Saturday, April 18, 2015         

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Lots of changes are taking place at Westgate Las Vegas, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton and LVH. A marble walkway running through the casino is being put down, and a new bar has opened near the entrance.

Continuing a trend that has prevailed for 19 of the past 24 years, the average price of a Las Vegas production-show ticket costs more this year than last, and is now at an all-time high.

After originally planning to begin building sometime in 2014, with a Phase I completion set for this year and Phase II in 2016, the developers of the center-Strip-located Resorts World Las Vegas now say that construction on the megaresort will begin May 5 (interestingly, one day after the closing of the Riviera).

The Grand Bazaar Shops have opened at Bally's. The $50 million 2-acre outdoor shopping promenade bordering the Strip is configured similarly to downtown's Container Park, with stores built into small boxlike areas.

The NCAA college basketball tournament is not as big as the Super Bowl, but it's close, especially this week's first and second rounds. Several casinos are running viewing parties with all-you-can-drink options for $65 and up, but you can likely do better at traditional viewing spots like South Point, Westgate, Gold Coast, Orleans and the Station casinos sports books.

What a difference a week makes. Whereas only two pools in Las Vegas had announced March openings a week ago, now almost a dozen have declared. Opening this weekend are Encore Beach Club, Cosmopolitan's Marquee, Drai's at the Cromwell and Hard Rock's Rehab.

Everyone knew it was coming, but it wasn't official until all the numbers were tabulated. A record 41.1 million visitors came to Las Vegas in 2014, exceeding the previous record of 39.7 million in 2012 by more than a million.

One of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas, the Riviera, has been sold, but not to another casino operator. In a move that seemed to catch everyone by surprise, the casino was sold to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for $182.5 million

The implosion of the Clarion just east of the Strip took place as scheduled at about 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, but not everything "went down" as planned. About nine stories of the elevator core survived the explosions and remained standing.

It wasn't a record but it was close. Nevada's sports books took in $115.9 million in bets on the Super Bowl, falling just short of last year's record $119.4 million but still coming in as the second-largest "handle" ever.

It's been 25 years since a castle opened on the Las Vegas Strip. Last week a second castle finally opened, but it's not a megaresort like Excalibur. The first White Castle hamburger outlet to open in a western location is now serving its famous "sliders" 24/7 at center Strip.

There was big news last week about the entertainment lineup at Caesars Palace, where it was confirmed that Mariah Carey will take up residence in the Colosseum. Carey announced the news on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

The wee hours of Feb. 10 is when Las Vegas' next implosion — the first since the New Frontier went down in 2007 — will take place. The target is the Clarion, on Convention Center Drive just east of the Strip.

The new Dirk Arthur Wild Illusions at the Riviera brings something back to the Strip that's been missing for several years: tigers. The show uses live tigers and other big cats in several segments, a practice that used to be common but had been all but discontinued in recent years.

After a busy 2014 that saw the openings of SLS Las Vegas, The Cromwell, Delano Las Vegas, and the LINQ Promenade and High Roller observation wheel, things will slow down a bit in 2015.

Information about the official New Year's Eve fireworks display in Las Vegas has been announced. Known as "America's Party," the show will encompass both the annual fireworks show on the Strip and live entertainment downtown at the Fremont Street Experience.

For the first time ever, Las Vegas has topped the 40 million-visitor mark in a calendar year, and the year's not over. With two weeks of tabulation remaining, it's believed that a big New Year's weekend could push the total to 41 million. The previous record was 39.7 million in 2012.

With a week and a half to go until Christmas, the casinos are pulling out the stops. Taking holiday spirit(s) literally, all drinks are $2 casino-wide at South Point, or just $1 if you pay with players club points.

During December many Las Vegas shows go "dark" to allow cast members to take extended holiday vacations. If you're visiting between now and New Year's and have your heart set on seeing a particular show, make sure to check that there will be performances during your dates.

The holiday season is always a prime time to find a low room rate in Las Vegas, and this year is no exception. Last week the researchers at the Las Vegas Advisor canvassed every casino in town, looking for the best leads on lodging in December.

The first legal online poker site to open in the U.S. has closed. After ceasing operations in New Jersey in September, Ultimate Gaming pulled the plug in Nevada last week, ending an 18-month effort that failed to gain traction.

Martin Jacobson, a professional poker player from Sweden, emerged from a starting field of 6,683 to become the new World Series of Poker Main Event champion and take down a first prize of $10 million.

The $35 million South Point Bowling Plaza has opened. The two-level facility combines a 60-lane, 90,000-square-foot bowling center with an equestrian arena called the Priefert Pavilion.

The recently closed Clarion casino, on Convention Center Drive just east of the Strip, will be imploded Jan. 13, clearing the way for a planned "mixed-use resort." The new owner, Lorenzo Doumani, who paid just $22.5 million for the 6-acre property, plans to hold an implosion party at 12:01 a.m.

The Gold Strike casino, located on I-15 about 30 miles west of Las Vegas, has been sold by MGM Resorts International to the former owners of Las Vegas' Terrible's Casino (now Silver Sevens).

In what some are calling a strong sign of better economic times in Las Vegas, the long-awaited debut of Downtown Summerlin took place this month. It was originally slated to open in 2009, but was mothballed until last year due to the economic downturn.

A new Harley-Davidson dealership has opened on the Strip. The $18 million, two-story, 55,000-square-foot "flagship" dealership is just north of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, on the spot where the Klondike casino used to stand.

Over the past few years, the casinos have scaled back their football parties. But even as options disappear, there are still plenty of good parties to choose from. The best in town is at South Point, where on Monday and Thursday nights a big crowd gathers in the showroom.

The 83-year-old Railroad Pass, located southeast of Las Vegas between Henderson and Boulder City and considered Nevada's oldest casino, has been sold to a local real estate firm.

The Clarion, located on Convention Center Drive just east of the Strip, has closed. Although it ended its run as an under-the-radar slots-only operation, the casino-hotel with 193 rooms had nearly a 45-year run as the Royal Inn, Royal Americana, Paddlewheel, Greek Isles and, most notably, Debbie Reynolds Hollywood.

Delano Las Vegas has opened on the south end of the Strip. The second high-profile opening in a month, following SLS Las Vegas, is the result of an $80 million transformation of the former THEhotel at Mandalay Bay.

Football season is here, and in Las Vegas that means promotions, parties, betting specials and, especially, football contests. For the fifth year running, the best contest in town is "Pick the Pros" at the Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam's Town, California and Fremont casinos.

The $415 million SLS Las Vegas opened on schedule at midnight on Aug. 23. Located on the far north end of the Strip, the hotel's 1,620 rooms are situated in three renovated towers that were built in three different decades at the former Sahara, which closed in 2011.

James Packer's Crown Resorts Ltd. has announced plans to build a megaresort located center-Strip on the site of the former New Frontier. It's at least the third attempt by Crown to set up shop in Las Vegas.

In a surprise move, Celine Dion has canceled her remaining shows at Caesars Palace, including dates scheduled in 2015. Dion had pulled out of recent shows because of a throat ailment.

Pawn Star Plaza will comprise 22 cubed venues providing a place for "Pawn Stars" fans to relax, eat and shop when they go to see the famous pawnshop, as opposed to waiting in long lines in the sun.

MGM Resorts International has announced that it will build an outdoor events venue on the north Strip. The complex will be built on a 39.6-acre parcel located on the southwest corner of the Strip and Sahara, just north of Circus Circus.

After a month of unconfirmed reports, it's now official that the LVH, just off the north end of the Strip, has been sold to Westgate Resorts for an amount in the range of $150 million to $170 million.

The nine final-table players in the World Series of Poker's main event have been determined. The leader is Jorryt van Hoof with 38 million in chips, 5 million more than the second-biggest stack.

Caesars Entertainment has announced that The Quad is getting yet another moniker. The new name will be the Linq Hotel & Casino, which will brand the resort with the bar and entertainment district of the same name that opened at mid-Strip earlier this year.

Summertime in Las Vegas traditionally means low room rates and the summer of 2014 is no different. A survey conducted last week turned up 52 hotel-casinos with rates of $50 and below, one fewer than last year's total.

After debuting with pricing that was labeled a bit too rich, some discounting has been instituted for the High Roller observation wheel on the Strip. It's still $34.95 for adults to ride at night (after 6 p.m.), but it's now $5 less at $19.95 for daytime rides.

New York-based hospitality and entertainment group GCA Leisure LLC has announced plans to rebuild the Moulin Rouge, the famed resort that opened in 1955 as the first desegregated casino.

Rumor no more, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has been sold. The south-Strip resort was purchased by Blackstone Real Estate Partners for $1.73 billion, well under the $3.9 billion seller Deutsche Bank spent to complete the Cosmopolitan after assuming ownership in 2008.

With necessary approvals now in hand, construction on Resorts World Las Vegas is set to get underway this summer. The $4 billion first phase will open with 3,000 hotel rooms, a 4,000-seat theater, 30 restaurants and bars, and an "elaborate garden attraction."

While it may seem as though the latest World Series of Poker champion was crowned only yesterday (actually, it was in November), the time has already come to look for the next champ.

The Las Vegas pool season officially kicks off Memorial Day weekend, with the party pools in full swing throughout the city. Unlike the days when you had to be a hotel guest to get into a casino pool, there are now 31 that are open to the public.

There'll be no rooftop hockey in Las Vegas after all. A plan to build an ice rink and arena on the roof of the Plaza casino downtown has been scrapped, apparently due to cost considerations.

With the Linq now in full operation, work has begun on the Strip's second outdoor project. Next up will be The Park, being built between and around New York-New York and the Monte Carlo.

The steady stream of improvements at Mandalay Bay continues with a pending $66 million expansion of its convention center that will add more than 350,000 square feet, putting it over 2 million total and advancing the facility from the seventh to the fifth largest in North America.

There's been almost no publicity, but the casino at The Crom-well has opened. The new high-end resort at the center of the Las Vegas Strip debuted quietly last week in supersoft mode, but the casino games and big center bar are completely accessible to the public.

Red Rock Resort on the far west side of town is getting a makeover. Already one of the swankiest of the "locals casinos," the $35 million renovation will concentrate on restaurants, suites and the spa.

The reservations lines are open at SLS Las Vegas, the north-Strip resort at the site of the old Sahara. The first night for booking is Aug. 25; rates are $109 weekdays and $139 weekends, with a two-night minimum.

The High Roller is rolling at center-Strip. At 550 feet the main attraction at the new Linq restaurant and bar district is the tallest observation wheel in the world, five feet higher than the Singapore Flyer.

After tallying ticket prices from 94 shows, this year's average comes in at $82.86, $2.64 more than in last year's survey conducted by LasVegasAdvisor.com.

The co-headliner (along with the High Roller observation wheel) of the center-Strip Linq development has opened. The Brooklyn Bowl is a 78,000-square-foot multilevel bar, restaurant, bowling alley and live-music venue at the center of The Linq.

Whereas Memorial Day has always been the unofficial opening of the season, many casinos are taking advantage of warm temperatures to kick off their pools in time to get the spring break business.

It was technically a swing and a miss, but it wasn't a miss by much. After running slightly ahead of pace for 11 months, Las Vegas had a relatively slow December, causing the 2013 visitor count to land at 39.67 million tourists, just below 2012's record total of 39.73 million.

The second phase of the Linq restaurant and entertainment complex at center Strip debuted Friday. But while the entire Linq campus is accessible to the public, individual components will continue to open over the next couple of months, leading to a grand opening in late spring.

Downtown's Plaza is building a 3,500-seat arena on its roof to host the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team. The 45,000-square-foot fabric-shell structure will occupy the area that's currently home to the Plaza's tennis and basketball courts, plus the pool (the latter of which is slated to remain).

The opening date for Las Vegas' next major resort has been announced. SLS, on the far north end of the Strip and formally the Sahara, will debut on Labor Day weekend.

Nevada's sports books took in $119.4 million in bets on the Super Bowl, resulting in a win of $19.7 million, or 16.5 percent. The "handle," which is the total amount bet, was a record, topping the previous high of $98.9 million set last year.

The original Brooklyn Bowl in New York City was called "one of the most incredible places on Earth" by Rolling Stone magazine, and now Las Vegas is set to have one of its own.

A unique retail area called Container Park has opened in downtown Las Vegas. Located in the Fremont East entertainment district, the development features boutiques, art galleries, bars and restaurants housed in stacks of recycled shipping containers.

More details have been released about Resorts World Las Vegas, the center-Strip megaresort that will be built on the site of the unfinished Echelon Place.

After several years with only minor additions, Las Vegas is poised for a 2014 with multiple major openings. Leading off will be The Linq, the center-Strip restaurant, bar and nightclub district that debuted partially at the end of last year and will stage its formal opening in March.

The front section of The Linq opened Dec. 27 with O'Sheas casino, a few restaurants and a retail store in operation. It's only a preview of what the center-Strip restaurant, bar and nightclub district that is sandwiched between the Flamingo and The Quad will be when it's completed in March.

Information about the official New Year's Eve fireworks display in Las Vegas has been announced. Known as "America's Party," the show will encompass both the annual fireworks show on the Strip and live entertainment downtown at the Fremont Street Experience.

Not one, but two new shopping malls are on their way to Las Vegas casinos with Strip addresses. The Grand Bazaar at Bally's will host more than 150 stores in the setting of a 21st-century bazaar. The mall will be built on about two acres fronting the casino and is expected to open in fall 2014.

With a week to go until Christmas, the casinos are pulling out the stops. New skating rinks have been opened at Caesars Palace and downtown's Gold Spike, bringing the total of ice rinks in the desert to four (along with the Venetian and Cosmopolitan).

During December many Las Vegas shows go "dark" to allow cast members to take extended holiday vacations. If you're visiting between now and New Year's and have your heart set on seeing a show, make sure to check that there will be performances during your dates.

The holiday season is always a prime time to find a low room rate in Las Vegas. Last week the researchers at the Las Vegas Advisor canvassed every casino in town, looking for the best leads on lodging in December.

It's been announced that the hit musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" is heading to Las Vegas; however, where it will land is still unknown. With ticket sales dwindling for the Broadway production, the final curtain is set to fall there in January, with plans for a Las Vegas debut sometime in 2015.

The oddly named Westin Casuarina is now Max Casino. While it sounds a little like changing from one strange name to another, there's a certain logic in it, given that many will always remember the property as the Maxim.

Ryan Riess, a professional poker player from Michigan, emerged from a starting field of 6,352 to become the new World Series of Poker Main Event champion and take down a first prize of $8.4 million.

Las Vegas’ newest casino, the Downtown Grand, opened on schedule Oct. 27. The former Lady Luck casino has undergone a $100 million makeover to create an entirely new resort, with 650 rooms in two towers, a rooftop pool and several restaurants and bars, including the Art Bar, which features replicas of famous paintings.

The former Barbary Coast and Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon will not become the Gansevoort Las Vegas after all. In a surprise move, Caesars Entertainment has cut ties with the Gansevoort Hotel Group after Massachusetts regulators denied Caesars a gaming license over the association, citing concerns with a Gansevoort investor.

With the Downtown Grand poised to debut at the end of the month, moves are being made in anticipation of a rejuvenated downtown Las Vegas.

With the Downtown Grand poised to debut at the end of the month, moves are being made in anticipation of a rejuvenated downtown Las Vegas.

Big projects are heating up all over town, but at least one has been delayed. The transformation of THEhotel to Delano Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay will miss its deadline, which was originally announced for the first quarter of 2014.

More details have been released about the under-construction Gansevoort Las Vegas, formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon.

It’s finally official: Britney Spears will headline at Planet Hollywood on a two-year residency deal.

Las Vegas has its big openings and it has its small ones. One of the latter took place recently with the debut of Wildfire Valley View, a small "locals" casino on Valley View Boulevard, about 3 miles west of the Strip. It's the fifth in the Wildfire chain, which is owned and operated by Station Casinos.

Football season is here, and in Las Vegas that means promotions, parties, betting specials and, especially, football contests. For the fourth year running, the best contest in town is "Pick the Pros" at the Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam's Town, California and Fremont casinos.

A District Court judge has ruled that the Harmon tower at CityCenter is unsafe and can be demolished. A pending lawsuit between MGM Resorts International (MRI) and the project's general contractor had blocked the demolition until now.

Have you been yearning for some more Las Vegas shopping? Probably not, but if you are, Treasure Island at center-Strip has announced plans to build a three-story, 46,200-square-foot shopping center.

Following announcements of observation wheels, roller coasters and zip lines going up all over town, an Australian entrepreneur says he wants to build a wakeboarding, snowboarding, surfing and white-water rafting experience in the vicinity of the Las Vegas Strip.

The Hacienda casino, about 15 miles outside of Las Vegas near the Hoover Dam, has been sold. Bigger news than the sale itself, though, is who the casino was sold to. The buyer is the Dotty’s chain of slot and video poker parlors.

The Lift, about three miles west of the Strip on Valley View Road, closed its doors last week, and construction is expected to begin immediately on the conversion that will make it fifth in the Wildfire brand.

A major thunderstorm with heavy winds, including a 71 mph gust, hit Las Vegas on July 19, resulting in snapped power poles, uprooted trees and flash floods throughout the city, including inside Strip casinos.

The nine final-table players in the World Series of Poker's Main Event have been determined. The leader is JC Tran with 38 million in chips, 8 million more than the second-biggest stack.

The Main Event of the World Series of Poker is underway at the Rio. The starting field of 6,352 players is 7.5 percent below last year's 6,865 and the smallest field since 2005.

Another month, another new thrill ride. Coming only a couple of weeks after the announcement of the Rio's new tower-to-tower zip line, US Thrill Rides LLC has submitted plans to build a $100 million combination roller coaster and observation tower.

Summertime in Las Vegas traditionally means low room rates, and the summer of 2013 is no different. A survey conducted last week turned up 53 hotel-casinos with rates of $50 and below, one more than last year's total.

The World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas is at its halfway point, with most of the premier events scheduled over the next couple of weeks. • Also: Big Al's moving • Bellagio summer • Carmine's coming • Wet 'n' Wild Vegas

Construction is poised to begin on the Strip's next attraction, Hershey's Chocolate World, which will be built inside New York-New York as part of MGM Resorts International's $100 million retail and entertainment district. • Also: 88-cent oysters; twofer for dads; rebates down; more

A zip line-style "thrill ride" that will span the two towers at the Rio has been announced. The "Voodoo Skyline" ride will start from the casino's 50-story Masquerade Tower and run 845 feet at speeds of up to 33 mph to the 20-story Ipanema Tower.

While it may seem as though the latest World Series of Poker champion was crowned only yesterday, the time has already come to look for the next champ.

After years of operating with what may be the worst casino name of all time, Terrible's is finally changing its name. As of July the new name of the casino on Flamingo Road east of the Strip will be Silver Sevens Hotel & Casino.

The Las Vegas pool season officially kicks off Memorial Day weekend, but most of the party pools are already in full swing. Once you had to be a hotel guest to get into a casino pool, but now 29 are open to the public.


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