Cosmo hoping to hook high rollers with latest upgrades

Updated May 11, 2017 - 5:19 pm

From a new penthouse on the 71st floor of Boulevard Tower of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, nearly all of Las Vegas can be seen.

The balcony, about 100 feet long, wraps around the hotel, giving a 270-degree span, including a bird’s-eye view of the Bellagio fountain some 500 feet below.

This two-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot penthouse, decorated by designer Adam Tihany, is one of six on the floor.

Down the hallway, decorated with a Marilyn Monroe portrait, is The Reserve, a 2,300-square-foot room with textured wood wall panels designed in a style reminiscent of a men’s club from the 1920s-1930s.

Featuring two gaming parlors separated by a movable wall and a bar offering Macallan M single malt whisky and Louis XIII Black Pearl Cognac, it has the feel of a movie setting for a James Bond film.

Players entering The Reserve will likely be wagering seven figures. Accompanied by a manager, they are buzzed in by security to the exclusive room. They can sign financial documents transported in seconds from the main floor by an pneumatic air tube.

Just 18 months ago, The Reserve and the 21 penthouses located on the 71st through 75th floors were bare walls.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has spent millions hiring designers and outfitting The Reserve and penthouses with high-end materials and art work to woo the wealthy and boost gaming revenue.

Solving a persistent problem

Management is hoping it will solve a problem that has dogged the ritzy establishment since it opened in December, 2010: weak casino earnings, especially from VIP clients. The Cosmopolitan posted its first quarterly profit only in 2015.

Prior to the opening of the Boulevard Towers penthouses, The Cosmopolitan had just four rooms for top clients.

“We didn’t have enough of this type of product to compete for high-end players,’’ said Brian Benowitz, senior vice president of gaming operations, as he showed off the penthouse. “Now we are seeing a dramatic increase in our luxury, high-end players. People that sometimes played a few hours and then left are now staying overnight with us.’’

The Cosmopolitan has just hired a new president of Far East marketing, who will soon be flying to meet high rollers in Asia armed with newly printed photo books of the penthouses and The Reserve to promote business.

“The Far East is always going to be the region that wags the dog’s tail,” said Benowitz, referring to the VIP segment.

The launch of the VIP penthouses is just the latest upgrade at The Cosmopolitan since private equity group Blackstone bought the luxury resort in 2014 for $1.73 billion from Deutsche Bank.

Chief Executive Officer Bill McBeath, who was hired by Blackstone in 2015, has been revamping large swaths of the casino floor with the help of Brian Benowitz and Kevin Sweet, vice president of slot operations. Sweet previously worked with McBeath at Aria.

Among the first changes was moving the 65 high-limit slots out of a room with gaming tables into their own lounge and adding more popular games like pinball, said Sweet.

“Creating the space was one of the most important things we could do,” said Sweet, who has been overseeing slot operations for about a decade. “The previous space did not allow us to provide the luxury slot player with the type of service and amenities that they expect.”

Sweet has also changed nearly 50 percent of the 1,300 slots on the floor, adding Asian-themed titles and iterations of the popular Buffalo game.

“The customer wants new and exciting products and we have the ability to get capital to buy new machines.”

The Cosmopolitan didn’t disclose how much it has invested in upgrading its facilities since McBeath took over or how casino revenue and profit has been performing. McBeath told the Review-Journal in 2015 that Blackstone signed off on $200 million in investments over three years.

New gaming machines cost about $13,000, according to Las Vegas-based brokerage Union Gaming, implying that The Cosmopolitan may have spent just shy of $10 million on new slot machines over the past two years.

Sportsbook and Talon revamp

Benowitz and Sweet removed 160 slots in a corner area near the Strip to make way for a new sports and racing area with curved screens and a bar that debuted in February 2016.

“It didn’t have the vibe,” said Benowitz of the slot area. Regardless of what games were put in that area, they under-performed, he said.

Now, the 23 games on the bar counter generate about as much gaming revenue as the 160 slots, the two executives said, without disclosing numbers.

The Talon Club, a high-stakes table game area where high rollers can store their own scotch in lockers, was expanded at the same time, boosting the number of table games to 20 from 15.

A few months later, the high-limit table game area was reopened with 17 games. The Cosmopolitan has a total of 124 table games.

“We couldn’t change the building, but we could carve out spots that our guests could enjoy,” said Benowitz, referring to the the building’s original plans as a luxury condominium.

New chairs, expanded retail

Management has not limited their refurbishment project to games on the casino floor.

Nearly 2,000 chairs were upgraded at $700 a piece while 40 chandeliers were removed to give the main area a more spacious feel.

A new loyalty desk was opened in a higher-traffic area. The Cosmopolitan is very focused on boosting members of its loyalty program, offering 5 percent rebates, the executives said.

The old loyalty desk will become part of the adjacent retail store, which will offer more Cosmopolitan-branded gear.

“People want to take a piece of The Cosmopolitan home, whether it is a cap or a shirt,” said Benowitz. “There is a lot of opportunity there.”

Contact Todd Prince at tprince@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0386. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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