Billed as polish without pretense, the latest, and likely the last for at least the next decade, new casino-resort will open this week on a Las Vegas Strip still grappling with a weak economy.
The $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, owned by Germany's Deutsche Bank after it foreclosed on the original developer in 2008, will open 2,000 of its 3,000 hotel rooms on Wednesday.
Television commercials -- featuring pantless bellboys and plenty of white rabbits -- are on heavy rotation in markets like nearby Southern California, but industry experts are wary about the new venue's ability to attract new business to the Strip.
I think there will be a lot of customers that come to Vegas to see what we are all about, said John Unwin, Cosmopolitan's chief executive offer. Some people who are not just pure gamers, but want to come and stay in a cool hotel, eat in new restaurants, do some unique shopping.
Las Vegas attracted 31.5 million visitors in the first 10 months of this year -- a 2.8 percent increase from a year earlier, but still below the 33 million seen in the same period of 2007.
And that is despite the opening since then of three headline casino resorts -- Las Vegas Sands Corp's Palazzo, Wynn Resorts Ltd's Encore and MGM Resorts International's Aria.
In general, trends have been improving, but from here on out, the road to recovery is going to be pretty bumpy, said Matthew Jacob, analyst at ITG Investment Research.
He cited the opening a year ago of MGM's CityCenter and its 6,000 luxury hotel rooms as a big factor in the Strip's slow recovery.
VIEWS OF THE FOUNTAINS
The Cosmopolitan's two 50-storey towers -- ringed by open-air terraces -- are wedged between the multi-tower CityCenter and MGM's Bellagio on the west side of the Strip.
The Cosmopolitan has some of the best views of the (Bellagio) fountains in Las Vegas, said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Rooms with wraparound balconies -- you can hear the music and see the fountains -- it's really cool.
The placement of the new resort -- passers-by can enter the windowed casino from the sidewalk -- is a big change from the recent trend of massive resorts best accessed via a taxi ride or a long hike.
The Cosmopolitan will add another 10 percent to the Strip's inventory of high-end rooms -- meaning more competition for top-end resorts like MGM's Aria and Bellagio, Las Vegas Sands' Venetian and Palazzo and Wynn's two casino-hotels.
The good news is it's not like they are adding a tremendous percentage to the room base, but unfortunately it is a property that a lot of visitors will consider in their minds as similar to other recent properties, Jacob of ITG Investment said.
CEO Unwin stresses that the Cosmopolitan's intimate feel -- its sits on 8.7 acres versus the Bellagio's 120 acres -- will have an appeal to certain customers, which he dubs the curious class.
Enticements include the shifting video screens that encircle the Cosmopolitan's lobby and rotating artist in residence studios where visitors can engage.
It's a little bit quirky, a little bit more visually rich than other places, said the University of Nevada's Schwartz. They seem to be aiming for more of a 'wow, here this is cool I want to get a picture and upload it to twitter'.
The Cosmopolitan has teamed with Marriott International Inc's frequent hotel guest program, but it has no similar alliance for the frequent gambler schemes that have become all the rage in Las Vegas over the past few years.
Unwin said the resort will have its own loyalty program under which customers will earn reward points for all their spending, not just for gambling.
It's difficult when you don't have the economies of scale that the others have, said the University of Nevada's Schwartz, noting that Caesars Entertainment, which operates 10 Strip resorts, can offer customers options like single price for all of its buffets or shows.
As for the Cosmopolitan's owner, Deutsche Bank isn't saying what its expectations are, although most watchers expect it plans to sell the resort when the market improves.
A spokesman for the bank said only that its management is convinced that the project will serve its shareholders.
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)