Expansion set for The Venetian

Feb 13, 2001 6:56 AM

The financing is lined up for an 1,100-room addition to The Venetian resort on the Las Vegas Strip, company executives disclosed during an earnings conference call.

President William Weidner said 65% of last year’s profits came from non-gaming operations. Gaming provided 37% — 24% from slots, and 13% from table games.

An outside goldola ride will be opened in the next few months, he said. The baccarat pit will be doubled in size, with semi-private gaming rooms added.

The resort plans to be "more selective in our players," he added.

Weidner said the resort needed to add more rooms, since 1.7 million room-night requests were turned away in the past nine months, either because of non-availability or the customer "did not meet maximum potential."

Inyokern casino plans bared

A Native American casino resort may be in the works near Inyokern, between Barstow and Death Valley.

Two members of the Winds Intertribal Council told the Ridgecrest City Council last week that Paragon Gaming of Las Vegas is considering several sites in the Indian Wells Valley for the development.

MGM park restricted to groups & special events

The MGM Grand Adventures park near the Las Vegas Strip is no longer available to the general public, but it will be open year-round for group business and special events with more than 50 people.

It had operated during summer months for the last nine years. The Sky Screamer swing, Lightning Bolt roller coaster and Parisian Taxi bumper card ride will be kept, along with its 900-seat amphitheater and two 700-seat theaters.

Hotel officials said other rides in the nearly 19-acre property would be closed. "Team building" sites will be added such as rock-climbing walls and obstacle courses. MGM Mirage president and CFO Jim Murren said other uses for the park are under study, but "you have to keep your options open, and this is a way to generate income" while doing that.

Sights lowered

Mandalay Resort Group said it expects fourth quarter earnings to be well below analysts’ projections of 14 cents a share. Company officials said they expected that figure to hit one cent a share.

Its quarter runs through January. Most others end Dec. 31.

Below normal winning at its Mandalay Bay resort on the Las Vegas Strip got part of the blame from company officials, as did "significantly lower results" for its Laughlin, Nev., casino. Then there was bad weather that hurt its properties in Michigan, Illinois and Mississippi; plus higher interest costs and depreciation charges.

Other major casino operators had already reported disappointing fourth quarter estimates, also partly blaming weather. Among them: Park Place Entertainment, Harrah’s Entertainment, Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming Corp., Ameristar Casinos, Aztar Corp. and Isle of Capri Casinos.

MGM Mirage and Argosy Gaming provided pleasant surprises to analysts’ estimates for the quarter. MGM Mirage, with net income for the quarter of 42 cents, beat earlier analysts’ estimates by three cents.

Stations kicks off handicap challenge

The Race & Sports Books at Santa Fe Station and Texas Station will kick off the "Horse Handicapping Challenge" starting (Thursday) Feb. 15. A total $2,500 in prizes goes to players who win the most "mythical" money while picking win, place and show horses at five top racetracks around the country. Entry is $10 and first place will pay $1,250; second, $650; third, $400 and fourth, $200. Entrants must be 21.

The Challenge will be played each Thursday at both race books. Players will submit six picks valued at $2 each from all races that day at the five main tracks. Entries must be submitted prior to the post time of the earliest race entered.

Those who win the most aggregate money from each $2 bet will win the first place through fourth-prize money. In the event of ties, prize money will be distributed accordingly. Winners will have one week from the event date to collect. Money not collected will be forfeited.

Rating the good and bad of casino design

By David Stratton

In the first part of our review of Bill Friedman’s Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition, its basic premise was summarized as follows: Casino design can influence its ability to attract customers.

This week, we’ll take a closer look at Friedman’s 13 Design Principles, and how they have influenced two specific casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

It’s worth noting that Friedman’s standards of casino design each contain a winning and a losing principle. That is, a design element can have either a positive or negative influence on the attractiveness of a casino.

Here are several of Friedman’s Design Principles, with an application and analysis to follow:

Physically Segmented Casino Beats an Open Barn: Casinos that have physically divided gambling areas create intimate playing settings.

Short Lines of Sight Beat Extensive Visible Depth: There’s a sense of intimacy when players’ view of the casino is limited and restricted.

The Maze Layout Beats Long, Wide, Straight Passageways and Aisles: Clustering of aisles and equipment creates small, intimate and isolated playing areas.

A Compact and Congested Gambling-Equipment Layout Beats a Vacant and Spacious Floor Layout: Narrow aisles, crammed in machines and congestion actually give a feeling of seclusion and intimacy.

Low Ceilings Beat High Ceilings: Low ceilings create intimacy while high ceilings give the feeling of barren emptiness.

Standard Decor Beats Interior Casino Themes: While a compelling theme outside the casino can draw customers in, theme decor inside the casino can distract the attention of players.

To illustrate how the author uses his Design Principles to describe, rate and analyze 81 Nevada casinos, we’ll concentrate on two properties: Circus Circus and the Riviera.

Circus Circus adheres to seven of Friedman’s Design Principles, while embodying only three losing principles. The winners include a segmented casino design, short lines of sight, a maze layout in some areas, compactness, low ceilings, exterior theme, and focus on equipment as decor.

Its losing attributes include raised interior landings, lack of private playing space and excess decorative lighting in some areas.

The combination of the winning design principles creates a powerful attraction to players, Friedman says, adding, "Circus achieves top player counts ... and overcomes its location to fare better than seven other better situated mega-resorts with the same number or many more rooms."

The Riviera, conversely, displays none of Friedman’s winning Design Principles, while embodying eight losing ones. The latter include a totally open barn, raised entrance landing, extensive visible depth, lack of private playing worlds, spaciousness, disorganized layout and lack of focal points, high ceilings and excessive decorative lighting.

Friedman also points out that the Riviera has the third lowest slot-to-room ratio in the entire state and that its four showrooms may attract patrons, but they don’t keep casino customers: "When its shows break, the vast majority of showgoers either return to the resort where they are staying or visit the Riviera’s competitors across the street."

Note that these are only summaries of the design elements’ effect on each casino. Friedman’s book devotes four or five pages (plus photographs) to each casino, describing, analyzing and evaluating the various elements that affect design.