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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Home court advantage

19 February 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- George Maloof expects large crowds of basketball fans to pack the Palms this weekend in conjunction with the NBA All-Star Game festivities. So much so that Maloof had staff temporarily remove about 60 slot machines from the casino's lobby to give fans more room to circulate.

What the crowds' impact will be on the casino's weekend revenues is anyone's guess.

Other than Mandalay Bay, which is the site of the NBA Jam Session, All-Star Celebrity Game and other specialty events, the Palms is center court among the city's hotel-casinos as the much-anticipated event rolls into town.

The Palms was chosen as the host hotel by the NBA and, as such, 24 of the property's 1,200-square-foot, one-bedroom suites were set aside for the East and West All-Star players. In addition, the NBA booked 600 of the Palms' 707 hotel rooms to house the league's operations personnel. The NBA rented a couple of the Palms' large suites, but the rest were sold to corporate sponsors, which didn't leave a lot of space for the Palms' regular customers.

But that doesn't bother Maloof, the Palms owner who has turned his swanky resort just west of the Strip into a sort of hybrid in the gaming industry: a nightspot where the hip, young and beautiful make the scene to be seen, but also a place for the loyal locals searching for value.

Throughout All-Star Weekend, the Palms will be the home of numerous events, mostly invitation only.

"This really is a place for people who want to be part of the action," Maloof said. "We're expecting the big crowds and, with all the craziness, I'm not really sure how it will end up. Maybe some of our good customers might not want to be here because it's too crazy. Sometimes, big events act a little differently for a locals casino."

While Maloof believes his table games pit will have a banner weekend, the slot machine crowd may be sparse.

"A lot of times, your locals slot player doesn't want to be around all the big crowds," Maloof said.

The Maloof family, which owns the NBA's Sacramento Kings, played a key role in helping Las Vegas and tourism industry leaders secure the city as host site for the NBA All-Star Game.

Tourism officials believe the event is projected to surpass $26 million in nongaming economic impact for the city, and millions of dollars more in exposure. The Palms will benefit from the exposure as well.

"What we've said all along was that this wasn't about the Palms, it was about bringing something to the city that would benefit the community," Maloof said. "This is a one-time deal, and there is a lot of excitement about what it's bringing to the city."

Maloof expects NBA players other than those participating in the game to spend the weekend in Las Vegas as well. That means the Palms' nightclubs and restaurants will be party central.

Most of the Palms' over-size specialty and themed suites, such as the 10,000-square-foot, two-level Hardwood Suite with its basketball court and working scoreboard and locker room, have been booked by the NBA's corporate sponsors for different events and functions.

Turner Sports is hosting a private party in the Rain nightclub tonight as is Crown Royal the same night in the Moon nightclub.

Even the Palms parking lot will be transformed by T-Mobile tonight to replicate Miami's South Beach in order to launch a limited edition wireless telephone endorsed by Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade. The event is by invitation only.

"Through Sunday, we have parties every night," Maloof said. "Big corporate events are scheduled at all of our different venues. Some of our suites, like the Hardwood, will have multiple events going on. The restaurants themselves are all open. We didn't want to close them because they will be packed and do a tremendous amount of business."

Most of the basketball fans packing the Palms will be hoping to spy an NBA superstar or two. Several media events with the players will take place at the casino. In addition, NBA vendors and sponsors are setting up a basketball court in the Palms' new 20,000-square-foot ballroom to allow players to test products. The ballroom is not open to the public.

"I think there's going to be a lot of current and former NBA players running around here," Maloof said.

To help protect the players' privacy, especially those staying at the Palms, Maloof hired off-duty Las Vegas Police Department officers to work as additional Palms security personnel throughout All-Star Weekend. Security, he said, will be posted on all of the Palms' hotel floors.

To try to recoup some of his costs, Maloof last week put a three-night stay in the 10,000-square-foot Hugh Hefner Sky Villa up for auction on eBay, which included four tickets to Sunday's game. No one bid on the package, which had a starting bid of $80,000.

Instead, Palms spokesman Larry Fink said Thursday, rap music producer Sean Combs, better known as P. Diddy, rented the suite for tonight and Sunday night.

P. Diddy is hosting the All-Star post-game party in the Rain nightclub.