy -- online anyway.

But just because they seemed to be literally swallowed by the Review Journal, doesn't really mean they were. Here is a link to the Wikipedia page about the history of the Sun.

The Sun was founded by Hank Greenspun, who was quite a controversial character with a long and storied past including mob ties, supplying munitions to Israeli guerillas, and a tie to Watergate. The family is also richer than shit, as Hank also dabbled in real estate eventually owning half of Henderson.

It still doesn't explain why you would allow your paper to be distributed inside your rivals -- that's just weird -- but I'm certain it has to do with money.

As I don't sully my lily white hands with newsprint, I suppose it doesn't matter much to me.

Online the Sun clearly looked like it was barely hanging on, which was strange considering the Greenspun Media Group appears to be a healthy publishing enterprise.

I'm sure I'll come to miss the visually simpler times.

More Sick Slots -- and Those Germs Rub Off!

Well, I got sick again. Yesterday instead of blogging I was in bed with muscle aches, chills, and nausea. I didn't eat ANYTHING for over 36 hours, the only thing that went in my mouth were small sips of water.

I survived, and I feel better today -- but I can't help but blame the nasty bugs on slot machines.

I'm going to have to start using my Germstar regularly. Or, maybe get a Magic Gambling Wand!

I learned about this amazingly low tech barrier to the nasty stuff lurking on the surface of slot machines through this blog

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Trailer Station -- the Worst Casino in Las Vegas

Station Casinos really outdid themselves this time.

To maintain an unrestricted gaming license on the empty lot that was once the Castaways, they opened for one day what has to be the worst casino in Vegas.

It wouldn't have been such a big deal if the New York Times hadn't decided to splash it all over their home page.

Basically a run-down graffiti splattered construction trailer with a portapotty, wheelchair ramp, and what has to be 16 of the worst slot machines ever kept their license, but probably forever cemented their reputation as the consummate locals' casino -- even if the locals live in a cardboard box.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Today would have been Elvis' 73rd birthday.

In my daily scan of the online newspapers I added the Memphis Commercial Appeal to my list.
They didn't have much on the home page except a video of the other Elvis' -- two regular folk who just happened to be named Elvis as well.

The Las Vegas Review Journal has a sort of interactive map of when Elvis Roamed Vegas -, and Norm's column lists Elvis related Birthday celebrations, in a piece called "Las Vegas Lets Its Elvis Show" - Norm mentions that Robert Sillerman's CKX is calling his proposed Las Vegas Elvis themed casino "Park Central" but after checking out a press release I believe that is what the property is currently called -- certainly an Elvis themed resort will have his name attached.

I began to wonder where Elvis' stillborn older twin brother Jesse was buried, and found the answer in this list of Elvis trivia - (an unmarked pauper's grave in Tupelo)

I also spent time perusing the trivia in general, and clicked on a link to an interview with the guy that produced Elvis' '68 Comeback Special.

So, the king lives on in our hearts and minds, and Elvis is still very much alive. If I run across an Elvis slot today, I'll have to wager in his memory, adding more value to his celebrity.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Giving Harrah's Online Slot Finder a Spin

Okay, you might know that I officially hate Harrah's -- yep, I've stayed and played at their casinos in the past, but as a Vegas local they offer me, basically, zilch -- zip -- nada.

But just because I think their "Total Rewards" player's card is more like a total ripoff, I will still read the emails that they send me. It seems finally, they did process my email address and have decided I may be worth their while.

Unfortunately they sent me NO free buffets, and NO free play, but they did tell me all about the ATV I could earn with my points, granted I wager like a jillion dollars there, and alert me to their online "Slot Finder."

So what the heck, Harrah's slot selection sucks, but I figured I would use their handy dandy online search to prove it.

I tried it a couple of different ways, but finally thought . . . hmmm, I haven't been to Bally's or Paris Las Vegas for a while . . . I wonder what penny slots they have on the floor. As you can see by the results not much.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The California Indian Slot Ads are Getting BIGGER!!!

Jeez, I was perusing the L.A. Times again today, reading every tidbit I could about the Tiger attack in San Francisco (the Zoo director used to oversee the L.A. Zoo), and the Indian slot ads for Prop 94-97 are starting to take over my monitor.

I have no doubt Ahnold and the Injuns will win this one.

Let's face it, more slot machines means more money for the states, and with a $14 Billion dollar deficit to deal with, California will most likely approve this easily.

I wouldn't expect to win anything from the California slots, but if you want to spend a hundred or two to entertain yourself for a day who am I to protest?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Indian Slot Campaign for more Machines in California Heats Up

Well, I've always said the Native Americans are taking back the country -- $20 at a time, and the battle in California for more one-armed bandits is getting warmer.

I check out the New York Times, and the L.A. Times online everyday among other newspapers, and today an ad for Props 94-97 really jumped out at me.

I clicked on the link and the cold hard financial facts are sobering.

The Indian Tribes running casinos pay 25% taxes from slot machine revenue to the state of California -- 25% -- that's a helluva lot!!!

If 25% is coming right of the top, I can't imagine the odds on these machines could be sympathetic to the slot player.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Slot Alert and Gold Nugget Expands Downtown

I'm pretty much sticking to my New Year's resolution of only playing for free on free play credits and eating on the house whenever possible. I will make exceptions, however for new casinos (or new additions to casinos) and new slot machines.

Yesterday I stopped by the Rampart and blew through my $10 free play on IGT's "Wild Orchid" machine with no results, and was heading to the door when a new machine caught my eye.

IGT's "Star Power" is part of the Fort Knox progressive carousels, and features classic Movie Stars of the Fox Studios - Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, and some dude (albeit good looking) I didn't quite recognize. Here is the link to the IGT website but it doesn't give too much information -

This game may not be all that new, but it is the first time I played it, and I had some success. It is a "Multiway" game meaning it pays like a scatter with the 243 ways to win, or lose depending on your luck. It features a bonus round of 15 free spins when you get three scattered star symbols. For each spin of your bonus you can win between 1x and 10x the line pays, a sliding bar meter at the top shows your multiplier.

I got down about $10 and was ready to walk away when I hit the bonus round. I got a retrigger with 3 more stars for a total of 30 spins which gave me about $15. Now I was $5 up, but intrigued not quite ready to leave. I then hit the Fort Knox Progressive round and won the first tier that was $15. Now I was up about $15, but played back about $5 before walking out the door with $10 more than when I walked in.

After running some errands, I found myself downtown playing my $15 free play at Binion's. I stuck with Bally's "Samurai Gold" and was able to cash out my winnings as I played and left that machine with $15 cash. I lost $5 in WMS' "Dukes of Hazzard" before leaving Binion's and sauntering across the street to check out the new addition at the Golden Nugget.

I had left my Golden Nugget player's card in my car so I decided not to play, but I did peruse the offerings. The new slot area on the West side of the building under "Gold Diggers" dance club and in front of what appears to be a Grand Ballroom seemed pleasant enough. The decor is a sort of hip modern aesthetic that everyone seems to be remodeling toward in Vegas these days, but it is warm with lots of red, brown, and gold of course. There are hand blown quirky glass droplet light fixtures, lots of tile work and a Sushi bar in the back.

The slot selection is far to middlin' with some newer slots but nothing I just had to play. "Dukes of Hazzard" seems to be spreading far and wide to most of the downtown casinos, and Bally's "Golden Monkey" is against the back wall.

Here is a press release about a year old from Landry's (the restaurant company) that now owns the Golden Nugget --
-- it covers the expansion of the resort.

Landry's is owned by a Mr. Fertitta, and if that name sounds familiar it is because his cousins, also Fertittas, own Stations Casinos.

Golden Nugget's slot club hasn't offered me any freebies, so I probably won't be gambling much in there, but it is the nicest joint downtown, and I'm certain it will prosper.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

California Tribes Fight for More Slots

Well, like I've said time and time again, there is a world of gambling and slot machines out there, and California is fixin' to get more.

In the Review Journal article "California tribes clash over new slots -- Nevada game makers wait on February vote" the process is detailed.

Sure the public has to vote for more machines, and only a few tribes will benefit, but when you look at the tax dollars that they will generate, I predict the slots will win. They always do.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Las Vegas' Amazing Growth Spurt

If you've been to Las Vegas lately you've seen a lot of change. Old favorites are gone, and new Casino/Resorts are starting to sprout.

It can be frightening, the power of the almighty dollar, and the speed with which it can destroy and create.

The Palazzo is the latest to open, well it's not really officially open yet -- but the games have no trouble taking your money, that is very real. Which reminds me, I didn't mention the chandeliers in my post yesterday. You can always judge a resort by it's chandeliers, and like much of the rest of Palazzo, they are just average. Although I was on the whole unimpressed with the Pal, the PR machines continue to grind out the gospel, and daily in the local press there is word of the Pal, Sheldon Adelson, or both.

This article from the Review Journal entitled "Gaming Outside of Nevada -- LV Casino Executive on a Roll" showcases Mr. Adelson's future and past. Yes, Sheldon is a powerful man, still I'm not frightened to say, his slot club stinks.

I'm looking over the rules of the club, and $1 coin-in on video reels equals 1 point. That's not so bad, but it says you have to cycle through $20 increments to earn points. If I earn $2,500 I get slot credits of $15, a gift card of $10, or $5 cash. Well, it's something anyway. The club folder says "Earn just 30,000 points in the current year and earn Gold status." I don't know about you but I don't have $30,000 to dedicate to the Pal's slots. How about I show up, and they give me a $10 food credit (I don't think the Venetian or the Pal has a buffet) and/or $10 free play?

Like I said in my earlier post, definitely walk through the Venetian to the Pal if you are playing slots, the selection in the new joint is superior -- but don't plan on any comps for your trouble.

Now, back to the growth spurt thing. So the Pal is pretty much open, and it appears Wynn's Encore is topping off and should be the next one ready. Then Hard Rock has an expansion that shouldn't take too long. I believe City Center will be next, followed by the Foutainebleau, Echelon, and then the Plaza Project. The last four are major projects indeed, with City Center touted as the largest private development ever. So the question is, can Vegas really support this growth -- if they build it, will they come?

The overwhelming answer is YES! Even as gambling becomes more readily available the world over, Vegas is the most traveled to city in the U.S. maybe the world. And of course the cold hard cash for all the glitz, glamour, and surge in development runs through (no, it's not the Baccarat tables) the SLOT MACHINES!

Certainly Sin City wasn't born of slot machines, but it has grown up on them. So next time you drop a $20 in a slot machine in Vegas, marvel at the majesty your money buys. It's your town, so enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The La La Palazzo opens - Ho Hum.

The Palazzo's sister property the Venetian is known as one of the swankiest joints in town. So one would expect the Palazzo to dazzle as well -- unfortunately, it dulls in comparison to other Vegas resort openings. Now mind you this is a SOFT opening, still nothing about it says "Behold the Palazzo, a Vegas MUST see!"

Of course, you have to consider that there really haven't been many recent openings (aside from the retheming of the Aladdin to the Planet Hollywood which didn't impress me either), and the Palazzo suffers from a sort of 'design in the crossroads identity crisis' from ultra themed fantasy resorts of the 1990s to ultra hip modernism of the 2000's. Okay, so it's 2008, and the modern aesthetic a la W hotels should be well entrenched, and even over by now. But, most of the hip hotels that laid the groundwork were remodeled from existing buildings, not built from the ground up, so a project like the Palazzo will always be prone to be dated as soon as it opens.

No matter though, because Sheldon Adelson is one of the richest men in America, and if he sees fit to tweak the aesthetics of the Palazzo, I'm sure it won't be a problem.

Sheldon (or any Sands corporate types) -- are you reading this? Listen up, dude -- I may be a lowly penny slot player that never graduated from Community College, and an armchair art critic at best -- but I know what I like. And since I took the trouble to visit the Pal (I think that is what I'll call it, like the California downtown is called the Cal) and write about it in detail, then you should take the trouble to read my critique.

I promise to get to the heart of the matter, the slot selection and players' card later, but first my general impressions of the Pal.

First, what exactly is a palazzo? I think it is Italian for "palace" and if in fact it is, then Mr. Adelson really missed the mark with his latest venture. I'm not saying the place isn't nice, it's pretty classy to a point, but the casino is rather mundane, certainly NOT befitting aristocracy, Italian or otherwise.

But before we get to the casino (unless you use the side entrance from the Wynn walkway over Spring Mountain like I did, or enter from the Venetian shops or restaurant row) you will enter the Grand Lobby. It's rather grand, with a large rotunda over a trio of Lalique-like frosty crystal frolicing female nudes. A sort of fountain effect and fake orchids add to the display. The floor is highlighted with rings of variegated marble, and there are some topiaries if memory serves. It's fairly impressive but not nearly as striking as most other reception areas in town.

The porte cochere is classy, but sort of standard issue as well, certainly nothing to write home about. The doormen are a nice touch but I doubt they will be there as a permanent fixture.

Now granted most of the shops (including the much touted Barney's) and restaurants aren't open yet, but Jay Z's 40/40 lounge is. To get there you go downstairs from the Grand Lobby. Right now it looks pretty lonely down there, and again I was underwhelmed, though to be fair, I didn't stick my head in the door of Jay Z's joint.

So I headed back upstairs to the casino, making mental notes of the use of Greek keys (square) and scrolls (round) as design elements. Oh, and lots of fake orchids, quasi gold washed slightly Asian looking paintings, and boring cone shaped topiaries.

Back through the lobby to the casino -- did I mention it is boring? The ceiling are not too low, and not too high, it is not too dark, or not too bright, there is little decoration to distract -- all in all, very functional, almost clinical for a casino. The major design element is again Lalique style crystal canopies, sort of art deco, very subtle -- with matching flora wall lighting. And when I say subtle, I mean subtle, I doubt anyone without a decorative arts background would pick up on these themes.

On the far end of the casino, just to mix things up a bit is a lounge with zebra print columns. It looks straight out of the scene in the movie "Casino" when Ace and Tony find themselves at different tables to the tune of Devo's version of "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

No Grand Tour would be complete without a trip to the restrooms. This is where I really just had to say 'what were they thinking?' If the rest of the place lacks an overt theme, it was as if they would make up for it in the most intimate of rooms, the john. The ladies' restrooms sported metallic toile wall paper, inlaid marble floors, rococo wall sconces, and I kid you not -- speckled gold mirrors. It was one of the TACKIEST rooms I've tinkled in in Vegas, and I kinda liked it. It was so ridiculous, and would have fit into any era of Sin City excess (except of course ultra-hip modern.) If the casino is practical, then the loo is eccentric, and I might add slightly annoying. No woman wants to gaze at her image all speckled in zits, gold or otherwise. I was amused in the loo though, which was a nice respite until the real work began.

So, cue the menacing minor key music (dum, dum, dum!) -- it was time to gamble. I circled the casino floor (like a caged cat -- only kidding, more like a degenerate gambler) sizing up the opportunities. There were more penny machines than the Venetian, with a better mix of WMS games, but nothing I hadn't seen or played before.

I found the player's club (sort of under the escalators in the back) and got a new card. The club is the same as the Venetian's and I was rather dismayed to find that they DID in fact have my local address. I haven't received ANY offers from them, but I wasn't so surprised, certainly they don't target the locals.

I chose WMS' "Treasure Diver" part of their highly volatile line, and quickly hit a bonus round. I didn't win big, but I was up $5 and moved on to "Crazy Diamond -- Hot Hot Jackpot." My patience was truly tried here, as the woman sitting next to me hit three bonus rounds and got up $50 before I hit one. Finally, I got my chance, and was able to leave sort of even. I headed over to a carousel of Bally machines and played "Ms. Clara T" -- unable to hit the Tarot card bonus (I have never got it) and leaving down $10. I did get a drink in the process though, a tasty Bloody Mary (not too spicy) and observed that the cocktail waitresses were fairly efficient, even if their outfits were sort of brocade mini skirt and corset-y silly.

I moved over to "Treasures of the Nile" a pretty simplistic Bally's game and lost a little there as well. I think I was down about $20 at this point and ready to throw in the towel, when WMS' "Gusher" caught my eye. This is part of their G+ volatile series, but I was lucky enough to hit a bonus round early on. In the bonus you get 7 spins with expanding, locking wilds, and I got three in the middle with 3 spins to go. I walked away with $50.

Judging simply from my slot play, the Pal was not so bad. I left ahead after about an hour and a half of play and I got a decent drink to boot. I don't expect any sort of comps, but if I find myself on the Strip, I certainly wouldn't shy away from whiling away some time in there.

To sum it up, save your Sin City Strip photo ops for splashier sights, but the Pal is definitely worth the walk over from the Venetian for a better selection of slots.

PS -- I slept in too late to see the Palazzo's float in the Rose Parade, but my guess is if your rolling stock (and temporary at that) is more interesting than your bricks and mortar, you got to return to the drawing table and up the ante. Oh, and Diana Ross to kick off your official opening?! -- I love her don't get me wrong, but uh . . . she's lost a step or two in the vocal department, and she is not exactly top drawer entertainment anymore.

Vegas Rings in the New Year in Grand Style

I was somewhat torn as to how to celebrate New Year's in Las Vegas yesterday.

I've done the strip thing twice. For the Millenium I stayed at the Excalibur, and it was fun, but I was let down by the lack of fireworks.

A few years ago I stayed at Imperial Palace. That was fun too, and there were fireworks, but I was almost crushed by the crowd on the Strip.

The Strip is definitely a commitment. The streets begin to close down around 5pm, so if you are driving, that means at least 7 hours in the casinos, which can get pretty expensive. The streets don't open again until around 4am, so unless you can strategically place yourself in a parking lot on the outer fringes, you're trapped.

It is cold on New Year's so there is that to consider as well. And yes, it is a crazy party scene, with many drunk and disorderlies -- it can be scary at times.

Maybe someday I'll be VIP enough to spend New Year's in one of the Ultra Lounges in the presence of some inane celebrity like Paris Hilton or Pam Anderson. I'm not hip to this scene, though it shows no signs of letting up . . .

I heard that the fireworks display would be pretty good, 8 minutes long with new types of explosions. My neighborhood has some pretty good strip views, so I decided to stay home and venture outside around 11:50 (after a test shot, and confirmation that the winds had died down sufficiently to allow the fireworks) to gaze strip-ward.

I drank some cheap champagne, and stuck to my plan.

Seven different casinos took part in the fireworks display, and each were syncronized with each other -- the exact same show off each roof, with the exception of the Stratosphere whose architectural structure is unique and geared towards stuff shooting out from it, instead of up from it.

It was quite a show, really good -- I might want to venture closer to the mayhem next year.

Downtown Las Vegas had it's party under the canopy as well with the Doobie Brothers and the Bangles playing. The world's happiest mayor, Oscar Goodman was there, of course with his showgirls in tow. Binion's was offering a pretty good deal for $75 - dinner, free drinks, comedy show and tickets to the Fremont party. I'm not sure how they make sure only ticketed revelers enter the party -- the casinos open directly onto the street, you could probably have a pretty good time without buying tickets.

All in all, Vegas steps it up again to compete for the best place to be on New Year's Eve.

Another Promotions Disaster at Red Rock, and the Natives Are Getting Restless

As 2007 wound down, I did what I've been doing much of the year -- getting suckered in by stupid promotional give-aways at Red Rock Casino.

Saturday the "free" gift was a blanket in a bag. It sure does get cold in Las Vegas in the winter, much colder than the Los Angeles area, down to the thirties at night and hovering in the fifties (if we're lucky) during the day. I've been trying to keep my energy bills down, and that blanket sure could come in handy. I could always give it to a homeless person, that would be nice too.

So there I was, Saturday evening in line at Red Rock to get my blanket. I saw people walking the opposite direction with the crappiest of all crappy give-aways, the dreaded logo drawstring bag. My fellow suckers in line were as pissed off as I was. Yep, they had run out of the blankets, and were adding insult to injury.

Now granted, it was as crowded as I had ever seen in the casino, but that was no excuse. In fact, I didn't even see anyone with a blanket in a bag, so they must have run out really early, or perhaps never had any to begin with! It wouldn't be the first time that happened. Earlier in the week they hadn't received the wine cooler bags that went with the free wine. There was plenty of whining in line, and I started to feel sorry for the women standing at the desk, doling out drawstring bags, and listening to the complaints -- after all, they just WORK here.

As the natives became restless, one of the women running the counter offered me the name of her boss. I thanked her, and hung around until she could fish her boss' business card out and give me her email address. That eased my tension, knowing I could fire off my feelings to someone who might actually have some power in the promotions department.

I have yet to compose my email, and am wondering if I should cc one of the board of directors.
I seriously doubt whatever I have to say with have any weight, as Stations Casinos is obviously very successful in fleecing the locals market.

As the New Year begins my slot play with be limited to free play and a free buffet. Until the new casinos open, and the new machines hit the floor, there is really no reason to throw my money away.

I was able to live my dream of frequent slot play in 2007, but alas, it finally turned into a nightmare.