Current local Las Vegas time is 7:52am, January 19, 2018.

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A Hot New Casino Opening. Sort of.

There are two types of casinos in Las Vegas. The first ones are the ones that most people think of: the famous ones on The Strip. Names like Luxor, Bellagio, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Caesar’s Palace come to mind. The others are the “local” casinos. These are smaller and less flashy. They are also located in areas where people live and dot the landscape around the Las Vegas valley. Two of the larger local casino companies are Station Casinos and Coast Casinos. Coast Casinos recently opened a new casino called the South Coast.

When the South Coast Casino had their grand opening celebration, Mrs. Vargas and I thought it would be fun to go. Neither of us had ever been to a casino grand opening, and with rumors of the slots being really loose during the first few days, we couldn’t resist. To further pique our interest, the local news had been talking about it for a week and it was being advertised in plenty of places. Las Vegas likes a casino opening.

Fireworks were scheduled for 7:00pm with the doors opening at 7:15pm. We got there about 6:45pm. Parking was pretty scarce in the main parking lot. Actually, it was full. There were a few on-street spaces on the street next to the hotel. It wouldn’t be a long walk, so we opted for that and headed to the front of the hotel where the crowd had congregated.

The crowd was mixed. Of the more than 1,000 people out front, there were quite a few families with children. Since none of the kids were holding players club cards, I can only presume that they were there for the fireworks.

Out in front of the building by the portico where people drop their cars off were large speakers. When we arrived some non-descript music that I don’t remember was coming out of the speakers. I think it was being provided by some radio station I don’t listen to, since their van was out front. At about 6:55pm all the building lights went out and the more than 1,000 people let out a collective gasp with a few premature oohs and ahhs thrown in. The speakers had also gone silent.

Not long after the lights went down, “Also sprach Zarathustra” started blasting from the speakers (much louder than the nondescript music) and the fireworks began. They were being launched from the top of the building and were very close. Closer than I had ever seen fireworks. It was an impressive display with lots of shells being set off and really good, loud music. One of the great things about Las Vegas is the unabashed lack of subtlety. Anything worth doing is worth doing big.

“Also sprach Zarathustra” was followed by “The Star Spangled Banner”. Nice touch. Another song that I don’t remember (I guess taking notes would help) began to play, but since the fireworks had started to wane, so we headed inside. Walking through the darkened portico toward the front doors, I realized this was a pickpocket’s paradise. Fortunately, the pickpockets had taken the night off.

There were plenty of employees at the casino entrance to usher in and greet customers. The décor was nice but nothing extraordinary. The local casinos tend to have somewhat of a sameness about them, although the South Coast did seem a bit brighter than most, with neutral tones predominating everything but the typically loud carpet, which had a lot of blue and gold. Casino carpets are supposedly designed to make you want to look away, and this was no exception. I didn’t take notes about it either, but at least it won’t be haunting my dreams.

I took a quick look around for either of our favorite slot machines, Monopoly or Star Wars. I saw Star Wars first so we headed over there.

I very rarely carry cash, so Mrs. Vargas had to spot me a couple of ones to get started. I was ready to win some big cash on the loose slots. The loose slots, however, were not in the mood to disgorge any cash. After a few quick plays, the money was gone.

Our two bucks down the tubes, we decided to look around and see what else the new casino had to offer. We were right next to the buffet entrance and hadn’t had dinner yet. After checking with an employee, we were told that there weren’t any specials. No 2 for 1 deal. No discount. No special food.

OK, so nothing special was happening at the buffet. We aren’t members of the Coast Casinos players club, so we decided to join, possibly get a little free play or a prize and have fun with that.

We had that thought about 5 minutes after about two-hundred other people. The players club sign up area was a mob scene. It was orderly, but completely crowded. The only prizes being handed out were hats and t-shirts, both of which we don’t need. Nobody knew about any free play, so after about 5 minutes in line without it moving, we decided that the wait would be too long and started to wander around. Free play can wait until we come back.

Since we were relatively close to the rest rooms, a bladder break was in order. There was another line. Ok, there were two lines at the restrooms. And as usual in such circumstances, the men’s line was moving a lot faster than the women’s line. I was in and out in a couple of minutes. Mrs. Vargas took a little longer.

While waiting for Mrs. Vargas, I looked around. Not much was happening beyond the regular casino sounds: slot machines bonging and binging with people milling about. After about a minute, a loud noise started coming out of overhead speakers. It wasn’t unpleasant or jarring so much as simply there, wanting to be noticed above all else. While didn’t have the same happy tone as the rest of the casino noises, I couldn’t figure out what it was all about. I figured that maybe someone had won a jackpot. That’s pretty cool, fifteen minutes into the opening and they’re already paying out enough money to require alarms!

I looked around for the winning machine and didn’t see any lights or crowds to indicate a jackpot. The alarm had also stopped. I’ve never heard of a false jackpot alarm, but anything is possible in Vegas.

Mrs. Vargas came out of the Ladies room and we were planning our next move when the announcement came. The disembodied male voice told everyone that the alarm we heard earlier was the fire alarm — an actual emergency — and that everyone needed to evacuate the building immediately. In fact, the voice announced this a couple of times to emphasize the point.

Aside from fire drills in school, I have never been in a public building during an evacuation. This isn’t something you really know how to react to, so a small pit of fear appeared in my gut. Fortunately, we were pretty close to some exit doors and headed toward them. Everyone was exiting quietly. There was no pushing and shoving. There was no panic. Perhaps it was because not everyone was leaving. At least half of the slot players stayed at their machines continuing to play during the evacuation, and the employees were still all manning their posts.

While walking out of the building, the alarm went off again. This was the real thing.

Once outside, I figured it would be far better to simply leave. If there was a real emergency, hanging outside wouldn’t help anyone, least of all us. If there wasn’t anything happening, we already had a good story to tell, and would hear about it on the news anyway.

As we walked down the side street where we were parked, two fire engines showed up to join the one that was already there. We’re not ones to interfere with firemen doing their duty, so we waited for the fire engines to clear the area and left. On the way home we could see the casino from various vantage points and there were no huge walls of flames visible at any time. In fact, it looked rather calm.

The local news the next morning had only a small blurb about the opening. It turns out there was no danger. The smoke from the fireworks had entered the ventilation system and set off the alarm. They must have some very sensitive smoke detectors because on the way out I didn’t detect even a whiff of smoke. Neither did Mrs. Vargas, who has a very sensitive nose for such things.

Despite the evacuation and lack of a fire, it was a fun evening. We plan go back soon, before the slots tighten up. I might even bring $5 to play with next time.

It’s nice that in a town of doing it bigger, badder, and better than the next guy, they still don’t take a “hot new casino opening” literally.

Published Fri 12/23/05 at 6:07pm

Categorized in Casinos, Las Vegas, Mrs. Vargas

2 Responses to A Hot New Casino Opening. Sort of.

  1. lmednick said on Tue 12/27/05 at 4:52pm

    May I comment on the loose machines on grand opening? Oh right, I’m already here!

    Yes, I do agree with the general populus that the machines do appear to be loose upon the opening of a casino. But, having worked in the industry prior (Bally Gaming), I know this is not the case.
    Each game has programmed into its eprom the random win generator (so-called). It’s not a true randomness. Regardless, these chips are set at the factory and the process of re-chipping a machine costs approx $100 – $200 per machine. Not to mention the time it takes and additional cost of having the machine down and not generating revenue.

    So, what I’m trying to say, casinos do not have the ability to change the win ratio easily. All that aside, they also have to content with the gaming board and permits before a change like this would be made.

    But, I have seen more people win at a grand opening than after the casino has been open for a while.

  2. Fools Gold said on Thu 5/8/08 at 6:39am

    No. There is not any sort of “Grand Opening Looseness” in the slot machine that will later be ‘tightened a bit’. Its not just the cost and downtime involved. Its also the major worry of an owner. If slot machine payouts could be so easily enhanced over the short term how would the owner and his auditors ever sleep at night?
    What is happening is that you, the observer, have already heard about slot machines being slightly looser at Grand Openings and so that is what you observe. Normal reaction. You expect to see it and so you do see it. When you observe normally occuring payouts you notice them, but its nothing special.

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