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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Looking in on: Gaming

22 November 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- There are top-shelf nightclubs and there are clubs that will serve a bottle of vodka for the supposedly low price of $250. But midmarket clubs? As the red-hot nightclub industry matures, Pure Management Group — called the Harrah's Entertainment of nightclubs for its wide assortment in Las Vegas — will further diversify its offerings with Dick's Last Resort, a bar-restaurant with six locations nationwide and known for its dive-bar decor, surly bartenders and finger food served up by the bucket.

Set to open early next year at Excalibur, the live music venue appears to be a departure for Pure, known for swanky clubs hosting celebrity disc jockeys and a well-dressed clientele. But Pure Managing Partner Robert Frey says Dick's will serve an important niche for folks looking for a more informal hangout. Think Coyote Ugly, Pure's unrestrained, urban-meets-country bar and club at New York-New York. To drum up business, Pure will market the club to its e-mail database of at least 300,000 customers — a number rivaling that of entire casinos.

Las Vegas is poised to surpass New York and Los Angeles as a top nightclub destination because of the volume of people casinos are able to attract, Frey said at last week's Global Gaming Expo. About $80 million worth of clubs opened in Las Vegas last year — more than any other place in the country, he added.

"The experiences you get now are so vast and so untouchable," he said. "You can come to Vegas 20 times and get 20 different experiences." Apparently, one of those experiences will now include colossal portions of "Crabby Balls" and "Mumbo Jumbo Chicky Wings."

• • •

Casino chips embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags — aimed at making casinos more efficient by tracking bets and dealer performance — are the latest gizmo to help gambling halls keep an eye on the bottom line.

They are helping a handful of casinos nationwide monitor table game performance, including the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. Manufacturers of the high-tech systems predicted at Global Gaming Expo that the technology, slow to catch fire, could be part of most casino systems in the U.S. in the next few years.

Meanwhile, some at the conference wondered whether the tags — used by distributors in other industries to track inventory — could also be used to keep tabs on employees who wear the devices.

The idea isn't out of the question. Hospitals are using the technology to track down doctors at a moment's notice.

It has even been broached at Foxwoods in Connecticut, one of the country?s biggest casinos with a staff of roughly 10,000 people. The technology is available — but it's not going to happen, experts said. Personal privacy, it seems, is more valuable than management efficiency.

• • •

With discussion of bans on Internet gambling and on smoking throwing some water on the casino industry's otherwise bullish Global Gaming Expo, one executive drew attention to a concern that often falls under the radar.

Harrah's Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Tim Wilmott said one of the company's biggest challenges over the next several years will be the risk of cyberterrorism.

Event organizers were on top of the issue, hosting sessions with computer security experts on how to combat hackers.

Even with a slew of security products on the market, wireless networks are especially susceptible to hackers who can snag such things as credit card information and hotel room numbers, consultant and conference speaker Joe Tomasone said. Potential targets include wireless "hot spots" offered by casinos and PDAs used by employees to collect customer information and other sensitive data.

Tomasone is a senior network security engineer for Fortress Technologies, a Florida-based company that counts the Defense Department as one of its largest clients.

Tomasone showed casino managers an instructional video, downloaded for free off the Internet, on how to hack into wireless systems. Hackers have also become adept at using laptops and antennae — some crafted from soup cans — to detect wireless signals. Because there's no authentication to access the system, the hacker's location, which could be miles away, is unknown, he said.