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Suite Success

Las Vegas Hotels
Bruce Schoenfeld
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

I could have nodded off in the bathtub with a bottle of Opus One. I could have been sprawled atop the dining room table. I could have been busy on the toilet--any of the five--or fiddling with the touch-screen control on the oversized television in the entertainment area. With 22 telephones spread throughout my 3,800-square-foot suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, my wake-up call still wouldn't have been more than an arm's reach away.  

When it did come, I happened to be sleeping peacefully in the master bedroom, as opposed to one of the other two bedrooms. I pushed aside a pillow and answered the extension on the nightstand on the right side of the bed, though I just as easily could have turned over and answered the extension on the left side.  

A few strategically placed portable phones would have been more functional, but Caesars wasn't looking to maximize functionality. The guiding principle of the best hotel rooms in Las Vegas is excess, and the more gratuitous the excess, the better.  

Staying in such a suite at Caesars, or a similar accommodation at any of the top hotels on the Strip, is a benefit of being a high-volume gambler, what's known in the casino business as a whale. There's rarely a charge for these suites, almost never for whales, who get them free as a reward for previous play at a given casino and as an incentive to continue playing.  

The competition for such gamblers is as spirited as anything that goes on across the felt. If you can get a whale to put his Rolex on your nightstand and hang his Zegna sportcoat in your closet, the theory goes, you'll get most of his gaming business, too.

"People play a lot more where they stay," says J. Terrence Lanni, chairman of the board of MGM-Mirage, which owns the MGM Grand, Bellagio, Treasure Island and Mirage, among other properties. "They start there at the beginning of the night, and they end up there at the end."  

In the case of guests who typically stay in the suite I had, repeat business can mean as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars of profit to the Caesars Palace casino over a given weekend, depending on the luck of the cards or the dice. One frequent Vegas guest plays enough to have been accorded a suite at three of the Strip's top hotels simultaneously. Another arrives at the same casino twice a month with a $4 million cashier's check, ready for action. SpectraVision in his hotel room and a chocolate on his pillow aren't likely to be enough to excite him.  

My suite at Caesars had raw silk fabric on the walls, a stylized rotunda entry hall, marble end tables, alabaster light fixtures, motorized curtains operated by the flick of a switch, and a genuine Berber rug. But it wasn't the hotel room of my dreams--neither figuratively nor literally.  

The previous afternoon, I'd been shown one rated a category higher. These have been dubbed "Rain Man suites" because Tom Cruise's character cavorted in one of them in the 1988 movie as he put the mathematical capabilities of an autistic savant, played by Dustin Hoffman, to an avaricious end.  

The 5,000-square-foot, split-level number I saw had a $25,000 hand-commissioned throw rug lying innocuously on the ground, artwork by Salvador Dalí's former protégé Claude Boeltz, a three-screen entertainment center that included a karaoke machine, and twin master bedrooms. There are other suites, a Caesars representative hastened to add, done up in motifs such as Egyptian and Pompeiian, and a modest little Italian villa of 12,000 square feet with a lap pool and a putting green that has an elevator with direct access to the high-stakes gaming area. They'd have shown me that one, too, but evidently the king was resting.  

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