Friday, April 13, 2012
Leaving The Convention To Gamble: How The Las Vegas Hilton's Casino Looks To A Trekker!
Click here to book a room at the Las Vegas Hilton
The Good: Good odds on slot machines, Some natural light.
The Bad: Player's club is one of the worst, Ultimately bland
The Basics: A remarkably average casino experience, the Las Vegas Hilton is big, flashy and terribly boring to those on a budget, despite having fairly loose slots.
For those who might not follow my reviews, every year for the last three years, I make a sojourn out to Las Vegas for an annual Star Trek convention and I stop at Boulder Colorado for the Celestial Seasonings' factory on the way home. This year, I decided to start gambling (always a great idea for an obsessive and analytical personality) and I experienced several casinos in Las Vegas in order to be able to review them (see links below).
That convention I do every year is held in the Las Vegas Hilton, probably because that is the home of "Star Trek: The Experience" and this year, it was slow. SLOW! Yes, often it was unbearably slow, so I wandered more this year than in any previous year. And because I was bored and had a gambling fund this year, I went back a few times over the course of the six days of the convention. As a result, I managed to get a pretty decent feel for the Las Vegas Hilton Casino. And it's all right.
Las Vegas Hilton Casino: came in with $5.00, left with $25.00
The Las Vegas Hilton is a giant hotel and casino located at 3000 Paradise Road in Las Vegas, Nevada. For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, Paradise Road is a block over from The Strip and the Hilton is essentially a block away from the end of the Strip that has some of the most recognizable exteriors, like the Sahara and the Stratosphere. The Las Vegas Hilton has a monorail and a giant, fan-shaped sign that makes it a landmark in its own right.
The casino is broken into two essential gaming floors, separated by the mall/hotel area. At one end of the Hilton in a section of the casino that has been overhauled to appeal to geeks and science fiction fans. This end of the casino has been darkened, redecorated (there are starships hanging from the ceiling and Borg alcoves overlooking the three hundred or so slot machines they have at the entranceway to "Star Trek: The Experience." The slot machines, as one might guess, have been hand-picked to appeal to science fiction fans, with "Star Wars," "The Twilight Zone" and "Invaders From Planet Moo-lah" joining the brand new Star Trek video slot machine. There are no gaming tables in this section.
The bulk of the casino is located at the other end of the building. There, it is well-lit, with high ceilings, boring video slot machines and the gaming tables. It decorated far more neutrally and has the look and feel of a standard casino.
The Las Vegas Hilton Casino is a fairly large casinos in Las Vegas and it feels like it is capitalizing on the space it has. All of the ceilings are high, all of the carpets are clean and the place feels like a giant hotel lobby. The casino is spread over one level and everything is very spread out, making it easy to get around. There are over two thousand video slot machines spread out over the two split casinos and that does seem to be what most of the space is allocated for (outside the shopping and entertainment options).
Moreover, the Las Vegas Hilton is one of the only casinos I have ever been in that has windows! One whole section near the front gets wonderful natural light coming in in the morning. This is impressive and it fosters a feeling that one is actually someplace having fun, as opposed to a dank gambling hall where they could be shot at any moment. The Las Vegas Hilton Casino seems to also have some of the best air in casinos in Las Vegas. The high ceilings help dissipate the cigarette and cigar smoke that is prevalent in the casino - at least in the casino proper. For those sensitive to such things (as I am) this remains one of the better options. Moreover, with so many of the machines duplicated throughout the casino, if an annoying smoker plops down beside you, odds are there is another open machine of the same type available away from the smoke.
As for the "atmosphere" of the Las Vegas Hilton, the serving women were all fit, and appealing to a middle aged clientele that is present to gamble. As a result, women serving drinks on the casino floor wear outfits that are essentially bathing suits with a suit coat over the top, making for presenting a fair amount of leg, minimal breasts and varying degrees of backside based on whether the coat has tails or not (I saw both). The employees at the Las Vegas Hilton had some of the most unobtrusive servers of any casino I went to and most of them looked like they were happy to be there.
There is one consistent and notable exception I have noticed for all three years I have walked through the Las Vegas Hilton Casino. Right near one of the entrances to the main casino, there is always a serving woman wearing the usual bathing suit style outfit, with a top that buttons down. Her black outfit might be designed to make her blend in, but what does not allow her to remain unobtrusive is the giant, heavy-looking mobile store she has slung around her neck and hanging off her front. Yes, there is a poor woman whose daily job is to sell cigarettes and roses on the gambling floor like a concession vendor, save that she never seems to move. This woman's lot in life is to stand with a heavy tray for hours on end in high heels looking attentive enough to anyone who might want to buy her wares and not like she wants to hang herself. This is a terrible job and my heart always goes out to this woman (why haven't they come out with a casino game yet based on The Communist Manifesto?!); I've seldom seen anyone buying and most of the time they look bored as the undead during daylight hours.
Otherwise, the "atmosphere" (not literal) of the Las Vegas Hilton is dull. The science fiction end is cool and interesting. The main casino is obvious, unimaginative and boring. It is appropriate that Barry Manilow, one of the most white bread musical acts of all time, is stationed at the Las Vegas Hilton Casino; this is a remarkably white bread casino. Is it fun? Yes, in places. Is it at all interesting in any enduring way? No, not really.
Gaming Options/Player's Club
I have a very simple gambling philosophy: I sit down at a slot machine with $5.00. I work it up to $10 or down to zero. I know my limits: I can afford to lose $5.00. So, when I am above that, I'll usually work it up or whittle it down to the next even $5.00. Have a strategy, know your limits: the Las Vegas Hilton Casino worked quite well for me over the course of the days I dropped in and out playing. All told, I probably spent six hours over the course of the six days playing the video slot machines. Because I have such a basic philosophy, it was very easy for me to keep track of my ups and downs and this was one of the casinos I pretty much hit and left at and I remained well over my starting $5.00.
I'm primarily a slot machine player and I have no shame in admitting, I tend to like the ones that are more video game-like, have more girly themes and/or fun bonus rounds. At the Las Vegas Hilton pretty much settled at the Mermaid's Gold, which worked exceptionally well for me because on two different mornings (on two different Mermaid's Gold Machines) I turned my $5.00 into $25 by hitting bonus games almost immediately. At this casino, I also gave the slot machine based on The Munsters a shot (it was not one of the ones that helped me keep my five dollars) and I sat and watched as a guy in the science fiction half of the casino actually won ($125!) on the "Star Wars: Dark Side" video slot machine (which in my experiences was the tightest of the "Star Wars" video slot machines to try to make money on!). I also broke even playing "The Wizard Of Oz" slot machine, though the ones at Terrible's were wired better for the sound effects.
It is worth noting, as well, that the Las Vegas Hilton Casino seems to have the only banks of the slot machine based upon Star Trek. I'll be up front: I refused to play this slot machine (not because I don't love Star Trek or have an appreciation for slot machines). In order to play this, one needs to log in with a username that you create. This allows the network of Star Trek video slot machines to keep a record of where in the missions one is and as one progresses, they move on to increasingly more interesting missions and bonus games. I'm sorry, but I have zero trust in video slot machines that keep records like that. I think the point of it is on the surface quite good, to allow the player to progress through a video game-like gambling experience without having to repeat the same things over and over again constantly. Cool, makes sense. For a video game. Slot machines are based on ratios of controlled intermittent reinforcement; they are programmed with a percentage of wins and supposedly tested to insure they pay out at a certain percentage. A system like this seems far too easy to control that ratio and thereby bypass natural odds. Is that what's happening with it? I don't know, but when computers talk to one another, it seems naive to believe that one machine wouldn't be telling another how much you've already won or lost playing the game.
I am a pretty practical gambler and I went to the Las Vegas Hilton mostly out of boredom. On the average day, I turned my $5.00 into $10.00 and went back to my convention. Sadly one of the day's highlights was turning my $5.00 into $25.00 and then getting an exceptionally overpriced iced coffee, croissant and M&M's for my assistant at the convention. But most of the machines are the most boring ones that can be found at any of the casinos in Las Vegas: Frog Prince, Goldfish, Moolah!, and the like.
For those who might be into games of chance and card games over the potentially corrupt, but fun, video slot machines, there are over fifty tables with table games, including blackjack, roulette wheels, Big Six, craps, Let It Ride, Pai Gow and baccarat. This is definitely a place not only trading on slot/video poker play as they devote a fair amount of space to the card/table games. There is also a sports bar segment in one corner, but that's not truly my thing. the Las Vegas Hilton Casino boasts one of the best sports betting facilities with over three hundred seats and there was a pretty impressive bank of video monitors to back up that capacity.
There is a player's club at the Las Vegas Hilton, which is the Resorts Destination Club. Signing up is easy and the lines to get the card were always short. The workers at the desk were very friendly when signing up, despite the scoff I was met with when asking if signing up netted any free play. It does not. Instead, I was given a little portable digital alarm clock and sent to the video slots to gamble. Points here are accrued using a countdown based upon some mysterious combination of time and bets. The counter descends and each time it resets, one gets a point. I never found where to redeem the fifteen points I amassed over my many hours of sporadic play.
The Las Vegas Hilton Casino in Las Vegas is a property to go to for entertainment outside the fun of gambling. In fact, outside the very cool geek sector ("Star Trek: The Experience" and the adjacent casino), the Las Vegas Hilton has pretty much the archetypal combination of nighttime entertainment.
Definitely family oriented, the current nightly line-ups include Barry Manilow (for $95!), Terry Fator (apparently he won "America's Got Talent" and this was his prize - tickets vary from $45 - $109!), The Scintas ($39.95 - $64.99 - I remember when they visited my high school back in the day and I think that what I paid to get into that assembly was about the right price for them). As well, there is a play (Menopause: The Musical) and a show (Sin City Heat) and various acts seem to come to this venue constantly. Their website is actually better updated than the signs around the casino and it seems they get a decent mix of comedians, classic vocalists and Country music stars.
There is also a small arcade, but they don't have pinball, so I say "ppbblt!" to it.
I paid almost $12.00 for a chocolate croissant, large coffee and bag of M&M's (it wasn't even a large bag!) at the cafe at the Las Vegas Hilton Casino and I still feel sore about that. Outside the overpriced coffee bar and the mediocre pizza place at the Star Trek end of the casino, the food is pricey, fancy and (rumored to be) top notch. With a $5.00 betting strategy, I wasn't exactly dining around the Las Vegas Hilton Casino.
But for those who go to Vegas for dating or such, there are a number of decent - if pricey - options at this casino. They include a buffet, a steakhouse, Chinese food, sushi, a Mexican restaurant and an Italian one. There might even have been places I didn't see to eat; this is a pretty huge facility.
The Las Vegas Hilton has a pretty generic gift shop as well as a store devoted entirely to (I kid not) Barry Manilow. Appropriately, that shop is very bright and white and filled with Barry Manilow c.d.s, dvds and pictures. As well, is at least one kiosk with the basic needs for people who need to smoke or have something to drink. The "Star Trek: The Experience" has shopping for geeks as well.
Everything, without exception, at the Las Vegas Hilton is expensive, so bear that in mind when considering hanging out and shopping here.
If I wasn't trapped in the Las Vegas Hilton Casino, I am not sure why I would go there. Many of the casino games are either boring or standard and everything is overpriced and most of the workers - while very friendly - do not look like they are having much fun at all. It seems strange that I would win so much money at a casino, but not recommend it, but this might well be the most boring casino I went to. It's not unpleasant, but outside the science fiction side of it, it is very white bread. As the "Star Trek: The Experience" prepares to leave the Las Vegas Hilton experience, I shudder to think of what might become of that interesting half of the casino.
The convention will be back there next year and I will probably be bored enough to gamble there again, but those not compelled to be there might want only to stop in if they want a baseline of what a Las Vegas casino is like. For those who want fun and different . . . there are many other, better, options.
For other casino reviews, please check out my takes on:
Fallsview Casino - Ontario
Vernon Downs Casino
For other travel reviews, please visit my Travel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the destinations I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
Click here to book a room at the Las Vegas Hilton