Harrah's Lake Tahoe plans to throw out the red carpet this week when celebrities trying their hands at golf at the American Century Championship will get the royal treatment.
It's the first time the Stateline property of the world's largest casino company has been deemed the host hotel in the signature event's 15-year history. Caesars Tahoe previously had the job. The tournament runs today through Sunday.
Harrah's stepped up the tee when its Las Vegas-based parent company bought Caesars Entertainment for $9.44 billion, a transaction that closed last month. In turn, Horizon Casino Resort's parent company, Columbia Sussex, bought the Stateline Caesars.
"We're pretty excited. We think with the amenities and two Diamond hotels, great restaurants and proximity to the golf course, it's a great fit. Lake Tahoe's a good fit. We thought it would have been a shame if the event went away," said Don Marrandino, Harrah's President of Northern Nevada Operations. "Caesars always did a good job and we'd like to bring it up a notch."
Indeed, the crew has.
It starts even before the celebrities arrive in Reno. Harrah's has staged a desk manned by an executive host at the Reno/Tahoe International Airport today and Wednesday. Mike Morgan, Harrah's Northern Nevada vice president of casino marketing, estimated 95 percent of the arrivals fly in to Reno.
For the VIP treatment - which includes celebrity golfers, NBC staffers and American Century executives - red carpet at the hotel lobby will greet the guests. They will check in upstairs near the convention center in a specially assigned area where they sign up for different levels of credit lines for gaming. And yes, they need to show identification.
Some celebrities have been known to lose $5,000 to $30,000 in one sitting.
"They can lose that in a hand," Morgan said.
He estimated about half the celebrities play cards.
A high-limit area allows them to play then duck in and out of an adjacent lounge to relax on the sofas and chairs. When it's time to move on, a back door is located close to an elevator.
One of Morgan's biggest challenges is striking the balance between keeping the celebrities from getting hounded to appeasing casino customers who drop big bucks. Many plan their visits around the golf tournament. Harrah's has increased the number of spots in the Celebrity Amateur event that teams up the players with the sports and entertainment stars for about five hours at a time.
Morgan pointed out a player from Florida who had to come to Tahoe to meet his hero - Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
"We do live in an entertainment-driven industry," he said.
The players - celeb or not - will find rooms that have more amenities than perhaps some know what to do with. The casino just finished its latest round of renovations.
"It's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. You're constantly upgrading and renovating," Harrah's spokesman John Packer said.
Summit Suites butler Kevin Kamrud said the guests who stay in their premium suites have come to expect a certain level of luxury that makes shopping a bit fun.
Mounted television sets, rose petals on the floor, steam showers and heated towel racks are but a few items worth mentioning in the bathroom alone.
The bedroom's class is tested by VIPs with discriminating eyes.
"They look for the (designer) Versace pattern. We've sold people these sheets before," Kamrud said.
Outside the room, Harrah's has set up a cigar bar called Cliche, which is stocked with specialty wines and mood lighting.
Then, there are the massage appointments, arranged fishing trips and cocktail parties. Harrah's has boasted three of its own gatherings, one of which is set at its new restaurant, 19 Kitchen Bar.
Diners are treated to a sampling of food groups, with meals even ending in cotton candy.