Last year, Bill McBeath made the kinds of promises that you expect from a newly installed president-CEO at a Las Vegas casino. Brought in by the Blackstone Group, the new owners of Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, McBeath expressed a desire to go on an ambitious tear. He talked about upgrading the gambling experience, putting in new high-end suites, taking big action and doing a general upgrade of a spot known for being luxe and cool but not much of a draw for serious high-rollers.
A little bit more than a year after we conversed, McBeath has been true to his word—and then some.
Immediately apparent during an August visit to Cosmopolitan is that the sportsbook has gone from a tucked-away room near a second-floor nightclub to a magnetic lure on the north end of the casino floor. The giant, high-def TVs are state of the art, and the bar would be a decent place to hang out with or without a game going. The billiards and foosball tables make for nice diversions and a flashy sports-news zipper ticks along above the drinking space.
"A sportsbook is like the stock market," McBeath tells me during a recent call. "Everybody wants to know how their teams are doing," and how their wagers/investments are making out. "That's the idea behind the zipper. It animates the room and represents what's going on in a dynamic fashion."
No less an insider than Anthony Curtis, publisher of in-the-know players' newsletter Las Vegas Advisor, tells me without reservation, "It's the best sports book in town." Perfect for the start of football season.
Hoping to attract customers who possess the wherewithal to gamble big in that wagering lounge, McBeath is in the process of installing 21 new suites over a span of 60,000 square feet. He's calling them Boulevard Penthouses and their sizes will range from 1,800- to 5,000-square-feet. What's unique, though, is that each one will look different from the others. McBeath brought in three designers and each was given seven suites to work on. They'll have wraparound terraces and come with something special: High-rolling guests staying in the suites will gain access to private gaming rooms.
Asked for a taste of what they will look like, McBeath replies, "James Bond meets Cosmopolitan." Unlike high-limit rooms on the gaming floor, these will be for invited guests only, i.e. people who are willing to lose dizzying sums of money. "They are like eagles, not like quails," McBeath says of his most desirable gamblers. "They don't all run together."
For the rest of us, the Cosmopolitan is putting up new food and drink places. Elaborately constructed craft cocktails rule the night at the newly opened CliQue. The New York restaurant Beauty & Essex launched an outpost where the fantastic and underappreciated Comme Ca had been (eating a burger and washing it down with a perfectly made penicillin cocktail there had long stood as one of my must-do things in Vegas) and David Chang will be dropping his ramen temple Momofuku later this year. But my favorite culinary edition is a walk-up counter called Eggslut. Transplanted from Los Angeles, it's a breakfast game changer that McBeath came across while visiting his daughter in Tinseltown.
The problem is that I'm not the only one who's discovered the glory of coddled eggs over mashed potatoes eaten out of a glass jar. That's the signature dish at Eggslut—and it is a classic example of the sum outdoing the parts. Figure that you'll be waiting in line for your breakfast and make things more tolerable by scoring a drink from The Juice Standard, located within eyeshot and spinning up an excellent selection of cold-pressed offerings, with clever names and alluring combinations.
Beyond all of this, McBeath also finds himself working on less quantifiable things that attract the whales he aims to draw.
What brings them in? "That's the million-dollar question," admits McBeath, an avid gambler himself who took a $1-million stake in the Cosmopolitan. "The previous owners almost went out of their way to not accommodate slot players; they also thought there was too much risk and volatility with the higher stakes players."
In contrast, to McBeath's way of thinking, "You have to have an iron gut. I am a believer in the math. If I can manage acquisition costs and give the proper credit to players, well, then the rest takes care of itself. I don't like bad runs but I certainly don't sweat them. I won't waste energy on things out of my control."