Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Palms turns up its nose at effort to scent casino

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Chris Morris / Special to the Sun

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The "Real World" suite at the Palms

Map of Palms Casino Resort

Palms Casino Resort

4321 West Flamingo Road, Las Vegas

Ever since it shot to fame as the setting of MTV’s “Real World” series in 2002, the Palms has enjoyed a reputation as the sexy, young hipster among Las Vegas resorts.

It has used everything it can to stay popular with the 20-somethings — reality TV-fame, celebrity patrons, trendy nightclubs, a new concert venue, a recording studio. Most recently it even tried on the earthy, leathery scent of a grandfather’s cologne.

No, we’re not talking about the latest Hugh Hefner visit. Palms executives wanted to copy several Strip resorts’ longstanding practice of pumping a signature scent through their casinos and lobbies. It’s commercialized aromatherapy aimed at making people want to stay longer, spend more money and come back soon to spend even more.

The Palms scent — teakwood, named after the Southeast Asian tropical hardwood — did leave a lasting impression — but for too many people, apparently, that impression was a bad one.

“The place literally stinks. I’d almost rather smell the smoke,” one tourist noted in his online review.

“They thought it would attract people, meanwhile, I think all people have been doing is complaining about it,” a Palms employee commented.

That’s why the smell ended in late June after wafting through the Palms for less than a month.

George Maloof, owner of the Palms, said he had objected to scenting his property all along.

“It was one of those things that someone talked me into, so I said ‘OK. We’ll try it’ and after a few weeks, I really didn’t like it,” he said.

Maloof has never been a fan of using fragrances in his resorts. He said he has “a sensitive nose” that even makes him averse to garlic.

He previously tried a fragrance on part of the casino floor when the Palms opened in 2001, but quickly axed it.

“I said, ‘Do we have to do it just because everyone else is doing it?’ ”

It’s a trend that started in 1990 with Steve Wynn’s Mirage when Los Angeles-based AromaSys pumped a Polynesian scent through the the property’s vents.

AromaSys isn’t the company that dealt what was smelt at the Palms. Neither Maloof nor Palms spokesman Larry Fink would say who was.

AromaSys is to thank for the coconut aroma wafting through Mandalay Bay, the blend of lemon and ginger at the Encore spa and the scents at Caesars Palace, Luxor, Venetian, MGM Grand and Monte Carlo.

AromaSys mainly uses two systems to distribute fragrances through large properties such as Strip resorts. One is electrostatic technology, distributing fragrance through the duct work of the building with a subtle electric charge. The other is a nebulizer, which pumps air over the fragrance material and through vents.

It can cost $20,000 to $500,000 or more a year to perfume a large resort or casino, depending on the number of areas and the type of fragrance used, AromaSys President Brad Owen said.

Maloof said the Palms spent only $3,200 on “teakwood” under a monthly lease arrangement.

Usually resorts spend some money on this kind of effort even before footing a bill for supply and delivery of the scent, Owen said. A property may want a customized scent developed, for example. But most important, scents should be tested with focus groups before getting spread through a building, Owen said.

The Palms didn’t use focus groups, Maloof said. Instead, the resort just chose from a variety of samples that were offered.

The scent itself is only part of the equation, Owen said. There’s also the question of how much of the scent to use, how strong it should be.

“You want to be able to hit a bell curve,” he says. “You’re not going to be able to please everyone all the time, but you want to get the majority of your customers to be able to walk in and have it be not overwhelming, but barely above the conscious level.”

In the case of Las Vegas casinos, the fragrances are often used to mask the odor of stale cigarette smoke or sweaty travelers, or “malodors” in scent marketing company lingo.

Unfortunately for the Palms, its teakwood apparently turned out to be a malodor too.

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