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Chris Jones

Exec: Playboy Belongs in Vegas

20 April 2006

LAS VEGAS -- Playboy executive Christie Hefner tells a crowd Wednesday at a luncheon that Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world.

If Playboy Enterprises has its way, bunny ears won't be the company's only signature item spotted around Southern Nevada.

From nightclubs to retail stores, the Chicago-based conglomerate is building multiple Las Vegas ventures to capitalize on the city's nearly 40 million yearly visitors.

And more Playboy-branded attractions will follow, the company's top executive said Wednesday.

"On every level, we're excited about becoming part of your community," Christie Hefner, Playboy's chairwoman and chief executive officer, told 400 or so people at a luncheon at the Rio sponsored by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

Las Vegas, Hefner said, is the entertainment capital of the world. It's shown an uncanny ability to reinvent itself, and it creates and attracts many of the world's top entertainment brands.

"For all of those reasons, it seems like a city Playboy belongs in," Hefner said.

Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises has raised its local profile in recent years.

Last spring, the nation's first freestanding Playboy fashion boutique opened inside the Forum Shops at Caesars.

Late this summer, the famed Playboy Club will emerge from a 20-year hibernation when the concept makes its debut atop the Palms' $650 million Fantasy Tower; Playboy's trademark rabbit head logo already adorns the 40-story building's side.

Locals and tourists should expect the Palms to host everything from Playboy-themed poker tournaments to fashion shows and beauty contests.

"This (location) will really allow people to be at a Playboy party," Hefner said, comparing upcoming events at the Palms to the famed VIP-only parties at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Playboy patriarch Hugh Hefner, who turned 80 this month, controls about 70 percent of Playboy Enterprises.

But Christie Hefner, Hugh's 53-year-old daughter, has played a pivotal role in the publicly traded company's growth over the past two decades.

She joined Playboy in 1975, a year after she graduated with honors from Brandeis University near Boston. She held several positions before she became president in 1982.

In 1988, she was promoted to chairman and CEO.

Under Christie Hefner's leadership, Playboy expanded into new revenue channels, including retail, pay television and exclusive content for mobile devices.

Las Vegas has played a key role in those efforts, Hefner added.

The city has hosted Playboy-themed television shows such as E! Entertainment Television's "The Girls Next Door" and "Party@ the Palms," which stars former Playmate Jenny McCarthy.

Playboy's Web site includes an online sports book, though its services are not open to U.S. residents.

Such ties to gaming provide another way its audience can connect with the Las Vegas experience.

Palms owner George Maloof, who attended Wednesday's luncheon, said Playboy "is a great brand that I think works very well with the Palms brand."

Maloof is confident that the Playboy Club -- which will be jointly operated by the Palms, Playboy and the N9NE Group, which operates ghostbar and Rain at the Palms -- will take Las Vegas nightlife to a new level with its unique mix of dining, gaming and nightclub activities.

Rumors about a stand-alone Playboy casino have circulated for years, often fueled by detailed renderings posted on the Internet.

But Hefner on Wednesday said the company does not intend to build its own Strip resort.

"We decided we could get to market more quickly in conjunction with the Palms rather than try to build something from scratch," she said.