MGM Resorts Releases Re-opening Plans


Sin City’s biggest player announces steps to welcome back guests…

Can you smell that in the air? It’s still pretty faint, but very distinct. It’s the fragrance of hope, something that Las Vegas desperately needs. The aromas of bleach, peroxide, and other disinfectants are coming to your hotel-casino, and you’d better get used to them if you want to stay and play.

It’s hard to believe, but today marks the third consecutive day that I can publish good news. On Sunday I told you about Westgate CARES, a nationwide protocol in which the Orlando-based resort company shared their research and programs freely with the hospitality industry. Then yesterday came news of the reopening of Esther’s Kitchen, spearheading a wave of similar announcements.

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Vegas Unfiltered Blog reader “Dolores” had a question about Sunday’s piece, for which I had no answer. But today I offer a converse response regarding MGM Resorts‘ measures to address sanitation and operational procedure changes. Here it is as presented courtesy of Jenn Smulo of Kirvin Doak, the Vegas-based public relations firm that represents MGM Resorts, Westgate Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil, and several charities in the valley.

(May 12, 2020) – MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM) today released a report outlining the comprehensive health and safety protocols the company is implementing prior to re-opening its domestic properties and resorts which were temporarily closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report details MGM Resorts’ “Seven-Point Safety Plan” – a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to deter the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees and rapidly respond to potential new cases. The full report can be found HERE.

“Preparing for the moment we can re-open our doors, MGM Resorts focused on developing a plan that puts health and safety at the center of everything we do. Our ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ is the result of months of consultations with public health experts and outlines our comprehensive approach to welcoming guests back safely,” said MGM Resorts Acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle. “Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only okay, it’s critically important. We will continue providing the hospitality experiences we are known for, but we must do so safely. We will continue working with experts and following guidance from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and government officials and regulators as we evolve these protocols based on the latest information.”

EXPERT GUIDANCE

MGM Resorts Lead Health and Safety Advisor: Dr. Shannon Magari, Vice President of Health Sciences for Colden Corporation 

MGM Resorts is working with Dr. Shannon Magari, ScD, MPH, MS as its lead health and safety advisor for this process. Dr. Magari is the Vice President of Health Sciences for Colden Corporation, an occupational health, safety and environmental firm. Dr. Magari obtained her Master of Science from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College and received her doctoral training and served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health – specializing in Occupational Epidemiology. 

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OVERVIEW: MGM RESORTS’ SEVEN-POINT SAFETY PLAN

The full report, including detailed protocols, procedures and operational enhancements can be found HERE.

These protocols and procedures focus on balancing the customer service guests have come to expect from MGM Resorts with the urgent need to apply knowledge about COVID-19 and adapt environments accordingly. This plan is being implemented at MGM Resorts’ properties throughout the United States, with additions and changes being made based on local jurisdictions.

MGM Resorts’ Seven-Point Safety Plan is as follows:

  1. Screening, Temperature Checks and Employee TrainingMGM Resorts has implemented employee-screening measures to assess signs and symptoms of infection and whether the employee resides or cares for someone who has recently been diagnosed with the virus. Employees are currently and will continue to go through temperature checks before entering properties.

Guests will be asked to abide by a similar self-screening protocol prior to arriving and during their stay. Guests who have reason to believe they may have been exposed to the virus are strongly urged to follow CDC guidelines for self-quarantine and not travel. We will look forward to welcoming those guests once the self-quarantine period is complete.

  1. Mandatory Masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)All MGM Resorts employees will be provided and required to wear an approved mask when on our properties. We will also strongly encourage guests to wear masks in public areas and offer masks to any guests who need one, free of charge. Gloves will continue to be worn by employees who require them to do their jobs, such as food handlers and employees who clean public areas. Additional categories of employees required to wear PPE will be identified by medical experts.
    • Drink service: We will ask guests to minimize the amount of time masks are removed when drinking on the casino floor.
    • Eating: We will ask guests to refrain from eating on the casino floor to minimize the amount of time masks are removed.
  1. Physical Distancing: Six-foot physical distancing policy will be in place, wherever feasible, with floor guides serving as reminders throughout MGM Resorts properties. From time-to-time, six-foot distancing will be challenging – and in those cases, reasonable mitigating protocols will be implemented, such as plexiglass barriers or eye protection for employees. Plexiglass barriers will be installed in areas throughout casinos and lobbies, where appropriate, for the safety of guests and employees. Signage will be installed throughout properties to guide employees and guests on how to safely practice physical distancing.
  1. Handwashing and Enhanced Sanitization: Prior to property closures in March, MGM Resorts implemented increased and enhanced routine cleaning, based on CDC guidelines, with a focus on high-touch surfaces in common areas. We will continue using proven cleaning products in accordance with EPA guidelines for coronaviruses, bacteria and other infectious pathogens. Electrostatic sprayers will be used in many large areas to allow us to apply disinfectant more efficiently.

In addition, custom-built handwashing stations with soap and water, along with hand-sanitizing stations, will be readily available in high-traffic areas and with a visible presence. Signage will be installed to guide and remind employees and guests of the importance of proper handwashing protocols.

  1. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Controls and Air Quality: MGM Resorts has always placed a high priority on air quality for our guests and has reviewed the operation of HVAC systems to identify additional opportunities to enhance their effectiveness. Rigorous measures in accordance with established guidelines to help mitigate the risk of virus transmission have been taken throughout our properties.

As scientific information becomes available about the virus, and as additional guidance from state and local authorities and our medical experts evolve, we will continue to review and adjust the operation of our HVAC systems, fully recognizing the important role they have in keeping employees and guests healthy and safe.

  1. Incident Response Protocols: MGM Resorts has protocols in place aimed at reducing the chance infection will spread. In the unfortunate event a guest or employee tests positive for the virus, we will activate incident response protocols to ensure the infected individual has access to medical treatment, exposed areas are thoroughly sanitized and, when possible, notify those who may have come in close, prolonged contact with the infected individual. MGM Resorts has medical and security personnel on staff to respond quickly in the event of an incident.
  1. Digital Innovations: MGM Resorts is reimagining several aspects of the guest experience through technology to transition current processes into contactless options for guests that eliminates or reduces the need for waiting in line.
    • Contactless Check-In: Guests will have the ability to complete the check-in process entirely themselves through the MGM Resorts mobile app. This includes the ability to process payment, verify identification and obtain a digital room key, all through a mobile device. If preferred, physical keys will be available through self-serve key encoders. Employees will be available for guests who prefer check-in without using their mobile device, while still maintaining a line-reduced environment.
    • Food & Beverage: Digital menus will be available to view on personal mobile devices via QR code. Virtual queues will be in place for guests when immediate seating is unavailable. Guests will receive a text message notification when their table is ready.

 

Do you know of any positive actions being taken by Vegas-centric corporations related to the pandemic shutdown? Feel free to tell us about it in the “COMMENTS” section or drop me an email – Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog. Be safe. Be smart. Be strong – Sam Novak

Photos: MGM Resorts

UV Beach Club – A Pool Party with a Purpose


Unique weekly event offers a safe haven for all…

Have you ever seen the ads for Planet Fitness gyms? They boast a “Judgement-Free Zone” to entice members who don’t normally feel confident inside health clubs. Too bad they contradict that very philosophy with a “Lunk Alarm” that shames those getting too intense with their workouts. 

The creators of UV Beach Club promise no such mixed messages. Everyone is welcome to their veritable safe haven under the sun…one that promises frivolity and entertainment, food and drink in a welcoming atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance. Located at the NoMad Pool inside Park MGM Hotel, UV Beach Club is part of JEMAA, winner of Las Vegas Weekly‘s “Best New Pool Party 2019”.

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From the UVBC website:

We are proud to make UVBC a party environment that welcomes people of ALL identities. Our party is a safe space where you can come and let your true colors shine! Come enjoy our specialty cocktails, hand crafted food, music from top DJ’s, and the hottest staff and entertainers providing you with world class service. UVBC – Beyond the rainbow!

Co-creator Garrett Pattiani stresses that UV Beach Club isn’t a copycat of gay-themed pool parties you may have attended in the past. He and partners Andrew Lignelli and Russ White (of QLife Media) have dreamed up a concept that’s as timely as it is unique.

This isn’t a gay pool party. It’s meant to be expansive. LGBTQ+, allies, people of color, feminists, etc. Every week we will partner with nightlife & day-life staff, local show casts, birthdays, and influencers.

The premiere on July 26th will celebrate birthdays of two popular gentlemen – aerialist Brandon Pereyda and photographer Frankie Tabares Sanchez of Piranha Nightclub.

UV Beach Club is held every Friday from 11am to 7pm. Admission is $10 which includes a voucher for one cocktail up to $20 in value. For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit the UVBC website by clicking HERE

Photos: UV Beach Club

 

 

2018 Events, Trends & Moments…Cosmic and Controversial


A lot has happened in the past 12 months. Today I look back on large-scale events…

GREATEST SIGHT IN THE SKY – Angels of the 2017 Massacre

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                      I witnessed it on Sahara Avenue near Palace Station…

This one is emotional and unforgettable. If you were there to witness it, you couldn’t have helped being shaken to the core. As friends and loved ones gathered to commemorate the victims of 2017’s mass shooting one year later, the sunset brought a phenomenon that was seen throughout the entire valley.

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                       Courtesy of Michal Furmanczyk, Absinthe acrobat…

While some were quick to explain it scientifically, many of us felt it was a sign from a greater power…or perhaps a message from another plane of existence. Whatever your take on the matter, there’s no denying that the sunset on 10/1/18 was one we’ll never forget.

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                                  Courtesy of performer Kim Lange…

ROLLING BACK THE PARKING FEES

So many people want to sling buckets of rotting fruit at the money-grubbers of MGM Resorts for instituting parking fees on the Strip. As usual, copycat CAESARS Entertainment followed, the same way they did with resort fees. But unlike those dreaded mandatory surcharges, many of their competitors have held off…or even rolled back…charging their guests to park.

To my recollection, Wynn/Encore was the first to rethink this strategy by offering validation to shoppers, show attendees and hotel guests. Cosmopolitan began including parking as part of their mandatory daily fees just this month. Of course, they had to spoil a bit of the satisfaction by RAISING the resort fee another four dollars per day.

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       Caesars couldn’t resist sticking it to their guests one final time in 2018…

Tropicana, Treasure Island, SLS, Stratosphere, Venetian, Palazzo and a few others still offer parking to everyone without cost. Then there’s the Caesars properties, who dropped a stinkbomb during New Year’s Eve weekend by introducing a flat-rate “surge price” of $20 per day. Keep on gouging, guys. You’ve learned nothing.

LADY GAGA IS THE NEW QUEEN OF THE STRIP

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It seemed really odd when MGM Resorts decided to spend $170 million to rip out their new-ish and gorgeous Aria Theater in favor of “more lucrative” convention space…and then spend millions more to expand/rebrand the adjacent Monte Carlo theater for…get this…more live entertainment. Mmmm kay….

The gamble seems to have paid off, though, as Park Theater just celebrated two years of hosting such high-profile acts as Cher, Ricky Martin, Queen/Adam Lambert and Stevie Wonder. Reports have surfaced that the unwelcome return of faux entertainer Britney Spears has suffered underwhelming ticket sales. But Lady Gaga’s ENIGMA residency came to the rescue by swooping in during the last few days of the year.

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Initial reviews have been stellar. Entertainment Weekly wrote “Enigma the show is a damn good time, and it’s admirable in its attempts to elevate a greatest-hits gathering into something striving for more, something that perhaps even galvanized an artist in the peak of her career to take a Vegas residency in the first place.”

A local media publisher, who shall remain unnamed, confided a different take with me: “Gaga was great. Everything else about the show was a disaster.”

There’s no question that Lady Gaga’s profile has risen substantially since she signed her Park Theater contract. She’s sure to get an Oscar nomination for A Star Is Born…and might actually win. Her credibility as a performer, humanitarian and cultural icon are unquestioned. So having her as a fixture on the Strip (for a planned two years) is a major coup for Park MGM. Britney who?

UPDATE: Mere minutes after I published this piece, it was announced that Britney had cancelled her Las Vegas residency, citing “family health concerns”. That’s PR-speak for “My sales suck and they want me out”. What a wonderful bit of news for lovers of genuine talent. Buh-bye, Brit Brit. Don’t let the door hit-hit.

https://www.ktnv.com/news/britney-spears-cancels-las-vegas-residency

TOUGH YEAR FOR VEGAS RESORT EXECS

The past twelve months have seen a surprising upheaval in upper management at major hotel casinos. It all started with an ominous event as embattled former Caesars Entertanment CEO Gary Loveman was shown the door in January…from his replacement job with Aetna. Loveman had never previously worked for healthcare companies.

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His successor Mark Frissora, who assumed the position from Loveman in summer 2015, will be departing his role in the next month or so. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Frissora was accused in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by his former company, Hertz Global Holdings, of “inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information to an effective review” three weeks after he took over at Caesars. Ouch!

Gary Loveman wasn’t the only former resort exec to have a bad year. Longtime MGM Resorts‘ Felix Rappaport was found dead in his home this summer. Current MGM CEO Jim Murren issued the following statement: “We are saddened by the news of the passing of our former colleague and friend, Felix Rappaport. Felix was a member of the MGM Resorts family for more than two decades and is remembered fondly by many. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Also at MGM, it was announced in October that Bobby Baldwin, Chief Customer Development Officer of their resorts and President/CEO of CityCenter on the Strip, will depart both positions soon…without explanation. The press announcement was extremely brief and offered no details, which stirred up plenty of rumors. Hmmm…

During that same month, they welcomed George Kliavkoff as the new President of Entertainment and Sports. He took over for legendary bushy-maned Richard Sturm who had held that position since 1993. Sturm shocked many when he announced his departure from MGM five weeks earlier. He was leaving to form his own entertainment consulting firm that would work exclusively with…MGM Resorts (insert facepalm here).

VitalVegas.com reported on a number of departures and managerial changes this summer at Westgate Hotel Casino. The most noteworthy that I personally can report on was the promotion of Cami Christensen into the position of President and General Manager. I happened to be there on the evening of the announcement and was honored to offer congratulations.

Christensen has been with the property for over seventeen years and assumed the responsibilities of former GM Geno Iafrate, who reportedly departed to help launch a new franchising concept for Westgate’s Superbook. Oddly, Iafrate’s LinkedIn account currently shows him as having left the property and looking for work.

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             Gordon Prouty and Cami Christensen raise the bar at Westgate…

I was also excited to meet Gordon Prouty while covering the annual Mr. Olympia Weekend this summer. Gordon had just accepted a position as Westgate’s Director of Public and Community Relations. This dapper gentleman has an extensive background in media and community relations throughout the country.

Here in Vegas, Gordon’s been involved in several organizations and Greenspun Media Group. And as the best-dressed man in all of Las Vegas, he served as inspiration for my article on STITCHED Men’s Haberdashery. Only good things can happen at Westgate with Gordon Prouty behind the PR wheel.

There’s nothing like a sex scandal to ruin a man’s legacy. Just ask Kevin Spacey….or in this case, Steve Wynn. The super-successful businessman, whom many credit with the mega-resorts of today, had one really tough year. Allegations of sexual misconduct forced the magnate to sell off his shares in Wynn Resorts this past March. Just before that he’d stepped down as CEO of his own company while denying the claims being made against him: “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”

The founder of one of Las Vegas’ most luxurious resorts was also forced to depart the on-property villa he called home, as well as to forfeit his healthcare and severance pay. To add insult to injury, Wynn’s final pet project, the Paradise Park Lagoon, was scuttled. It would appear that Wynn West, an expansion on the opposite side of Las Vegas Boulevard, has also been put on ice.

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                                                     Photo via KSNV-TV

This is the third project to fall apart on the former New Frontier Hotel space. Perhaps it’s just as well. Somebody is apparently building Wynn West just a little farther down the street anyway. Unfortunately they’ve named it Resorts World, which doesn’t quite have the same ring. But it certainly looks familiar…

Tomorrow I’ll conclude my year-end wrap-up with the things that made Las Vegas 2018 a deeply personal affair.

Banner photo by Jim Gisclair of Serenity Helicopters

 

If You Build It On The Sidewalk, They Will Come. Maybe…


Vegas is utilizing every available space to sell you something – with mixed results.

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Taking in the north half of the Strip from the 26th floor of Wynn’s original tower, I was reminded of a trend that has swept over Vegas in recent years. An amazing amount of new stores, bars and restaurants have risen where once was nothing but sidewalk.

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Sugar Factory restaurant in front of Fashion Show Mall. The CVS/Avengers annex that replaced a pirate ship’s dock. Gilley’s and Starbucks over the wooden “boardwalk” of Treasure Island. One of the newest is Wynn Plaza, the fourth retail corridor at Wynn/Encore resort. All have sprung from what is now considered “wasted space”.

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Rhumbar at Mirage was one of the first to initiate this approach. Using square footage from decorative faux grass and shrubbery, the lounge/patio opened in March of 2009. Tellingly, it arrived around the same time that the casino’s White Tiger Pool was removed in favor of BLT, a gourmet burger joint.

This entire section of Mirage was once accessed by a “people mover” or electric walkway. As was the philosophy of the new “megaresort” concept, people-movers and free attractions would lure pedestrians inside from the Strip, where they’d hopefully stay to gamble and more.

But with this decade’s falling interest in slot machines and table games, the wise men of Mirage opted to replace that expensive tiger pool with something that could potentially generate alternate income. At the same time, the people-mover was replaced with a conventional concrete sidewalk, a cost-cutting measure that reflected the new business model.

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Soon after, Paris Hotel Casino ripped out the gorgeous La Fontaine des Mers fountain and constructed Sugar Factory restaurant and store in its place (it later became HEXX Kitchen + Bar). Then HEXX was topped with a second level for Budweiser Beer Park. That made two bar/restaurant concepts on a spot that was once just eye candy.

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Interestingly, now that Sugar Factory has relocated to Fashion Show Mall, it holds the dubious distinction of rising up not once but twice from Vegas Strip sidewalks.

Once the practice of using every available inch of sidewalk space for retail took hold, entire sections of Las Vegas Boulevard literally became Strip malls. So long Bally’s fountains and gardens, hello hideous Grand Bazaar Shops.

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Sidewalk

As shifting trends have turned Las Vegas into an oversized Mall of The Americas, visiting the casinos is no longer a must-do activity. Why bother to go inside when you can eat, drink and shop right on the sidewalk?

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Monte Carlo, the rather generic-looking MGM Resorts property that was once fading into indifference, was rebranded into the even more generic-sounding PARK MGM. The first step in that process was…you guessed it…the retail-ization of the hotel’s frontage. Out went sculptures and a large fountain, in came Double Barrel Roadhouse, 800 Degrees Pizza, Boulevard Creamery and more. Decorative flourishes were gutted and replaced by pale colors and some cheap-looking olive green paint. Boring!

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This time, the build-out was so extreme that the hotel is essentially hidden from view. Would you even recognize it now from the photo above? It would seem that, as with casinos, the hotels themselves are now becoming a side offering.

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The retail-ization of Las Vegas Boulevard eventually spread to Downtown’s Fremont Street. Underneath the four-block canopy, a wide-open pedestrian mall is now packed to the max with kiosks, vendors, bars and patio lounges (that require a drink minimum to take a seat).

Binion’s is the best example of how Downtown casinos shifted their focus from interior to the sidewalks. Exploring the property, you’ll find numerous examples of a time when guests stayed and played indoors.

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On the second floor, a buffet and the Gee Joon Asian restaurant are collecting dust. In the basement, a once-popular 24-hour Coffee Shop is abandoned as well.

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The back half of the casino floor, where guests once checked into the hotel (shuttered since 2009), is nearly forgotten. The poker room, original home of the World Series of Poker, has also been put to rest.

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But out front, thriving Whiskey Licker Bar and Cowgirl Up  Cantina would have you believing that all is well inside the historic property. Outdoor revelers raise their glasses and park their bums on saddle-shaped stools, most never venturing into the aging property. New visitors might never realize that a 366-room hotel once operated there.

Of course, outdoor offerings are no guarantee of success. When Lady Lucky reopened as Downtown Grand in 2013, a great deal of fanfare centered around activities planned for adjacent Third Street. Sidewalk gambling, movie screenings and indoor/outdoor dining and an open-air nightclub (courtesy of Richard Sandoval’s “Commissary”) were rolled out. Not one of those things took hold.

Then the folks at Downtown Grand took yet another cue from the Strip and announced an outdoor urban park called The Quad. Utilizing empty lots and part of a parking garage, The Quad was to feature a stage, tavern, fitness center, nightclub and climbing wall. If all of this sounds familiar, perhaps you’re thinking of LINQ Promenade or The Park at New York NY. Surprisingly, it all fell through in favor of an additional hotel tower, currently under construction.

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And so it goes…the constant reinvention of Las Vegas. Eventually, visitors while tire of the heat and venture back into the casinos that put Sin City on the map. Until then, the white tigers will be waiting.

Photos: {Sammasseur, Flickr]