Issue 257
August 15 - August 21, 2005
Volume 5
page 1

This Issue

Gaming News

Caesars Upscale Tower Premieres

Macau Week Makes Splash in Las Vegas

'Jethro' Gets License Approved

Bear River Casino Opening Draws Crowds

Foxwoods Online Game Deemed Illegal

Show Time Elton John performs at Caesar's Palace..

Column Poker Strategy Doesn't Have One 'Sacred' Way To Play By Fred Renzey

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Caesars Upscale Tower Premieres
As Reported By The Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS -- For nearly five years, Caesars Palace has operated amid construction walls inside and out as projects aimed at transforming the tired theme property into a premier, upscale resort took shape.

At 5 a.m. this morning, the last of those walls came down as Harrah's Entertainment Inc. opened the Palace's 949-room Augustus hotel tower at the corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

The tower, which also includes a 24-hour cafe, two retail stores, a VIP lounge and three wedding chapels to replace a single indoor chapel, caps off a process that began in 2003 when previous owner Caesars Entertainment opened the 4,100-seat Colosseum Theater.

Since then the property has added a new convention area, two celebrity-chef restaurants and additional casino space with a bar, retail store and nightclub. A poker room and the addition of other table games are under way in the casino while a hotel spa and Guy Savoy restaurant -- named for a three-star Michelin chef with a namesake eatery in Paris -- will open several months from now in the Augustus tower.

Harrah's has hired 600 people to staff the new tower.

The rooms are designed to compete with the best suites in Las Vegas rather than just the best Caesars has to offer. It's a bold step for a property whose stature has been undermined by newer resorts such as Bellagio, Venetian, and most recently, Wynn Las Vegas.

"I think these will compete very well with the new wave of hotel rooms that have come to Las Vegas," said Gary Selesner, who was recently appointed president of Caesars Palace. "I think the size and spaciousness are very competitive and yet I think that the new, striking, contemporary decor -- the use of a designer ... with a new take on what it is to be Caesars Palace -- gives us a very competitive room product."

The $289 million tower gives Caesars about 40 percent more rooms -- a long-needed expansion given Las Vegas' rapid tourism growth in recent years and competition from major resorts with more rooms to offer, Caesars executives have said.

The upgrade comes amid continued speculation that Harrah's, which purchased Caesars Entertainment in June, will eventually scale back the high-roller business at its flagship property in favor of middle-income business for which the company is known.

Rather than maintaining Caesars' high-roller business, Selesner said the resort's high-end customer base has grown under Harrah's. The company has already begun the process of upgrading existing high-roller suites across the property. Rooms in the Palace Tower, the most recent tower to open before Augustus, also will be upgraded to match the newest basic suites over the next several months, Selesner said.

Rooms in the new tower consist of 874 suites from 650 square feet to 760 square feet, 23 suites at 1,060 square feet, six suites at 1,470 square feet and 23 suites at 2,470 square feet.

The rooms have an ultramodern look and feature dark woods, cream-colored carpets and eclectic art. There are a few nods to Caesars' Roman-themed past, including silken robes embroidered with busts of Caesar and framed art of Roman statues. All the suites feature plasma screen televisions in bathrooms, bedrooms and sitting rooms. Voice-over-Internet service is available for worldwide phone calls as well as high-speed Internet service.

Some of the largest suites overlook the recently built Roman Plaza and outdoor ampitheater, where Caesars has held boxing matches and other sporting events. Others overlook the Garden of the Gods, the name for Caesars' four Roman-style pools.

The Augustus Tower lobby will become the resort's main entrance, replacing a small, temporary lobby that has served to check in hordes of visitors since July 2004 while the tower was under construction.

The new lobby just about doubles the resort's original entrance area and features giant mosaics on the walls and an oversize marble fountain in the center.

The lobby, featuring a VIP valet entrance from Flamingo Road, is designed to create a "sense of arrival" for guests, Selesner said. With the 24-hour cafe and retail store opening into the lobby, the space also was intended to serve as a place for guests to congregate rather than just check in, Caesars spokeswoman Debbie Munch said.

Stock analyst Matthew Jacob of Majestic Research said the tower should drive both gambling and hotel revenue because visitors "often gamble where they are staying."

In the year following Caesars' previous hotel tower expansion in 1997, gambling volume grew 2 percent from the previous year, Jacob said in a research note to investors last month. Still, the property's share of the Strip gaming market fell after the December 1998 opening of Bellagio, the most expensive and luxurious resort in Las Vegas at the time.

Macau Week Makes Splash in Las Vegas
As reported by The Las Vegas Sun

Three Las Vegas resorts and the Fashion Show mall have rolled out the red carpet for a large contingent of artisans and government and business dignitaries from Macau hoping to show Southern Nevadans that the city isn't just Asia's premiere gaming destination.

Tuesday was the busiest day of Macau Week, which is being observed at the Venetian, the MGM Grand, Wynn Las Vegas and Fashion Show through Sunday.

Art displays, photo exhibitions and demonstrations by dancers, musicians and artists are scheduled all week at the mall and the resorts to demonstrate that the city on the southern tip of China that vies to become Asia's Las Vegas has a unique cultural heritage that makes it a worthy international destination.

"It's a celebration of a rich cultural heritage, said Fernando Chui Sai On, secretary of social affairs and culture for the Macau Special Administrative Region, a designation established when the government of Portugal turned the area over to the Chinese in 1999.

Macau heated up for the gaming industry in 2002 when the government of Macau signed concession agreements with companies affiliated with Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Inc., opening the area to foreign competitors. Las Vegas Sands quickly opened the Sands Macau last year and began work on a scaled-down version of the Venetian while Wynn began construction of a slimmed-down replica of Wynn Las Vegas.

MGM Mirage entered the market through a partnership with Pansy Ho, managing director of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd., which has real estate and tourism holdings throughout Macau. Ho is a daughter of Stanley Ho, who held a monopoly on casinos in Macau for 40 years before the decision to offer concessions to outside companies.

Stanley Ho still controls more than a dozen casinos in Macau, including the Casino Lisboa, the largest currently operating in the city.

Ground was broken earlier this year on the MGM Macau. All three hotel-casino projects with Las Vegas connections are expected to open in 2007 and are in various stages of construction.

Pansy Ho was among the business representatives who came to Las Vegas for Macau Week and met with MGM Mirage officials in addition to taking in some of the cultural offerings.

"It's been quite well received, Pansy Ho said of this week's cultural offerings at the resorts and the mall. "It gives us an opportunity to show that there's more to experience in Macau.

Las Vegas Sands President and Chief Operating Officer Bill Weidner said that while Macau is a thriving gaming market, it doesn't have the infrastructure to supplant Las Vegas as the world's leading casino resort destination.

Still, Macau's casino revenue is on pace to surpass that of Las Vegas, thanks to a growing core market of Chinese high-rollers, many based in Hong Kong, who make day trips to the casinos.

Weidner said his company's strategy is to help develop a different niche of tourists willing to spend more than a day in the city and take in some of the cultural amenities Macau has to offer. To make the experience more appealing to the mass market, Las Vegas Sands and its American counterparts are developing resort experiences more akin to Las Vegas, complete with entertainment, dining and shopping experiences as well as convention and meeting facilities.

The mass market is only beginning to be tapped as Chinese government authorities continue to relax visa requirements that will allow millions of Chinese citizens to travel more freely.

And, in addition to developing the Chinese market, Macau is spreading its wings internationally. That's why the Macau government is staging Macau Week in Las Vegas.

The Fashion Show is offering Chinese dragon and lion dances, Portuguese folk dancing and a Macanese band at 7:30 and 9 p.m., through Sunday. The mall also is the setting for a photographic exhibit, "24 Hours in Macau."

The MGM Grand also is playing host on its Studio Walk to a photo exhibit featuring images of events and festivals in Macau, including the A-Ma Festival, the Macau Arts Festival, the International Fireworks Festival, the Macau Grand Prix auto race and the Chinese New Year.

A collection of modern art is on display at the Venetian's Colonnade. Fifty-three original works by Macanese artists demonstrating calligraphy, painting and contemporary media are on display.

Macanese virtuoso pianist brothers Kuok-Man Lio and Lio Kuok-Wai played a concert Tuesday night and are scheduled to appear again Friday at Wynn Las Vegas. Resort owner Steve Wynn invited the pianists to appear after hearing them play in Asia.

Macanese food -- a blend of Portuguese and Chinese cuisine -- is being offered with special menu items at Wynn's Terrace Point Cafi, the Venetian's Royal Star Restaurant and MGM Grand's Pearl Restaurant.

The venues also will feature Macanese artisans offering calligraphic painting and silhouette portraits.

Macanese culture got a boost last month when Macau's historic center was listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It was the 31st site in China to be designated by UNESCO.


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