Due to our affinity for the hooch, we’ve kept our eye on casino comp drink monitoring for some time now. Now, we’re watching Westgate.
It all started with Mirage using vouchers to ensure guests were playing at a rate, and amount, to warrant their comped drinks.
Comped (or complimentary) drinks, of course, are the “free” drinks players earn while gambling.
You remember the Westgate. Westgate was originally the International Hotel, then Las Vegas Hilton and LVH.
The practice of giving gamblers comped drinks has been around since the earliest days of Las Vegas, but now casinos are focused on the bottom line, and taking their cue from the Mirage, they’re using technology to ensure a return on their liquor investment.
It was a pretty big deal when Caesars Entertainment rolled out an automated, “red light, green light” drink monitoring system to all its bar top video poker machines.
Early reaction to comp drink monitoring was decidedly negative (ours included), but we quickly learned it wasn’t just beneficial for the casinos. Such systems mainly affect guests looking to get something (free, unlimited drinks) for nothing (“I put my dollar in the machine!”).
You know who you are.
In mid-2017, we reported comp drink monitoring systems would be coming to the casino floor, and that’s exactly what’s happened at Westgate.
The resort’s new system could be a glimpse into the future of free drinks in Las Vegas casinos.
Westgate recently unveiled its new loyalty club, WOW. “WOW stands for “World of Westgate.” The loyalty club launch coincided with the introduction of a new way to get drinks while you’re play slots.
Is it “WOW Rewards is here” or “WOW Rewards are here?” We are a blog, not a grammarian.
A martini glass symbol on the slot machine’s video display gives players access to a remote drink ordering system. This is actually awesome. No more waiting for a waitress to take your order.
Your slot machine just became a cocktail waitress remote control.
The new system is tied to your loyalty club card, and we hear using your card, or not, can have an impact on what drinks you can order and whether or not you have the option to order premium liquor brands.
The new system is designated with an unnecessary acronym, “BOSS,” for “Beverage Ordering Service System.”
The drink selection is robust, although as we always warn, know you’re getting generic liquor when you get comps, unless you see someone pouring from a bottle. The liquor swap applies to all Las Vegas casinos, by the way, so watch every pour. Or order bottled beer.
In a shocking move, we blew right by the rum and Coke option, going instead for a more whimsical drink popular with co-eds, Sex on the Beach.
Now, if you could actually order sex on the beach from your slot machine, that would really be a leap forward. Note the ability to add the drink as a “favorite.” Your preferences follow you around on your loyalty club card.
The system accepts your order and shoots it to a service bar. The waitress uses an app to track who’s ordered what and where you’re playing.
It’s all pretty sophisticated stuff, although we hear the kinks are still being worked out. Apparently, WiFi reception isn’t great in the Westgate’s casino, so waitresses often have to bypass the use of their app.
It’s slick to see the name of your cocktail waitress, and the display even provides a status report on your drink.
Sandra isn’t a robot yet. Yet.
There are few things more magical than the words “Drink Order Pending.”
We’re pretty sure these devices are from Bally Systems, part of Scientific Games. They know a little something about Pavlovian responses.
We sort of did our own status report by timing the delivery time of our drink. It was about four minutes.
Yes, we have issues. We’re not saying we don’t have issues.
Presumably, if you order a drink at one machine, then switch machines, a waitress can still find you if you use your player’s club card. Typically, you’d have to hope the waitress remembers you when you order and is able to somehow track you down.
All good stuff, right?
Well, it’s all fun and games until the drink monitoring kicks in.
So, after a couple of minutes, we attempted to order another drink, and the BOSS put the kibosh on that right quick.
The system prevents ordering another drink before 15 minutes has passed. We suspect that isn’t related to amount or rate of play, or tier level. That’s an over-serving thing.
You’re a slot machine, not our mom!
The prevention of over-serving is one of the casino industry’s go-to arguments for drink monitoring. There’s sort of a standard of three drinks per hour in the industry, and if you figure in 15 minutes per drink, with a five minute delivery time, that math fits the guideline.
Another selling point for this type of system is the savings in costs, including labor.
Waitresses can presumably cover a larger area because the ordering component of the process is removed, even with some trouble-makers who are ordering the old-fashioned way. You know, with human interaction.
Which sort of speaks to one of the potential problems of such automated systems. Removing or reducing the human touch of interacting with your waitress is a potential pitfall.
As with comp drink monitoring, it changes the casino experience, and may do so in unexpected ways.
We stepped back from these thoughts for a minute to win a jackpot.
Slot machines, the way nature intended.
You can bet the Culinary Union isn’t going to love the implementation of such systems, especially if it means a reduction in the workforce to save costs. The union is about to enter into negotiations with Las Vegas casino companies, and we’d bet money there will be lots of chatter about automation and how it affects their membership.
This isn’t the first casino with a remote ordering system (Venetian and Palazzo’s Drinks2U system broke that ground in Vegas, and it’s not uncommon at casinos in other cities), but it’s the first time we’ve seen it used as Westgate has.
The launch of the system hasn’t been without its glitches, from what we hear.
When it debuted, the system let customers order any liquor, even premium liquor, with no restrictions. That’s all been resolved. Unfortunately.
Drink ordering system aside, Westgate remains an enigma on The Strip.
Westgate was once home to “Star Trek: The Experience.” Remnants of it remain.
Ridiculously large sports book. Annoying, inescapable live music in the casino (couple with a blaring P.A. system straight from the poker room). Generally lifeless staff. Lots of timeshare salespersons.
Not to mention this awkward slot machine.
Has no one at Westgate actually seen the movie?
On the bright side, the slots at Westgate feel loose (a too-rare feeling on The Strip), and those free drinks are just a touch or two away.
The hand of the Elvis statue in the Westgate’s lobby is a must-rub Las Vegas icon, much like Steve Wynn.
Westgate is among the first to implement this comped drink delivery and monitoring system, but it won’t be the last time you see it.
For better or worse (it’s both), welcome to the new normal in Las Vegas.
The opening of Eureka restaurant on Fremont East was bittersweet for many denizens of downtown.
The chain restaurant opened in a space formerly home to the Beat Coffeehouse, a popular haunt until it closed in Sep. 2016.
Downtown is a special place to have patio dining. You’re sure to meet new people, some of whom have little to no need of delousing.
Eureka opened just a few weeks ago (Feb. 12, 2018) and has been doing brisk business since day one.
We don’t exactly get what people like so much about the place, but far be it from us to tell others what to like. We’re Switzerland like that.
To get a feel for Eureka, imagine Claim Jumper, but without the kids.
Bonus points if you can guess why Eureka should cross-promote with a Cirque show at MGM Grand. We’ll wait.
The menu at Eureka is made up of a lot of words we didn’t recognize, so we went straight for the Eureka American Cheeseburger.
At $11, the price is a tad aspirational. It’s downtown, after all, where some of the best burgers in Las Vegas reside. Specifically, at Binion’s and El Cortez, where great burgers run around $5.
Our medium well burger was decidedly medium, and the meat had a funky aftertaste, but look how pretty we made it, anyway.
Burger aficionados will no doubt want to explore the menu further for items like the Bone Marrow Burger, Bison Burger, Jalapeno Egg Burger, Veggie Beet Burger and Fresno Fig Burger.
To us, that list pretty much represents the five circles of Hell.
We had better luck during another visit to Eureka, where we enjoyed a respectable pair of fried chicken sliders ($13.50).
If “perfectly acceptable” is a compliment, then we’re giving Eureka a compliment!
The Mac N’ Cheese Balls are worth a try, and not just because we wanted to make our mom blush while reading this sentence.
Think of the cheese as the yin and the macaroni as the yang. No real reason. We just wanted to see if you’d do it.
Other appetizers include Lollipop Corn Dogs, Truffle Cheese Fries, Cauliflower Bites and Crispy Glazed Brussels Sprouts.
Salads, sandwiches and tacos round out the Eureka menu.
The dessert menu is limited to a Bourbon Barrel Cake and American Chocolate Budino, but they looked tempting on their way to other diners.
One of the big draws of Eureka is its hooch.
Eureka boasts 40 craft beers on tap. We have never personally had a beer, but that sounds like a robust selection for those who imbibe in the rocketsauce. Which has to be a legit name for beer because we found it on the Internet.
Beer and vaginas have about the same acidity levels. We are not making this up.
Eureka has a welcoming central bar perfect for solo diners who like slow, inattentive service.
Eureka has a slew of signature cocktails we look forward to trying on someone else’s tab.
Signature cocktails run the gamut, which is what we typically say when we don’t have time to actually read the menu.
Specialty cocktails run from $10-15, and the first we’re likely to try is the Electric Butterfly, which features a “buzz button,” otherwise known as a “Szechuan button,” the herb made famous in Las Vegas by the Cosmopolitan’s Verbena cocktail.
Eureka’s happy hour runs from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. to closing.
For a mere buck off beer, it’s more of a “mildly amused hour” than a happy hour, but a discount’s a discount.
Overall, Eureka is an adequate addition to the restaurant and bar options on Fremont East. The atmosphere is lively without being too loud (unlike it’s neighbor across the street, Commonwealth, which has been known to implode an eardrum at 100 yards).
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Fremont East district, here’s a better look at one half of it.
From left, it’s Park on Fremont, Evel Pie, Red, Vanguard Lounge, Therapy and Eureka.
As we said, Eureka is consistently busy, but it remains to be seen if that’s more the result of a honeymoon period than compelling fare or libations.
Our beer-swilling friends swear Eureka has one of the best selections in town, so give it a try and let us know what you think.
The Las Vegas Walk of Stars has always been an awkward rip-off of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but it’s our awkward rip-off of the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
The recent installation of safety bollards along Las Vegas Boulevard has resulted in the destruction of 49 stars honoring Las Vegas entertainers and other dignitaries.
Emilio and Gloria Estefan received a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in 2010. Their star was not affected by the recent brouhaha. It’s at the entrance to the Flamingo.
Bollards, of course, are steel posts intended to prevent morons and terrorists (which, we realize, is redundant) from driving onto sidewalks to run people over. Because asshattery.
Apparently, the stars were too fragile to relocate. Just 33 of the stars remain intact.
Of the 49 stars destroyed by the bollard installation, upwards of five belonged to actual celebrities.
Those celebrities included Wayne Newton, Liberace, Rich Little, John Stuart, Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis Presley.
Wayne Newton’s star was the first to be added to the Las Vegas Walk of Stars back in 2004.
Visit the KTNV Web site for the full list of stars obliterated by the bollard installation.
No, “bollards” is not a British obscenity. Probably.
Why is the Las Vegas Walk of Stars awkward, you ask? Well, because pretty much anyone can get one if they pony up the required fee.
A donation of $20,000 is required for each star. Additional “pomp and circumstances” can add to that cost. We are not making this up.
Bob Alexander, president of the Las Vegas Walk of Fame, says each tribute costs $5,000. You do the math.
Some stars are fully earned and warranted, of course.
Our all-time favorite Elvis tribute artist, Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee, was the most recent recipient of a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars, and if they try ripping his up, they’ll have to do so over this blog’s dead body. Yes, Vallee is a friend, but he’s also worked his ass off, so to speak, to become a Las Vegas icon.
If you haven’t seen Pete Vallee’s free show at Harrah’s, you haven’t done Vegas.
The goofy charm of the Las Vegas Walk of Stars stretches four miles along the Las Vegas Strip between Sahara Ave. and Russell Blvd.
While the removal of the stars is bittersweet for some, we’ve been an advocate of installing bollards for quite a while and are happy there’s been progress creating a safer environment for pedestrians along The Strip.
The rumor’s been swirling in Vegas circles for some time, but now a Gwen Stefani residency at Planet Hollywood is nearing an official announcement.
Gwen Stefani is expected to perform a series of shows at the newly re-named, 7,000-seat Zappos Theater, formerly Axis. Before that, it was the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts. Because you can never have too much useless Las Vegas trivia in your brain.
Details like a start date aren’t yet available, but compensation for the Las Vegas residency is expected to be what’s known in entertainment circles as “a metric hell-ton.”
Fun fact: Gwen Stefani once described us as “cute” to a mutual friend. We are not making this up.
Gwen Stefani follows in the shoes of Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez who have had extremely successful runs at Planet Hollywood.
Britney Spears did 249 performances of her “Piece of Me” lip-sync extravaganza, and the show generated a jaw-dropping $130 million in ticket sales.
There’s no word yet about whether Stefani’s show will feature any of her No Doubt band mates, although the show will most certainly include all the bands hits.
The Zappos Theater is booked by Live Nation, so you can visit this page once Gwen Stefani’s show dates are announced.
We’ve heard two confirmations about the Stefani residency from inside the Caesars Entertainment sphere, and PerezHilton.com also confirmed the scoop, so we’re saying it’s a done deal with an official announcement forthcoming soon.
Housekeeping is an often-overlooked but critical part of any Las Vegas hotel visit. We asked an industry insider about these unsung employees, and learned some truly fascinating things about the folks who clean up after us during our Sin City escapades.
Here, then are 15 things even we didn’t know about housekeeping at Las Vegas hotels.
1. A Las Vegas hotel housekeeper cleans an average of just 16 rooms in a typical eight-hour shift. For comparison purposes: MGM Grand has 5,124 rooms.
2. Housekeepers are called “Guest Room Attendants” or GRAs for short.
Bonus fact: Housekeepers know your tissues need to be swapped out by the color of the tissues. When they turn color, the box is low.
3. Most Las Vegas casinos pay housekeepers $15-17 an hour.
4. Although their meals are free (in EDRs, or employee dining rooms), most housekeepers don’t eat during their shift for fear of not meeting their daily quota of “turned” rooms.
5. Our industry expert says hotel guests don’t tip like they used to, but most housekeepers get anywhere from $20-100 in gratuities during a typical shift. It’s estimated only about 40 percent of hotel guests leave a tip for housekeepers.
6. In time share hotels, housekeepers aren’t unionized and are paid a “piece rate,” a set rate for each room according to the room size.
7. Housekeeping is typically the largest and most costly department at a hotel.
Housekeepers (sorry, GRAs) call this a “courtesy fold.”
8. Major hotels have 24-hour housekeeping and rooms are cleaned non-stop to accommodate late check-outs and early morning check-ins.
9. While housekeepers do general cleaning tasks, there are “bio teams” that specialize in vomit, blood and other bodily fluids. Bio teams are specially trained, but things like suicides and people who die by natural causes are done by outside vendors. It happens more often than you think.
10. Sex toys and porn are often left behind in rooms. Most hotels have “Lost and Found” policies, and found items are held for 30 days. If the items aren’t claimed, they go to the finder, unless it’s a sensitive item like cell phones or laptops. It’s estimated about 2% of hotel rooms have lost items in them.
Toys for adults. Use your imagination.
11. When cash is left in a room, anything under $100-200 goes to the housekeeper who finds it. Anything more than that goes to a special fund. Cash found in public areas or the casino goes to the hotel.
12. Recreational marijuana became legal in Las Vegas on Jan. 1, 2017. This has led to a headache for housekeepers and hotels. Getting the odor of weed out of Las Vegas hotel rooms has become a huge challenge. It takes a lot of time, sprays and ionizers, and in Las Vegas, time is money.
Bro, take your hippie lettuce outside. And, no, we did not know “hippie lettuce” is slang for marijuana until three minutes ago.
13. Housekeepers know lots and lots of secrets. One of the more intriguing is that there are celebrities who visit Las Vegas frequently and are known for their tastes in, well, the scatalogical. Our expert says these celebrities tend to be generous tippers because of the mess they create.
14. Housekeeping room assignments are doled out by seniority, and some of the prime sections can have the same housekeeper for decades. If a housekeeper encounters a “Do Not Disturb” sign, she (they’re mostly female) has to keep coming back to the room until it’s cleaned. About seven percent of a hotel’s rooms aren’t cleaned on a given day because of “refusals” or “Do not disturb” signs. Housekeepers must hit their quota, and being re-assigned another room can be an ordeal. So, if you’ve ever thought, “Let’s give them a break, no service today,” you’re actually making life harder on the housekeeper, not easier.
15. Motorized housekeeping carts weigh about 500 pounds.
These tidbits about housekeeping helped give us a new appreciation for the hard-working folks who do this physically demanding job. Take time to thank the housekeeping staff at your Las Vegas hotel, and tips—two or three bucks each day works—are always welcome.
Despite a quarter million downloads under our belt, we’re still not sure you should listen to our podcast. Fair warning.
If you do, you’ll hear news and opinions and quite possibly things that will get us sued. The things we do for you.
In this episode, we share our experiences at three new downtown restaurants: Eureka on Fremont East (pictured below), Flock & Fowl at the Ogden and Good Pie at Pawn Plaza.
Eureka’s management informed us we couldn’t take photos inside the restaurant. Eureka’s management can suck it.
We round up all the latest scoop about Steve Wynn and his mind-boggling fall from grace in recent weeks, including news about what Wynn Resorts projects are likely to move forward (Wynn Paradise Park, but without a hotel) and which could be shelved.
This lowly podcast has all the skinny you need to stay in the loop about what’s opening when (The Drew Las Vegas), who’s building what (MSG Sphere) and what else is coming down the pike (upgrades to the Fremont Street Experience).
Mark our words, the MSG Sphere is going to put somebody’s eye out.
The Vital Vegas Podcast has “vital” right in the title, so kick back, push the play button and long for a simpler time when broadcasters had to actually know something about broadcasting.
We honestly have no idea why Marty Allen’s passing has struck such a nerve with us. Maybe it’s because he chose Las Vegas as his favorite place to live and work. Maybe it’s because of his mischievous comedic persona.
Maybe it’s because Marty Allen was one of the few remaining performers from an era when comedians took laughter seriously. He worked clean, and his comedy had heart.
As we like to say, Marty Allen drank deeply from the dribble glass of life, and we will not look upon his like again.
The abandoned Fontainebleau project has been given another shot at success, this time with the name The Drew Las Vegas.
Yes, The Drew.
We had the same reaction, but it will presumably have a casino, so we’ll cut them some slack.
Fontainebleau will now be named after the past tense of “draw.”
Developers say The Drew will open in 2020, a partnership between real estate firm Witkoff and Marriott International.
Construction was halted on Fontainebleau in 2009 due to the economic downturn, and because Las Vegas occasionally needs failures to make its successes all the more impressive. The building was about 70% complete when work stopped, and Fontainebleau has been a running gag ever since.
No, really, this is the last time we’ll share this.
As we were the first to report, Fontainebleau was sold in August 2017 for $600 million to Witkoff and another real estate firm, New Valley.
The resort is located across from Circus Circus, next to the former Riviera casino, currently a parking lot.
Yep, that former Riviera. The Drew Las Vegas will be at left.
The Drew Las Vegas (we’re going to keep repeating it until the wooziness subsides) will have 4,000 rooms and 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space.
Plans for The Drew also include entertainment, nightlife, retail and dining venues, including an aspirational 20 restaurant options.
The Drew will mark the debut of Marriott’s high-end “Edition” brand in Las Vegas, whatever that might be.
Marriott’s massive customer database, estimated at about 100 million members, is likely to be key to the resort’s success.
The Drew will be the tallest building in Las Vegas, excluding the Stratosphere.
Also involved in The Drew project will be John Unwin, who previously helped open the Cosmopolitan. Interestingly, Cosmopolitan is currently part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. We also don’t know what that means.
The Drew Las Vegas joins a number of major projects happening on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, including Resorts World, All Net Resort and Arena, Wynn Paradise Park, the Sphere from Las Vegas Sands Corp., an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center and others.
We’re excited to see The Drew Las Vegas become a thing! Having a powerhouse like Marriott onboard certainly doesn’t hurt its chances.
Uninspired names we can get used to, hulking eyesores, not so much.