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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Looking in on Gaming

13 September 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It's one of the most heavily secured sites per square foot in the nation.

And it's not a prison, museum or military base.

The Pure nightclub at Caesars Palace - a mob scene with deluxe seating and Strip views - is a case study in understated- yet-ever-watchful security.

To keep the scantily clad elite and their entourage in line, the club has a security staff of about 85 people per shift - about 30 more than the entire Caesars casino on any given shift and more than any club in the country. Roughly 30 of these "men in black" are in front of the club, making sure troublemakers are kept out before they can stir up problems.

These aren't your grandfather's or even your father's bouncers. These "security hosts" receive training in several areas such as defusing tense situations with "verbal judo," case law on the use of force and training from Metro officers in identifying drugs and checking IDs. Security staff also receive regular, random drug tests.

Low lighting, nooks and crannies and the alcohol-induced, hedonistic atmosphere of nightclubs create a potential minefi eld of liability for casinos. Their landlords are responsible for the actions of leaseholders like clubs and ultralounges that have become hot profit centers for gaming companies.

Club owner and operator Robert Frey, managing partner of Pure Management Group, says he doesn't take any chances. To back up the floor staff, surveillance cameras catch clubgoers' every move, including potential drug deals, fondling and stealing.

Of Pure Management's 715 employees, only eight - who receive regular training in the latest in fakery techniques - are allowed to check for IDs. And no, it doesn't matter if you're Lindsay Lohan.

"It's chaos, but it's organized chaos," Frey told a group at a security travel conference Tuesday.

* * *

Trying to find that elusive "I Love Lucy" or "Men in Black" slot machine? Harrah's can help.

The company recently launched what is probably the industry's first online slot machine locator.

The tool, called Slot Finder, allows customers to search by casino, slot machine name, denomination and type of machine, including mechanical and video reels.

Archiving each slot machine wasn't as tedious as it might seem. Harrah's Entertainment already keeps fairly close tabs on its more than 62,000 slots nationwide - including those in properties the company acquired from Caesars.

This isn't for folks who don't know or care that a "Wheel of Fortune" machine is a different animal from a "Wheel of Gold," "Wheelionaire" or "Where's the Gold" slot. It's more for the kind of people who seek out "Elvis" and "Evel Knievel" machines. Or prefer "Cash Fever" over "Cash Inferno."

"Folks like being able to find their machines," said Katrina Lane, vice president of channel marketing for Harrah's. The company implemented the tool after customer surveys showed that people wanted to know how to track down their favorite slots more easily, she said.

Why do people like certain machines? It is rarely because of its name. Interesting graphics and bonus round games as well as the speed and frequency of a "hit" are what really count.

"They want to know before they visit our properties whether the slots they like will be there. That's important because our customers visit many different Harrah's properties," Lane said.

It's unlikely that Harrah's will offer online locator services for less profitable items, such as buffet entrees and the kinds of mixed drinks favored by the company's flair bartenders. But it's still an idea.

* * *

It's being touted as a small-scale version of the Forbidden City - the ancient royal palace in Beijing - but with a casino.

But it could very well become the forbidden resort - forbidden in Henderson, that is.

After their first effort fizzled to build a Chinese-themed resort on the South Strip several years ago, a group of California developers is having another go at the plan. This time, developers are eyeing the top of a small hill near the southeast corner of Interstate 15 and St. Rose Parkway. The hill - a familiar sight for California drivers entering Las Vegas - is part of a major, upcoming annexation of federal land stretching to Sloan. The resort's prospects are questionable given that the group doesn't yet own the 9-acre parcel, which would be too small to build a resort under Henderson's codes.

But that's not all that concerns planners. A rendering of the project shows ornate, Asian architecture peeking above a massive wall surrounding the resort. For obvious reasons, it doesn't scream "Gateway to the Las Vegas Valley."

If Henderson officials have their way, whatever is built atop that hill - a key vantage point overlooking the entire valley - will be more in the style of Green Valley Ranch.

Whimsy is fine on the Clark County controlled Strip, with its Eiffel Towerette and New York skyline. Such designs may not fly in Henderson, which has a more conservative approach and will play a major role in the development of the Strip south of St. Rose Parkway.

"What we presented was our vision. If that's not what they want, we'll discuss it with them then," said John Oloteo, executive vice president of Las Vegas Forbidden City Corp.