Sin City is quickly slipping out of the luxe lifstyle and back to the bargain basement. According to AP, fast food is up, fine dining tabs are down and hotel rooms are available for under $50 in a city that has been wooing recession-weary tourists to come back and play the quarter slot machines. Value is the hippest thing on The Strip this year.
At O'Sheas Casino, the president of five Harrah's Entertainment Inc. hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip is poking fun at the economic downturn and the excesses that built Sin City's anything-goes reputation.
Don Marrandino points at a sign pushing $45 bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey or Smirnoff vodka, and says the promotion parodies the not-too-distant past when the gambling resorts marked up liquor by hundreds of dollars a bottle and patrons couldn't empty them fast enough.
And then it all changed.
''I don't get scared too often,'' said Marrandino, who oversees the Imperial Palace, Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah's Las Vegas and Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon. ''In January, I was scared.''
Across Las Vegas, casinos found consumers unwilling to pay premium prices for just about anything, from meals to hotel rooms, drinks and entertainment. Occupancy citywide dropped to about 72 percent in January, far below the 90 percent-plus normally enjoyed by Las Vegas hotels.
Now a strategy that casino executives laid out earlier this year is taking shape -- offering bargains and fighting for visitors without spending much to build the next big attraction.''Our challenge, like everyone else, is how do you create things without capital?'' Marrandino said. ''You're dealt a hand, and you gotta play it.'' The story is similar for casinos across the country, which are looking for ways to get gamblers in the door.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City offered a one-week-only special for the first time this month that combined a room with a 50-minute spa treatment for $210 per night.
But as hotel-casinos from one end of the Las Vegas Strip to the other lowered rates, visitors have returned to cash in. By March, occupancy rose to 85.9 percent -- and 92.5 percent on weekends.
The average room cost about $92 per night, some 12 percent less than in January and almost a third less than a year earlier.
Executives say changing customer demands affect every hotel-casino, from the $159 per night Wynn Las Vegas to the Imperial Palace, where rooms can be found for $34 per night.
The Imperial Palace is selling a package that includes a one-night stay with all meals at its buffet and a cafe and all drinks at casino and pool bars for $95.
The Luxor has used Twitter to push a $35 one-day pass to its buffet. Other MGM Mirage hotel-casinos offer all-day buffet tickets, and the Luxor's includes beer, wine and champagne.
Even Michelin-starred restaurants where dinner tabs run to $100 per person are offering fine dining at reduced, fixed rates.
The three-star Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand is known for its $385 16-course meal and a $225 six-course option. But it recently debuted another menu for $89.
Visitors are more conservative with their cash, but they're demanding the same experiences and quality they always have, said David McIntyre, vice president of food and beverage for MGM Grand.
Hotel's sommelier has been asked to replace wines that once sold for $300 or $400 a bottle with others that sell for $100 or $200.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009