Entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis is heading to the Las Vegas Strip to see how the city works, not as a spectacle, but as a business.
This time, he’s not here to invest, but to spend three days and $20,000 of his own money to learn how Las Vegas got so good at separating visitors from their cash.
In a one-hour CNBC original documentary, “The Profit: High Stakes,” airing Tuesday, January 8 at 10PM ET/PT, Marcus travels to Las Vegas, where in 2017, more than 40 million people visited and spent $34 billion. The four publicly traded companies that control most of The Strip’s casinos are famously camera shy, but Marcus gains rare behind the scenes access to Caesars Entertainment and its crown jewel, Caesars Palace. Despite the city’s reputation, gaming today accounts for a mere 34 percent of revenues on the Strip, with the bulk of Sin City’s income coming from entertainment, shopping, food and drinks – a diversity of offerings Marcus explores firsthand.
“After three days here, it’s clear to me that Las Vegas knows what it does well,” said Lemonis. “At its heart, it’s still all about entertaining you, and they’ve got that down pat.”
With a dedicated casino host and a loyalty rewards card in hard, Marcus heads for the casino, where he learns roulette and plays blackjack with veteran dealer Benny Figgins. While demonstrating the finer points of the game, Figgins recounts the who’s who of the rich and famous he has had at his table, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Joe Louis. Marcus also checks out another big time player in Vegas – the wedding industry, a surprisingly competitive business that generates as much as three billion dollars a year. One of the city’s most successful Elvis tribute artists, Brendan Paul, invites Marcus into the Graceland Wedding Chapel, while back at Caesars, Marcus himself helps officiate a wedding in the hotel’s chapel.
Elvis isn’t the only King in Vegas – so is food, and the big buffet is still a major draw. At Caesars Palace, the enormous Bacchanal Buffet features 500 dishes daily, prepared by an army of specialty chefs and one talented leader – Executive Chef Leticia Nunez, who shows Marcus the ropes and puts him to work. He also heads downtown, to the “old” Vegas on the famous Fremont Street, where casino owner Derek Stevens shows why so many visitors still like their Vegas on the gritty side.
Vegas can seem like a place that generates income out of the air, but the magic is more the result of relentless planning and hard work than sleight of hand. Marcus meets illusionist and showman Criss Angel, who has recently signed one of the most lucrative entertainment “residency” deals in the history of Vegas. Angel shows Marcus the construction of his new stage at Planet Hollywood. Finally, after a last and wild try at craps, Marcus cashes in and takes stock of his time in Vegas.
Wally Griffith is Senior Producer. Reid Collins Jr., Meghan Lisson, Kathy Liu, and Oliver Miede are Producers.