From the Print Edition:
maduro issue, Winter 93/94
For 45 years Las Vegas has existed as a dream city, a place to get away from the real world for a weekend or a week or forever. The Second Chance City, she's been called. To others, she's Lost Wages. Francis Ford Coppola transformed her into an allegorical repository for lonely souls in his film One From the Heart, and there was truth in his message. Hunter S. Thompson called her a city of no Fear and Loathing. He, too, was right. John Gregory Dunne came here to endure a torturous summer when suicide seemed the answer. He got his best book out of it and decided to carry on.
Whatever the case, for those who have the means and the fortitude to wager as much as five figures or more on a single hand of baccarat, Las Vegas can become anything and everything they want it to be. The lavish accommodations at the most exclusive hotels will afford them license to their fondest hopes of luxury, privacy and privilege. They will get all the "second chances" they need, and there's little fear of ever being lonely.
No absolute criteria exist for determining how a gambler qualifies to receive the ultimate indulgence in R, F, B (room, food, beverage) ... and beyond. Hotel executives choose their words carefully when the subject is even broached, because confidentiality is an unspoken promise between hosts and guests in Las Vegas.
"It is very difficult to simplify the process, but suffice it to say that frequency of play and average bet are the only two variables that count," says Alan Feldman, vice president of public relations at the Mirage. "Basically, if you have to get down to some number, it would be persons who wager up to $1 million during their stay. But even then there are a number of variables."
Mark Juliano, president of Caesars world marketing, puts it another way: "In every business, it's important to make the customer feel special. If you owned a shoe store, and someone came in and purchased a pair of shoes, that person is very important to you. If someone bought 200 pairs of shoes, chances are that you would offer that person some type of incentive to do business with you again.
If someone purchases 2,000 pairs of shoes, your company might offer this customer a fabulous vacation, luxury-hotel accommodations, gourmet meals, headliner shows, tickets to championship sporting events--some memorable experience that would show the customer that you value the business. Well, that's what we do at Caesars Palace."
At the Desert Inn, the unspoken credo has universal application. "Everyone is created equal at the DI," says a marketing executive. "Some are just more equal than others."
Winning and losing, it should be noted, have no bearing on a guest's status with a particular resort. Should a gambler win $3 million to $5 million in a visit--and it happens more often than you'd imagine--he will still be given complimentary red-carpet treatment on his next visit. That's because the odds are always with the casino, and resilient gambling landlords know that no matter how many times Lady Luck dances with a guest, at the end of the evening she'll go home with the host.
The suites chosen for this article--the Golden Nugget, the Mirage, the Desert Inn, and Caesars Palace--offer ambitious gamblers far more than just wonderful accommodations. The privileged patrons receive chauffeured-limousine service, the catering talents of the hotel's culinary staff preparing meals in their private suites, a gift basket and round-the-clock butler service. Complimentary shows, dinners, tours and a myriad of other amenities are acquired through VIP desks, which exist solely to serve the needs of these guests.
The best suites in downtown Las Vegas, some five miles from the Strip, are at the Golden Nugget, a formerly unassuming, little gambling hall that gaming baron Steve Wynn has parlayed into an expanding empire, which now includes the Mirage, Treasure Island, the former Dunes and a variety of smaller ventures around the country.
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