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John L. Smith: Bye-Bye Riv And Hello NHL

riviera_sign.jpg

Jeff Scheid

More money to staff our state prisons is on the way, and it's long overdue.

And the Riviera was imploded early Tuesday. Was it good riddance to a Strip eyesore, or goodbye to great memories?

Then, if you think the NHL isn’t coming to Las Vegas, you might also believe Nevada is about to make gambling illegal.

But could Steve Wynn be right – it’s not the casino, it’s the service that makes it work?

John L. Smith, a columnist for the Daily Beast and a contributor/commentator for Nevada Public Radio, has the dish on all things Nevada.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On money for the Nevada Department of Corrections:

The prison system in Nevada has always been a political football. It's been usually the first thing cut. You don't lose a whole lot of votes by showing more respect and honoring the civil rights of inmates. But the other side of it, when scandal does happen and it does reach the public eye -- changes have to be made. 

The money that is being put up, which is a little over a $1 million. It doesn't sound like a lot of money really in the grand scheme of things, but it signals a focus by the governor's office that I think, whether it's through their own evolved state of mind or the arm twisting of the media, whatever it is - it is the right way to go. Because they're going to be avoiding lawsuits in the future. 

Support comes from

On the demise of the Riviera:

Implosion of Monaco Tower at Riviera

Youtube/KTNV

I think Frank Moreno is probably crying. I think the Crazy Girls are reminiscing. Don't say that people don't care. The ghost of Liberace cares a great deal, because he of course played at the Riv, along with Dean Martin who once owned a piece of the joint. 

The one thing I can say about the Riv, as these old mob joints fade and are reduced to rubble and are postcards and memories and nostalgia... if you go back and look at its history, it was an amazing place for star value for almost a generation. It brought tremendous entertainers to Las Vegas and Sinatra is known as the guy who played at Caesars but he played at the Riviera. 

The Riviera was neck and neck with any place in town. It had a high-rise tower. I'm not saying it aged well. It didn't age well. 

On the NHL expansion team coming to Las Vegas:

I think what you have is a critical mass being met. Bill Foley has led a parade-of-one for a long time. Then he created quit a media stir with this. I think the T-Mobile Arena is everything any NHL franchise would want. I mean it is a pretty exciting corner to be close to.

I can imagine it not being successful because we have a very mixed bag of supporting sports teams, but I can imagine it being really enticing to a potential league like the NHL, which really needs some sexy. You have to be moving up and down the ice somewhere besides Canada for the NHL to really get on the map and stay there. 

Hockey in the west has had a mixed history. Phoenix has had its success and failures. I think Las Vegas is a natural to give it a try. 

On Steve Wynn:

Any time he gets bored, he calls a press conference. I think that in fairness the Mirage, which they were essentially celebrating last week at the conference, Wynn is responsible for that. He made an incredible leap for the Strip by building out the Mirage and have it pay attention to higher quality. And a kind of pretty that the casinos weren't known for. That is to his legacy. 

Schoenmann: He said the casino isn't important anymore:

Smith: He's jiving you. The fact is that the other parts of resort are of course earners now days. A generation or so ago they didn't necessarily have to turn a hard profit because the gamblers were more likely to sit and gamble. You have a different generation with different tastes and interests. The nightclub scene makes a fortune for the casinos, generally as landlord. Although, I think Wynn actually runs his own nightclubs. A lot of the other proprieties have been landlords. They don't understand these kids today so they just turn over the keys and they collect the rent.

On Strip casino failing:

They're in that business. You're bringing people to the middle of the desert. And you have to give them something that combines a practicality of their wallet with the with the fantasy of the industry itself. 

The idea that everything is important but the casino isn't important. The fact is I've never seen one of these guys... close the casino and just leave open all the nice restaurants and discos. The fact is it's essential. 

 

Guests

John L. Smith, Daily Beast columnist

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