The cable network known for its strong teen following is taking the college tradition of spring break and making it an adults-only affair in Sin City.
MTV is bringing its raucous annual special Spring Break to Las Vegas, with five days of parties and concerts featuring up-and-coming music acts and personalities from the network's reality shows. It's the first time the network has filmed the special in Las Vegas, changing the dynamic from the usual beaches of Florida or Mexico to the pool of the Palms Casino Resort near the Las Vegas Strip.
For the network, the move changes up the vibe of a yearly celebration that started in 1986. For the Palms, the show brings midweek customers during a time that Las Vegas is welcoming any visitors willing to spend money partying and gambling.
But given gambling and tight state regulations, college students can expect their underage friends to have a tough time getting into the party — should they choose to try.
"Everyone's going to be 21 that will be at the pool," said George Maloof, owner of the Palms. "We'll make sure of that, have plenty of security."
"It'll be just like what we've always done, which is having respect for obviously our license," he said.
21 and over only
College kids have long sought destinations with relaxed laws for spring break because they often don't turn 21 until their junior or senior year in school. Mexico, for example, has a drinking age of 18, making places like Cancun and Rosarito Beach popular when schools take their mid-term breaks.
Even though casinos market only to those 21 and older, MTV's Spring Break still fits with the Palms, Maloof said.
"With our brand, it's a natural fit. We've always attracted the younger crowd and we've always been on the cutting edge of culture," he said.
Maloof and the Palms played host to MTV's "The Real World" in 2002, putting up seven residents — all over 21 — in a suite at the resort that's still rentable today.
Eric Conte, senior vice president of programming at MTV, said he doesn't think that restricting the festivities to only drinking-age adults will hurt the party or make students not want to come.
"We're also doing parties around some of our biggest franchises on MTV at some of the suites there at the Palms," he said. "We think just the overall excitement in the town is really beneficial and is helping us out so far."
Spring break boost
MGM Resorts International, the casino operator that runs 10 properties on the Las Vegas Strip, is expecting as much as a 20 percent increase in spring break travelers, including college students and families with children taking a break from school, Chief Marketing Officer Bill Hornbuckle said.
"It fills, particularly midweek, some pretty good voids that might not otherwise be filled for us, and they'll have a great time," he said.
Hornbuckle said MGM Resorts is planning to cross-promote six properties on the Strip during spring break, letting guests staying at any of the properties access amenities and events at all of them. The party includes a March 12 concert with Cee Lo Green and The Ting Tings, on MGM Resorts land on the Strip across from the Luxor.
Hornbuckle said Las Vegas has become famous in the last decade for its pool party and nightclub scene, but also famous for its strict no-minors policy.
"Where they've tried to get into nightclubs historically, gamble at tables, we take that extremely seriously and that extends itself into spring break," Hornbuckle said. "As things are happening all over the world ... Las Vegas has become more and more attractive, particularly to this crowd. And so we've seen a benefit to that and I think this year will be, hopefully, an all-time high."
Maloof said the MTV event will bring a double-dip of benefits to the Palms, attracting students for the trip itself and giving the Palms airtime after the taping when the show airs in early March.
"I don't think we'll have an issue with selling out," he said.
Conte said musical acts scheduled to appear include Pitbull, Lupe Fiasco, Wiz Khalifa and Jason Derulo.