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LAS VEGAS IS
undergoing transformation through the efforts and ideas of modern-day visionaries who took to higher levels what was started by the early visionaries, like Benjamin Siegel, Jay Sarno and countless others. Present-day gaming moguls and philanthropists are changing the face and form of Las Vegas. From construction to caring for those in the community with special needs, like children with autism, visionaries shape the new way the world sees Las Vegas.
From the early days of Las Vegas to present-day, remarkable changes have been created by gaming moguls and philanthropists, Kirk Kerkorian, Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, along with other visionaries, like J. Terrence Lanni and even a newer breed of non-gaming-based moguls, such as Leon Benzer, founder of the Benzer Autism Foundation.
Starting with J. Terrence Lanni, it seems like it was only yesterday when he was the CEO of the MGM Grand, Inc. and spoke about gaming’s future in Las Vegas.
According to Lanni, gaming would be automated to a point. Well, he was right about that; the automated decks are now in place. After 25 years in gaming, the casino executive also had another vision, one that would transform Las Vegas into a cosmopolitan city. At that time, Lanni had stepped down as the CEO and executive chairman of the Board. He was too experienced, however, and much too valuable simply to move into acquisitions of real estate. So after a few weeks, he resumed his original position with the MGM Grand.
Lanni’s vision of a cosmopolitan city is unfolding before our very eyes.
First, there is the $2.7 billion investment from Dubai World for a 50 percent stake in City Center, a $7.4 billion mixed-use project under construction on 76 acres center Strip. The investment by Dubai’s government-owned holding company also includes another $2.4 billion to acquire more than 28 million shares of MGM-Mirage stock.
Just a short time afterwards, Dubai World entered a second joint venture for a 40-acre project on the southwest corner of the Strip at Sahara Avenue. The construction for that resort is scheduled to start in early 2009, and the unnamed resort is expected to be open in 2012.
“It’s a transforming event for Las Vegas. It is going to ‘Manhattanize’ Las Vegas,” stated Lanni.
City Center will include a 400-room non-gaming boutique hotel, a 4,000-room hotel-casino, clubs, world-class spas, retail and 2,657 high-rise residential condominiums.
The future looks bright for Las Vegas under Lanni’s vision.
Negotiations started in June between the MGM-Mirage and Kerzner International Holdings to joint-venture to develop land at the northern end of the Strip.
Dubai will own 30 percent of Kerzner. Sultan Bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World, was pleased when he was given a tour of City Center.
The original discussions started around 1999 when Lanni and his wife were on vacation in Dubai and went to the horse races there. Lanni owns a dozen thoroughbreds. Sultan Bin Sulayem and majority shareholder and board member Kirk Kerkorian, of the now MGM-Mirage, also took part in the initial discussion.
Sheldon Adelson, another visionary who became a developer, changed the face of the Strip with his Venetian Resort. It was the first time that a resort had been built to resemble Venice, Italy, with its glorified marble structures and replica paintings by Michelangelo.
Adelson is ranked among the six richest people in the world by Fortune 500. He has created and co-developed more than 50 companies, one of which was the international computer-industry tradeshow COMDEX. It was just a matter of time before he would develop a resort in Macau, just as his neighbor on the Strip, Steve Wynn, has done.
Meanwhile, Wynn is completing his 2,000-room hotel, the Encore is scheduled to open in 2008, and Sheldon Adelson is opening Palazzo, a mega-resort that features more than 3,000 all-suite rooms.
Another present-day visionary is adding to the Las Vegas legacyLeon Benzer. He is a highly successful businessman and philanthropist who chooses to help people with autism by lobbying in Washington so that more monies will be used for research, not only to help children, but also adults with autism.
Leon Benzer, a general contractor and prolific songwriter, is a single parent of a child who has autism, and his new CD release is one on which Benzer’s son, Benny Boy, describes his love. The proceeds from that project will be used to further the Benzer Autism Foundation.
“In lieu of six military missiles that the government funds, this money could provide a miracle in research for those afflicted with autism,” stated Benzer.
“One in every 150 children born in the United States has autism. This number does not include PDD, Aspergers and other spectrum disorders. These statistics are endorsed by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other federal organizations.
And so it is, without hesitation, that Leon Benzer’s vision addresses the needs of those with autism in their lives. He is creating Benzila, soon to be the number one tequila in the world. The visions has become a reality: Benzer’s dream of parlaying his success into building a resort named Benzila, which will provide housing and other facilities for adult care and family support for those dealing with autism.
The present resources available for adults with autism are nearly non-existent, and there is much funding needed for research for prevention and treatment.
LAXNEXT DIMENSION IN NIGHTCLUBS
The newest club that glitters upon the Strip is LAX at the Luxor. LAX, which is owned by Pure Management Groups, consisting of many celebrity stockholdersShaquille O’Neal, Celine Dion, along with major stockholder Robert Fry, just to mention a fewhas set the record in attendance. A few weeks ago, it was reported that Paris Hilton and her sister Nicky were each paid $75,000 just to walk the red carpet and celebrate center stage above the dance floor in the ultra-modern club.
Stevie Dee, who has had his share of running clubs, is among the head management there. There’s no downtime in club businessin Las Vegas, that is. Over 1,000 patrons stood in line for nearly three hours waiting to see the Hiltons, but that’s not all; they all paid $30 each just to enter the club.
What about the drinks? Oh, they’re about $10 apiece, not to mention buying a table for $500 up to $1,500. It’s no wonder that a club like LAX can pull down a cool $800,000 to $1 million in a night. Incidentally, Nicky Hilton, who wasn’t quite as talkative as her sister, is opening her restaurant there. It’s called Company.
During various conversations with people there, some folks were talking about Paris Hilton’s reality check and her business at hand. Paris Hilton, who wasn’t spared from doing 2½ weeks in jail for her actions related to her driving under the influence and series of court hearings, still feels a few hours would have been enough for her. Why? Because she’s Paris Hilton, of course! After all, Ms. Hilton, it was said, racks up to $10 million per year in fees for her appearances.
Master illusionist Criss Angel, who was in attendance on the red carpet at LAX, said, “I’ll be doing all sorts of crazy levitations in the show.”
When asked about the promotional ad inside the Luxor hotel-casino where he is levitating above the pyramid with his arms outstretched, as if he were on a cross, he didn’t really comment about that. It certainly resembled the images of Christ. According to one fan, it wasn’t intended to depict that.