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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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They burned the Monte Carlo ... and may get away with it
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We got out of the way of the front doors of Eastside Cannery last night just in the nick of time. For all the apprehension about opening new casinos in the current economy (especially when locals' gambling budgets have taken a big hit), patrons were out in force for the opening, literally charging the casino floor when the doors swung wide. Whether by car or by foot, it was impressive turnout -- not the mob scene that greeted The Palms in 2001 -- but quite a heartening sight nonetheless.
E-Can is yet another nail in the coffin of the old "entrapment" theory of casino design. The entryways are airy and easily visible throughout the casino floor. Aisles are wide and, even with 2,100-plus slots, one gets that sense that Cannery Casino Resorts could have jammed in quite a few more but elected not to. Good on them.
Ceilings aren't so low as to be oppressive, but not so high as to engender the "slot barn" feeling of Palazzo or South Point. The various eateries are distributed in a "restaurant row" along the east wall. The sports book is very open and spacious, and wouldn't look out of place at a Strip casino -- and is far superior to some Strip books I could name, but won't.
We gorged a little too much early in our go-around, so we didn't do justice to each restaurant's offerings. (Though, for the record, oysters on the half shell and covered with chives and melted cheese tastes a helluva lot better than it probably reads. Kudos on the sausage-stuffed mushrooms, too.) If what was on display -- and in our stomachs -- last night was a representative sample of the everyday fare, my biggest concern will be whether such a high standard can be maintained over the long haul.
If you grew up in the Sixties, as I did, the prevalent color and décor schemes will have a comforting familiarity. The overall aesthetic could be called 'Light Industrial,' and I don't mean that in a cute or pejorative way. Exposed pipework appears to be part of the statement, although I'm not so sure about the lack of drop ceiling. I couldn't tell whether the acoustical tiling has simply been omitted or is going to be installed later.
There's not a lot of fine detailing; strong colors, acute angles and long, undulating curves all typify a casino where the design elements are writ large. Sometimes form takes precedence over functionality: Stools in the sports book and one of the restaurants may be pleasing to the eye but they're distinctly unforgiving to the ass. On the other hand, the keno lounge is as classy and comfortable as any I've seen in Vegas.
Given the unbelievable thrift with which "the dollar Bills," Messrs. Paulos and Wortman* pulled E-Can off, one does feel the compulsion to scan the place for obvious economies, trying to figure out how they did it. The exterior is pretty Spartan; big, sharp and sweeping lines (and a wraparound neon display after dark) endeavor to divert one's attention from an otherwise utilitarian look.
Inside, certain of the wall coverings and materials screamed "Cheap!", especially around the proscenium in Marilyn's, the live-entertainment lounge. Some upfront savings will probably mean frequent-replacement costs on the back end. Then again, I heard similar criticisms of The Palms when it opened (and George Maloof arguably overcrowded his slot floor in the early going -- a mistake not repeated here), but keeping construction costs low was one of the cornerstones of that place's success.
Paulos and Wortman's heir, James Packer, will be in profit on E-Can a lot more quickly than will any recent or forthcoming Station casino, given the latter company's current tendency to spend lavishly and then scrimp down the road. Assuming that maintenance is proactive and frequent, I don't see any downside for E-Can.
Despite my longstanding fondness for Sam's Town, the pioneering Boyd Gaming property will seem that much more like a crowded and badly laid-out warren of gambling rooms -- definitely Old School, if that's what you dig. Given the two casinos' proximity, I can see Sam's Town evolving into a "dormitory" where people stay or park their RVs, take advantage of the movie theaters, etc., but do their playing at E-Can. Plus, the cheerful, retro Cannery "brand" has struck quite a chord with Las Vegans. Aggressive counter-marketing will have to be the order of the day.
* -- "The dollar Bills" was Hollywood's nickname for producer William Pine and his business partner, William Thomas, so named for their budget-conscious tendencies. It seems affectionately apt for the Paulos/Wortman duo, who balance fiscal conservatism with quality.