Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Penthouse wants piece of the Strip

Nov. 16, 2008
NORM: Penthouse wants piece of the Strip

Penthouse CEO Marc Bell is going public with plans to buy a "significant property" on the Las Vegas Strip and join the casino wars.

"The best time to buy is in a down economy," said the South Florida financier, whose business plan includes tying in his 10,000-Web site empire, most of them social networking sites, to generate business.

"We have no intention to rebrand the name of the hotel. We would like to see a Penthouse casino presence and a Penthouse pool presence," Bell told Vegas Confidential during an interview at Planet Hollywood Resort in what is known as the "Stripper suite."

His Web sites have 200 million members, including "phenomenal" numbers in Europe and Asia. Penthouse launched a cable television network in January and already has signed up 30 million homes, with another 30 million anticipated by next year, he said.

"It's about rethinking the way of how people think of casinos in Las Vegas, coming in with a new paradigm. Everyone tries doing cookie cutters, doing the same thing over and over again, and we believe it's time to create a new widget."

Bell said he has been talking to "numerous people and we are actively trying to find a hotel on the Strip to buy. A place where we can have the most impact ... only if it would be a significant property.

"We're looking to make a presence, take something and clean it up and fix it up and give it a new image," he said.

Penthouse's global reach allows it to reach one in four people who use the Internet.

The ranks of the casino dealers could be stocked with models from the magazine.

"We think it would be a tremendous draw," Bell said.

Asked if he envisioned a day when Penthouse could have strippers performing inside a hotel, Bell said, "I would have to imagine at some point we would be able to, as entertainment gets more risqué on the Strip, as Vegas gets more back to its roots."

Penthouse, founded in 1965 in the United Kingdom and moved to the United States four years later, competed with Playboy for years before both fell on tough times.

"We already dwarf the size of Playboy in terms of our global reach," Bell said "We far surpass anything Playboy ever dreamed."

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