Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

If They Build It, Will We Come? A Slate of New Luxe Resorts and Boutique Hotels Aims to Turn Vegas into the Next Gay Travel Indulgence. but Can the Slot Machine Mecca Really Become a High Roller's Paradise? SEAN KENNEDY Assesses the Scene

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

If They Build It, Will We Come? A Slate of New Luxe Resorts and Boutique Hotels Aims to Turn Vegas into the Next Gay Travel Indulgence. but Can the Slot Machine Mecca Really Become a High Roller's Paradise? SEAN KENNEDY Assesses the Scene

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

For years gay hotels in Las Vegas were all like the Blue Moon Resort--a Motel 6-like joint located a half mile from the Strip with a clothing-optional pool in the back. It was the kind of slightly tacky place you could find in Key West or Palm Springs and a far cry from where you'd stay in more refined destinations like South Beach or New York City. Indeed, for people who regularly trot off to Paris or London to stay at chic boutique hotels like St. Martins Lane, Vegas has always left something to be desired.

Take my friend Billy. He and his boyfriend are currently planning a trip to Paris, where they're looking to book a room at the Hotel du Petit Moulin, a boutique property housed in a former bakery from the 18th century. The last time he went to Vegas in 2004, he "stayed at a terrible hotel that looked like it was stuck in the early to mid '80s," he says. "It was on the Strip--but definitely B-list, a second-tier hotel."

Soon enough, Billy will be able to stay at a hotel more to his taste. As the city of Las Vegas continues to reach out to the LGBT market through its tourism and convention bureau, gaming behemoths like Harrah's and the MGM Mirage--the two biggest resort casinos in town--are upping their efforts as well. The Luxor, owned by MGM Mirage, advertises its chapel as an ideal site for commitment ceremonies. Harrah's went so far as to designate its Paris Las Vegas property as the place for gays to stay. But the real buzz, at least for elite gay travelers like Billy, surrounds new properties with high gay brand identity like the Mondrian and Delano hotels, which are owned by Morgans Hotel Group; and the new Wynn Encore under construction, across the street from the original. And just last year Sam Nazarian, entertainment entrepreneur and co-owner of West Hollywood's mega gay bar the Abbey, bought the Sahara Hotel and Casino, a spot once popular with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and their groovy friends.

All this has the bicoastal set wondering, Will the onetime Rat Pack haunt become headquarters for the Gay Pack?

As well-meaning as MGM Mirage and Harrah's are--the companies deserve kudos for including LGBT people in their marketing plans and donating to local gay causes--they're not exactly up to the standards wealthy gays expect. The Paris, for example, with its chintzy rendition of the City of Light and unfussy rooms, doesn't appeal to Ryan Smith, a 26-year-old Vegas nightlife promoter [see page 41]. "I'm more of a W [Hotels] guy. When I go to Santa Monica I stay at the Viceroy. In New York it's the Hudson. I want something that's a little more hip, a little more chic."

Smith adds that Vegas is more than ready for upscale digs like the Delano, a Philippe Starck-designed hot spot for the beautiful people in South Beach. While Smith was promoting Krave, then Vegas's hottest high-end gay club, he noticed that most of the bottle service customers and visitors from Los Angeles were staying at the Wynn Las Vegas. No surprise. The Wynn's sheer opulence, including the ritzy shopping esplanade complete with Dior and Cartier boutiques, delivers the aspirational quality many travelers--gay and straight--desire.

Which raises an important point: None of the high-end Vegas properties, current or now under construction, are overtly gay; their designs and amenities cater to any traveler with dollars to burn. It's all part of a Vegas building boom targeting the luxury market. In June 2007, Boyd Gaming brooke ground on the 87-acre, $4. …

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