Making the News

Forbes

Originally Published:Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Gaming is becoming much more competitive at the high end," says Michael Pollock, managing director of casino consultant Spectrum Gaming Group, "which requires several capital investments."

World's Super-Swanky Casinos

By Lauren Sherman
Forbes

Next time you take a seat at the craps table, you can expect more than a complimentary martini with your dice.

That's because as the gaming industry invests in luxury casinos--MGM Mirage (nyse: MGG - news - people ) recently announced plans to build a reported $7 billion casino complex on the Las Vegas strip and the World Poker tour is holding its championship round this weekend at The Bellagio--amenities such as suites with private massage rooms and restaurants run by celebrity chefs are becoming increasingly common.

At the two-year-old Wynn Las Vegas, you'll find plenty of gaming, as well as a Tom Fazio-designed golf course exclusive to hotel guests. The Cove at Atlantis in the Bahamas boasts gaming tables within its outdoor nightclub Cain, so that you can play a round in your swimsuit. And the soon-to-be opened The Casino at the Empire in London offers a VIP guest lounge where members can hold private parties.

In Pictures: World's Super-Swanky Casinos

Why court the Gucci-clad crowd?

"Gaming is becoming much more competitive at the high end," says Michael Pollock, managing director of casino consultant Spectrum Gaming Group, "which requires several capital investments."

Take The Borgata, which opened in Atlantic City in 2003. The project's developers were interested in capturing "Atlantic City rejectors," says Sid Vaikunta, vice president of marketing, or those living in the tri-state area that would rather spend a good chunk of their cash on a flight to Vegas than on a poker table in A.C.

"Our research showed that customers were hungry for a Las Vegas-type establishment in Atlantic City," says Vaikunta. "They desired to trade up and reach for something better."

And reach they did. The Borgata, which boasts a smorgasbord of amenities--from restaurants headed up by celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck to a full service spa and salon--is now opening an adjoining 800-room hotel called The Water Club. The $325 million space, which promises to offer a boutique experience in spite of its size, will boast five pools, a spa and six retail shops when it opens this fall.

Global Gaming
Atlantic City isn't the only gaming spot undergoing a makeover.

In London, the Paul Steelman Design Group, responsible for the Mirage in Vegas, has dreamed up The Casino at the Empire, which is being touted as "Las Vegas in London." Set to open next month, the Empire will occupy 50,000 square feet, 30 gaming tables, a private poker room for VIP members and two restaurants.

Farther afield, Macau has quickly become the Las Vegas of the East. It boasts the Sands Macau, which opened in May 2004 and was developed by the Paul Steelman Design Group, as well as the Wynn Macau, a virtual carbon copy of hotelier Steve Wynn's runaway success Wynn Las Vegas (nasdaq: WYNN - news - people ). It opened less than a year ago and plays host to several of the same restaurants, including the Cantonese Wing Lei, and shops like Prada and Chanel, with more to come.

Limitless Luxury
How much more extravagance can gamers take? A lot, apparently.

"This is an industry, whether they like to admit or not, that often imitates what works," remarks Pollock. "Right now, they're focusing on overall quality, ambiance, service, unique attributes and a breadth of amenities. Who knows how high the bar can ever get?"

It's up there. In addition to MGM's $7 billion investment, Las Vegas has also attracted the likes of the Boyd Gaming Corp. It is replacing Stardust Resort & Casino with Echelon Place, a reportedly $4 billion casino set to open in 2010 and expected to include a Delano Hotel and a Mondrian Hotel, as well as 25 restaurants and bars.

All of which help make the city--and those gaming destinations like it--hard to beat.
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