Adelson adamant about openings

January 15, 2008 6:16 AM
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Sheldon Adelson seems to roll his eyes at the theory a new casino has only one chance to make a good first impression.

As for sucking up to the local news media, hoping they’ll stop by to write nice things about all the pretty stuff two or three billion will buy, well, forget about it. Mr. No. 3 has eye-sights on what he’s convinced is a far more important audience.

His new Palazzo has been quietly opening for weeks”¦ a piece at a time, as rooms, shops, restaurants, etc., become ready. He’s apparently content to let impressions develop over time, lots of time. Even the timing of this weekend’s grand opening raised some eyebrows.

Nevadans are talking politics, not casino grand openings, what with the Republican and Democratic caucuses inhaling all the attention the local and national media was willing to give them.

But back to the Palazzo.

"It’s been a kind of stealth opening," was the description of one observer.

This approach to business by the chairman of Las Vegas Sands, Inc., may have been born at the time his first Las Vegas Strip property, the Venetian, debuted in 1998. Hardly anything was completed as expected. County approvals were slow to come — not unlike the flurry of county permit issues that have made life difficult for operators of the Rio — and the Venetian was in the embarrassing position of having to put up its VIP guests at other properties.

These failings were laid out in high definition by elements of the Las Vegas news media and Adelson, who’s shown he can carry a grudge with the best of them, has probably not forgotten.

"Why open one piece at a time?" a Las Vegas reporter asked Adelson nearly a decade ago.

"Because it is my money," he barked, meaning that each day he paid interest on any part of a large resort that was not generating revenue was not something he wanted to think about.

But as we all know, the massive Venetian eventually got off the ground in satisfactory fashion, reached cruising altitude, metaphorically speaking, and the third richest man on the Forbes list has not looked back since, as LVS went public, became a Wall Street favorite and has expanded in, well, just about every direction, from Macau to Pennsylvania.

One of the interesting aspects of the pre-opening run-up for the Palazzo, is the company’s decision to shut out much of the local media. The Las Vegas Sun is not expected to get invites to grand-opening events. Neither is this publication’s entertainment columnist Monti Rock III who says he was invited "and then dis-invited to the opening by a resort official who said that although they did not want his presence as a reporter they would welcome him walking the red carpet.

Another columnist reportedly drew Adelson’s ire with his references to politicians and the comped invites they received to the recent Venetian opening in Macau.

Adelson has never been known for his willingness to ignore this kind of commentary when he can lob a hand grenade or two.

Marveling at Kansas

Las Vegas-based Marvel Gaming and the Binion Family Trust, are one of the semi-finalists in the running for a Kansas casino license in the city of Wellington. The plan envisions a casino of some 60,000 square feet with about 300 hotel rooms. Penn National Gaming is the other semi-finalist recommended to the state by Wellington officials in Sumner County.

Final determination will come at the state level.

I’m told Jack Binion has nothing to do with the bid for the casino license by the Trust, which has hired Marvel, headed by Roger Wagner, to serve as chief executive. Wagner was Binion’s chief operating officer at Horseshoe Gaming before the company was sold to Harrah’s several years ago. Wagner was more recently the chief operating officer for Colony Capital’s Resorts International casinos which includes the Las Vegas Hilton among its assets.

Binion remains on the sidelines, as per the requirements of his non-compete agreement with Harrah’s that will expire about mid-year. Beyond that, friends say Binion may be interested in seeing if he can put together a casino project in Macau.

Does the Trust have its sights on any other ventures?

Not at the current time, Wagner said. The newness of the Kansas plan that will eventually produce four casinos means it is difficult to predict how long it will take state officials to decide what they want.

"The people in Kansas are all new to this (casino developing) but they are working hard and doing a good job. I have a feeling they’ll take whatever time they need."

Gifts that keep giving

The holidays are over but there’s a Las Vegas round of gift-giving that’s worth a belated mention. About 4,500 line employees at Wynn Las Vegas got what sounds like a unique Christmas gift from the company — $1,000 checks on which "Santa" also paid the taxes.

Wynn President Andrew Paschel said the employees getting the special gift were non-tip earners, most of whom make $28,000 to $35,000 a year — maids, cooks, PBX operators and assorted back of the house help.

Wynn wanted these employees who don’t get the benefit of good tips to reap some of the benefits from what was a good year at the company.

But the gift may also serve an important need, as Wynn looks to fill thousands of new jobs at his new Encore property at a time when thousands of job openings are being created by multi-billion-dollar expansion projects from one end of the Strip to the other.

Can’t you see the best workers anguishing over the following issue: Let’s see”¦ where do I want to work, at a place where you might get a $25 turkey (minus taxes) or something like an extra thousand dollars or so.