Suite Success

Las Vegas Hotels

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Three floors below me were some of the finest restaurants in the world, temples of gastronomy like Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Prime, Julian Serrano's Picasso and Sirio Maccioni's Le Cirque, but I couldn't bring myself to leave the room. An elevator just outside my front door led directly to the center of the casino, but I wasn't even tempted. I nibbled pitted dates from a bowl in the living room, filled the suite with soaring arias, and covered two walls of bedroom windows with blackout shades with a single touch. Gambling was fun, but this was better.  
And wasn't that a problem? Didn't the Bellagio want me out of my room, feeding the dollar slots until all hours, asking for a hit with a pair of nines, risking a month's pay on a National Football League exhibition game? I asked Lanni, the chairman of MGM-Mirage, the Bellagio's parent company, if my reaction to such overwhelming splendor worried him.  
He smiled. "People are looking for quality," he says. "If they have a great experience, they'll stay longer and they'll play longer, and that's what a casino is looking for. And they also understand why they've been invited to the suites. It's because they spend an average amount at the table, and they play for a certain length of time. They know that if they don't live up to that, they won't be invited back. And they want to be invited back."  
For many whales, the kick is bragging rights. They know the best addresses in town, and they want to boast to their high-roller friends that they're staying at them. For me, that wasn't a concern; I had no one to brag to. And neither was getting invited back: I wouldn't be.  
So as the afternoon sun started to mellow, I set up by my private waterfall on a chaise longue, found Sinatra on the DMX system singing about baubles and bangles, and made myself utterly comfortable in the best hotel room I knew I'd ever encounter. I was staying put until they kicked me out.  
Bruce Schoenfeld wrote about Internet gambling in the October Cigar Aficionado.
The finest hotel in Las Vegas may be the finest hotel in the world. But you can't book a room there or buy a meal   The Mansion at MGM Grand, a 29-suite, free-standing Mediterranean-style structure tucked behind the MGM Grand Hotel's main casino, has been open slightly more than a year. Only about 1,500 patrons have passed through its astonishingly luxurious rooms--all by invitation of the management.  
The $210 million project, conceived of and executed at absurd cost by J. Terrence Lanni, now the chairman of MGM-Mirage, and Alex Yemenidjian, now the chairman of MGM Studios, was modeled after a private villa that Lanni had visited near Milan. "We had an unlimited budget," says Lanni. "And we found a way to exceed it."  
The plan was to make the Mansion the most exclusive hotel address in Las Vegas. It worked. "Far less than one percent of the people who pass through the casino even know that the Mansion exists," says vice president of public affairs Alan Feldman. "No one else in Las Vegas has ever tried to create a separate, secluded environment such as this one."  
More than half of the guests are Asian, and almost none would be considered celebrities, even in their home countries. All of them, it hardly needs to be said, gamble staggeringly large amounts.  
Guests at the Mansion stay in suites that range from 2,400 square feet (one bedroom) to 12,000 square feet (four bedrooms), suites that are decorated with original art by Picasso, Giacometti and Matisse, vases and sculptures from the Ming Dynasty, or similar priceless ornaments. Rugs are typically Persian (the rug values for the 29 villas exceeded $1 million). Some suites have an indoor swimming pool, accessible from the bedroom, and all have touch-screen consoles that activate room temperature, lights and entertainment.  
Tired of the Brazilian music you've heard wafting through your suite? Touch the screen and switch to Japanese. For more extensive entertainment choices, there's a screening room with plush chairs and a state-of-the-art projection unit.   Occupancy has stayed at about 50 percent, and has occasionally included a top celebrity such as Barbra Streisand (but not on a peak weekend, when the room can be put to better use). While Bill Gates could probably name a price that would get him a suite during the annual Comdex computer trade show, the Mansion is about attracting the top casino players and, secondarily, building a brand for MGM, not about generating direct revenue. "This is a fantasy experience," says Feldman. "And part of that is that you're not going to be able to buy it anywhere."  
Meals taken at the Mansion may be its most surreal aspect. You sit in what appears to be an outside courtyard, filled with marble and lemon trees. Upon closer examination, brought about only after you realize that the searing midday heat is noticeably absent, it becomes clear that the courtyard is actually a soaring, 150-foot glass atrium, with a constant ambient temperature of 72 degrees.  
You're handed a menu without prices, for the food, like the room, is complimentary. "A guy is willing to spend a million dollars at your casino in a weekend, and you're going to charge him for a meal?" asks Feldman. The chef is Hui Pui Wing, who served his rendition of whole Dungeness crab at the 1997 ceremony marking Hong Kong's return to China. That's on the menu, along with Hui's famous baked lobster, a full Asian selection, and European and American dishes, augmented by green tea picked by trained monkeys.  
What's not on the menu--but eminently available--is anything else you might want to eat. And that's 24 hours a day, sevens days a week. "We've served complete banquets at four in the morning," says Ly Ping Wu, a Mansion vice president.   Just off the dining area is a wine cellar filled with an array of first-growth Bordeaux, cult California Cabernet and other collector's gems. If you care for a bottle with your meal, that's complimentary, too--though a hierarchy of guests exists. Not every bottle is available to everyone: replacing a case of, say, 1982 Petrus is simply too costly and difficult. And no one would ever drink anything else.  
Instead, diners are steered toward wines commensurate with their level of casino play, though rest assured that the stock starts with delicious, limited-release wines and only gets more rarified from there. Nobody will be stuck with plonk. If you insist on a bottle that is beyond your station, the management will reluctantly (and discreetly) allow you to purchase it.   Surprisingly, that almost never happens. "In this, as in everything else," Ly says, "most of our guests understand what's appropriate."   --BS    
3667 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/785-9474 or 877/333-WISH Fax 702/736-7107  
3645 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/739-4111 or 888/742-9248 Fax 702/946-4925  
3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/693-7444 or 888/987-6667 Fax 702/693-8546  
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/731-7110 or 800/634-6661 Fax 702/731-7172  
2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/734-0410 or 877/2CIRCUS Fax 702/794-3828  
3850 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/597-7777 or 800/937-7777 Fax 702/597-7040  
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/733-3111 or 800/732-2111 Fax 702/733-3353  
3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/632-5000 or 877/632-5000 Fax 702/632-5195  
4455 Paradise Road Tel. 702/693-5000 or 800/693-7625 Fax 702/693-5588  
3000 Paradise Road Tel. 702/732-5111 or 888/732-7117 Fax 702/732-5584  
101 Montelago Blvd., Henderson, NV Tel. 702/567-1234 or 800/233-1234 Fax 702/567-6067  
3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/262-4100 or 800/288-1000 Fax 702/262-4452  
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/632-7000 or 877/632-7000 Fax 702/632-7228  
3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/891-7777 or 800/646-7787 Fax 702/891-1030  
3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/791-7111 or 800/627-6667 Fax 702/791-7446  
3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/740-6900 or 800/693-6763 Fax 702/740-6920  
3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel. 702/946-7000 or 888/266-5687 Fax 702/967-3836  
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