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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Looking in on: Gaming

25 July 2007

How far is too far when it comes to adult entertainment?

That question is surfacing more often with this summer's proliferation of topless pool areas and bikini-clad cocktail servers. While state and local authorities sanction these along with the topless stage shows that have made Las Vegas an international icon, the Gaming Control Board, at least historically, has maintained a dim view of their racier cousins in the strip club business.

The combination of alcohol, lap dancing and other topless off-stage "entertainment" has led to tangles with police - a worst-case scenario for Nevada's gaming industry.

While gaming regulations have a provision governing public decency and decorum, the board has rarely declared anything obscene, instead invoking strip clubs' police records to question whether dancers are topless and interacting with patrons or up on a stage.

With that in mind, the folks at Luxor, spicing up the property with a slew of new restaurants and lounges, were careful to distinguish CatHouse, an upcoming restaurant and ultralounge, from a gentlemen's club - let alone its namesake brothels.

CatHouse servers will flirt, dance and DJ for customers wearing custom-made bustiers and other revealing finery.

"It's hard to believe that (regulators) would think that would be indecent," local gaming attorney Tony Cabot said after hearing of the plans. Nor is it a new idea, Cabot said, referring to the Golden Nugget's former brothel-like look and revealing uniforms elsewhere.

• • •

Got a billion bucks and a dream? Then 38 acres of mostly vacant land across from Mandalay Bay - billed as the last large development site left on the Strip - may be just the thing.

Landowner Howard Bulloch has hired CB Richard Ellis and Goldman Sachs to help him sell his precious assemblage abutting McCarran International Airport (which has the same height restrictions as Mandalay Bay).

"Each time he reached an agreement to sell, the market would jump," said John Knott of CB Richard Ellis' Global Gaming Group. "He's finally reached the point where he wants to make a deal rather than wait for something better to come along." The price? About $28 million per acre - which Knott, without a trace of sarcasm, calls a "relative bargain."

The site has 750 feet of Strip frontage but doesn't include several acres facing the Strip, in front of Bulloch's land, owned by other holdouts. That means buyers will have to part with well over a billion to acquire the entire corner for a major high-rise development.

"I don't think there are 50 people in the world who can buy this," Knott said. But that should be just enough to make things interesting.

• • •

If you think being general manager of the Ritz-Carlton is a tough job, try managing a royal palace.

John Rolfs, the newly appointed head of the Lake Las Vegas Ritz-Carlton, has moved in some illustrious circles since graduating from Cornell's hotel management school in 1974.

Rolfs was working in Washington, D.C., for the National Restaurant Association when a former classmate who would later become an executive at the Mirage ran the food service at the White House.

King Hussein of Jordan paid then-President Carter a visit and was so impressed by the food service that he wanted to recruit his classmate, who referred the royal family to Rolfs.

"Next thing I know I'm on a flight to Jordan for a nine-day interview," he said.

Rolfs says his experience catering to royalty and heads of state in the early 1980s has served him well over his 18-year career at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.

"You don't say 'no' to a king or queen and you don't say 'no' to a president," he said. "You can't have an attitude. If you just say, 'Yes, I'd be happy to do that' to a guest, I think it's a great philosophy in the hotel world."

Rolfs says the four-year-old Ritz-Carlton - which won Mobil's coveted four-star award last year - has become popular with locals as well as visitors who seek seclusion from the clamor of the Strip.