Holiday, football bring crowds to casinos

Sep 4, 2012 3:00 AM

It was a holiday weekend and football was in full swing with a large slate of college games plus the NFL’s fourth week of pre-season. So, we headed to the Strip to check out the crowds and watch some of the action on those great giant screens found in almost every sports book in town, many of them in high definition. (If you’ve never seen a game in HD you should check it out, it’s awesome!)

Most of the casinos were moderately busy for a Saturday afternoon, but the sports books were packed with few seats to be found. Parlay cards seemed to be getting a lot of attention.

Of course we had to stop at the Tropicana. We love the summery, Miami feel of this grande dame of the Strip. Kudos to top gun Alex Yemenidjian and his team for the amazing transformation of this aging casino originally built in the late 1950s.

While there we noticed Cantor Gaming, operator of the sports book, has made good use of the space above the entrance from the Tropicana Ave. pedestrian walkway. As thousands of visitors head south on the walkway they have a clear view of Cantor’s LED board, which shows betting lines for football games and other sports, along with advertisements highlighting the company’s various betting options.

Our next stop was MGM Grand and, in spite of all the construction going on, it was easy to navigate into and out of the casino. For most of the summer, the entrance at the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvd. has been fenced off while the area is converted into the Hakkasan Las Vegas, a 75,000 square foot, five-story, restaurant, lounge and nightclub. It was originally scheduled for completion in December, but we hear it may be early 2013 before it is open. You can watch the progress of the project on the live construction camera at

The next half mile or so on the east side of the Strip is filled with souvenir stores, a couple of convenience stores and several eateries. But it also includes M&M World, which sells, of course, M&M candy in almost any color you can imagine. And, the company has managed to put its brand on nearly anything you can think of, from t-shirts to dresses to jewelry to purses to toys to sunglasses to cups, mugs and glass, to stuffed M&M characters to ties and even underwear. It’s a fun place to take the little ones.

After getting our fill of souvenirs, hip-hop and rap music, plus thousands of visitors walking up and down the street, in and out of shops, we crossed over to the other side of the Strip, which is definitely uptown. This is the home of CityCenter and the Crystals retail center, which offers some of the most exclusive stores in Las Vegas, including Christian Dior, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier, Jimmy Choo, Tom Ford and more.

But we came to check out casinos not shop, so we stopped at Cosmopolitan, another of our favorites because of its compact footprint. The place was bustling with 30-something urbanites, many standing in line waiting to gain access to the day club.

We took the escalator to the second floor to check out the sports book, another Cantor location. While there we picked up a line sheet on NFL regular season wins, noticing that the over/under on the Buffalo Bills is 8.

Since we are originally from Western New York State, the Bills have a special interest for us, although we admit we’ve not been a big fan since they blew four Super Bowl championships in a row. Yes, we know that was nearly 20 years ago, but we have a long memory.

Maybe this year will be different. They did fork over a lot of money for free agent defensive end Mario Williams, and we hear he is one of the league’s best pass-rushers. One of our friends told us to forget the past and back the Bills this year. Maybe he’s right.

CHI-TOWN DOGS, is a new a new Chicago-style hotdog establishment on Charleston Blvd. just west of Decatur Blvd. Of course, its main focus is those Vienna all-beef dogs, but you are encouraged to try the Italian beef with the homemade giardiniera peppers. Friends also recommended the Polish sausage. The Vienna version is actually all-beef and has no pork in it at all. It gets its name from its flavor, not its ingredients. And, don’t forget to try the onion rings; they are a winner. Best of all, the prices are reasonable.

NEW TERMINAL: Friends report getting a chance to utilize the new Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport here in Las Vegas. They met a United flight from Chicago, which was right on time, and although they expected the flight originally at Terminal 1, it was seamless to adjust to Terminal 3 because both share a similar design.

See you around town.

To contact Eileen DiRocco email her at [email protected]­