September 14, 2009
On Friday, Planet Hollywood became the latest Las Vegas casino to slip into default, and Harrah’s wasted little time purchasing a fair amount of the outstanding debt.
The entire Las Vegas Strip has become a really bad game of Monopoly. It’s been awhile since I played the board game, but if I remember correctly, the properties stay in the same spots, but people swap ownership back and forth, mortgage them, go broke, etc.
I was in Las Vegas in August of 2000 when the “new” Aladdin opened. I was staying in a motel called the Vagabond Inn across the street from Treasure Island (on the site of what is now the Palazzo). I remember the Aladdin casino opening hours late due to an inspection problem, and upset workers walking up the sidewalk shouting through bullhorns. It was certainly the most botched casino opening I have ever been to.
Once they opened the door to the Desert Passage shops, I both loved and hated the place.
The interior was very impressive, but I could not get over the fact that it was, in fact, a glorified shopping mall. As the owner of a pair of testicles, I hate shopping. I will never, ever, ever understand why people come to Las Vegas for “the shopping”. Aside from eating at a casino McDonald’s, “shopping” is the single most asinine endeavor in which tourists participate.
Unless they are Ethiopian tourists, I’m pretty sure most folks have malls back home. Aside from the Viva Las Vegas Souvenir Shop, I’m pretty sure that people in Buttsweat, Georgia have the exact same stores that we do.
Spending time shopping in Las Vegas is like flying to the Bahamas to get a Diet Pepsi.
Over the years I saw Velvet Revolver in The Theatre for the Performing Arts, took the kids to some shows, argued with a shop proprietor over a guitar signed by Layne Staley, saw two beauty pageants, and I played in the casino fairly often.
When they announced that the Aladdin would become Planet Hollywood a few years later, I mourned for the property ahead of time because I was fairly certain that it would become Douche Central.
Fortunately, in my opinion, this did not happen.
If anything, the Planet Hollywood owners significantly improved the Aladdin. The external was lit up nicely, the interior looked nicer, and (again, in my opinion) the staff has always been consistently above average.
Planet Hollywood has always tried. From the greeters at the door, to the Pleasure Pit, to a top-notch Poker “area” (I hesitate to call it a room), to the Mezzanine, to the finest topless production on The Strip … the Planet has always put forth an effort to lay down an appealing vibe.
Sure, the Prive scandal has been screaming across headlines lately, and it has put a damper on the PH image slightly … but I’ve been inside the property as recently as last week, and I like it as much now as I ever did.
So, here we are, a little over two years later, and the beleaguered casino may change yet again.
The poor Planet Aladdin is being passed around like a blunt at a Cypress Hill concert, and given the quality of the property in question, it’s a shame.
Given the painful bludgeoning death of the horse, I’ve made it a personal point to cease ranting about Harrah’s … but I would be lying if I didn’t say that their involvement makes this all the more disappointing.
It’s not so much that Harrah’s is evil (although they kind of are), it’s that they already own enough properties in Vegas. I would probably feel the same way if the suitor was MGM.
If Las Vegas was Marilyn Monroe, crappy gambling would be chloral hydrate, and lack of competition would be Nembutal. It’s part of what’s killing us.
It sounds patently absurd, but I swear I have had people tell me that they are staying at the Rio because they had a bad experience at the Flamingo on a prior trip. Someone I spoke with in the Mandy poker room told me that he had been staying exclusively in the Mandalay Bay for three years after switching from the Monte Carlo because that property had refused to correct a billing error.
That’ll show those bastards!
Some of you may laugh, but you have to realize that people who read “Vegas blogs” and websites on any consistent basis are typically more educated about the city than the average tourist. The majority of folks who come here have no idea that most of the casinos are owned by a small handful of companies.
As far as they know, Nicholas Sarkozy owns Paris, and Sir Lancelot owns the Excalibur.
You would be shocked at the number of people who aren’t aware of who owns what on the Boulevard.
If Harrah’s does manage to take over Planet Hollywood, it will be yet another nail in the coffin of competition here locally, and it will almost certainly change the flavor of the current PH casino. If I had to take a wild guess, it probably would not be for the better.
I don’t suppose there is much of a choice, however. If you’re in default, you’re in default, and your choices narrow dramatically. Planet Hollywood obviously does not have the cash to ride out the current “correction” (Jesus, I hope the yapping heads are right about it being temporary), and to the person with liquid assets go the spoils.
It should be stressed that a takeover has not yet actually happened. Harrah’s has only begun buying up Planet Hollywood’s debt, and a true takeover may take some time, if it happens at all.
While I would personally much rather see “Anyone Else, Inc.” make the bid for the troubled property, it appears that Planet Harrah’s is a very real possibility in the near future.
I suppose it’s not all bad.
At least disgruntled tourists who have been treated poorly by staff at the Imperial Palace will have yet another place to take their business.
The free market is a beautiful thing.