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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Las Vegas resort aims for younger crowd

By Lisa Snedeker
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The only new resort to open in Las Vegas this year, the Palms hotel-casino thinks a younger, smaller approach will mean success in a tough economy.

"I wanted something different, but very comfortable," said George Maloof Jr., the resort's president and developer.

With the help of the architect who designed the Bellagio hotel-casino, the Palms incorporates a variety of woods and water effects to create a chic atmosphere of comfort.

Think Hard Rock meets Mandalay Bay — two trendy Las Vegas resorts that cater more to the young, affluent club-hopping set than the bingo-and-buffet crowd.

"The Palms is a nice place," said Bill Thompson, a UNLV professor who studies the gambling industry. "I think the atmosphere is definitely a step above the Hard Rock."

The 455-room, $265 million resort is just west of the Las Vegas Strip across from the Rio hotel-casino.

The boutique hotel is small by Las Vegas resort standards. The newest Strip megaresort, the Aladdin, has 2,567 hotel rooms.

Industry experts, however, say the Palms' size is a positive considering the economic and tourism slowdowns since Sept. 11 that have left an estimated 15,000 Las Vegas Strip workers unemployed.

"They're in a much better position only having to sell a few hundred rooms a night than a few thousand," said Shannon Bybee, executive director of UNLV's International Gaming Institute.

Maloof hopes the Palms will become the newest getaway for Hollywood's who's who by offering attractions such as the Cosmic Corner, with palmists and psychics.

"I wanted to get back to the spirit of Las Vegas," Maloof said. "I wanted to create a place where adults can come to party."

The Palms, which is sold out for opening weekend, is scheduled to open Thursday with a private party. A public opening follows at 11 p.m.

Unlike most Las Vegas resorts built recently, the Palms — with its blend of retro and Mexican decor — doesn't pattern itself after a European city or specific "theme."

"I want to focus on creating our own identity," Maloof said.

Maloof and his family own 88 percent of the Palms, Station Casinos owns 6 percent and a company controlled by the Greenspun family, owners of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, owns 6 percent.

The Palms offers a mix of restaurants and bars, a three-story spa and salon, a 1,200-seat nightclub and a pool area that features waterbed lounges and poolside blackjack.

The 95,000-square-foot casino has 2,200 slot machines and 55 tables games as well as a poker room.

The high stakes gambling area has its own bar, the Roller Lounge, featuring a professional cigar and cigarette roller.

Similar to the exclusive House of Blues' Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay, the third story of the nightclub "Rain in the Desert" will be members-only. For $3,000 a year and a thumb-print — a biometric thumbprint scanner is used to access the private elevator — members watch the crowd below or rent one of six sky boxes with private balconies to take in a concert.

It's an intimate venue similar to the Hard Rock's Joint or Mandalay's House of Blues, but more over the top with water effects, fog and pyrotechnics, including 16-foot fire plumes and three-foot fireballs.

The club also has private cabanas and "water booths," patent leather banquettes filled with water.

Another one of the highlights is the 42-story tower's glittering top, home to a French restaurant, Alize, and the futuristic Ghostbar.

To attract Las Vegans, amenities also include a 14-screen movie theater, food court, arcade, Kidsquest and bingo hall.

Wall Street analysts think it's a good strategy.

"It's better positioned because of its local target market," said leisure and gambling analyst Robin Farley of UBS Warburg.

"If you've got to be opening in November, you want to be going after locals and the drive-in market. Even if it's not the right time, it's the right market."