A closer look at Wynn LV

May 30, 2005 2:44 AM

As anticipated as Wynn Las Vegas (WLV) promised to be, needless to say I was very much looking forward to my visit.

What would Las Vegas be without surprises? WLV certainly has its share; but not all of them made me feel good. Normally, I valet park, but because I drove one of my own cars (instead of the usual rental), I chose to use the parking garage. Getting into the Wynn garage was simple, parking in the easily-navigated and amply-spaced area was a breeze, and walking to the casino was no trouble at all. It was, in effect, one of the most pleasant garage experiences I’ve had in the city. So far so good.

Once inside, I went for a nearly three-hour walk through as much of the property as I could. "Bellagio on steroids" is what Judy, a bartender at the Ram’s Head Bar at Sam’s Town, told me it would be like, and she was right on. There’s really not much else to say, as I’m sure you’ve heard all about the resort’s unrivaled ambience and features by now.

My first stop was a quick visit to the Ferrari dealership. Although I can see why such a distinctive automobile manufacturer’s name would be included in what is now probably the world’s finest resort, it just doesn’t seem to fit. I mean, how many people would opt to buy cars inside a hotel? (Editor’s note: the dealership, even before the resort opened, sold dozens of new automobiles to tourists and locals alike. And since its opening it has sold a year’s worth of inventory in just over a month.)

Being a video poker player, I was especially interested in what games WLV offered and how they were offered. Along similar lines, it’s not much of a place for the low roller, and traditional slot machines far outnumber the video poker games. All in all, not very stimulating for the video poker player.

My biggest beef came when I decided to look for a video poker bar. Around and around the casino I went, and finally after stretching to see into the sports book after a third pass, I located a modest bar with machines. Now, I’m not a heavy drinker, but I do like to watch sports, catch up on scores and be within 30 seconds of getting whatever beverage I’d like when I’m playing. It’s really not too much to ask when you’re gambling.

When the bartender told me that this was the ONLY video poker bar inside the casino, I couldn’t believe it. Another chimed in saying that there was a strategy behind this "flaw."

One final thought. I’ve read where Steve Wynn has instructed every employee to put the customer first, whatever it takes. And I believe he means that. When I asked about where to get a player’s card, a pit boss not only answered my question, but he took my identification and had one made up then and there. Very impressive, and very helpful for a first time visitor.

But when I went to an open counter at the Red Card booth to apply for a PIN with the gentleman who was standing there, it took several of my prompts to get him to say "I’m not open." Huh?

When I asked what to do, he turned around and ignored me. I left the area, came back 10 minutes later, and the counter next to him was now open. The very pleasant lady who helped me calmly said he was a supervisor training his employees. I hope the trainees don’t pick up the rude practices of their mentor.

Go Westin, young man

Perhaps you’ve heard of the April 2 promotion that offered $600 in machine play for a $300 buy-in for new card sign-ups only. Now that’s quite a deal, but based on the reports I read online and heard from several local players, it was a big bust and loser for the casino to the tune of "millions of dollars." The word in chat rooms was that Casuarina casino management had to be off it’s rocker and grossly incompetent to have blooped so terribly!

After weeks of reading and listening to the bashing, I decided to get the truth about— which is what this column is all about. So I set an appointment with a very obliging Tom Dashiell, Casuarina Casino general manager. I told him how those who run around town and like to say they play with an advantage were posting messages on Internet forums, telling everyone they knew, and even how some columnists were claiming that his casino lost millions on this one promotion, and that it was likely the product of totally unknowledgeable casino management.

Now for the TRUTH: First, Dashiell is no rookie, and he has been in the casino business for years. This supposed "ill-fated promotion" was in fact a carefully calculated program designed first to get Westin business travelers to sign up for a slot club card and play — which traditionally they do not. The second reason was to offer locals who had not yet visited (partially because Westin did not have a casino grand opening party) an opportunity to visit and play at the casino on a lucrative promotion — thereby (and what local doesn’t sing verses to THIS tune?) getting them to come back in to play the machines over and over again.

Tom was on property while this promo was active, and of the 300 or so new sign-ups, he didn’t recognize any groups of wayward citizens being led by anyone handing out $300 in cash to each of his hoard. And as far as the casino being taken for "million of dollars" by the local pros? It didn’t happen. Besides, the largest denomination video poker machine in the place is $2, and there’s only two of them. It quickly became apparent that this was nothing more than some of the same old feel-good creation by a group of players bent on wanting to believe their fantasies are real.

When I asked if the promo was a winner or a loser for the casino, he clearly said, "It was a successful event in much the same way as a grand opening party would be," meaning a calculated investment was made that would historically be a longer-term success.

Finally, the truth. Thank you Tom. And, by the way, he was casino manager before the promotion. Now he sits upstairs as casino GM. That says it all.