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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Looking in on: Gaming

6 June 2007

Need a light? Oh, can't smoke in here? Then maybe a dab of this stuff will help you cope.

The newest cigarette-replacement product on the market isn't gum, a patch or chew but a brownish gel that rubs on clear like hand sanitizer liquid.

Nicogel, a patented product invented by an Oxford University professor a few years ago, is being rubbed into the hands of high rollers in Atlantic City, where a partial smoking ban in casinos is in effect.

Casino bosses are doling out the gel to cigarette-hungry customers as a cleaner, yet just as addictive, alternative and are selling packs of it (individually wrapped packages are bundled like cigarettes) in their gift shops. Nicogel's U.S. distributor has begun marketing the gel to casinos across the country, including Nevada, as part of a campaign targeting hospitality companies, including bars and lounges. It's also available in some drugstore and convenience store chains.

Nicogel President Bill Whalen says the gel - essentially liquified tobacco - delivers a more powerful high than pure nicotine products such as patches, which also work more slowly.

The product wasn't developed in response to the rapid spread of indoor smoking bans, which came after the initial breakthrough.

But "it seems to be the right product at the right time," he said.

• • •

Boulder Highway may have the loosest slot machines in Las Vegas (say state regulators), but is also home to some of the valley's most dingy locals casinos. These shopworn gambling dens are happy second homes for loyal, aging customers who have rejected the modern casino era, preferring meal deals and vintage slots to bigger, flashy casino floors, movie theaters and fancy showrooms.

That's why the Eastside Cannery, which recently broke ground as the first big casino to be built along the overlooked highway in more than a decade, will be a tricky balancing act for developers Bill Paulos and Bill Wortman. The property will replace Nevada Palace and could kick start nearby development by spiffing up a neighborhood known for its trailer parks and dive bars.

Keeping the Nevada Palace open while the Eastside Cannery is built allows the people who work there - and the customers they count as friends - to stay on through the transition. They're hoping the transition, in the name of competition and more profitable development, will be as seamless as possible.

The leap from old to new will be greater than expected: The developers will be building a larger, more upscale casino than first envisioned. They say the neighborhood and new housing nearby will support it - a similar argument to the one justifying the construction of the original Cannery in North Las Vegas, which sits amid unattractive warehouses and truck stops. The eastside property will be a less-themed, more modern-looking version of the company's Cannery in North Las Vegas, which has expanded multiple times under its World War II pin up girl-meets-fruit packing plant theme.

• • •

Goodbye, Gilley's; hello, Oak Room.

New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin is parting with the decades-old property for $1.2 billion. But he's not ready to entirely abandon its main attraction, the country-western hangout Gilley's.

The 9,000 - square-foot bar will be reduced to rubble, along with the rest of the New Frontier, so the buyers can build a Las Vegas version of their landmark Plaza Hotel in New York.

But Ruffin plans to resurrect Gilley's off the Strip, making the bikini bull-riding outpost one of the first Strip attractions to move to the suburbs.

Las Vegas' Plaza Hotel is expected to have its own Oak Room restaurant in honor of the original, which has hosted the world's cultural elite for a century.

In other words, no confusing it with Gilley's.