Sprucing up casinos

Nov 28, 2006 5:46 AM

Extreme makeovers at Las Vegas Casino Resorts such as the planned Echelon Place can be broken down to a simple strategy — follow the leader.

"Whether it includes new design ideas, innovative architecture or celebrity chefs, people here in the business will learn the steps necessary to transform their casino hotels into the hippest place in town," said Ira David Sternberg, Las Vegas Hilton vice president of communications at the recent G2E convention.

Gamal Aziz, president of MGM Grand, said that casinos have to deal with "the boredom factor" in coming up with ways of keeping up with the competition.

"We build spaces at MGM that define time," Aziz said. "Customers need reasons to come into the casino resorts. I believe you have to redesign every five years to make sure you don’t become boring and fall behind what’s going on around you."

MGM Grand is the largest hotel in the world with close to 9,000 employees, a number that could be challenged when Echelon Place (the former Stardust) is scheduled to open in 2010.

"The worst scenario is for your place to look tired and to have your better employees leave or retire," said Bob Bogener, the CEO at Borgata and Echelon Place. "The Mirage reinvented Las Vegas, but until it began making upgrades, it started looking long in the tooth."

Sternberg said the Hilton was able to draw customers with long-running Star Trek Experience and through its pursuit of big name acts in its showroom.

"Barry Manilow has been tremendous for the Hilton and we have actively broadened our entertainment to suit the occasion," Sternberg said. "For instance, for the upcoming National Finals Rodeo we brought in Big and Rich, Brooks and Dunn and Vince Gill.

Aziz said MGM has also shortened it’s A-list of entertainers.

"We brought in people not exposed to Vegas and its habits," he said.