Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 3:58 p.m.
Changes are unfolding fast and furiously at the Palms, and we’re not just referring to the hotel’s preferred clientele.
There is a departure to report, of one of the hotel’s more dynamic and recognizable officials, and an upgrade to one of its busiest amenities.
First, in news that came to light over the weekend, N9Ne Group Senior Vice President and General Manager Jon Gray confirmed that he has resigned his post for an undisclosed opportunity. He sent a direct message in Twitter, saying, “I love the Palms and the Maloof family, but this is an incredible opportunity.”
Meanwhile, far more visible evidence of change at the Palms is reflected as you walk through the entrance facing the west parking lot. There, you meet a 20-foot-tall temporary wall where the hotel's sports book and adjoining bar once stood.
In a partnership forged by new hotel President Joe Magliarditi and officials at Cantor Gaming, a new race and sports book is being built into the space formerly occupied by the original book and is to be taking bets in about a month. The target date for a soft opening is May 3 or 4, with the official unveiling May 5, in time to take bets for the Kentucky Derby, which is a very big horse race favored by sports bettors.
It is the first change enacted largely by Magliarditi and will spearhead a series of upgrades to the hotel -- as many as five by New Year’s Eve -- planned at the 10-year-old resort.
“First and foremost, it’s going to be improved aesthetically,” Magliarditi said during an interview at the Palms executive offices last week. “It will look like a complete new book. … It’s the first big step where we say, ‘Here are the beginnings of the changes at the Palms.’ Let’s face it, the sports book was pretty beat up. It was hard to even see the TV screens. Now we’ll see state-of-the-art video technology, what you see every time Cantor does a book. “
Also in store is a new bar linked to that sports book called Tonic. The nomadic poker room, currently located off a corridor leading to the restrooms between the sports book and the Lounge, also will be moved into the new space. Handheld betting devices, for in-running betting, which are a hallmark of all Cantor-operated sports books, will be made available at the new gambling haunt.
The relationship between Magliarditi and Cantor Gaming President and Chief Executive Officer Lee Amaitis dates to 2007, when Magliarditi was an exec with the then under-construction M Resort. Cantor partnered with M in that hotel’s sports book, and the two negotiated the upgraded sports book at the Hard Rock Hotel when Magliarditi was an official there.
Expect the look of the new Palms book to mirror the ambiance of those Cantor operations, as well as the company’s newest operation at the Venetian, which opened in November. Expect the signature bright-red betting carrels and a vast LED display with variable screen sizes and a capacity to show every NFL game on a given Sunday or a single game -- very largely -- on Monday night. The poker room will be significantly improved, too, set off by glass panels and open to the big-wallet players.
“We’ll have 30-foot-high ceilings, new tables, rich wood and stone in there. The room should be a lot more appealing,” Magliarditi said. “We wanted the poker room integrated with the sports book because we think there is a lot of crossover play between sports players and poker players. ... We strongly believe we’ll get a lot of business from the Strip. If you can’t make a big bet at Mirage, you can come across the bridge (or the I-15 overpass on Flamingo Road) and make that bet at the Palms.”
As one would expect, Amaitis is fired up about the renovations.
“If the Hard Rock is ‘Wow,” and the Venetian, ‘Holy (cow), the Palms will be on the same par as either of those, with the improved technology,” Amaitis said. “It’s no longer marking boards and chalk pens.”
For the time being, bettors can wager at the new sports book kiosk set up just across the walkway from Guarduno’s at the entrance of Fantasy Tower. That was a late-in-the-process idea, and that satellite station will stay in place even after the new sports book is opened.
“It's getting a lot of traffic, and aesthetically it has brightened up the area,” Magliarditi said. “Employees love it because they see positive change happening.”
And at the ever-morphing Palms, change is the order of the day.