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Suite Success

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

(continued from page 4)

Bruce Schoenfeld wrote about Internet gambling in the October Cigar Aficionado.

HIDDEN HIDEAWAY

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.  


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