Friday, April 16, 2010

The Strip Is LIVE Sat w/ Robert Earl

Ex-Planet Ho resort owner Robert Earl is this week's guest on The Strip, talking about why he had to cede control of the resort to Harrah's, what he thinks of CityCenter and what his role in Vegas is now. PLUS, guest host David McKee of the Las Vegas Advisor's Stiffs & Georges blog will fill in for Miles, who has to work. I've consigned the task of drumming up a Top Secret Tourist Tip of the Week to McKee, too.

Join us 5-6 p.m. PT at LVRocks.Com for to listen, watch via webcam and chat with other fans. The podcast edition, of course, usually posts for subscribers (it's free!) by the end of the weekend.

Also join us from 4-5 p.m. for two new episodes of The Petcast. This week, we've got Dr. Patricia McConnell, pet blogger/author and former co-host of NPR's "Calling All Pets" in the first half-hour and then Dr. Marlene Zuk, who researches animal behavior and was recently quoted in this New York Times Magazine piece on whether animals can be gay.

So chill with us from 4-6 pm PT tomorrow. It's fun and we enjoy the company.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

CNBC Makes Elaine Wynn = Gold Digger

My AOL News piece over the weekend on Steve Wynn's suggestion that his split from Elaine was the most expensive divorce ever somehow didn't make the local papers, TV news or KNPR, but it did catch fire around the nation and on the Web, including this piece from The Week.

Sometimes, though, it was in the form of such astoundingly ignorance as this CNBC clip:

It would be nice if CNBC would bother to get an actual Vegas expert on this discuss such a matter or, say, credit the article they're quoting from. (They seem to think this information came from their guest?!?) But it's simply jarring how this stooge can't comprehend why Steve and Elaine remain on good terms after "she took half his entire wealth."

That said, I was taken to task, too, for even positioning this story as Steve Wynn's divorce and not simply their divorce. I admit Shaker Vanshar has a point that I will consider going forward -- especially given my own visceral reaction to the CNBC jazz. Still, if we were to break down the percentage of the Wynn success attributable to him and her, he's the one who does most of the hard work making deals, negotiating with governments and banks, imagining the big picture and turning it into reality. Elaine is no doubt a pivotal player, but if it wasn't a marriage and she were just leaving the company, she wouldn't receive this kind of severance.

The LVW Col: Some Heart CityCenter

Here's this week's column, all the more poignant given that MGM Mirage yesterday acknowledged that Aria's occupancy was a measly 63 percent in its first quarter and that it has lodged itself firmly in the mid-market. Still, some people are enthralled and I happen to be related to two of them. Read on. -sf

The other CityCenter
Talking with a couple of out-of-towners who think
MGM Mirage’s latest gamble
is—wait for it—the best place in town


In the run-up to the grand debut of CityCenter, MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren said a lot of stuff. As a journalist, I focused on the absurdity of so much of it, from the claim that there was something analogous to Central Park somewhere in the 67-acre, $8.5-billion complex to the suggestion that there is anything novel, nine years after the Palms opened, about the concept of a themeless Vegas resort.

One of the strangest claims was when Murren told me CityCenter would draw in a whole new class of clientele from all over the world who had yet to discover Las Vegas and all the high-end offerings it had in store.

Who, I wondered, were these creatures? Who could possibly be left out there unaware of Vegas? Who on any level of social strata hadn’t at least given it some thought as a potential vacation destination? Who would hear of CityCenter and finally be persuaded that they could have a good time on the once-tacky Strip?

And then, late last month, I found two such people. As it turned out, I didn’t have to look any farther than my own family. And I realized that, for fairness’ sake, I owed Murren and his gang this column.

Read the REST at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Casino-hating Philly Paper Now Taking Bets

Now that the fine folks at the Philadelphia Inquirer have done their part to run the world's most respected casino developer out of town and create a toxic environment for anyone even considering opening a gaming establishment in the city of Brotherly Love, what are they doing for an encore?

You'll never believe it.

They're opening up their own casino. Online.


According to the journalism trade publication Editor & Publisher, the newspaper's website, Philly.Com, is the first in the nation to offer online sports betting. From E&P:

In a partnership with FanDuel, a British online betting company, visitors to Instant Fantasy Games can play and win in one-day online fantasy sports games that pay off in real money.

Bettors pick a team from players in scheduled Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League games that day. If their team wins the fantasy contest, says, there are "instant cash prizes -- win tonight!" Users pay a $5 entry fee for each game and can win as much as $90 a game.

Online gambling is illegal in the United States, but there is an exception for fantasy sports. The difference in the FanDuel partnership is that the fantasy team, rather than performing over the season of a sport, can be assembled for just a single day.

"Thanks to the fantasy sports carve out in the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, these instant fantasy games are legal in the U.S. -- something that the FanDuel team has been very careful to adhere to," FanDuel said in its announcement of the partnership.

"FanDuel and its partners generate revenue from taking a commission on each game."


"With the much publicized downturn in advertising revenues, could these games, at least in part, save the newspaper industry?" the press release asked.

According to FanDuel, U.K. newspapers are generating "millions of dollars in online revenue" from betting and paid games. With sports betting legal in Britain, newspapers are able to offer more lucrative betting possibilities.

FanDuel claims some players are winning more than $16,000 in a month.

I'm in awe. The very same newspaper that attacked its politicians for attempting to plug budget holes with legalized gambling now wants to using a loophole in the online gaming law to overcome its own dwindling revenues?

These are the same folks who, only two days ago, cackled over Wynn's retreat and declared this:

Making it easier and legal to bet on sports will only create more problem gamblers. It could also undermine the credibility of the games. (See the Chicago Black Sox and other betting scandals involving athletes.)

Right. So the Philadelphia Inquirer says building a brick-and-mortar casino that would create actual jobs and that would take effort for adults to visit would be a scourge on the city. But the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks it's good to go up with a website where people can place bets without getting dressed and on which there's really way of telling whether the gambler is of age or not.

Congrats, Mr. Wynn. You got out of this funhouse just in time.

Also, how is it the Review-Journal hasn't done this yet? Who would you feel better about placing an online bet with, some casino-hating Philly newspaper or a paper with a legitimate claim to the gambling brand known around the world, Las Vegas?

Of course, I know why the R-J's not in on it. Hell, their Online Guy seems to believe today is the first time an advertisement has ever been Tweeted. No, really. This is what he wrote today:

Every day there are roughly 50 million tweets zipping through cyberspace. Until today, none of them were paid ads.

Yes, Twitter's new promoted Tweets thing started today, but had Al Gibes paid any attention (attended?) BlogWorld right here in Vegas last October, he would've known that popular individuals have been taking money for sponsored Tweets for so long that the FTC put out rules about it.

But I digress. It doesn't surprise anyone (anymore) that the R-J's Web operation is run by total incompetents. But it should stun us all that the Philadelphia newspaper jump head first into the very depraved, predatory, evil racket that it has spent years attacking.

More from E&P:

FanDuel said " is proving to be a true pioneer by becoming the first online news publication to use the power of daily fantasy sports games to open up a new revenue frontier."

Yeah. That's what they wanted to be known for.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Weird Tuesday Items

See that? Evidently, the Blogger Gods have removed a post on this site because someone -- they won't say who -- has determined that something in it violated someone's copyright under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The post in question is a May 2009 blog item announcing the release of that week's episode of The Strip Podcast featuring Carlos Santana. It was my usual drill - a short personal note, the link to the show, an image of the guest and a list of links to stuff we discussed in the show.

There's nothing in the post that could even vaguely be construed as being owned by anyone else except, maybe, the image of Santana, but that was a publicity shot provided by The Joint at the Hard Rock. So what gives?

How the hell would I know? The "takedown" email from Google, which owns Blogger, does not indicate what is being called into question. Instead, it directs me to a site called, which anonymizes and posts complaints. Except that there's no complaint anywhere there.

What's more, the instructions for asking Google to dismiss or reverse the claim actually includes language in which you must acknowledge guilt and corrective measures. One of the steps requires your letter to them to include this statement:

"I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that each search result, message, or other item of content identified above was removed or disabled as a result of a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled, or that the material identified by the complainant has been removed or disabled at the URL identified and will no longer be shown."

Huh? I don't even know what they think needs to be removed. Weird, right? I followed the instructions and faxed a letter to the number in the instructions. We'll see what happens.

And now something else weird. Today's R-J carries a piece from Carri Geer Thevenot about David Lockhart, a New Yorker who sued the Venetian for false imprisonment and a few other bad deeds. Lockhart alleged that in 2004 Venetian security accused him of being in a car involved in a hit-and-run, then forced him to retrieve his stuff and leave his room at the hotel. When he refused to pack up, they cuffed him, shackled him to the floor in a security room and later took him to the local jail where he was held for hours before charges were dismissed.

The case went to trial and found the hotel "committed assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract and breach of an inkeeper's duty.

The weird part: The jury awarded him $200,000 but no punitive damages.

That's weird, right? The jury bought his story. They agree all these awful things happened to him. But the Venetian should not be punished? The only thing I can think of is that maybe the car he was in was, in fact, involved in the hit-and-run. Thevenot's piece never says.

Finally, a third weird thing for today. I'm generally in love with New York Times columnist Gail Collins. She's far more clever and funnier than her colleague Maureen Dowd thinks she is and Collins -- gasp! actually has a point when she writes. But an April 9 column by Collins that appeared only today in the Las Vegas Sun about the problem of Sarah Palin sucking the oxygen out of the political debate included this random thought:

(If Sarah Palin was seriously planning a presidential run, do you think she’d have agreed to be speaker-for-hire at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas this week?)

Those parentheses were in the original column. But any which way, this is a very weird notion. What part of that disqualifies Palin? That she's a paid speaker? That she appeared in front of the booze industry? Or that she did both in Vegas?

I can't figure it out. Is the wine and spirits industry somehow anathema to the Religious Right? Maybe to a microscopic segment of teetotalers, but most religious observers have some use for wine, right? Wasn't it doing shots at a Pennsylvania bar that was supposed to make Hillary Clinton seem more common, more in touch with the centrists and even conservatives of the heartland? And who's going to make an issue out of her speaking to such a group in Vegas, anyway? Obama's not so stupid, I hope, as to insult us a third time and I'm pretty sure every leading Republican has given paid speeches to trade groups in Vegas in recent years.

It would seem like a small point, but a New York Times columnist that I admire seems to think this is grounds to end speculation of Sarah Palin's national political potential.

Weird, right?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Aww. If any kitty ever deserved a comfy nap, it's this little guy. That's the handsome cat that loitered for months outside my Petcast co-host Emily Richmond's home. First we assumed it was just a cat that liked to wander, given that it had a collar (but no tags) and seemed well fed, so we made light of the matter in this YouTube video.

After a few months, though, it became clear to Emily and her neighbor, Debbie, as the cat was getting thinner that it was abandoned or seriously lost. So I posted this call for a prospective home and got folks to re-Tweet it all over the place. Emily couldn't take him because she's allergic and Debbie had three cats already.

Well...IT WORKED!!!

On Monday, reader Dawn Christensen emailed me. She and her partner had just lost their cat and wondered if this one was still bopping around the 'hood. He was. The Nevada SPCA, which had initially told Emily that they were full-up, had reversed that and was willing to take him in, but Emily and her neighbor hadn't gotten to that yet.

Emily posted some LOST CAT signs around the neighborhood for a couple of days to give the possible owner one more shot to reclaim their kitty. Then, on Wednesday night, the neighbor put the cat in a dog carrier and Dawn headed over to get him.

Let's pause the story here and look at him again:


OK, so Dawn and Hergit took in the cat. And on Friday, we received this email:

Wanted to let you know the abandoned kitty is doing very well. ... After spending all of 10 minutes in our home, he became so comfortable he quickly became ruler of the house so we've decided to name him Caesar. He's made himself very at home, which is wonderful!

I took him to the vet on Thursday morning. No microchip. The vet determined he is a 1-year old neutered male. He's in good health. No problems, confirmed today by the results of the blood tests. Got him all his shots and he's all set. He is so very friendly and loving and just all around adorable! He loves to give hickeys! Weird, huh?

A deep and heartfelt thank you to you both and to Debbie for taking care of him and spreading the word on his plight. We are so thankful to have him in our family. As my vet said, "It's good to have a cat in the house again, isn't it?" Hell yes, it is.

Here are other shots Dawn passed along of Caesar:

Hooray to blogs, podcasts and Twitter! However, I ought to remind everyone out there that it is kitten season, which means there are hundreds or thousands of cats overwhelming area shelters wherever you are. If you're so inclined, go save one or two. Caesar got lucky because he stalked the right home, that of a woman who podcasts about pets and animals.

Obviously, Emily and I will podcast about this and hope to have Dawn join us soon. Subscribe to The Petcast in iTunes here.

Oh, and one more thing:

Sigh. Happy Sunday, everyone.