Monday, April 12, 2004 | 10:52 a.m.
Rather than the usual sound of casino games, silence greeted thousands of Bellagio guests Sunday, as the 3,005-room resort was plunged into darkness because of a massive power failure.
Hundreds of guests opted for rooms at other Strip resorts as the blackout continued through Sunday night. By this morning, with the power still out, guests were being told they must check out by 11 a.m. and that they could check back with the hotel on Wednesday about future plans.
The outage was expected to last until Tuesday morning.
Early-morning joggers glanced at the still surface of Lake Bellagio, where the dancing waters show had been canceled.
Guests had no phone service, power or water in their rooms. The elevators were out.
Security officers this morning stood at the entrances directing guests to other properties, and barricades blocked cars from entering.
Alan Feldman, spokesman for Bellagio owner MGM MIRAGE, said around 2 a.m. Sunday something caused one of the main power lines going into the Bellagio "to be compromised," which caused other lines to fail. The failure knocked out all of the power except for emergency power.
He said it was unclear what caused that to happen, and he said the company was giving the cable to Nevada Power to investigate.
Early reports of a truck hitting a power line or a power surge were incorrect, Feldman said. There was also no evidence of sabotage, he said.
He said the power outage could be over as early as tomorrow morning. Thousands of feet of cable needed to be pulled out and replaced, he said.
Guests were being moved out of the hotel today to other Strip hotels because the Bellagio's power will have to be shut off so crews can finish the work.
The hotel's emergency power allowed people to get into their rooms using the electric locks and kept emergency lights on. Kitchen workers were able to make a breakfast buffet for guests this morning.
Nevada Power Co. spokesman Edgar Pitano said that none of the equipment that failed belonged to the utility.
The company was called about 2:30 a.m. about the Bellagio blackout, followed by another call that the Monte Carlo had lost power. Backup generators restored electricity at the Monte Carlo, he said.
An employee at Treasure Island said the computers there were down all Sunday.
People in about 2,000 guest rooms at the Bellagio were relocated Sunday. About 800 people who spent the night were sent to other hotels. Another 1,100 people were scheduled to come in today.
The hotel was sold out Monday night, Feldman said.
Guests were being relocated to other MGM MIRAGE properties as well as the Monte Carlo, the Venetian, Mandalay Bay and Caesars. Feldman said there had been "wonderful cooperation up and down the Strip."
Guests who had booked a room would be redirected to other hotels, Feldman said. A performance of "O" was canceled Sunday night as were restaurant reservations.
Deutsche Bank Securities analyst Marc Falcone said the power outage Sunday could have cost MGM MIRAGE about $3 million in lost revenue and about $800,000 in cash flow that day. The company could face similar losses each day in which the outage is in effect, he said.
"Easter Sunday is also typically a slower day and we would assume that the property has business interruption insurance," Falcone wrote in a note to investors today. "The overall strength of the Las Vegas market should also be able to make up for lost business throughout the remainder of the second quarter."
Merrill Lynch analyst David Anders told investors today that the incident is likely to result in a "small one-time charge" that will be reflected in MGM MIRAGE'S second quarter financial results.
Bellagio guests who stayed at the hotel Sunday night compared it to camping out.
"I'm sitting here under a million dollars worth of glass," said Bellagio guest David Tetzloff of Columbus, Ohio, referring to the lobby's art deco glass design by Dale Chihuly, "and watching people explode."
While the casino, restaurants and lounges were eerily quiet, children tired of waiting in check-in lines screamed and their parents dragged them and the luggage upstairs to rooms.
Tetzloff said he arrived at the Bellagio about 6 p.m. Sunday and was informed by a hotel clerk, signing guests in by hand because computers were down, that there was no electricity.
"Just imagine the monumental amounts of money being lost right now," Tetzloff said.
Joel and Diane Epstein of Tampa, Fla., had been at the Bellagio since Thursday and were leaving Sunday night.
"We had a great time," Joel Epstein said. Diana added: "Until this morning when we had no power."
"They (hotel employees) were very orderly about it, and people asked a lot of questions," Joel Epstein said.
However, Kathy Corgon had just been married at the Bellagio's wedding chapel. "The chapel had electricity, but I don't know about our room," Corgon said.
John and Valerie DeLeo arrived at the Bellagio on Sunday from Boston. "First time in Vegas, and everything is shut down," John DeLeo said, smoking a cigarette in the middle of the silent casino.
Jan Sjavik of Norway traveled 21 hours to arrive at the Bellagio late Saturday night to play in a poker tournament.
About 30 minutes into his game, Sjavik said, the lights went out. "I went to bed after that, no lights, no hot water," he said.
Phil Matthews of Oceanside, Calif., another player in the poker tournament, said he was told this morning he had to check out by 11 a.m. He had planned to stay another week before moving to the Horseshoe for the World Series of Poker.
"The lights didn't go out. They more or less blinked and flickered and the generators went on," Matthews said. He had gone up to his room about 3 a.m., and found only one bank of elevators was operating.
"It was a 40-minute wait to get to my room," he said. When he got up Sunday morning, Matthews was going to play in the $5,000 buy-in no-limit tournament and learned that that game and the finals of the previous day's game had been postponed.
Bellagio guests were offered free bottled beer and bottled water Sunday night. Apples and bananas were also available.
A pianist and a bass player kept a handful of guests happy with live music in one of the lounges off the main lobby.
Robert Potter, his wife and daughter, all from upstate New York, had settled into the Bellagio for their first Las Vegas visit and walked the Strip all day Sunday.
"It's no big deal," Potter said. "I'd rather be in a blackout in Las Vegas than in New York."
It was 30 degrees in New York when the Potters left."If I sleep, I don't need any lights," Potter said.
As night fell Sunday, the Bellagio stood out as the only dark spot in a sea of bright flashing lights on the Strip.
Jason Epps, 36, a sales representative, and wife Tracie Epps, 38, a bank officer, of Nashville, Tenn., expected more glitter.
"Las Vegas is lights and action, and this looks closed," Epps said. "It's surreal."
Sun reporters Dan Kulin, Molly Ball, Elizabeth Benston and Ed Koch contributed to this report.