Tag Archives: Oscar Goodman

“Crocodarium” Planned for Las Vegas

Yesterday, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, speaking at the Las Vegas Perspective annual business event at the Four Seasons, vowed he will lure Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s family to Las Vegas, building what Goodman called a “crocodarium.” 

Goodman said the Irwin family is currently in active talks with Las Vegas to re-fashion the Cashman Center and Cashman Field Complex, home to many trade shows and the Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball team, turning it into a huge, full-fledged zoo emphasizing Australian animals. 

Goodman added that the Cashman Center could relocate to newer convention facilities, such as the new 30,000-square-foot MEET venue, which opened last week in downtown Las Vegas at Fourth Street and Bridger Avenue. {Previously reported by Las Vegas Backstage Access.}  

Las Vegas, Goodman added, would also relocate the 51s minor league baseball facility, which sorely needs an upgrade. 

Ex-mob lawyer Goodman, apparently loving all things not just scaly, but furry with four legs as well, is also currently working with the Las Vegas Zoo officials, helping them to bring a new baboon exhibit, among others, that will soon open and much other needed facelifts to the otherwise droopy facility, thanks, in part, to ongoing aid from the San Diego Zoo.

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Mob Money Flows in Las Vegas

Recession?  Las Vegas, apparently, is in the money when it comes to anything related to the M-O-B!  

Yep, we didn’t want to let this one get swept under the rug or becoming the cause for another concrete casting. (Sorry, a bad mob-ism.) 

The Nevada Commission for Cultural Affairs in mid-March awarded a $220,000 grant to the new Mob Museum planned for Las Vegas. 

The commission allocated $3 million to 23 projects that week, with the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement by far getting the biggest single award. 

State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James says there is an additional $97,000 in reserve that was allocated to the project. 

The museum is set to open 2011. It has already received – are you sitting down? -$3 million from Nevada over the years.  

We guess it doesn’t hurt the project if the current Las Vegas Mayor, Oscar Goodman, is a strong proponent and also a prior mob lawyer. 

Don’t fret about the sifting off of your hard-earned money for a mob edifice:  Officials from the Mob Museum have reportedly told the commission this is the last time they’ll ask for money from the state.  Yeah, right.

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Dan Akryod Joins Many Celebrities Predicting End of World Soon; Las Vegas Key Hub

Many celebrities are saying that 2012 could be the end of the world as we know it. 

Stars who have publicly said 2012 will be “The End” include Woody Harrelson, Lil’ Wayne, Joe Rogan, Montel Williams and Shirley MacLaine.  

Now, Dan Aykroyd can be added to that illustrious list. 

Pop-renaissance man Akroyd, 57, who his autographing bottles of his Crystal Head Vodka at a Las Vegas Albertsons (4 p.m. Tuesday, 10250 W. Charleston Blvd.) and giving Wednesday’s keynote address at the Nightclub & Bar Convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center, says he thinks “the UFO phenomenon is going to figure greatly” in a 2012 “revelation,” when “the end of the world will come.” 

“It won’t be the end of the world physically as we know it, as depicted in the movie. But it will be the end of consciousness and the end of perception as we know it,” says Akroyd. 

Aykroyd, a lifetime benefactor of MUFON.com, has visited the Nevada town of Rachel on Extraterrestrial Highway and marveled at “real photographs” there of sightings. 

“These aren’t hoaxes or fakes,” he said. “Dozens of Army officers, police, sheriffs, emergency workers — people who are outside all day, all night, all the time — are consistently coming forward to report events.” 

UFO phenomena could be elements in a 2012 realignment, perhaps as mass revelations or mass sightings, he said. 

“Mass telepathic content has already occurred throughout North America on many occasions, the last notable one being in 1994 in (Quebec), where there was an incident that involved about 2,000 people being called to their back porches to look up into the sky and witness an event with a craft at the same time. That was a telepathic event where they were all contacted.” 

“As Shirley MacLaine puts it: The light is going to go out in the next few years, 2012, and a new perception will come on. 

“Whether that has to do with the dominance of dark matter in the universe — or some triumph/domination of good and evil — the light we know now, whether that’s a good light or a bad light, is going to change. 

“There’s going to be a phase-wave shift in everything, and that’s very exciting. I don’t think it’s destructive. I think it’s going to be very constructive.” 

“I think we should open our minds and start being better human beings to each other, and accept that this may be the way of life. We’ve got to be more compassionate, more loving, more positive thinking.” 

A worst-case predicted scenario is that “the good light” will go out and we will experience “the bad light.” If that happens, people who practice on behalf of the good light will be even more pressed to “fight” against “whatever darkness is coming,” he said. 

How does Nevada fit into all this?  Hugely. Akryod responded by unfurling an incredibly deep knowledge of Las Vegas and Nevada and reflected on the UFO culture of Rachel; the state’s military; Nevada’s “beautiful topography”; ex-mob lawyer and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman’s adeptness at handling issues; the strength of “first families” and entrepreneurs in Nevada, such as the Maloofs; the positive ways Vegas embraces performance artists; our liberal attitudes toward leisure; UNLV’s educational culture; and the big brains of math doctorates who work for multidynamic hotels. 

Many of those strengths mean Las Vegas could take in refugees in 2012, he said. “There’s no city on Earth that handles more people more efficiently.  If you had to create an exodus of 100,000 people, where they had to flee from their native land, they could be put up in Las Vegas with no problem.”

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Welcome to Sin City, Mr. President!

With an unprecedented 30-mile radius air traffic prohibition in place (usually it’s half that) during his trip to Las Vegas, costing commercial air tour travel operators thousands of dollars of lost revenue, President Barack Obama remains undaunted, planning to land his Air Force One gas guzzling hog later tonight, marking his second presidential visit to Sin City– you know, the little hideaway berg that encourages corporations to blow their government bailout funds or simply have students waste their college savings on gambling forays. 

Despite having such a notorious moniker, Las Vegas tourism officials have weathered the multiple gaffes and predict a million more visitors in 2010.  Thank you, Mr. President. 

He’ll probably need to bring a strong suit of armor and sharp swords when he speaks Friday for select invitees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, where his prior barbs were specifically aimed.

His olive branch offering, if you will, will be his quest to seek congressional approval of the Travel Promotions Act- an overseas $4 billion promotion program that could bring more moneyed foreign tourists to Las Vegas.   Morevover, the bill promises it could bring 40,000 new American jobs and $320 million in new federal tax revenue, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 

If that doesn’t stick when the Prez throws it against the wall, his backup plan (or an add-on, depending on crowd rancor) could be to announce the Department of Transportation’s $30 million project for a new Sahara Avenue – one of the most traveled byways in Las Vegas – bus project as part of the multibillion stimulus package. 

But outspoken ex-mob lawyer turned Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not being rolling the red carpet out.   Goodman remains upset at President Obama. Goodman said he needs to be true to his conscience and, therefore, won’t accept invitations to greet the president of attend any town hall meeting unless he personally gets “some kind of retraction.”  

If you like to be part of this surely politically entertaining event, you can line up for tickets now at Green Valley High School in Henderson for Friday’s 10 a.m. town hall meeting. 

Mr. President, please be sure to enjoy yourself when you’re in the home of sin.  It’s a devilishly fun town.

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Go to Las Vegas- and Go Broke?

A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling mecca and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state. 

Speaking about the economy yesterday at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr. Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.” 

The economy of Las Vegas, the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination, is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a crack from Mr. Obama a year ago that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city.   The city is still reeling from that comment, trying to keep bookings and revenues up on conventions and other events. 

Mr. Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who is fighting an extremely uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. – a whopping 13 per cent.

Mr. Obama hurriedly dispatched a letter to Mr. Reid. “I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas,” he wrote. 

Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, also got into the fray, raising his voice and describing President Obama as “a real slow learner” who has a “psychological hang-up” about Las Vegas. 

Mr. Goodman added that this time an apology from Mr. Obama wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.” 

Last year, Mr. Obama apologized for his prior gaffe and during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas said that it was good to get out of Washington and “there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week.” 

Repercussions surrounding the current incident are not nearly over.  In a couple of weeks, Mr. Obama is planning another visit to Las Vegas, which surely will cause sparks to fly anew.

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Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas Offers Affordable New Year’s Gala

Everything in Las Vegas does not need to emphasize the new and expensive ritzy venues.  Take for example the Fremont Street Experience in “old” Las Vegas.   For only $10 (locals) to $20 (visitors) they’re offering a “TributePalooza” this New Year’s Eve featuring the tribute bands of INXS, U2, Depeche Mode, Van Halen, No Doubt, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will lead the countdown in a fireworks show in a specially designed New Year’s show that will take place under the street-long video screen canopy. 

Only people age 21 and older will be allowed.  

The concerts start at 6 p.m.  For more information, please call 702-678-5600.

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Las Vegas Extreme Makeover: Ape Edition

Apes everywhere are likely celebrating their new digs planned for Las Vegas.  Reportedly, there will be an ape exhibit containing six apes in a new Las Vegas habitat in the next few months. ape

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is also probably going Ape Ga-Ga (vs. Lady Gaga, who is also coming to Las Vegas shortly) over the announcement- highly endangered apes are his favorite animals. 

Representatives from the San Diego Zoo were in Las Vegas last week at the Las Vegas Zoo and announced a donation of $15,000 for the improvement of the ape and desert tortoise exhibits.  

Zoo officials are asking the public for donations to help build the new exhibit, which will provide a more natural-looking habitat for the animals.  Each will cost $50,000.

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Las Vegas Mayor Fights for New Zoo– and Crocs!

Some say it’s already a 24×7 zoo wherever you look in Las Vegas, but that’s apparently not enough to satisfy Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who is now trying to get Las Vegas a brand new zoo- and – are you sitting down? – some croc’ wrestling!

The project reportedly would be run by the family of the late Steve Irwin. Irwin, you may recall, is the famed crocodile hunter who tragically died three years ago after being hit in the chest by a stingray’s barb while he was snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The Irwin family runs the Australia Zoo in Queensland and recently met with Mayor Goodman about opening a similar operation in Downtown Las Vegas, blighted by one failed business after another.

“It looks like a great project with a crocodile-type enclosure where they would wrestle with the crocodiles and feed the crocodiles and have a real educational component to it and we’re going to continue those discussions,” said a jubilant Mayor Goodman.

The discussions may include another facility that you might not typically speak of in the same breath as crocodile wrestling.

Goodman also met recently with a group interested in building a children’s hospital in Downtown Las Vegas.

“I’m trying to marry the two of them together because I think it would be great to have the crocodile zoo, so to speak, next to a children’s hospital where children have to be cheered up and have a bright outlook and I thought the two of them could be together on a piece of property that the city owns,” said Mayor Goodman.

Whether Las Vegas would sell or lease the land to the Irwin group is still unknown. The city is waiting for a proposal. But one thing they do know is that it would be very different from the controversial Las Vegas Zoo that’s recently come under fire from the Humane Society of the United States after a Contact 13 hidden camera investigation on animal cruelty.

“The zoo would be a limited zoo. It’s an Australian zoo. We’re not gonna have lions and tigers and giraffes and all the things that Darcy Spears [Las Vegas news reporter]  would want to have an investigative report about. We’re just going to have wombats and platypuses and koalas and crocodiles. I’m a big crocodile fan. I love crocodiles. So it’s my kind of zoo,” said Mayor Goodman.

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Major Rugby Tournament comes to Las Vegas

A huge sporting event is coming to Las Vegas starting early next year. The USA Sevens Rugby Tournament is moving to Las Vegas from San Diego, California. Rugby

Tournament organizers have just signed a multi-year commitment. 

Officials say they chose Las Vegas for a number of reasons, including its name recognition and its ability to attract visitors of all kinds. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman expects thousands of fans from around the world to come for the tournament each year. “You pick your favorite team, your favorite player, and they play in great spots. They come from all over the world. They’re going to be coming here to Las Vegas,” he said. 

Goodman also says he expects rugby’s popularity to grow now that it’s been added to the Olympics starting in 2016. 

The first tournament will be held in Las Vegas in February.

 

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Las Vegas Mayor & Tart Queen Film “Planet Holly” in Las Vegas this week

Colorful Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, an-Mob lawyer, and Las Vegas’ version of Lady Gaga, Holly Madison, will be joined together this week as filming begins on her VH1 reality show, “Planet Holly,” at Planet Hollywood Resort.bachelorette

His appearance will involve him naming five things that will make Las Vegas better; she will then go out and do those five things.  

During his weekly media sit-down meeting last Thursday, the mayor talked about his participation in the reality show and also mentioned he will be narrating another reality show about Las Vegas.

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Las Vegas’ New City Hall Project Continues to Chug Along

Project plans for a new Las Vegas City Hall appear to be moving forward, despite higher than expected interest rates.  To provide a mechanism for more effective interest rates, Las Vegas is seriously looking now at using “Build America” bonds to finance their new city hall. 

By using these bonds to finance the project it will cost Las Vegas as much as $267 million, but save the city  $82 million over 30 years, based on current estimates of competitive funding methods. 

Las Vegas has already awarded a $107,800 engineering contract to design a 650-space parking garage adjacent to the proposed six-story, 303,000-sq-ft building City Hall complex at First Street and Clark Avenue.  

The complex, if and when it is finished, is planned to have a 250,000-sq-ft of office space, a 500-seat city council chamber and a public exhibition space, as well as an outdoor plaza with solar panel trees that serve as shade structures. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said recently that prospects for the project were bleak because the interest rates on one possible funding mechanism were as much as 8 percent too high. 

But Goodman says the Build America bonds are improving the viability of the project. 

The Build America bond program is part of President Barack Obama’s stimulus package which lets state and local governments issue taxable bonds for capital projects and get a direct federal subsidy payment from the Treasury Department for a portion of their borrowing costs. 

The Las Vegas City Council will be meeting today to further discuss the issue, but the final vote on whether to continue to move forward on the city hall plan won’t occur until November or December.

If approved, the Las Vegas City Hall project is expected to finish by mid-2011– and create 13,000 new jobs.

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Las Vegas Strip Club Looking to Grease Pole Again

The federal government has wanted to unload the Crazy Horse Too strip club in Las Vegas ever since the U.S. Marshals Service assumed ownership of it in 2007 as part of a plea agreement with its former owner, felon Rick Rizzolo. 

After two years and at least one failed attempt, the marshals finally have an agreement in place, largely confidential, with a new potential buyer, Mayor Oscar Goodman and several attorneys close to the case confirmed late last week. 

Pete Rinato, a local attorney for the prospective buyer, said the buyer signed a contract with the Marshals Service about three weeks ago. He declined to name his client, who he said is a “non-local,” but added that his name would be released soon. 

In a larger sense, an alliance of sorts has been formed, said several attorneys  knowledgeable about the deal, a kind of “strange bedfellows” pact in which many of the normally adversarial parties are now allied because they’re eager for the sale to go through. 

Those parties include the prospective buyer, the federal government, Rizzolo and the man who successfully sued the now-shuttered club after his neck was broken there. This alliance doesn’t yet include the city, though it might before all is said and done. 

The agreement hinges on the owner of a Russell Road strip club, calling itself the Crazy Horse 3, giving up that name so future owners of the Crazy Horse Too, on Industrial Road, can retain sole rights to the name. 

The pact is also relying on the city to grant a liquor license and exotic dance permit to the club’s buyer, so the value of the club can be boosted. Without a liquor license, the club is valued at about $5 million — chump change compared to what it would be with the proper licenses. As of 15 months ago, with the licenses, the club was valued at $32 million. 

Rinato said a lawsuit will soon be filed against the owners of the Crazy Horse 3, demanding that they give up that name. 

After serving roughly 10 months in federal prison for tax evasion, Rizzolo was released in early 2008. As part of his guilty plea, Rizzolo was allowed to use proceeds from the sale of the gentleman’s club to satisfy tens of millions of dollars in debts he owes various parties. 

Goodman said he didn’t know who the potential buyer is- and hasn’t asked. 

Others who do know, include federal officials, but they aren’t talking. 

Federal agents seized the Crazy Horse Too in September 2007. The following June, Pro criticized the marshals for not applying for a city liquor license and simply taking over the club. 

At the time, the marshals said they didn’t want to run a strip club. Three months later they changed their tune, recognizing that they needed the licenses to get a higher sale price.

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Las Vegas’ New Homeless ‘Leper’ Colony?

A Las Vegas activist has launched a brand new proposal to take the great majority of Las Vegas homeless off of Sin City streets, where they’ve been shunned and put down by politicians and others for decades, and build the first planned truly self-contained, fuly functioning and viable homeless community in the United States. 

It would be located on more than 600 acres, just north of the Las Vegas Valley.  The homeless would be able to live and work there without fear of violence or being kicked out as previously when they take up residence on Las Vegas sidewalks, and especially a homeless area known as “Tent City,” bounding and Main Street and Foremaster, where many men, women and familes used to call their Las Vegas home, but now has been shut down for safety reasons. 

With the homeless now scattered throughout the Valley, homeless activist Dr. Joseph D’Angelo has spent years trying to come up with his plan to help the homeless in a way that’s favorable to Las Vegas.  He unveiled it to local leaders yesterday, including Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, long a detractor to the plight of the homeless. 

“Joshua’s Community — would be the first true homeless community in the nation,” D’Angelo said. 

At the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition meeting, D’Angelo proposed a fully self-contained community, 29 miles north of the city, just outside the Paiute Indian reservation. It’s on government land, and D’Angelo is asking Washington to grant 640 acres of land to build pavilion-style homes, schools and everything a community needs to function– far from being a lepper colony. 

“By moving people out of town, away from the lure of the city, they’re going to hang onto their money,” D’Angelo said. 

And the homeless said a place to get back on their feet is the biggest step. “You don’t know who could be that next entrepreneur. You don’t know who could be that next singer or dancer. It could be the one that’s on the side of the road,” a homeless resident said. 

This community would be funded through private grants and not taxpayer money. The Las Vegas board promised it will look into the plan over the next few weeks.   D’Angelo said he’s confident that he can get this project going as soon as possible. He said he just wants the blessing of the planning coalition to help seal the deal. 

The community is also intended to rehabilitate the homeless.

It is planned to support as many as 15,000 people when fully completed.

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Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman’s 70th Birthday Party

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman will celebrate his 70th birthday in grand style on Friday evening, July 31 with a public birthday gala street party on Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. OscarGoodmanbirthday
 
“It’ll be a blast!” Goodman said, whose enroute to completing his third and final four-year term as mayor. “I’m inviting everyone to leave their worries behind and join me for a one-of-a-kind evening that will benefit three local charities.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to share it with the citizens of fabulous Las Vegas!”
 
Mayor Goodman’s 70th Birthday Celebration will be a Fremont Street Experience “street party” at the First Street Stage plaza next to Golden Nugget from 7-10 p.m. on Friday, July 31.  There will be special entertainment and appearances from performers throughout Las Vegas and a ceremony on stage with Mayor Goodman will take place from 8:30-9 p.m.  Admission is a $20 donation and will be sold at the entrance gate. 
 
Charities will receive 100 percent of money donated with funds raised going to Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Opportunity Village and Three Square.
 
Bombay Sapphire Gin, the Mayor’s gin of choice, will be the drink of choice at Goodman’s 70th birthday party.  In celebration of the occasion, special “Good-Man Martinis” will be served inside the party on Fremont Street Experience.  With the $20 charitable donation, street party participants will receive two “Good-Man Martinis” or other gin mixed drinks made with Bombay Sapphire, plus a commemorative T-shirt and button.
 
Fremont Street Experience is producing a special tribute to Mayor Goodman that will play during the ceremony on Viva Vision, arguably the world’s largest video screen.

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‘Mafia Princess’ Plans Las Vegas Museum

Former mob lawyer and now Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has added competition for his planned $50 million downtown mob museum.  It comes from none other than the daughter of murdered Chicago mob chief Sam Giancana, Antoinette Giancana, who is also now planning a mob shrine. 

Giancana, 74, was in Las Vegas over the weekend at Capo’s restaurant on Sahara Ave. for a meeting with backers of the proposed museum, Las Vegas investors Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur, who reportedly are in negotiations with Las Vegas Strip properties for their joint business venture. AntoinetteGiancana

She’s moving to Las Vegas this summer to take a hands-on role in the project and is excited about “following in the shadow of [her dad’s] footsteps.” 

Her father controlled the Chicago mob in the late 1950s and 1960s and was killed at his Chicago home on June 19, 1975, four days before her birthday. 

Some say Las Vegas hit man Tony Spilotro was the top suspect for her father’s death, but she is convinced the culprits were the CIA.   

In 1984 Giancana wrote a book titled “Mafia Princess,” that was a made-for-TV movie in 1986, starring Susan Lucci as Giancana and Tony Curtis – currently a Henderson, Nevada resident – playing her father. 

Then, in 2005, she co-wrote the book, “JFK and Sam:  The Connection Between the Giancana and Kennedy Assassinations,” which made the case that her father ordered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. 

The exhibit is “going to be a first,” Giancana said.  Bloom, she said, is “bringing in millions of dollars [worth of stuff] from various [crime] families that have never, ever been seen” by the public.

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Michael Jackson’s Ties to Las Vegas

Although Michael Jackson never performed a ticketed show in Las Vegas during his adult career, he had a high profile in the city and was a frequent visitor and sometimes resident in the recent years. MichaelJacksondeath

A teenage Jackson and his brother performed on the Las Vegas Strip as the Jackson 5, starting in April 1974 at the original MGM Grand (now Bally’s).  They performed several times that year. 

The King of Pop was also a guest for long stretches in the poolside villas of The Mirage during the ‘90s, when his friend Steve Wynn was the hotel chairman. 

The closest Jackson came to a ticketed performance in Las Vegas was in February 1994, when “The Jackson Family Honors” was taped in front of a live audience at the MGM Grand Garden arena for an NBC special.   The crowd screamed and cheered so much when Jackson came onstage that it took several minutes for him to be able to continue with his presentation, with his longtime friend and confidante Elizabeth Taylor finally quieting the crowd. 

Jackson started turning up more frequently in Las Vegas beginning in 2002.  He received the key to Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodman in October 2003, and lived in Las Vegas with his children during a six-month stretch in 2007.  

On and off during the past decade he lived in Las Vegas in a Spanish Trails mansion owned by the Prince of Brunei, a home on West Palomino Lane (near Wasden Elementary School), and a rented house just west of Decatur Boulevard near Sahara Avenue. 

It is not immediately known how recently he lived in Las Vegas, but CNN reported he relocated from the Las Vegas to Los Angeles in May. 

During the filming of a controversial British documentary that aired in 2003, journalist Martin Bashir followed Jackson on shopping sprees around Las Vegas. 

Jackson created a media circus on November 20, 2003, when he returned to Las Vegas from Santa Barbara, California after posting his $3 million bail following charges of child molestation.  A slow-speed car chase ensued in the evening as local and national media followed from the air and ground Jackson’s Lincoln Navigator as it wandered the streets of Las Vegas and Henderson. 

Jackson stayed during that period at Green Valley Ranch and the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Las Vegas before moving back to California to await his trial.   After being exonerated in June 2005, he left the United States for 18 months, spending time between Dubai and Ireland, before flying to Las Vegas on Christmas Eve 2006 with his children. 

He ended his stay in Las Vegas in June 2007, leaving a Summerlin rental home in filthy shambles, with piles of junk left on the curb in his wake. 

During his stay in Las Vegas, Jackson and his children were often spotted at local shows and attractions, fueling reports that Jackson three years ago was pursuing a Celine Dion-type residency on the Strip.  Eventually, Steve Wynn, chairman of Wynn Resorts, had to issue an official denial of any plans to host Jackson in June 2005. 

In December 2008, Jackson was bailed out of the $24.5 million he owned on Neverland Ranch in California when Colony Capital, owned by billionaire Tom Barrack, bought the loan that also owns the Las Vegas Hilton.  That fueled speculation that Jackson would perform in La s Vegas to pay off the debt. 

The Wall Street Journal reported the possible tribute show at the Hilton similar to Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles show “Love” at The Mirage in Las Vegas.   Although talks and dinner meetings ensued with potential promoters, his “This is It” tour ended up planned in London. 

He was rumored to be a possible headliner at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. AEG Live, which books the Colosseum, said only that Jackson’s performance in London there would be judged for viability before discussing plans to bring him to Las Vegas. 

About a year and a half ago, Jackson resided and recorded at the Studio at the Palms Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas for two months, with Akon and RedOne producing.  Some of the material appeared on the 25th anniversary of his “Thriller” album, released last year.  It is not known how much more his work recorded there remains unreleased or the future of it.

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Las Vegas Mob Museum & City Hall Projects Face Hard Times

Las Vegas tourism and business development efforts were dealt more crushing blows this week.  The $11.5 million proposed Mob Museum (on the current old post office site, right) — aka the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, which was supposed to chronicle the influence of organized crime on Southern Nevada and the law enforcement effort to drag criminals into courts of law — became the focal point in a contractor bidding dispute Wednesday on one of the final phases of the planned construction project. 

The matter could head to litigation, tying up the museum’s originally planned 2010 opening for years. 

Las Vegas is in protracted litigation with one of the contractors over a separate project. Furthermore, Las Vegas City Council members criticized city staff for inadequate bid specifications, worrying that disputes like this one will increase because of intensifying competition for construction work. 

The contract was scheduled to be awarded Wednesday to APCO Construction. After a lengthy hearing on a protest filed by Flagship Construction Co., a competing bidder, the matter was rescheduled for July 1, but some expect the fight to continue beyond that date. 

At issue is the full disclosure of contractor litigations, specification on removing hazardous materials, a seismic retrofit, interior remodeling and the historic restoration process. 

“I suspect litigation may flow from this,” said Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic. 

Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese was even more pessimistic: “We’re going to have a project here in the city of Las Vegas that’s going to be detained for a couple of years.” 

The news was a real downer for prior mob lawyer and current Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a top-tier pet downtown development project of his.  On top of that, the always outspoken mayor had to remain silent, recusing himself from the discussions because he shares an interest with one of contractors, APCO in the Apex Industrial Park. 

“I’ve been the driving force, I guess. I hope it’s complete while I can still enjoy it in public office,” says Goodman, who is considering a bid for Nevada governor as an independent in 2010. 

However, work continues on the Mob Museum exhibits that are planning to be located inside the retrofitted 1930s-era former courthouse on Stewart Avenue downtown, across the street from City Hall.

The museum is being funded by a mixture of private donations and grants, with the bulk of the money to come from city Redevelopment Agency bonds used to boost downtown Las Vegas development. 

Wednesday’s bad business development news was a prelude to more bad Las Vegas news on Thursday. To add salt to the oozing wounds, the controversial new city hall project, the touted savior catalyst that could jump-start the next wave of Las Vegas development, is also stalled and in jeopardy, according to Goodman in his Thursday news conference. 

Goodman blamed skittish financial markets, saying the city originally planned on an interest rate of around 5 percent. As of Wednesday, it appeared the best the city could do was 7.5 percent. “That’s a difference of millions of dollars,” Goodman said. 

cityhallAlthough the city received final approval to seek up to $267 million to finance the construction of a new city hall, left, now Las Vegas has run into the brick wall reality of financial markets, said Chris Bohner, research director for Culinary Local 226.  “I think the financial markets have a better understanding of risk than the City Council,” he said. “The financial markets have said, ‘We don’t think your project’s feasible.'” 

The next step for the city hall project would appear to be to seek bond financing for what is known as a “lease-purchase” agreement in which investors put up the construction money and are paid back through annual appropriations by the city. Such financing is considered a much riskier method than general obligation bonds because it’s not tied to a specific funding source.

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Hockey Pros, Celebrities Skate to First NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas

Team sports businesses haven’t been exactly brimming with kindness to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.   Try as he might – bless his ever-loving, gin-drinking pickled heart – efforts to bring a pro major league team to Las Vegas throughout his tenure have not produced results.   Apparently, for now at least, the long established Las Vegas gambling brand doesn’t mix well with courting pro sports teams in the City of Entertainment. 

The good news, though, is that the National Hockey League will at be having their prestigious 2009 NHL Awards in Las Vegas and the NHL Players’ Association will also hold its annual North American summer meetings here around the awards show. NHLawards

It marks the first time the annual awards show is being held in Las Vegas, an event usually reserved for Toronto,  coinciding shortly after completion of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

For the Las Vegas Wranglers, a minor league hockey farm club of the Calgary Flames of the NHL, it will undoubtedly be a a dream come true to conveniently head down the Strip and perchance rub elbows with the best pro players in the game. 

In the twilight of the Las Vegas mayor’s last term, the biggest names in major league pro hockey will  assemble in Las Vegas on June 18 at 4 p.m. at The Pearl Concert Theater in George Maloof’s Palms Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, opting to briefly trade their rink ice for lots of ice to chill their drinks in the hot box of a town.   

For many Las Vegans, however, the event may be akin to witnessing a UFO experience of a different kind. Las Vegas denizens don’t bet on hockey games, let alone who is going to win the MVP Trophy or Coach of the Year. They have way to many other things to do these days- like worrying about their jobs and paying their mortgages. 

And, if you’re an Ordinary Joe, you’ll need to really dig deep in your tattered wallet to be a part of the history-making hoopla– attending will set you back $504 at least per seat. 

But, from most accounts, for those that are fortunate to attend (or go in hoc trying), it should be a pretty good bash, inasmuch as owner George Maloof knows a thing or two about sports and Las Vegas since he is the owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. 

“We are so thrilled to be the host of the 2009 NHL Awards,” Palms Owner George Maloof said in a statement. “Working with the National Hockey League in bringing this event to Las Vegas is something that will be great for our community.”

At the ceremony the league will announce top performers in a variety of categories including valuable player (Hart Trophy), outstanding goaltender (Vezina Trophy), outstanding defenseman (Norris Trophy), outstanding rookie (Calder Trophy), and best coach (Jack Adams Award).

To sweeten the attendance draw, award-winning multi-platinum recording artist Robin Thicke and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Chaka Khan will perform, and Saturday Night Live bandleader Katreese Barnes will head up the NHL Awards house band.

Celebrity hockey-loving fans Snoop Dogg, Michael Buble, William Fichtner, Tricia Helfer, Lauren Holly, Colin Ferguson and others are scheduled to appear alongside such NHL stars as Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks, Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers and many more planning to attend.

Past and present NHL stars are also scheduled to participate in the 2009 NHL Awards include Tony Esposito, Sergei Fedorov, Ron Francis, Doug Gilmour, Kelly Hrudey, Pat LaFontaine, Igor Larionov, Brian Leetch, Reggie Lemelin, Mark Messier, Stan Mikita, Andy Moog, Joe Nieuwendyk, Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick.

Athough it’s the inaguaral event for the City of Entertainment, it will be more than a one-night stand for the City of Entertainment.  The NHL and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA) have inked a three-year agreement to continue to bring the NHL awards to the Pearl Concert Theater at the Palms Casino & Hotel.

The awards will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on high definition VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.  NHL.com will provide streaming Internet coverage of the red carpet arrivals.  The Canadian band Arkells will perform.

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Las Vegas Performing Arts Center Breaks Ground

Any cultural and business development in Las Vegas is a good thing in our sputtering economy.    But the Smith CenterSmithCenter Smith Center of the Performing Arts groundbreakingfor the Performing Arts groundbreaking ceremony at the newly named Symphony Park yesterday in Las Vegas wasn’t just any commonplace development- it provides a significant cornerstone to energize the Las Vegas economy, not just when it opens early 2012, but all during the building crescendo. 

“This is being built to be here for the next couple of hundred years and that’s significant in a town that has a tendency to blow things up after 30 to 40 years,” said Don Snyder, the center’s chairman told approximately 150 invited guests, including Fred W. Smith and wife Mary, the namesake for the center. 

The Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre will be permanent residents of the center. Smith Center of the Performing Arts groundbreaking

The center will be anchored by a 2,050-seat main theater and includes an education facility, a cabaret theater and space for children’s and community events. 

Asked afterward about those skeptical of the money spent on the $485 million center and its cultural mission in a city that struggles to get past of its “Sin City” reputation, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman had some choice words for skeptics:Smith Center of the Performing Arts groundbreaking

“To those people I say, we have a lake out there, they can jump in it.  And I’d put the cement on their feet…This is the equivalent of getting an NFL franchise…We still want to have great entertainment and hotels and food and bring in tourists, but for people who live here, these are things that make a world-class city.”

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U.S. President Barack Obama Swoops into Las Vegas, Leaves Little Impact

Not long ago outspoken Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was taking to the air waves to voice his dismay at comments that President Barack Obama made.  In the February speech on bank excesses and the economic distress faced by so many, Obama stated “You can’t get corporate jets. You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.  There has got to be some accountability and some responsibility, and that’s something that I intend to impose as President of the United States.” 

Goodman responded with a full-media assault – demanding an apology, even as 340 corporations and business meetings were canceled or worse, moved from Las Vegas to San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix. 

But it’s always been said that politics make strange bedfellows and now, just months later, the media was on hand when Goodman met Air Force One at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday, shook President Obama’s hand and escorted him to the waiting motorcade. 

After starting his day in Washington with the announcement of  Sonia Sotomayo for the Supreme Court, President Obama ended his day at a Caesar’s Palace fund raiser for Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid.    

The Las Vegas fundraiser wasn’t the routine chicken and a handshake event.  The sold-out party of 4,000 at the Colosseum listened to about 15-minutes of Obama speaking about and touting the accomplishments of Reid and his support for issues “that matter not just to Democrats but to middle-class families all across America.” 

Obama didn’t mention anything about the local controversy over his remarks earlier this year condemning lavish Las Vegas junkets by corporations getting federal bailout funds, but did praise Caesars Palace where he spent the night in a lavish 22,000-square-foot suite in the Forum Tower, the first time a sitting president has stayed at Caesars.

In fact, for those that had long hoped to hear some substantial “magic” words from Obama during his visit to help boost the Las Vegas and Nevada economy from the doldrums, they never came.   And while Goodman shared his disappointment from the visit, his prior demands appeared to soften and he expressed much more optimism than Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, who said the President’s comments “were better than nothing, they were also next to nothing.  I thought he could have done more.”

Hopes and rhetoric were set aside as entertainment ensued with performances by Rita Rudner, Sheryl Crow and even Bette Midler will take to the stage for her milestone 100th performance. 

During it all, about 100 peaceful protestors gathered outside in front of Caesars Palace, chanting “Heave ho!” waiving flags and carrying signs protesting against Harry Reid, criticizing his “tax-and-spend,” “big government” ways.

Today, President Obama will give a federal stimulus package and solar energy speech that primarily will highlights job-creating solar and geothermal energy projects.

Will the Las Vegas crowd expect the President to stand on stage and apologize for his February comments anytime soon?  Not many – if any – are predicted to look for a retraction or softening of his words.  The unfortunate reference cost Vegas in the short run but in a city that plays all the angles, this visit by Barack Obama is guaranteed to become a showman’s golden opportunity.  

So it was lights, cameras and You Tube at Caesar’s Palace with the city of Las Vegas betting on, but not receiving, a Presidential image upgrade, all the while pouring $2 million into Reid’s 2010 campaign coffers.

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Bikini-Clad Sirens Bare Skin in Hot Las Vegas, Start Summer Early, Set World Record

Las Vegas is everything kitchy. 

Las Vegas needs tourism money- lots of it. bikini

Yesterday, proving both tenets, a parade of 281  bikini-clad women seductively strutted their wares in the hot Las Vegas sun, setting a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest bikini parade. 

Parading on the Las Vegas Strip, from Wynn resort to the Fashion Show mall, the entourage of beauties was led by Playboy plaything personality and former No. 1 Hugh Hefner flame Holly Madison, flanked by two Jublilee! bedecked dancers, decreeing that “summer in paradise” in Las Vegas has started a month earlier. 

“Only in Las Vegas could this take place,” said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who was joined in proclaiming the beginning of summer by Clark County Commisioner Larry Brown at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign – the 50th anniversary of the sign – on the south end of the Strip. 

 Participants were paid $100 and got to keep their bikinis, which were provided by various Las Vegas retailers at the mall.  The women also got a pass to one of several Strip pool parties. 

The “Summer in Paradise” branded parade, which coincided with the beginning of the Las Vegas pool scene season and National Tourism Week, cost the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority about $100,000.   The parade might become an annual event. 

Hopefully, the sizzling event will help to boost sagging Las Vegas tourism.   In March, visitor volume was down 6.5 percent compared to the previous year.  The average daily room rate was down 31.6 percent, and convention attendance was down 30 percent.  Gaming revenue dropped 12.3 percent on the Strip and 9.8 percent in the county overall.

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Nevada Travel & Tourism Sales Blitz This Week

Some may still not feel promoting Nevada travel and tourism benefits is a good idea in our stagnating economy, especially following President Obama’s February comments about frivolous travel in Las Vegas by corporations that accepted federal bailout money.  

But don’t tell that to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman or casino mogul Steve Wynn.  Both want to bend the ear – and more – of President Obama when he vists Las Vegas on May 26 and headlines a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  (Las Vegas Backstage Access April 1 article.) 

Wynn wants Obama to specifically address Nevada tourism.  “The people that voted in the Democratic Party, for the main part, work in the tourism and travel industry as cooks and waiters and housekeeping,” Wynn said. “They are being hit very hard not only by the recession but by federal policy that has discouraged travel.” 

Providing added fuel to boost Nevada’s flailing tourism industry, six Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) staffers have taken to the road early today for a western sales “blitz” during National Travel and Tourism Week to promote special travel deals designed to boost Nevada visitor numbers, according to NCOT chairperson and Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki. 

The sales team will visit travel agents, tour operators, AAA offices and other influential tourism industry representatives in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Several tourism industry partners from around the state will accompany the staff members from NCOT’s Sales and Industry Partners department. 

“There’s no better time for fun in Nevada than now, because of the special travel deals at hotels, golf courses, shops, spas and entertainment venues throughout the state. It’s a productive way for NCOT to observe this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week and a great way to attract more visitors in this current economy,” says Krolicki.   

The team will visit AAA offices that advise consumers about travel destinations, tour operators that bring groups of customers to Nevada and receptive operators who help with arrangements in the state. At each stop they will distribute USB flash drives that contain the new NCOT Industry Partners Newsletter, Nevada Magazine’s Events and Shows publication, a listing called What’s New in Nevada and an introduction to the new Web site, NV.Mobi, which makes travel information accessible by mobile phones and devices, a consumer newsletter and special spring travel packages. They also will hand out the Visitor Guide and fliers with information about special events and attractions. 

The team will also visit six different tribes to exchange ideas and generate interest in attending American Indian events in Nevada throughout the year and meet with a Japanese credit card company in Los Angeles to promote special Nevada travel deals for the company’s cardholders. 

Nevada’s attractions and deals with tour operators and motorcoach companies will be promoted in Salt Lake City, a strong market for travel to Elko County and other points in eastern and southern Nevada including Las Vegas. 

“Tourism is a highly competitive industry, and we need to be aggressive and never let up in our sales and marketing efforts,” Krolicki said. “Nevada is a destination that allows consumers to maximize the value of their dollars, and we must do all we can to boost awareness, attract more business and maintain our place as a leading destination.” 

The sales blitz is NCOT’s second since December 2008, when economic challenges were escalating and the commission stepped up its already vigorous sales efforts. 

National Travel and Tourism Week on May 9-17 is an annual observance by the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., that focuses on the industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy, which is worth more than $700 billion.

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World’s Largest Martini Prepares for Las Vegas Christening

Las Vegas-based Opportunity Village is teaming with Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas to create the city’s largest gin-based martini, The Opportunitini.  The unveiling event is Tuesday, April 28, at 6 p.m. in front of Hard Rock Cafe’s signature guitar martiniin Las Vegas at 4475 Paradise Road. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will be on-hand with his bevy of Vegas showgirls and world-class entertainment to ceremoniously top off the 20-gallon martini that will then be served to guests at the ceremony.     

The Opportunitini is the brainchild of mixologists at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Cafe and will be placed on their menu for the entire summer.  Proceeds from the sales of the drink will benefit the men and women at Opportunity Village, which is celebrating its 55th year of providing vocational training, social skills, job training and placement and opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities in Las Vegas.   

“We are very excited about partnering with the Hard Rock Cafe to unveil The Opportunitini,” says Linda Smith, Chief Development Officer at Opportunity Village.  “The record-breaking attempt promises to be an exciting event and the drink will be the perfect adult thirst quencher during those hot summer months.”

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President Obama Makes Tracks to ‘City of Excess’

It must not be a bad business move anymore to attend a junket in the City of Excess. 

President Barack Obama is planning to visit Las Vegas on May 26, headlining a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 

It will be Obama’s first visit to Nevada since being elected president.   

Although it’s not known whether the president will have a public event while he is in Southern Nevada, a political firestorm and public outcry was created in February when President Obama announced in his speech that companies that receive taxpayer bailout money shouldn’t use it party in Las Vegas. 

The White House has been mum on the details of the president’s visit, but Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley says she expects Obama to talk about the importance of leisure and business travel. 

“I believe that he’s going to be using that opportunity to say…that it’s part of the American dream, this travel, and encourage people not only to do leisure travel, which Las Vegas is famous for, but business travel as well,” Berkley said last week from the House floor. 

It’s also not known if Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will be scheduling a face-to-face pow-wow with the president after the mayor requested a formal retraction from him after hearing the president’s speech statements.

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Chalk up one for Las Vegas ‘Adult Entertainment’ Peddlers

Like it or not, peddlers lining the Las Vegas sidewalks, clicking their provocative handbills, and otherwise hawking adult entertainment promotions to passerbys is a part of our historic, colorful fabric, and, for some, this perhaps adds to our alluring mystique.  After all, we are Sin City, right?   handbills

One can regularly see such peddlers on the sidewalks of the Las Vegas Strip, in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and many other places around town.  Almost everywhere except for congregating in original Las Vegas, more specifically the Fremont Street Experience.  

Until now. 

A court ruling recently set aside several Las Vegas ordinances that sought to limit such activities at the Fremont Street Experience.  Of course the laws could be once again appealed, but Las Vegas’ colorful Mayor Oscar Goodman, in his last term of office, said recently that it might be time to let the 12-year-old on and off again lawsuit go. 

The Las Vegas City Council will hear its options at an upcoming meeting, he said, and can weigh in on the merits of appealing the decision, trying to craft another set of ordinances or take some other approach. 

Quickly turning the other cheek, though, Mayor Goodman said Las Vegas would staunchly fight anyone who tried to pass out adult material, such as escort advertisements handed out on the Strip. 

“You don’t want to see one of these situations where a man takes his daughter down to Fremont Street to see the light show and has some smut shoved in his daughter’s face,” Goodman said.  “If they use the same aggressive mannerisms that they do out on the Strip, we’re certainly not going to tolerate that.” 

Glitter Gulch, a leading adult entertainment Fremont Street business, is just a stone’s throw away from anyone walking down those same streets. 

The American Civil Liberties Union was quick to challenge the city ordinances on free speech grounds, arguing that bans on passing out literature and advertising or on setting up tables to promote a cause were unconstitutional. 

The case has been winding its slow way through appeals, revised ordinace and more litigations since 1997. 

In enacting such ordinances, Las Vegas city leaders contend that businesses that rent space or kiosks from Fremont Street Experience LLC, which operates the pedestrian mall, needs some protection again people setting up competing sales operations next door for free.

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Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Delays Convention Center Renovations

An $890 million planned Las Vegas Convention Center renovation that was once deemed to be vital for the Las Vegas tourism industry and economy is very likely to be put on official hold. lasvegasconventioncenter

On Thursday, the LVCVA said they would seek to suspend the project at least to the middle of 2010. 

LVCVA chairman and Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman called the delay practical, sighting the declining room tax revenue in Clark County, the authority’s primary income source, and other economic declines. 

The original convention center expansion proposal called for dramatic upgrades to the Las Vegas Convention Center’s façade and common spaces.  It would have increased the gross square footage from 3.2 million square feet to 3.8 million square feet that would have increased critical high demand convention areas including available meeting spaces, restaurants, food service, and taxi spaces. 

Jeremy Aguero of the economics research firm Applied Analysis said the suspension is an unfortunate reflection of the state of the economy.  In 2007, he prepared a report that said without improvements to the convention center, Las Vegas would lose $5 billion in convention-related economic activity. 

Las Vegas is the nation’s top location for trade shows and conventions.  It hosts 44 of the nation’s top 200 conventions and tradeshows, according to Tradeshow Week magazine.  Orlando is a distant second with 24. 

Goodman says he’s hopeful that work on the convention center renovation can resume in 2010.

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Prostitution Legislation Thwarted in Nevada

Despite our serious Nevada budget shortfall, including not being able to adequately fund our school systems and the teachers who develop young minds, the 2009 Nevada Legislature apparently won’t be taking up the proposal of legalizing prostitution and creating legal brothels.  prostitute

“It’s the only major industry in the state that doesn’t pay anything,” says George Flint, president of the Nevada Brothel Owners Association.  

The Nevada legislative staff had been drafting a bill to allow the mayor of Las Vegas to issue up to three brothel licenses as a pilot program until a brothel licensing board could be established. 

In exchange for the opportunity to expand into the Nevada’s urban counties, the industry volunteered to be taxed. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has always called for a public discussion of legalizing prostitution as a way to redevelop downtown Las Vegas and help provide budget revenues. 

Year after year the measure has been brought up.  Each time the legislative initative has failed.

Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley’s opposition this year was pivotal to the death of the bill, saying the bill would not be heard because “I do not support legalizing prostitution.”  Buckley runs a disciplined caucus and her strong opposition to a bill virtually guarantees its failure.

Although the battle may be lost, the war wages on.  Now, with state budget shortfalls taking center news stage, more groups are joining in to closely scrutinize the impact of such legislative decisions including  ABC’s “Nightline” that is delving into the concept of taxing prostitution in Nevada.

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Las Vegas Leaders Irate Over President Barack Obama’s Remarks

It’s difficult to find anyone in Nevada, politician or otherwise, who is not ticked off – boiling mad- over President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation comments on Monday while he attended a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana.  Obama said: “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”travel

Since then Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has appeared in front of every camera and microphone he can muster, nerves frazzled and hotter than fish grease about the President Obama’s comments, demanding an immediate retraction and apology.  He followed his demand in a letter. 

In our Nevada economy that has been particularly hard hit by the recession, the enflaming remarks by could prove disastrous, many Nevada leaders say.   The number of Las Vegas tourists fell 4.4 percent last year and the descent continued in December, which saw a 14.2 percent dip compared with 2007. 

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, appeared alongside Goodman, saying later he couldn’t put a price tag on repairing damage from Obama’s remarks. 

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher followed suit, saying Obama’s comments had “wildfire potential.” 

Most business leaders agree that extravagant, ostentatious frivolous spending is one thing, but it’s the “Las Vegas fun factor” under control that can precisely be the economic stimulus ticket to drive up the attendance at Las Vegas conventions and serve as a win-win lift for our sagging national and local economies. 

But are out-of-town business conventioneers really listening? 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. continued to draw heat and withdrew its plan to hold a three-day conference in Las Vegas after accepting $10 billion in federal bailout funds. 

Similarly, last week Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer money, cancelled a planned employee recognition conference in Las Vegas. 

The fear is that Las Vegas is unjustly getting a growing reputation as a frivolous destination for companies- and not just those getting federal bailout money.  To which Goodman responded, “What we’re famous for has nothing to do with the fact that you can have a serious meeting in Las Vegas.” 

Only time will tell what will be the ultimate economic tourism impact of Obama’s remarks- time Las Vegas has very little of.   It could be that Obama’s comment might tilt the economic pendulum more in favor of Las Vegas tourism, actually bringing in more tourists as Las Vegas continues to work damage control on its reputation as a place for serious business.

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Las Vegas Downtown Art Museum Plans Kaboshed

mocaThe dream of Finnish businessman and European art collector Poju Zabludowicz was to come to downtown Las Vegas and build a contemporary art museum.  He and his wife, Anita, have been feverishly collecting art since the mid-1990s and had planned to privately fund and build the museum. 

But, at least for now, that dream will not come true.

 Likewise, the art community of Las Vegas is largely devastated and heartbroken. 

Zabludowicz, chairman and chief executive officer of Tamares Group, withdrew his group’s proposal to build the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in an old fingerprinting building on East Fremont Street in the Las Vegas Entertainment District.  He cited the poor economy for last week’s decision. 

Although Tamares, which owns several Las Vegas downtown properties, including the Las Vegas Club and Plaza, still plans to open MOCA at some undefined future time, it’s just not in the cards now to invest $12 million in a nonprofit venture. 

The City of Las Vegas also required that the museum be completed within two years, a timeline that didn’t work for Tamares.

 The Zabludowicz Collection includes more than 1,000 works by emerging artists of the late 20th and 21st centuries.  Some of those works had been planned to be brought to Las Vegas.  The art centerpiece, titled the “Large Field Array,” would have been a permanent installation of about 8,000 square feet, being comprised of 300 sculptures by British artist Keith Tyson, who won the Turner Prize in 2002. 

The City of Las Vegas has already contacted five other groups that previously submitted proposals for building on the site.  Most of them were for nightclubs. 

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has long identified himself as a proponent of the arts, said that he doesn’t support a downtown art museum.  “It’s not necessary to have an art museum.  I want a mob museum,” said Goodman.

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Hookers Bailout Las Vegas?

In Las Vegas it’s okay to walk around with an open alcohol container.  But you can’t legally rent a hooker or an “escort” in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.  Go figure. What can I say… it’s Vegas, Baby!

Prostitutes and Johns listen up:  The times they may be changin’.  Although Nevada is the only state that allows legal brothel prostitution (just outside of Clark County borders), it appears that in the wake of Nevada’s current budget shortfalls, the Nevada legislature is once again considering propositioning the legalization of prostitution.   hooker

The revenue idea is about as old as the prostitution profession itself.   During “hard” times our politicians routinely dip their wick into their bag of tricks.  One of the biggest proponents to legalize and tax all the fun is Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.   He has always liked the idea.  After all, he says, it should be considered, adding it could bring perhaps $200 million to our parched coffers, aiding downtown redevelopment initiatives.

Nevada State Senator Bob Coffin (yes, that’s not a typo) is hammering another nail in the old idea, bringing it up recently as a serious Nevada legislative proposal.  But why shouldn’t he? He need not care about any red light political fallout as he has reached his term limit for service and will not have to run again. 

The fact of the matter is that the Nevada state legislature would first have to pass a law allowing prostitution in Clark County and that would supposedly severely hurt the tax base of the smaller Nevada counties that depend on the money that comes from brothels. 

Not only that, but Nevada’s once burgeoning casino industry has in the past vehemently opposed any attempt to legalize prostitution in Vegas so not to impinge on their revenues.

Most everyone accepts the fact that lots of prostitution is going on unregulated and untaxed in Las Vegas.  The question is what to do with it- and when.  Times are much different now.   Las Vegas continues to lose gaming revenue; residents and visitors are dropping from the borders like flies; education is at risk of losing half of their funding; and houses are morphing into ghost towns.

Perhaps now is the time for not just another round of idle lip service, but true legislation that could help make our lives a little bit easier.

But, for now, if you feel the urge, the closest legal brothel to Las Vegas is the Chicken Ranch in Nye County, which is just minutes from the Clark County line.

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Las Vegas Ratchets Up Advertising Campaign to Lure More Visitors

lasvegas1

Business survival and prosperity in Las Vegas is all about having the proper branding that is married with alluring, can’t-live-without content, and putting it together to provide the visitor great value.  The trick is to get the visitors coming in droves to Las Vegas.  Drawing the attention and attracting interest is one of the major joint charters of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and their advertising firm, R & R Partners, long-famous for coining the oft-chanted ad slogan:  “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.”   But saying it is so is one thing, doing it has been challenged as of late.  

Crimping their plans, Las Vegas has received some notorious flap over their weak controls on charitable spending.   The Las Vegas Conventions and Visitors Authority CEO Rossi Ralenkotter inappropriately approved a $25,000 donation to the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, while Ralenkotter later accepted a humanitarian award from the group.   But Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman stepped up to the plate on the matter on January 13 and promptly fixed the loophole.   Future charitable donations are now to be specifically identified as line-item budgets and group approved before any expenditures.  Additionally, the authority changed their policy to ensure multiyear contracts with vendors don’t have a set spending level, and put in controls and greater scrutiny to prevent any vendor overpayments, as was alleged with R&R Partners.

Although the authority has recently spent $2.5 million on their “Vegas Bound” advertising program to have Cranberrry Gap, Texas folks take a break from their ordinary lives and head to our land of neon lights – which, the authority says generated for Las Vegas the positive ad exposure coming from nearly 200 online news stories, 100 newspaper stories, and more than 250 television stories –  an arduous road to hoe remains to hit their 2009 marketing and advertising campaign goal to increase Las Vegas visitors to 39 million, up from last year’s figures of 37.5 million visitors- a lofty goal considering our economy that is mired in a deep economic recession.    And despite the many construction stoppages for planned Las Vegas casinos brought on by our financial crisis, still 13,000 new hotel rooms are slotted to open this year.  Filling those rooms with the current trend of reduced visitors will be a challenging proposition, to say the least.

Undaunted by the risk, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is forging ahead and planning to spend an additional $10.5 million the first quarter of this year in television, print, and online advertising to attempt to stem the visitor bleeding, and, hopefully, turn the tide around for businesses.   The ads are focused on specific show, attraction, and resort marketing tactics, which, in the past they have left up to the individual properties to promote, while the authority typically spent advertising dollars to build the “Las Vegas” brand image.  It’s a risk, but one many in the authority and the City of Las Vegas see calculated and necessary in order to try to survive.

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Las Vegas’ State of the City Address Focuses on Entertainment, Art, Travel Projects

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was positive and upbeat when delivering his State of the City address on January 13, saying, “We’re not going to abandon our vision of being a great city,” talking to 350 people listening to his address at the Fifth Street School.  Continued investments in downtown Las Vegas projects, he said, were necessary to sustain the economy in the short and long-term.

And several projects were specifically singled out as requiring continued support:  Union Park, Smith Center for the Performing Arts (soon to break ground), the nearly completed Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, and the start of construction for a World Jewelry Center, a Charley Palmer restaurant/hotel, and a new city hall building.  

Curiously, the mayor mentioned nothing in his address on his favorite high-profile project: the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, commonly referred to as the “Mob Museum.”   The project has been mocked and scorned nationally since it was reported that Goodman put it on his “wish list” to receive funding from the pending federal stimulus package.

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Las Vegas’ Quiet Rocking 2009 New Year’s Eve

The first chance for many visitors and Las Vegas locals to party and play the Sin City branded way in newyears200812009 turned out to be, sadly, a little less-than-spectacular.  There were limited Las Vegas A-list midnight performances by Kid Rock, Pink, Fergie, and Akon.  And, as usual, there was a smattering of A-list celebrities playing peek-a-boo in and out of the Las Vegas nightclubs.  The 291,000 visitors to the Strip this year also found themselves popping corks – and more – with Usher, Denise Richards, Kim Kardashian, or Ashley Simpson and hubby Pete Wentz.  But for the most part, 2009, even though it brought more people in than last year’s estimated 284,000, provided partygoers limited sparkle and under restricted circumstance and attendance.  Despite the enticement of rock-bottom room rates and added incentives, the number of Las Vegas visitors this year was down from the 305,000 people attending New Year’s in 2006.  And this year there were 126 people arrested; 47 for driving under the influence.

 

In January 2008 a fire erupted on the roof of the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas and the ensuing investigation raised concerns about how easily Vegas Strip hotels could become blazing Hollywood backdrops.  So, when the time came for the 2009 News Year’s Eve fireworks blitz to be planned – it had to be staged from the roof of lower, and somewhat safer, parking garages located around the periphery of Las Vegas.   And once safety restrictions were paired with financial reductions, the city view that had once become a regular CNN moment beamed throughout the world didn’t even rate a cell phone video.

 

But not everyone in Las Vegas was participating in a subdued 2009 New Year’s Eve.  Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, surrounded by his usual cache’ of jewel-toned showgirls, celebrated the start of 2009 at the Fremont Street Experience, his favorite haunt.   “We’re the luckiest people in the world,” a beaming, red-nosed Goodman proclaimed to the record crowd of 30,000 in attendance. “I want all of us who live here to be prosperous and happy in 2009.”   And we all know that when Oscar Goodman issues a proclamation, the city and citizens respond with fervor. 

 

Our New Year’s wish is that this slow motion opening is just a simple starting point for what will be a spectacular 2009 for everyone.

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