tv The Profit CNBC April 20, 2019 6:00am-6:30am EDT
♪ this is one of the most storied pieces of real estate in the entire world -- the las vegas strip. in 2017, more than 40 million people came to vegas, and they spent $34 billion. i wanted to see how the city works -- not as a spectacle, but as a business. so i'm going to spend the entire next three days and $20,000 of my own money learning how vegas got so good at separating you from your cash. we'll keep track of every cent, and i'm betting we'll learn a few secrets along the way. ♪
♪ there's no question that las vegas is the gambling capital of the u.s. here on the strip, four publicly traded companies control 20 different casinos. and for them, everything is high-stakes. most are camera-shy, but after a lot of negotiations, this one opened its doors -- caesars palace. how are you? mr. lemonis, welcome to caesars palace. -are you steve? -i'm steve shakerian. -nice to meet you. -the pleasure's mine, sir. i'm really excited. lemonis: look, i don't consider myself a high-level vip, but they gave me a dedicated casino host anyway. mine's steve. we're gonna take you over here to platinum vip check-in. we headed over to the front desk. how are you? welcome to caesars palace, mr. lemonis. i got a room key and a loyalty rewards card... because you're a premium guest, we've upgraded you to our diamond card. ...so i could start earning points on all the money
i'm about to spend, starting with my room. [ elevator bell beeps ] we took an exclusive elevator to the 29th floor. this is what $3,400 a night will get you. this place was unbelievable. it had a living room, a dining room. it felt like a house. would you like to grab a water now? i'm okay. thank you. you don't have to stand there with that. lemonis: ornate bathrooms, two outsized bedrooms, all decorated to the nines. rene also came with the room. this phone is just for you. my own private butler, on call 24/7. how many rooms are you handling right now? just yours. one per room? dedicated to you. yes, sir. lemonis: but i didn't want to stay in my room. i'm here for the action. -welcome. i'm martina. -nice to meet you. so, this is roulette. do you know roulette? -you're gonna explain it to me. -i sure will.
how about -- do you have a rewards card with us? total rewards? i do. watch out. -all right! -there it is. my first dollar on the diamond card. i asked martina for a quick explanation. so, you can bet on one number. that pays 35-to-1, by the way. okay. you can bet on two numbers, which pays 17-to-1. you can bet on three numbers, 11-to-1. four numbers, 8-to-1. this is the only spot on the board for five numbers, which pays 6-to-1. lemonis: honestly, i had no clue. or you can bet on six numbers, and that pays 5-to-1. but you don't have to remember all that. and i should have stopped ri i only lasted three spins. oh, man. ohh! 17. 32. ohh! you were close. and just like that, i was out 85 bucks. you're not coming out here to invest money to win money.
you're coming out here for entertainment purposes. that's all it is. i don't feel very entertained right now. -it's entertainment only. -okay. and you only want to risk and only want to come out here with what you know you might lose and are comfortable with. generally, what are the odds of roulette? on this particular game, the house advantage is higher than most. -it is? -absolutely. it's not just roulette. the house is favored in every single game here. thanks for bringing me to this one first, okay? -[ laughs ] -you asked for the wheel. lemonis: for a town built on games of chance, the truth is, very little is left to chance. it's pleasure to have you here. sean mcburney has been the general manager of caesars palace for four years. -can i get a tour? -absolutely. follow me. 'cause i want to get -- but i want the inside tour. of course. as we walk, i asked him about that rewards card i got at check-in. turns out, it's mcburney's secret weapon. in exchange for points, it allows the casino to track every game i play, every meal i eat,
every cent i spend, and everywhere i spend it. so when i spend on this card, i go to the club, i go to four restaurants, i go in here -- you're watching that. so, you know, one example, you play blackjack later. you hand them your card. we'll learn that you like blackjack. we'll learn the level at which you play blackjack and how long you play blackjack. ...tables? that's good. that's good. so if i spend some money at nobu at caesars and swipe my rewards card, caesars captures what i order -- a glass of wine or a sushi roll. that info goes into a computer which predicts what offers might appeal to me. maybe a wine tasting or a restaurant promo. those offers are then sent directly to my smartphone. so being able to capture all of those preferences allows us to target-market based on your observed interest and preferences. proprietary software to do it? -oh, yeah. all internal. -all proprietary. it really is about understanding what does the person that walks through the front door want
and how do i get more out of their wallet? right. that's exactly right. lemonis: is that a historical piece from the hotel? it's original. it's original from when we opened on august 5, 1966. -and it was there? -it was here. it's never been moved? so this is all original, and if we walk over here to the left, you can see the palace casino. original from when the property opened in 1966. just a very iconic part of the casino. this is where most of the table games are located. lemonis: table games like blackjack, still one of vegas's biggest moneymakers. there are nearly 40 casinos around the 4-mile-long strip the casinos take in an average of $2,000 a day per table. that's about $900 million a year from blackjack alone. how are they pulling in so much money? i got to play to find out. how are you doing? -i'm marcus. -benny figgins is my name. -nice to meet you, ben. -nice to meet you.
benny figgins has been dealing cards under the dome longer than i've been alive. so, how long you been here? i opened this place up in '66. i started off as a casino porter. i cleaned the tables and ashtrays and taking out the trash. see, blacks couldn't deal on the strip yet. -really? -no. you weren't permitted to deal cards? yeah, blacks couldn't deal 'em. and when were you permitted to do it? i would say around '71. did they teach you how to do this? caesars palace set up a program, and they sent me to school, and i worked my way to the dealer. lemonis: and once he became a dealer, a who's who of old hollywood showed up at his table. have you met any fantastic people? -a lot. -any celebrities? yes. sinatra, sammy davis. -they played right here? -they played. harry belafonte, diana ross. joe louis. any dealer good enough for joe louis is good enough for me. -let's do it. -okay. -we're gonna have fun. -okay, let's do it. first, a few practice rounds.
you don't need to explain anything. -21, baby. -we'll do it again. okay. okay, that's 10. now, i have a deuce showing. okay. now, you have to assume -- always assume that it's a 10 underneath. -okay. -so what do i have? that's 18. now you want 20. there you go. -okay. we're doing good. -let me pay you first. to be honest, losing at roulette was a distant memory. you told me you didn't know how to play this game! then i was ready to join a real game with real money. -i can't beat you, marcus. -this is too easy. biggest bet you've ever seen? biggest bet i've ever seen was $75,000 a hand. and did they come out ahead or behind? they came out ahead. well, i wasn't willing to go quite that far. -come on. -benny dealt me a 20. i stayed. i was just wondering, was you thinking about splitting that?
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anybody ever give you business advice? yeah. save your money.. -thank . i've been in las vegas nearly two days, and i gotta tell ya, this place has a million ways to take your money. ♪ first, i went to the pool and had lunch in a cabana. 226 bucks. then i found some nice sneakers. 860 bucks. and a new tie. this is what i want. $950. next, i tried the slots. thanks for giving me 50 cents back. another $99.50 gone. with my head reeling, i saw these giant tvs, part of the casino's sports book. i want to bet on college football. college football. what's your team? the university of miami. i took miami and 3 points on their season opener against lsu. oh, there it is. college football, week one. i was also sure the hurricanes would play for the national championship.
40-to-1. well, that didn't work. down another 600 bucks. in a flash, my pockets were more than $2,700 lighter. proof that businesses here are diversifying. gaming accounted for just 34% of revenues on the strip in 2017. rooms, drinks, and entertainment made up half. food is another huge slice of the pie. with top restaurants from gordon ramsay to giada de laurentiis, las vegas has become a foodie hot spot. but it's always been a destination for one thing -- the really big buffet. and one of the biggest, bacchanal at caesars palace. coming in at 25,000 square feet with 500 different dishes, i'm about to find out if this place lives up to the hype. it seems busy. -is it always busy? -it's always busy.
okay, this isn't your average buffet. oh, my gosh. it's a football field of food. it keeps going? lamb chops, crab legs, paella. holy [bleep]. and the boss of this sauce? executive chef leticia nunez. -hi. how are you? -how are you? -are you chef leticia? -yes, i am. are you the head boss in charge? i am. that's what they tell me. to run an empire this big, you gotta work. she comes in at 5:00 every morning and puts in almost 70 hours a week. we do two tons of crab legs a day. -two tons? -two tons. that's how many crab legs will be put through this little station right here. so there's none left for america? they're all gone. lemonis: it's not just crab legs. in a year, they'll dish out nearly 3 million pieces of dim sum, 650,000 oysters, and more than a half a million sliders. -do you do all the buying? -yes, i do. -for the whole place? -yes, i do.
that's the bulk of my job, financials, the managing of money, oh, then we have a crisis. we will have very upset guests. the next time you're stressing over dinner, keep in mind that chef leticia and her team will serve a million people every year. yeah, one million. ♪ -this is the big leagues. -this is it, yeah. this is the biggest experience in las vegas, is it not? the biggest buffet? -yes. it is. i was born to do this. this is what i love to do. everything that you can imagine to do in food is happening in vegas. what are your dreams out in vegas? what are your dreams? long-term. i'm living it right now. lemonis: i'm about to meet someone else who's living his dream, and you've got to see it to believe it. so, when i levitate and fly around onstage, part of the audience will float out of their seat. -at least in their mind. -no. literally.
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how janssen can help, ♪ lemonis: it's early afternoon at the planet hollywood theater. ♪ and this dirty, dusty stage is undergoing a total transformation, becoming the criss angel theater. you think you're the only one with illusions? -there you go. -okay. i got up here like that. you appeared in the catwalk. i literally just levitated myself up here.
-that's pretty good. -i'm gonna come down and see ya. come on down. [ laughs ] he's the mind freak. lemonis: not quite. criss is the only mind freak... with tv shows and specials, famous for walking on water. but the criss angel i know is much more than just a guy who does tricks. this is not a magic show. i want to make sure that people understand that. you're not a magician. you're not some strip headliner. you're a businessperson. -show business. -yeah. so there's no show if you don't understand the business. [ saxophone plays ] there's 250,000 tourists that come through vegas every day to two days, depending upon the seasons. everybody's out there trying to get the attention, get people to see their show. you really have to understand the mentality of the public that come to las vegas to really understand how to capitalize on that. you really have to understand what the audience wants. believe me, criss gets it.
he just spent 10 years at the luxor hotel and casino. great success. brought in $150 million a year in direct and indirect sales, revenue. it's incre number-one magic show on the planet. he's been lured away with a long-term megadeal. there's a rumor going around the street, and it's no illusion. people are telling me that you have struck the largest entertainment deal in las vegas ever. that is true. but you know something? people have to understand. this is not something that happened overnight. it took me 18 years to become an overnight success. if criss' new show is not a success, this guy will feel the heat. jason gastwirth is the man who brought criss to planet hollywood. he's the president of entertainment for caesars. i always say the way that we seek out these artists -- can they go by one name? that's a pretty good start. right. and he's also the one that came up with the pop residency, having big stars like gwen stefani and jennifer lopez
do long-term stints here. if we think back to the coliseum, when it was first created, it was for céline dion, and that was a residency which was wildly successful. céline and caesars grossed $385 million in ticket sales over 5 years. this planet hollywood theater holds 4,600 people. sell out all the seats, and the cash registers really ring. lemonis: this can get pretty close to a million dollars of revenue if all things are firing on all cylinders? -yes. -in a night? yes, and there's certain nights where, even just with ticket revenue, we've been over a million. even with the resident artists. criss' new theater promises to be spectacular and will raise audience participation to new heights. criss: so, when i levitate and fly around onstage, part of the audience will float out of their seats. -at least in their mind. -no. literally. criss wasn't ready to show me that trick yet, but he did have one bit of magic up his sleeve.
so, we're gonna try something. i want you to write really large a number between 1 and 100. don't let me see it. so, you wrote your number on here. is that true? yes, sir. now, we haven't set this up at all. i'm gonna ask you a series of questions. you just say yes or no. i'm permitted to lie to you? and you can lie to me, absolutely. -okay. -your number's between 1 and 10. yes, of course. that was a terrible lie. -21 and 30? -no. -31 and 40? -no. that's interesting. he's not getting into my head. 71, 72, 73. 72. is that it? -am i still allowed to lie? -no, tell me the truth. i'll look on the paper. is that it? 72! -get that five, marcus! -five! i could have used criss' magic for numbers at my next stop. how much do i have on the table right now? -$1,150. -i have $1,100?
♪ ♪ lemonis: it's my last night in vegas, and i'm gonna win all of my money back. and with 7,700 bucks on the craps table, there's just one little problem. -i have no idea what i'm doi.-. we'll explain the game as we go along. here we go. -5, 5. point is 5. lock it up. -did i win? -no. -now we got the point at 5. -did i lose? -you didn't lose. lemonis: the rules are a bit confusing. she rolled a 5, so 5's the point. the objective of the game now is to roll a 5 on the pass line. you could take odds like these three... okay, they're a lot confusing. but that's not gonna stop me.
here we go. perfect! now your point's 8. -would you like a 9? -yeah. so any time an 8 or 9 rolls, you're gonna win. -i ought to put one on the 5. -5? -5, 8, 9, you win. -5, 8, or 9. -eight. -whoo! this is easy! i don't need to understand the rules. the crowd is firing me up. get that 5, marcus. -five! -hey! how much did i just -$700. -$700?! on one roll. and the more i win, the bolder i get. how much do i have on the table right now? -$1,150. -i have $1,100? hold on a second. i'm in business, and i know that the millions spent to build all this, it had to come from somewhere. -ohh. -what was that? that's a loser. [ players groaning ] the casino's got the edge here, and i'm seriously outmatched. -line 'em in. -that was painful.
i could feel the mood shift. i was once up by thousands. now i'm back to even. but it's vegas, and i can't resist one more roll. this is the last one. i'm gonna go big and then go home. i'm stressed. first i need to pump up the crowd. [ applause ] i need more than that! [ cheers and applause ] now i'm ready to get paid. -come on, baby! -ohh. -oh, my god. -oh. 7. man: ouch. lemonis: man, i was kidding myself. i'm out nearly $1,600. i feel like crap is what i feel like. and with a nod to my dealers... -i hope you had fun with us. -i did. thank you, guys. ...i'm done. during my stay, my room ended up costing $14,000. on food and restaurants, i spent $2,000... and $3,000 on shopping and entertainment. gambling? well, that totaled $2,500 in losses. gone are those $20,000 i came with and more. ♪
that's the thing about vegas. i need to cash in my chips. there's always this incentive to go for broke. [ coughs ] i lost my voice. i lost my voice at the craps table. it offers you life in fantasy land, and the amount of money you spend there, it never seems real until the end. ♪ after three days here, it's clear to me that las vegas knows what it does well. at its heart, it's still all about entertaining you, and they've got that down pat. but i'm in business, and i take risks every day, so gambling is no vacation for me. oh, man. i'd rather stake my money on a small business or entrepreneur. those are my kind of odds. i'm marcus lemonis. ♪
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