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New Planet Hollywood Resort Casino in Las Vegas remakes the old Aladdin on the Strip

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

Planet Hollywood took over the Aladdin Casino to give Las Vegas a brand new player in the heart of The Strip. The new Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is attempting to pull off sleek cool, while capitalizing on the celebrity chef craze and high-end entertainment, including Pamela Anderson. Many wonder if the place will return Aladdin's Vegas reasonable four-star charm.

Planet Hollywood Resort Casino
It's going to be a whole new look at Planet Hollywood's Las Vegas casino.
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LAS VEGAS - Waking up in the middle of the night and finding the bow from the Highlander warrior movies staring back at you is a little disconcerting.

It's Vegas, though. Anything can happen.

Especially if you're staying at Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. This is the first and only hotel from the people who have given you restaurants with celebrity kitsch on the walls. It's the same structure as the former Aladdin Casino (Planet Hollywood bought out Aladdin), but it's certainly all Planet Hollywood in vibe now.

Those ever-present Planet Hollywood movie souvenirs are now scattered around the 2,600 guest rooms. No matter which room you get - and some are completely renovated with new furnishings already, some still look exactly like they did when Aladdin flashed on the marquee - it will have a piece of memorabilia in it.

The one stayed in on this visit had that Highlander bow. Which might give goosebumps to some sci-fi geek somewhere - but will mostly just creep out the average person a little.

The bow is behind glass, in case anybody gets the crazy idea of trying to hightail it out of the casino with a hulking monster of a wood bow that may be the taller than the real Tom Cruise.

And you didn't think your Las Vegas golf trip could get any more memorable?

Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is a surprise to many in Sin City. There's not a whole lot of people who would bet on a company that's been bankrupt twice itself - with some high-profile share holders including Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger - to take over a casino that went bankrupt. But that is exactly what's happened here.

In truth, Aladdin always had a great location. It's almost smack dab in the middle of the Strip. This was never a second-rate casino. It's problem was being a long past second-thought as newer, glitzy and much better promoted casinos opened all around it.

"I actually really liked the Aladdin," Vegas visitor Larry Renard said, looking around the Planet Hollywood for the first time.

That's the thing: There was plenty to celebrate about Aladdin. It consistently had some of the lowest room rates in Vegas for a four-star hotel. The bathrooms in even its standard rooms measured large. The location couldn't be beat for walking convenience. Many card players loved its low-key, always-a-good-game-going poker room.

Planet Hollywood's challenge is hanging onto those pluses while upgrading elsewhere. One thing that hurt Aladdin that the new owners haven't figured out a good solution to yet is the fact the casino resort's self parking is about as far from the actual casino and front desk check in as Mars is from Earth. When it comes to parking, this might be the worst casino resort in Vegas. The setup makes you walk through long, windy corridors of mall with bumpy stone floors that makes even a rolling bag a pain to transport in order to get to the actual resort property.

"Whatever architect came up with that should become a plumber instead, that's true," Renard said, laughing. "But they haven't changed that."

Bye bye Aladdin, hello new Hollywood look

What Planet Hollywood has mostly changed so far is the décor of the actual casino. When the doors to the property reopened in April, people walked into a much more modern sleek casino. There is plenty of red and black.

The once-open main bar in the middle of the casino floor that attracted a regular flow of Las Vegas working girls has been replaced by a curtain-surrounded, dark spot that almost looks like a cave for cool people. It definitely gives you the feel of being a little removed from the casino hustle and bustle.

The front desk, one level below the casino floor, has also been completely redone. It's all black now, more along the lines of the entrance to a Mandalay Bay than the Aladdin's old school setup. Unfortunately, the front desk clerks encountered on this stay seemed to have embraced the black as a mood choice as well.

The friendliness of the Aladdin was long gone. A line of customers waited for a lone clerk as two others stood by, doing nothing in the way of helping.

Then again, the promotional models at the front doors of the casino level leading out to The Strip could not have been any more friendly. In fact, they were downright flirtatious.

Friendly models vs. friendly desk clerks? Okay, you'll take the models every time. Of course they're not there all the time.

Planet Hollywood hopes a more sophisticated dining scene in line with Vegas' celebrity chef craze will turn into a regular thing. New York sister steakhouse Strip House, a version of L.A. celebrity hang KOI and Yolos, a hip Mexican place, are all brand new additions.

The new sports book - and Aladdin's sports book was one of the worst in town - will even serve hot dogs from trendy L.A. spot Pink's.

Planet Hollywood has already brought in magician Hans Klok and his much more famous girlfriend and show assistant Pamela Anderson for nightly acts in a 1,500-seat theater.

You could not have imported more flash more quickly if you had Paris Hilton dancing on the tables (which she no doubt will at some point after her jail release).

For now, Planet Hollywood is keeping the room rates largely only slightly more expensive than Aladdin's old rates. Whether that changes as more people check it out is just one of the questions that surrounds this old turned new spot.

There's also the matter of which room got the props from Ernest Goes to Jail. And Pauly Shore is wondering where his Don Johnson-copy white jacket ended up.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
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