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Gaming Guru

Rod Smith
 

Caesars Palace Tries to Lure the Masses

29 June 2004

Caesars Entertainment has wrapped up construction on the Roman Plaza, the new pedestrian entrance to Caesars Palace that replaces the landmark people mover at the resort Jay Sarno opened in 1966.

The new plaza at the intersection of Flamingo Road and the Strip is the site of entertainment and retail operations and for the first time turns Caesars Palace's main entrance into a profit center and marketing tool.

The new plaza entrance officially opens Thursday, together with the first all-new porte cochere for the property since 1979, Caesars Palace President Mark Juliano said.

The company did not disclose the cost of either project, but sources said it was approximately $40 million.

It also marks an end of construction that Wall Street analysts and company executives said hamstrung operations and profits at Caesars Palace for the past four years.

Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone said the Roman Plaza should open up the corner of Caesars Palace to a significant increase in foot traffic and draw people into the amenities and casino.

"As an attraction, it should drive incremental business and add to revenues and cash flow for the property," he said.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert Bill Thompson said concluding construction and adding the lure of a simple and attractive entrance will be a boost for the Roman-themed resort.

"That'll help Caesars. It's been like an inner ear ache. It's been a pain to get in and all you wanted to do was find your way out. This is what they needed," he said.

The expanded Caesars Palace empire includes dining, beverage, retail and event facilities, Juliano said.

"This is the most valuable real estate in the world for the gaming industry. What we were getting out of it was not much. This offers 35 million pedestrians a year a lure into Caesars," he said.

Furthermore, with an outdoor amphitheater that has been moved from the back of the property, the Roman Forum creates a great marketing tool that can be used for broadcasting events to television audiences at the stand-alone profit center, Juliano said.

"The Roman Plaza is one of the biggest steps we've taken in transforming this property into the into a 21st-century experience and making the look of the place architecturally consistent," he said. "The opening of the Roman Plaza adds five acres to Caesars Palace's functional operations, bringing dining, leisure, entertainment and shopping experiences closer to the millions of guests who stroll the Boulevard.

"At the same time, we've maintained the entrance driveway set back from the row of fountains that have become an icon in Las Vegas.."

The open-air Roman Plaza was designed to lure more pedestrians into the casino and shops at the Strip's original megaresort and is connected to the pedestrian bridges that span the the intersection.

Sarno complained about Caesars Palace, which he developed, from its opening day because it was set too far back from the Strip.

However, with the Roman Plaza and the new entrance to Caesars Forum Shops at the north end of the resort on the Strip, set to open in October, Caesars will have two primary entrances right on the sidewalk on the Strip's west side.

Hal Rothman, chairman of the history department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the Roman Plaza is a marked departure from the original concept behind the design of Caesars Palace.

"In the larger picture, the Strip used to be smaller properties set close to the Strip, like the Flamingo, along the lines of Soho in London," he said.

Caesars began the process of pulling back and moving from hotel-casinos catering to gamblers to resorts designed to attract vacationers.

"Extending the Forum Shops concept and enveloping the gaming property in it is an interesting concept. I don't know of anywhere else that has extended retail to bring people into gaming," Rothman said. "Whether that works remains to be seen, but Caesars is still one of the premium names in gaming and anything they do to increase the visibility of their brand works for marketing purposes."