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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Vegas' Margaritaville casino unveils expansion

30 September 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- When the Margaritaville casino expansion at the Flamingo Las Vegas opens, some 15,000 square feet of unused public space will no longer be wasting away.

But there's another purpose behind the expansion -- the space finally gives singer-entertainer Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Holdings, which operates restaurants and retail stores and sells consumer products, its long-sought casino venture.

A hotel official said the expansion, which opens Saturday, also connects the hotel's Margaritaville restaurant with the rest of the 3,500-room Flamingo.

"We've taken a dark, empty hallway, brightened it up and made it useful," said Caesars Entertainment Corp. Regional President Rick Mazer, who oversees the Flamingo.

As well as making it potentially profitable.

The Flamingo spent $10 million to add 22 table games, 220 slot machines and the centerpiece 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar. The casino operates under the Flamingo's gaming license and the resort will pay Margaritaville a royalty fee based on performance.

John Cohlan of Margaritaville Holdings said the deal with the Flamingo offers the company a chance to introduce the Margaritaville casino concept ahead of next year's planned opening of the first stand-alone Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant in Biloxi, Miss. That facility will have 60,000 square feet of casino space, along with a Margaritaville restaurant and an events center. Hotel rooms could be added in phases.

A second Margaritaville Casino, a $181 million project with 400 hotel rooms, is planned for Bossier City, La. The deal is subject to approval by Bossier Parish residents, who will vote on the development in November. The casino could be completed in 2012.

The company tried to roll out its first Margaritaville Casino in Biloxi in 2007 to replace the Grand Casino. But the souring economy sank the development. A similar deal in Atlantic City with the Trump Marina also failed to materialize.

"You can't top this location," Cohlan said of the Flamingo. "We're right on the Strip and it's a great opportunity for the company."

Cohlan said designers working on the Biloxi development oversaw the theme for the Flamingo. The carpeting and flooring looks like an island beach; table game felt tops and chairs have exclusive designs; and the space is dotted with Jimmy Buffett-inspired enhancements, such as light fixtures in the shape of sliced limes.

From the casino, patrons can enter the Margaritaville restaurant through the facility's retail area. The restaurant still has Strip entrances.

The restaurant closes at 2 a.m., but the casino will operate 24 hours. Cohlan said the Flamingo's Margaritaville is the top-grossing restaurant of the company's 15 facilities in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada.

The Flamingo hired 250 workers for the Margaritaville casino space, including dealers and bartenders who went through several training sessions.

"They understand the Margaritaville style," Cohlan said. "When the restaurant closes, the party just shifts over to the casino."

Mazer said Margaritaville will serve as initial entrance to Caesars' Project Linq, which is expected to break ground this fall. The $550 million retail, dining and entertainment development is anchored by a 550-foot observation wheel.

The Margaritaville casino's official grand opening is Oct. 14. The restaurant and casino will try to break the Guinness World Record for the largest margarita ever made, creating an 8,500 gallon beverage in two-story container. The event will also serve as fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project.