This image could either be your rear-view mirror as you come into Las Vegas, or what you see in front of you when you are on your way home. Either way, it is hard not to be thinking of the popular phrase: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” I believe the phrase originated with Las Vegas. But a photographer cannot go to Vegas and leave it all behind. So I brought some stuff back. Some, I left behind. 🙂
But a photographer cannot go to Vegas and leave it all behind
This was my first trip to Vegas. Hard to believe. Almost 60 years old and never been to the fabled city. But see, I am not a gambler. I did not put one penny in a slot machine or on any table the whole long weekend. I have a 100% consistent experience with gambling. The house always wins. Always.
In many ways, for me, the trip to Vegas was a trip to another big city in the U.S. But it really isn’t like any other big city. Indeed, for most visitors these days, Vegas is about “the strip,” a roughly 5 mile section of Las Vegas Boulevard that is littered with casinos on the east and west sides of the road. A multi-lane street, the traffic on the Boulevard is at times, nearly grid-locked. As you walk through acres and acres of casinos, you wonder what all those people are doing.
The house always wins. Always
“Well, gambling, of course,” you might respond. Yet I was struck by just how few of the thousands of people were actually in the casinos, at the tables or machines! In 2015, there were more than 42 million visitors to Las Vegas. Looking at some internet surveys (I know, their statistical accuracy may be suspect) is informative. It appears that although approximately 75% of Las Vegas visitors do some gambling, only about 12% of visitors travel to Vegas for the specific purpose of gambling. Many, many more come for conventions or just to vacation. I have it on good local authority that a significant number of golfers also travel to Las Vegas for golf. I wondered, as I walked through our casino, Aria, just how many total rooms are available in Las Vegas. My later research indicates that on the strip alone, there are well over 60,000 rooms available. When you look at the casinos, and realize that for the most part, the gaming areas are at ground level, you need not wonder whether that is correct.
As long as I can remember, I have heard from frequent La Vegas visitors, that it is a great, cheap, vacation. Cheap slots and tables, and great food and drink at cheap prices. Not so much these days. I would have to rank it up there as one of the 2 or 3 most expensive cities I have been too. Those days are gone. And over the past 30 years, Las Vegas has transformed from a hard-core, casino-based gambling destination, to a major convention/tourism/commercial destination. The statistics show that the average Las Vegas visitor spends 2-3 hours gambling. We were there for a “long weekend.” I would guess that is a pretty common visit. So what do people do with the other roughly 37 – 38 waking hours? They shop, they eat, they see shows, they sight-see and people watch. I was astounded at the number of high-end name brand merchandise retail outlets. And they are there, so people must spend money in them. Have I mentioned that the house always wins? Even when we don’t gamble 🙂 .
But make no mistake. Clark County’s gaming revenue for 2015 was still almost $10 billion. The house wins. Always. I am told that the casinos in downtown Las Vegas and out toward the Summerlin complex are cheaper. And, in my observation, the one night we spent on Fremont Street, downtown, those casinos, and the streets were packed with people. So, overall, Las Vegas still fulfills its reputation as a gambling mecca.
From the old-school, gaming-centric layouts of the older casinos, the “new” approach to casino design, is theme-based. In earlier days, those theme were Treasure Island, Circus Circus, history-based Caesar’s Palace, etc. Developers have spent billions to create European-themed casinos, like Bellagio and the Venetian. Having spent some time on the real island of Venice, I was impressed at how realistically the Venetian has been able to portray that part of Italy. I was also interested in the city-street atmosphere New York, New York created for its restaurant area (although it strikes me that it is relatively small compared to some of the other themes).
It goes without saying, that Las Vegas basically never sleeps. The nightlife is robust, with shows, nightclubs, restaurants, and of course, the casinos themselves.
As always, I wandered the streets in the early morning hours. I captured some of my own “whimsical” images. I will blog about them next. Thanks for reading.