When one thinks of casinos these days, images of majestic water fountains, ringing slot machines, expensive restaurants and over-the-top hotel accommodations come to mind. Why so extravagant? "Casinos have become such a staple, in terms of entertainment. It's an all-encompassing experience," said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of Luxury Institute, a research firm based in New York. "Everything is over the top. It's like Disneyland for adults — and primarily wealthy adults at that, because everything is expensive." Luxury Institute surveyed over 1,650 consumers with an average net worth of $3.2 million on their experiences at 30 casinos nationwide. The firm derived its Luxury Customer Experience Index for casinos from three factors: overall customer satisfaction, personnel (how were consumers treated by staff?) and whether the environment was aesthetically pleasing. Said Pedraza, "These are truly the fundamentals of a great customer experience."
1. THE VENETIAN RESORT-HOTEL-CASINO Luxury Customer Experience Index score: 8.52
Venice definitely has its allure, whether in Italy — or in Vegas. The Venetian, which opened in 1996, is an entertainment complex bustling with luxury activity. “When it comes to overall satisfaction, Venetian’s got it over every other casino,” said Pedraza. “People love their experience there, and they love the personnel. If you hire good people who are enthusiastic, trustworthy and knowledgeable, the customer is going to reap the benefits.” The casino features 80 boutiques including Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Kenneth Cole and Movado at The Grand Canal Shoppes. And the Canyon Ranch SpaClub offers a full-service salon, fitness center and rock-climbing wall. Restaurants from the likes of Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse can also be found here.
2. BELLAGIO LAS VEGAS LCEI score: 8.35
This casino's motto is "Where beauty meets luxury." Located on The Strip, the Bellagio houses nearly 4,000 rooms and suites, and its gambling floor contains more than 2,700 slot machines, an expanded poker room and 173 table games. Shopping is plentiful for those in search of designer names: Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Fred Leighton, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Hermès and Prada, among many others, are located at Via Bellagio. Clubs, such as Light, and lounges like Petrossian Bar await guests who are seeking some after-hours drinks and dancing, and Franco Dragone's "O" by Cirque du Soleil performs twice each evening Wednesdays through Sundays.3. MANDALAY BAY RESORT & CASINO LCEI score: 8.31
Boasting two spas, three wedding chapels, 135,000 square feet of gaming space and numerous shopping and eating options, Mandalay Bay offers something for everyone. Mandalay Place houses stores such as Urban Outfitters, GF Ferré and the world's first Nike Golf store. Cuisine can be sampled from such renowned chefs as Hubert Keller, Alain Ducasse and Michael Mina. In June, Mandalay Bay unveiled the completion of its $150 million redesign, and some of the newer amenities include floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious tubs, twin vanities and two flat-screen televisions — a 42-inch plasma in the bedroom and a 15-inch LCD in each bathroom.
4. WYNN LAS VEGAS LCEI score: 8.26
Casino developer Steve Wynn's latest creation opened in 2005 and features 2,716 guest rooms and suites, a 111,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole golf course, a Ferrari and Maserati dealership and approximately 76,000 square feet of retail space. Wynn Esplanade, the resort's shopping destination, carries some of the biggest designer names in town, including Chanel, Manolo Blahnik, Oscar de la Renta and Jean Paul Gaultier. Shops carrying beauty products and cosmetics include Bobbi Brown, La Mer, Stila, Prescriptives and La Flirt. One survey respondent described Wynn as "an upscale resort with great attention to detail — they take everything a step beyond your expectations."
5. LAS VEGAS HILTON LCEI score: 8.01
Built by Kirk Kerkorian originally as the International Hotel in 1969, the Las Vegas Hilton is situated along The Strip. Room accommodations vary — guests can opt for a classic or a premium room, or they can splurge on a 5,000-to-7,000-square-foot Villa Suite. Hotel amenities also run the gamut, from tennis courts and an $18 million pool and recreation deck to its spa and salon offerings. Specialty shops include Charisma, for women's apparel, shoes and accessories; The Jewelers, which carries fine diamonds, colored stones, gold, pearls and name-brand watches, and Paradise Gift Shop, which features gifts, accessories, fashion apparel, jewelry and other items.6. BORGATA HOTEL CASINO & SPA LCEI score: 7.99
Located in Atlantic City, the 2,000-room Borgata opened in 2003. The first new hotel property to hit Atlantic City in 13 years, it has helped ignite the area's revival. One respondent surveyed claimed, "The Borgata has excellent food and accommodations. It's first class through and through." Chefs Bobby Flay, Mina and Puck join Borgata's lineup with Bobby Flay Steak, SeaBlue and Wolfgang Puck American Grille, respectively. Borgata's retail experience offers specialty shops, including Whim — an apparel and jewelry boutique that carries fashions from Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Burberry and DKNY — and A. Kadenn, which features gifts, glassware and novelty items.
7. TRUMP PLAZA ATLANTIC CITY HOTEL & CASINO LCEI score: 7.99
Because the Trump name is attached to this resort, it may be considered by some to be more mainstream, but think again: "Trump Plaza is definitely used by the wealthy," said Pedraza. A premier destination for Atlantic City goers, Trump's casino boasts 2,840 gaming machines and 91 table games, while the hotel itself has more than 900 rooms and suites. Other amenities include an Olympic-size swimming pool, gym, fitness center, gift shop, spa and salon for guests.
8. MIRAGE LAS VEGAS LCEI score: 7.94
The Mirage is truly an experience unto itself: there are 3,044 guest rooms, including 281 suites, and more than 100,000 square feet of gaming area. Other special effects and exhibits include The Mirage Volcano, The Atrium, The Aquarium and Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, which features five rare animal breeds, including the white lions of Timbavati and royal white Tigers of Nevada. The Mirage's Street of Shops offers designer boutiques and specialty shops, such as DKNY, Blue, d.Fine, Impulse and Actique, among others.
9. MOHEGAN SUN LCEI score: 7.93
"The great thing about Mohegan is its location," said Pedraza. "This casino attracts wealthy consumers from Connecticut and Massachusetts." Situated near Mystic, Conn., Mohegan Sun is currently in the midst of Project Horizon, a multimillion-dollar expansion that calls for a new 1,000-room hotel (in addition to its already existing 34-story, 1,200-room hotel tower); 115,000 square feet of additional retail and restaurant space, and a new 64,000-square-foot "Casino of the Wind." Currently, shoppers can enjoy perusing The Shops at Mohegan Sun, which include: Coach, Chico's, Boccelli and Caché. Upscale dining venues include Todd English's Tuscany and Michael Jordan's Steak House. The casino also features a children's area — Kids Quest/Cyber Quest, a day spa and three major entertainment venues with seating from 300 to 10,000.10. BALLY'S ATLANTIC CITY LCEI score: 7.92
One respondent stated, "This casino is a wonderful place, and the staff would do anything to make your stay worry-free." Guests have the option of choosing from several "Stay and Play" packages, which offer accommodation along with perks such as spa and salon services, tickets to shows and even a day of golf at The Atlantic City Country Club. Shoppers can check out Studio, an upscale fashion boutique for men and women featuring designer clothing and accessories from Cole Haan, Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, and Park Place Jeweler, which offers Tahitian pearls, diamonds and 14- and 18-karat white and yellow gold watches from Movado, Raymond Weil and Fendi.
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