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Gaming Guru

Hubble Smith

Hotels Strike Bowl Paydirt

24 December 2003

The Golden Nugget probably feels a bigger impact than the Luxor as host hotels of the 12th annual Las Vegas Bowl, but both properties welcome the business during one of the slower periods of the year.

The game, to be played at 4:30 p.m. today at Sam Boyd Stadium, pits the University of New Mexico Lobos (8-4) of the Mountain West Conference against the Oregon State Beavers (7-5) of the Pac-10 Conference.

The Golden Nugget, host for the Lobos, expects to sell out its 1,900 rooms at $59 a night during four days of bowl activities, said Dan Shumny, spokesman for the hotel.

About 500 of the rooms are reserved for players, coaches, fans and family of the Lobos.

"We try to market ourselves to the folks in New Mexico, to come out to the game and bring the family, bring the gifts, go to church here," Shumny said. "Some people bring Christmas trees up to their rooms. It's a cool, different way to celebrate Christmas."

This is the Golden Nugget's fifth year as a host hotel for the Las Vegas Bowl, which has been played on Christmas Day in the past.

"We go all out," Shumny said. "We dress the front desk staff in New Mexico sweatshirts and we put `Welcome Lobos' buttons on the dealers and cocktail servers."

The Beavers and their following won't occupy as large a percentage of the Luxor's 4,408 rooms, but they're easily taking 2,500 room nights, said Tom Bruny, director of marketing for the hotel.

"We're still hoping more Oregon State fans will come into town over the next three days," he said Monday. "We did it to help fill hotel rooms over a slow period of time and also to be a supportive partner for (bowl sponsor) ESPN and to make the Las Vegas Bowl a better event for the city."

In May 2001, the Las Vegas Bowl was acquired by ESPN Regional Television, a subsidiary of ESPN, which will show the game nationwide.

Along with being the Pac-10's host hotel for the first time, the Luxor is serving as official hotel for media covering the game.

Room rates at the Luxor started at $69 a night earlier in the week, going up to $79 on Christmas Eve and $99 on Christmas, Bruny said. New Year's Eve is selling at $399 a night.

The Luxor treated both teams to a buffet at Pharaoh's Feast and the "Blue Man Group" show Sunday night. On Monday, the Lobos and Beavers participated in the Outback Steak Bowl at the Fremont Street Experience, followed by a pep rally.

Each hotel provided 50 complimentary rooms for four nights, three complimentary suites for four nights, a hospitality suite and meeting space for the teams.

"Without this activity, we would probably run 50 percent full," Shumny said. "This comes at the right time for us, between Christmas and New Year's."

Rudy Davalos, athletic director for the University of New Mexico, said the Lobos are getting used to spending Christmas here, having played in last year's Las Vegas Bowl.

Joining him for a Christmas stay at the Golden Nugget are his wife, two of his three grown children and a granddaughter.

"Naturally, we lose some of our fans that just can't get away," he said. "Had it been on the 23rd (of December), we probably would have another 3,000 people. But we've enjoyed it.

"Of course, we've been out here many times with the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament. I'd say Las Vegas is the No. 1 travel destination for the entire state of New Mexico. When the football team or basketball team's here, it's an extra treat."

Bruny said playing the game on Christmas Eve hurts attendance by Oregon State fans because there aren't many flights from Las Vegas to Portland on Christmas Day.

"That's one of the things we've heard," he said.

Paid attendance at last year's Las Vegas Bowl, a 27-13 victory for UCLA over New Mexico, was 30,324.