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The Other Half

The strange proclivities of high rollers

The Other Half

I was fishing around our vast news archives the other day, looking for subjects suitable for skewering in this space. This is an exhaustive process of opening up carefully preserved newspapers, magazines and books, and scouring the news and research of the day.

No way does it involve going into the Google News search and entering the word “casino.” Honest.

Be that as it may, I came across a pre-pandemic article on what they do for the highest of high rollers at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Published by Bloomberg late in 2018, it was written by Brandon Presser, who had been hired by the resort as a butler/bartender/guy Friday in the Cosmo’s Boulevard Penthouses.

According to Presser, these were the go-to high-roller haunts at the time, available only by invitation, and even then only by depositing at least $1 million at the Reserve, a private three-room casino on the hotel’s 71st floor.

He says he took the job specifically to learn how the other half lives, and to spill the beans in print about all their secrets. And there were definitely a couple of doozies. A couple more even doozier than that.

Presser quoted the casino’s marketing director describing the Boulevard Penthouses as a “judgment-free zone.” Good thing. One story about a guest who demands the suite with the chinchilla-fur hammock, on which he lies naked and waits for a butler to find him, was one of the milder stories. There is the “well-known basketball player” who likes to have sex in front of the butlers while they pack up his luggage. There’s an old woman who starts to throw fists at anyone in the vicinity when she’s losing in the casino, and then, according to the story, “asks the butlers to dress up in pajamas, crawl into bed next to her, and read her bedtime stories.”

You know, I have a chinchilla-fur hammock out back next to my Weber grill (who doesn’t?), but I don’t think I’d ever ask butlers to put on pajamas and read me bedtime stories. (That’s the plumber’s job. He kills with Goldilocks.)

The welcome gifts at the Boulevard Penthouses are pretty sweet—objets d’art, a full-time chocolatier who creates edible sculptures based on the guest’s Instagram photos, $1,100 bottles of whiskey, $4,300 Louis XIII cognac, $14,000 bottles of wine from the Rothschild estate.

Personally, I never wager a dime until I get a $25 bottle of Jim Beam and a $3 bottle of beer from the Pabst Blue Ribbon estate. (Of course, I have to pay for it myself.)

Presser noted several riders that come with rooms for repeat guests, such as the exact number of minutes guests like their eggs boiled, or fresh seafood picked out via webcam from the casino’s private aquarium. One guest always gets an order from T&T Ginseng of rare teas, herbs and cordycep worms. “Cordyceps aren’t actually worms,” Presser explains. “They’re a type of caterpillar-eating fungus that gets hand-picked in the Himalayas and are sometimes used like Viagra.”

Thank goodness. Fungus I can take, especially if it means killing all the caterpillars that typically crawl around high-roller suites. But I’d never stand for drinking worms, no matter how frisky they make me.

A lot of these high rollers bring their pooches with them. The butler staff will find themselves walking schnauzers around an on-site dog walk, and there’s even a specialized “culinary team for canine-specific gourmet feasts.”

Hey, my Lab is happy with a hunk of cheese or a Beggin’ Strip, but if I ever do get into the Boulevard Penthouses, I’ll get her the royal treatment. (Better cheese—maybe feta—and the highest-priced Beggin’ Strips.)

They also bring weirder animal guests, like nocturnal snakes that require blackout shades in the rooms, or a flying squirrel “with severe separation anxiety” that requires special pampering from the staff.

I wonder if they provide a moose as a companion.

At least, I’m sure they put on the Animal Channel.

When you read how much these folks are betting in the private Reserve casino, you realize why the casino will get them whatever kind of worms or fungus or caterpillars they want. The Bloomberg piece describes one guy who bet $300,000 per hand on two tables simultaneously—$600,000 per minute, or $36 million per hour.

The article says that matches the 2017 gross domestic product of the South Pacific nation of Tuvalu.

I love to slum around Tuvalu. Everything’s so inexpensive.

Perhaps some day, after I hit the Powerball maybe six times in a row, I’ll get into the Boulevard Penthouses.

Hey, it can happen. In fact, go ahead and put the Pabst and Jim Beam on ice. Oh, and call the plumber.

He can read me Hansel and Gretel this time.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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