Atlantic City’s Next, Best Bet…

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Yesterday morning Trump Plaza closed its doors for the last time.  Trump was already planning to close the Trump Plaza next week, but now the Taj Mahal is at risk of closing in November.  This news in conjunction with the Revel closing earlier this month preceded by the Showboat casino closing leaves 7 casinos left open, if Taj Mahal closes in November.

I wrote a few years ago about the blight of Atlantic City and how surrounding states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York have reduce the amount of day trippers going to AC.  Hurricane Sandy in 2012 did the Jersey Shore no favors and so here we are today.  Seven casinos left without much hope, except…

Enter sports gambling!  This is the last best hope for New Jersey gambling revenues and it is the bet (pardon the pun) that Governor Chris Christie is making.  This was put to a vote a couple of years ago, and it passed.  The federal government has blocked New Jersey’s efforts and the NCAA and professional sports leagues have joined in.

Governor Christie has had enough, the casinos are closing and consumer behavior is forcing his hand to ignore the federal government and allow race tracks and casinos to start taking sports bets immediately.  Putting aside the legal issues, let’s assume this starts.  Here is how New Jersey benefits:

  1. Sports gambling brings in huge handles for the casinos 25 weeks of the year.  All 17 NFL regular season games, 4 playoff and Super Bowl weekends, 3 NCAA tournament weekends and Kentucky Derby weekend.
  2. The average annual handle (what the casinos earned) in Vegas for each NFL season since 1969 is $41.7M.  This doesn’t include all the ancillary revenue they bring in from people just being in Vegas.
  3. Over 200MM people worldwide gamble online and of those people living in the US they do so illegally.  Those people are making over $380B in bets each year.

Christie’s bet is a winner not just for the casinos but also for the bettors themselves.  Instead of betting off shore with the fear that their money will be stuck overseas, Americans can now cash their tickets and pocket the money.
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I’ve been going to Vegas for 15 years for the March Madness tournament and would love to give AC a try as soon as the books are open there.

Southwest Airlines Rolling Out New Colors and Maybe First Class

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This week Southwest Airlines rolled out new colors and paint jobs on their airplanes, but after taking a 40 minute survey it appears they are testing the waters on a modified first class as well or deciding what to do with the AirTran business class seats.

Most of the questions involved whether I was interested in having reserved seats with extra leg room or reserved seats with the seat next to me blocked.  The latter reminds me of the type of business class found in Europe.

The survey also asked questions about inclusive pricing versus a la cart.  At least none of the questions were about charging for carry on bags.

Southwest is no longer a low cost carrier.  It is flying to major metropolitan airports, flying internationally, and appealing to business travelers with A-List and Rapid Rewards.

Washington Wizards New Basketball Court Pays Homage to DC

 

washingtonGrantland.com posted the new look Washington Wizards home court yesterday.  The redesign of the court prominently pays homage to Washington DC over the old design of Wizards scrolled on center court.

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While the court ranked 20th out of 30 teams, it definitely beats the old court.  Nice job Ted.

Why Apple Products Change the World

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I recently gave a talk at Syracuse University’s Greenberg House in DC about the future of social media.  Part of the discussion touched on how devices like the iPhone and iPad changed forever the way we engage with each other.

The iPhone was a tipping point in the smart phone market.  While Blackberry was first, it was Apple that changed how we use our phones for browsing, music, video, and of course interaction with each other.  It has opened up amazing business opportunities thanks to the application marketplace and in extreme situations a $19B acquisition.

Today, Apple is going to try to change the world again with the iWatch.  Whether this device has transdermal health technology or is just a fancier version of a Nike Fuel Band, doesn’t matter, it will definitely be a hit.  Why will the iWatch succeed while the Samsung Galaxy Gear and LG’s G Watch struggle?

1) Apple has perfected the introduction of products.  While the leaks have grown since the early days of the iPhone, I have to believe some of them are purposeful to generate excitement.

2) Apple makes it easy for all buyers.  Early adopters pre-order on the website, but it is the store that gets people the mainstream buyers.  Mainstream buyers need to feel the product and test it.  Early adopters, aka, Fanboys, are going to buy no matter what Apple releases.

3) Apple has a knack for holding back features from their products creating a fervor for the next version of their products.  Near Field Communications is something that was rumored to exist in the iPhone since 2010, but only today do we get it.

The iWatch is going to be a game changer and thanks to this build up of news and leaks combined with the store and “new” features that have been perfected over time, the iWatch and iPhone 6 are going to be a huge hit.

Reports of SXSW Death Greatly Exaggerated

SXSW is not dead and people who keep writing that it has died don’t get it.  SXSW has evolved from child to awkward teenager and in the next couple of years will emerge, hopefully, a well adjust adult.

I’ve attended SXSW since 2002, attending first for the movie festival with a friend and then discovering lots of intellectual technology discussions happening at the same time.  This year the entire interactive conference fit in one small wing of the convention center.

In 2004 Jonathan Abrams, the founder of Friendster gave a keynote.  That’s right Friendster, that is how long SXSW has been going on.  2005 brought us Malcolm Gladwell and 2006 Jimmy Wales.  See a trend?

By 2007 SXSW graduated to the next level.  The panel picker was introduced, Twitter exploded on the scene and became the vernacular of every geek.  Parties and meetups dominated the scene as the conference migrated slowly away from the convention center and into the bars and lofts on 6th.

By 2010 the days of Geeks Love Bowling and enlightening technical debate had come to an end.  In its place swarmed celebs, corporate executives and major sponsors.  But that is OK, right?

Despite it feeling like the transition happened overnight it didn’t.  Evolution is not without pain, but evolution is not death, it is growth.  The event is the greatest networking event on the planet right now.  It is spring break for adults and while we may never see a breakout company like Twitter emerge again, that moment in 2007 created the SXSW we know and love today.

Must Eat Places at SXSW

I have been to Austin for 10 SXSW events and countless other times to visit Dell when I was at AOL.  I consider myself a veteran of SXSW and while I am taking the year off going, I thought I’d share some advise on where to eat in Austin.

Breakfast

  1. The Driskill, home to the Texas Waffle is the most consistent breakfast place within walking distance.
  2. Magnolia Cafe South is also a solid place for breakfast.  Lots of the technorati hang out there.

Lunch

  1. Franklin’s BBQ is a must, but you have to get there around 10A.  Bring friends because you’ll be waiting, but it is worth the wait.
  2. Casino El Camino is my favorite place on 6th for food.  Don’t let the outside or inside scare you, go to the back window, order a burger and then take it to their courtyard in the back.
  3. Juan in a Million is a bit of a trek from the convention center but this place is an institution.  I usually stop on the way from the airport since it is in between the airport and downtown.

Dinner

  1. Going to Salt Lick only counts if you go to the one in Driftwood.  I’ve never been to the Round Rock, but the airport does not count.  Salt Lick takes advantage of being the only open pit fire BBQ joint around.
  2. Serranos is really good Mexican up near the capital.  The setting is cool too in front of an amphitheater.
  3. Uchi for sushi is great especially given the location.  You are guaranteed to always run into someone famous during the SXSW week.  A couple of years ago I was seated next to Matthew McConaughey.

Other

  1. Gourdough’s for crazy, awesome donuts.  Its a food truck usually parked south of the lake.
  2. This one most visitors miss because it is a local place, but the Broken Spoke is straight out of a movie.  Many seasons of Friday Night Lights were filmed there.  Just go there, order a few pitchers of beer and dance to the live music.
  3. Do an early morning walk up to the Capital.  You can walk right in and see both chambers.
  4. Franks, for hot dogs after hours is always a sure way to ease into your inevitable hangover.

First Class Battle. Alaska Airlines vs Virgin America vs United Airlines Who’s Better?

I spent way to much time on the road in June flying back and forth from the west coast 3 times in 4 weeks.  Thanks to a combination of short notice trips, flight credits and great fares I ended up in first class on all 6 flights on 3 different carriers.  I’ll detail each experience, include photos and deliver a verdict. NOTE: For 7 years I was a United 1K flying ~200K miles a year, the majority of it in domestic first class and international business class.

Alaska Airlines
Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) to LAX to DCA

Hard to ever turn down a flight from DCA to the west coast. Avoiding Dulles at any cost should be all travelers’ goals. It was my first time on Alaska Airlines and I was looking forward to flying them after hearing friends’ reviews who live in Seattle.

Seat
The seat was not super comfortable. It was hard and the recline was limited.

Technology
WiFi was great. It was faster than I had experienced on Virgin America and the cost was less than VA. The inflight entertainment was on a digi handheld player. The content was decent, the device cumbersome but was better than watching an overhead monitor on a United 757. The biggest downfall is that there are no outlets at the seat making it impossible to charge your device. It is strange that you can offer WiFi but no outlets. My laptop barely made it powered on the outbound flight.

Food
Alaska still hands out menus on the flight. The outbound breakfast was a nice change from typical the egg hockey puck on United and was plated very nicely. The coq au vin was a hearty lunch.
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Crew
Crew on both flights were happy to be there, professional and worked the entire time. They addressed each passenger by last name and thanked us all for our business.

United Airlines
Washington Dulles (IAD) to SEA to IAD

Back in a familiar setting with my family as we traveled out to Seattle to see friends. The outbound flight was on a 757 and the return was on a former Continental 737-800. The contrast was quite stark in the experiences on each flight. And that sums up one of my bigger gripes with United is the inconsistencies.

Seat
The 757 seat was leather and still was super comfortable for me. Perhaps my body has adapted to the seat after all the miles I have previous flown on United. The 737-800 seat was nearly identical to the Alaska Airlines seat and by the time I got off the plane by back hurt.

Technology
United has come in last place on technology for years and nothing changed on this trip. The 757 had overhead screens and no power adapters. The 737-800 at least had power at the seat and DirectTV making the flight bearable, but no WiFi on any United flights kills any productivity.

Food
Breakfast on the outbound was the predictable hockey puck, highlighted with horrible coffee. Why did United get rid of Starbucks? I am not a coffee junkie nor a Starbucks addict but what they are serving on United is awful.
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On the return flight we had a pasta dish that I remember having in coach in 2005. It amazes me this is what United is giving to paying customers (I was not one of them on this flight) in first class.
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Though I did get an ice cream sundae for dessert.
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Crew
United’s biggest inconsistencies start with their crews. The outbound flight crew was impatient, did the bare minimum and disappeared as soon as the trays were picked up only to reappear right before landing. The return crew was terrific. They went out of their way to help when my daughter wanted a snack, since she could not eat the airline food due to allergies.

Virgin America
Washington Dulles (IAD) to SFO to IAD

I want to like Virgin America. All the hipsters love them but I can’t help but feel they try so hard to be cool that they forget some basics.

Seat
The seat on both flights was easily the most comfortable. Built in lumbar massage, foot rest, not bad.

Technology
Virgin America was the only airline that hit all three checkboxes on my must haves. WiFi, power outlets, and live tv. The price of WiFi was more expensive on Virgin than Alaska by $3.00.

Food
This is always where Virgin loses me. They tend to try to hard to cater the flight with fancy, hip food which you can’t pull off on an airplane. If they only could keep it simple like Alaska did with their breakfast. This flight I settled for the simple fruit plate with granola which was really good.
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Crew
Both crews were average. Every Virgin America crew I have had does their job, keeps everyone well fed and happy but they are not the most personal. I don’t need small talk, or to be addressed formally, but the crews I had this trip were like automatrons.

And the winner is…
For people who care about miles and status, it is a no brainer, Alaska wins hands down. Virgin America has a weak loyalty program called Elevate, but Alaska allows you to earn miles on Delta, American and has their own program.

If you don’t care about miles, then Virgin wins in a squeaker. Better seats and better technology put it ahead of Alaska. United is not even on my radar at this point. I am done flying them. Personally, I dislike flying from Dulles, so when Virgin adds a flight from National Airport later this summer to SFO it puts them over the top. Power at the seat and live TV with the added convenience of National make going to SFO a breeze for me.