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April 12, 2004

Power out 13 hours at large Vegas resort

Cause still unclear as 5,000 affected

BY STEVE FRIESS
GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

LAS VEGAS -- The Bellagio, one of Sin City's largest resorts, went dark for more than 13 hours on Easter Sunday, leaving at least 5,000 guests unable to use most of the property's amenities.

While the cause remained unclear last night, a spokeswoman acknowledged that the problem was with the failure of the property's generators. No injuries were reported.

Normal operations were largely halted on the 116,000-square-foot casino floor. All slot machines were shut off, and, without power to operate surveillance cameras, extra security was called in to watch over a handful of table games still operating.

"This is a big deal," said Jenn Michaels, vice president for public relations for MGM Mirage, which owns Bellagio. "We don't know yet what the exact cause is. Our main goal right now is making sure all the guests are comfortable."

Michaels said technicians were working with the Nevada Power Co. to get the generators back up. A Nevada Power spokeswoman said its equipment had not failed and that they were "on standby" to help but were not primarily responsible.

The only power on the main property was coming from an emergency generator able to operate elevators, some hallway lighting, and the mechanisms for the electronic room keys. By yesterday afternoon, guests at the sold-out 3,005-room resort who hadn't asked to be relocated to other Las Vegas Strip hotels were issued flashlights, according to a hotel employee inside the resort.

Security guards were posted at every entrance to keep out visitors who could not prove they were hotel guests, Michaels said.

All restaurants were closed, and the hotel's special Easter brunch buffet was canceled, as were last night's performances of the Cirque du Soleil production "O." Guests were permitted to sunbathe by the pool but were not allowed to go in the water, which was not filtered. Restaurateurs were moving some of the perishable food to refrigerators in the hotel's conference center area, which, inexplicably, continued to retain power, a hotel employee said.

Also off were the hotel's signature dancing waters, which move to Elton John and Frank Sinatra tunes on the property's streetside three-acre lake.

Conflicting reports have left in question the cause of the outage, which began about 2:30 a.m. yesterday and continued last night. A spokeswoman for MGM Mirage originally said the blackout followed a car crash on a nearby thoroughfare, which also knocked out power to the neighboring Monte Carlo Resort & Casino and Paris Las Vegas across the street.

Yet a spokeswoman for Paris said it had no blackout. Nobody from Monte Carlo could be reached for comment. The Las Vegas police, Nevada Highway Patrol, and regional ambulance services were unable to confirm that a significant auto accident had occurred near the Bellagio early yesterday.

The hotel is the crown jewel of the MGM Mirage presence on the Strip. It was the stylish setting of the 2001 casino-robbery film "Ocean's Eleven," a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic.

The cost to MGM Mirage in lost gaming revenue, reimbursed hotel costs, and canceled meals and shows could reach into the millions of dollars. Michaels would not speculate on the cost, insisting, "Nobody's really concerned with revenues right now."

Michaels said there's no indication the incident was related to terrorism.

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