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Casinos Royale

Our gambling columnist picks the best places to play in Sin City
Michael Kaplan
From the Print Edition:
Vegas, Mar/Apr 2006

(continued from page 1)

The Mirage
Best casino for wistful baby-boomers
Everybody remembers his or her first time, and if you're a baby boomer with a yen for Las Vegas, it's likely that your first modern megacasino experience took place in the early 1990s at The Mirage-complete with heat-induced moments in front of the fire-spewing volcano and a few thrills by the blackjack tables. Seventeen years after its opening, the tropically themed casino is pretty much intact, down to The Mirage poker room, which was the place to play poker back in the pre-Bellagio '90s. While new touches keep the casino feeling fresh and modern-such as the cutting-edge nightclub/lounge called Jet and a sleeker high-limit room-something remains warm and comforting about The Mirage-where the gaming tables are strategically placed in irregular pods to encourage you to explore. It might not be the newest or hippest joint in town, but for gamblers who came of age in the '90s, walking through the tropical forest near the entrance will always feel like coming home. And just like any venerable place, The Mirage has been blessed with stability. Minimal staff turnover means that your host will recognize you, the dealer is unlikely to muff a shuffle, and no one will screw up your ultra-dry Martini.

Wynn Las Vegas
Best casino if you like to spend big, but don't gamble much
Las Vegas has traditionally been a funny place: gamble high enough and you couldn't spend your money because everything would be comped; but if you gambled low and spent cash for all of the town's top amenities, you didn't get treated particularly well. Billionaire entrepreneur Steve Wynn, the man behind The Mirage and other casinos, is changing all that. Just as he transformed the casino/resort revenue model from relying on gambling to centering itself around big-ticket restaurants, spas and boutiques, he is now changing the Gambler As Emperor structure. His new Wynn Las Vegas, a beautiful casino with a great gaming floor, comes with a computer system that tracks the spending of guests as well as their play. So if you stay in a $1,000-per-night suite, buy dinner for four at Daniel and pamper yourself with a daily massage, you'll be viewed as a kind of high roller. While you won't get your room comped, you will be invited to special events, receive top tables at Wynn's restaurants and be treated to the occasional upgrade. It makes perfect sense, is so obvious that someone should have considered it sooner, and represents a big step in Wynn's ongoing quest to turn Vegas into a resort city rather than just a gambling town with diversions.

Michael Kaplan is Cigar Aficionado's gambling columnist.

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