Wednesday, Sept. 1, 1999 | 6 a.m.
Beneath a 50-story replica of the Eiffel Tower, next to a casino featuring slot machines touting "Le Jacque Pot," guests began registering Wednesday at this gambling capital's latest effort to go global.
Invited guests began checking into the 2,916-room Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino and checking out copies of the Arc de Triomphe and The Louvre.
Guests invited to an opening night party included actress Catherine Deneuve, musical conductor Michel Legrand, French composer Charles Aznavour and French actress Line Renaud.
Some 4,000 people attending a black-tie gala got their first look at the new property Wednesday night, walking down cobblestone streets and checking out the resort's shops and restaurants.
"This is absolutely the greatest," said retired casino executive Burton Cohen. "Where else can you go in a few short blocks and see the Eiffel Tower, pyramids, a castle and erupting volcanoes? This (Paris) captures the excitement of this town."
The evening's festivities wrapped up with a concert conducted by Legrand and the lighting of the Eiffel Tower at the same time the lights were turned off for the night on the real Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The $785 million megaresort is the latest of four to open here in the past 11 months, with Bellagio opening in October, Mandalay Bay in March and The Venetian in May.
"What's wrong with re-creating the most wonderful city God ever created?" Arthur Goldberg, chairman of parent Park Place Entertainment Corp., told a mid-day news conference Wednesday.
Goldberg pitched the idea of a Paris re-creation five years ago when discussing with company executives a new resort on a valuable piece of land next to their Bally's hotel-casino.
Discussing possible themes, Goldberg asked "What about Paris?"
"As soon as we conducted focus groups and research, the idea got better and better," said Paul Pusateri, president of the new resort.
He said the company set out to "create an environment of what it would be like to visit the city of Paris."
Goldberg said the project came in "on budget and on time."
"We're not going to have to have three grand openings," Goldberg quipped, an obvious reference to delays in opening the new $1.5 billion Venetian.
The price (Bellagio cost $1.6 billion, Mandalay Bay nearly $1 billion) has been a hit with casino analysts.
Jason Ader, senior managing director for Bear Stearns, said Paris should generate the highest annual return on capital invested among the four new resorts - 14 percent to 16 percent vs. 10 percent to 13 percent for the other three.
"Paris is an exciting and amenity-rich property that was a bargain to develop - by Vegas standards," Ader said. "In recent years, Vegas hotel-casino building costs have soared as owners created lavish themes to lure visitors."
The opening comes at a time when numbers are bullish for Las Vegas, despite concerns a year ago about overbuilding. The new resorts added 13,000 new rooms since October 1998, bringing the total to 120,000 - nearly double a decade ago.
Ader said the daily hotel room rates have increased an average of 15 percent to 20 percent in 1999, with casino revenues and visitor volume on the rise. The visitor count is expected to be up 10 percent to 12 percent this year, surpassing 33 million.
The French-themed resort is just the latest replicating famous places.
In the past decade, the town has seen the emergence of the Caribbean-like Mirage, the medieval Excalibur, the pyramid-shaped Luxor, Hollywood's MGM Grand, pirate-themed Treasure Island, Mediterranean-styled Monte Carlo, Gotham knockoff New York-New York, Brazilian-cloned Rio, Italian-themed Bellagio, South Seas-styled Mandalay Bay, the Resort at Summerlin and a touch of Venice in The Venetian.
Paris hotel engineers obtained the Eiffel Tower's original architectural plans and followed them in minute detail, even bringing back paint chips to replicate the color.
There's a 225-seat gourmet French restaurant on the 11th floor of the tower, and an observation deck atop the 542-foot structure. Three of the four legs rise from inside an 85,000-square-foot casino that offers the aura of a Paris park setting.
The Eiffel Tower is not the only French icon copied at Paris Las Vegas.
Guests arrive on a circular drive featuring a two-thirds replica of the Arc de Triomphe. There are also copies of the Paris Opera House and The Louvre. And the 34-story hotel replicates the 800-year-old Hotel de Ville, which is now the Paris City Hall.
Room rates will run $125 to $230.