Bellagio is burning; Parking valets stiffed

Remember the Monte Carlo fire and how it was fueled by construction foam? It was much the same story last night when the south “arm” of Bellagio caught on fire, a blaze which raged for 25 minutes. “You can smell that sulfur,” said one onlooker. Because the fire was in a fiendishly inaccessible spot, firefighters had to use a deck cannon to hose it down. Some witnesses faulted the fire department’s response time, which seemed tardy even though there’s a substation at Cosmopolitan. In a way, though, the situation could have been far worse, as high winds were prevalent when the blaze erupted around 10:45 p.m. Given the flammability of the styrofoam-based material that comprises so many casino façades, we should be grateful that Bellagio owner MGM Resorts International and other Strip developers have been switching to the glass-curtain wall in recent years.

* The scummiest man in recent Las Vegas history died in prison. Few will mourn Dr. Dipak Desai, who played Russian roulette with his patients’ lives — including our own Jean Scott — to better his profit margin.

* Earlier this week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that parking valets were making less in tips now that parking is no longer free at most Strip resorts (I’m looking at you MGM, Cosmo and Caesars Entertainment). This was entirely predictable. In fact, I’m certain I *did* predict this. It’s not rocket science to figure that, confronted with a new levy from the casinos, patrons would try to get some of the money back by not tipping those first in the line of fire: valets. Unfortunately for the latter, they don’t have much of a way of getting it back, especially as most of them don’t have union representation.

* Dr. David G. Schwartz headed over to Planet Hollywood to sample the new skill-based slots. What he encountered was problematic, to say the least: “I broke even—and gained a new perspective on alienation.” A big part of the problem was that the SKS games can’t be played solo — a glaring oversight, I should think.

* Congratulations to Native American casinos, which grossed $30.5 billion in 2015, up 5.5% from 2014. Where are the 2016 numbers, you ask? Well, with Dr. Alan Meister having to crunch data from 494 casinos with 7,700 table games, and almost 357,000 slots and VLTs, cut him some slack. This continues six consecutive years of revenue growth. Tribes have a long ways to go before they surpass commercial casinos, which grossed $40 billion last year, but who ever thought they’d get this far this fast?

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