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After initially leaving a bad taste, M Resort impresses

Anthony Marnell III raised expectations by saying food and service would be a high priority at M Resort, otherwise I wouldn’t start off by offering some practical advice for anyone heading to check out the newest resort: Avoid the Red Cup Café, at least until the bugs are worked out. Wish I had.

Long stagnant lines outside, plenty of empty tables inside should have been a clue the coffee shop was understaffed. The wait to have our order taken, the wait to get our food and the wait to get our check after we asked for it reflected a staffing shortage at the coffee shop.

There were apologies galore for the waits, and, hopefully, they’ll fix the coffee shop during the first 30-day shakedown.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A value-priced menu looked good, but a dry, overcooked cheeseburger-without-any-cheese and a friend’s greasy sandwich just didn’t cut it (although he enthusiastically approved of the Buffalo wings).

We would have done better at the Vig Deli near the sports book, where the food looked good, though the whale and dolphin music was oddly unsettling.

Right now, the newest casino in town is being mobbed, and not just by lookie-loos. One woman said that on Monday, the first full day M Resort was open, she waited two hours to get signed up for the customer loyalty club card for discounts. (The same amount of time I invested in a bad burger.)

That seemed excessive since the Web site allows online registration for iMagine Rewards Club, but there is a draw: The resort was giving people $10 worth of free slot play for signing up.

More than 20,000 people signed up the first two days, far above Marnell’s expectations.

Another offer for locals good through the end of May is a $75 room plus $75 in free slot play.

Those come-ons may explain why I ran across people from the far northwest part of Las Vegas, when M Resort is the southernmost casino off Interstate 15, across from Southern Highlands.

At lunchtime Tuesday, the joint was flush with gamblers. The $10 minimum tables were packed, while $25 tables stood empty. (Wouldn’t a savvy casino executive lower the limits rather than have four empty tables in a row with $25 minimums?)

My escort works for a competitor of M Resort, and we saw certain things differently.

I thought the shuttle bus service between the hotel and the airport and the Fashion Show mall was a great idea. He said it’s probably too costly, estimating it will run $1 million a year, and taking people to the Strip only serves to move them out of the casino, so what’s the advantage?

My friend, besides being an expert on Buffalo wings, knows a thing or two about sports betting. I thought the sports book looked fine; he said the 50-seat space for betting on the horses was too small and not adequate for weekends and major races.

Marnell touted the reasonableness of his liquor prices, saying no drink is more than $10, and I thought that was excellent. My friend said charging $4.50 for a bottle of beer at a locals joint, when $3 a bottle is more common, is not smart.

But he was impressed by the loose payout of the video poker machines, which were set on double bonus for quarter machines and above to pay out nine coins on a full house and seven on a flush. That compares with the Strip, where it’s generally eight on a full house and five on a flush.

We were both impressed by the natural light, the views, the high ceilings, the spacious walkways, the wowee hotel lobby, even the look of the restaurants that weren’t open until the evening — design elements for which Marnell’s dad, architect Tony Marnell, deserves some credit. A billion dollars (and only 390 rooms) buys classy public areas.

I have no doubt the coffee shop will improve with time and any other staffing shortage will be repaired.

After all, Marnell doesn’t want people to do what one person did Tuesday night. The man and his wife went to try the buffet, saw the lines and estimated it would take all evening to eat. So they left and drove the 31/2 miles to Michael Gaughan’s South Point for dinner.

As the guy on “Saturday Night Live” is always shouting: Fix it!

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison/.

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