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10 Things Las Vegas Must Do to "Recover"

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1) Restore Gambling to 1999 Levels

It is unfathomable to me that a city which built itself upon gaming would go to such great lengths to kill the goose which laid the golden egg.  Be it with 6:5 Blackjack or shortpay Video Poker, Las Vegas is turning off more and more of its core constituency.

It is my unwavering opinion that Las Vegas cannot, and will not make a recovery or "comeback", until gaming is put back to where it once was.

The city thrived during the era of $10 3:2 Blackjack, and the notion that it could not do so again is only embraced by beancounters who are squeezing every last penny out of the customer in order to please their corporate masters.

6:5 can stay, or Vegas can recover.

I seriously doubt that both can happen.

2) Legalize Prostitution

Half of the people in the world already think prostitution is legal in Las Vegas, and this myth is what helps us prop up our bullshit "Sin City" image.  When people learn that not only is prostitution illegal, but so are fully nude strip clubs, they feel had.  Lied to.  Duped.  Led astray.  Bamboozled.  

It's hard to blame them.  It's patently ridiculous.

As I type this, massage parlors are being raided and shut down for prostitution, and the world's worst newspaper periodically plasters the faces of prostitutes on its pages in an effort to ridicule them with public shaming.  It's as though everyone has forgotten the image that Las Vegas sells to the public.

If you are going to call yourself "Sin City", be Sin City.

Casinos alone do not sin make.

3) Legalize Drugs

For years, Las Vegas has held itself out to be some kind of Libertarian utopia, but like most things Las Vegas ... it is mostly myth.

Like prostitution; marijuana, cocaine, and most any other drug is illegal in Nevada.

That being said, there is a glimmer of hope. 

Marijuana is somewhat "decriminalized" in Nevada, which means that simple possession is punished by a fine rather than imprisonment, but outright legalization, and especially legal sales could really be a boon for tourism.

There is a reason that Amsterdam is a hotbed for young douchebags with more money than brains, and that reason is the legal sale of marijuana (and in some cases, other drugs).  About 12 million Americans smoke pot each year, and if most of those twelve million people could smoke it legally, they probably would.

Why not let them do that here?

It is not just marijuana, though.  I think Las Vegas should legalize all drugs, but I suppose this is a case where baby steps are needed.  I'm not sure that Americans will ever be comfortable with comped eightballs.

People watch movies about Las Vegas, see images of tiger theft and Roofilyn binges, then arrive to find a corporate police state where they really can't do much more than drink beer and slap buttons on a Video Poker machine.  This is no doubt a big disappointment for some.

Again, I shall repeat, if you are going to call yourself Sin City ... don't half-ass it ... be Sin City.

4) Build a Viable Transit System

Counting hotel occupants as "residents", the Las Vegas Strip is the most densely populated "city" in the United States.  Chicago has 12,000 residents per square mile, while the Vegas Strip has 12,000 residents per square block.  The problem is, we have one main vehicular road to service this population. 

Some people claim not to mind sitting in gridlock in Las Vegas, but I think that these people are a vocal minority.  It's interesting to sit in traffic on the Vegas Strip once.  Maybe twice.  Maybe even three, four, or five times.  If you still enjoy it after that, then you are too easily amused.  Try Disneyland instead.

Even if you used to enjoy the ritual of cruising The Boulevard, the Las Vegas Strip isn't all that attractive anymore.  Lots of ugly gaps and office building casinos mean that the once-picturesque Strip is no longer worth the 30-90 minutes it takes to traverse via vehicle anymore.  We do have a few alternate routes, but more often than not, those are also jammed.

Unless Vegas gets a non-surface transit option such as a subway or usable monorail, transit problems will remain a barrier to future growth and prosperity. 

5) End Slavery

I know many people who work in our local casinos, and I am horrified by some of the stories I hear.  

Abuse by bosses, living in constant fear of being terminated, extortion -- make no mistake about it -- indentured servitude is alive and well in Dirt City, and the ability to "if you don't like it leave" no longer exists with so many people living paycheck-to-paycheck.  Even if employees bust their ass, this is no guarantee of ongoing employment.

The corporations that own Las Vegas have become addicted to cheap labor, but when it comes to labor ... you generally get what you pay for (with the notable exception of R&R Partners).  As of right now the casinos have no loyalty to the city, only to shareholders.  

Since shareholders do not work the front lines in Vegas, this is a problem.

I've been living/coming here for over a decade, and I have never seen employee morale so low.  People are afraid of unemployment, they despise their supervisors, and they can barely make ends meet.  Throw in tip-stealing by greedy billionaire bosses, and you have the perfect recipe for people who hate their jobs, but do them just so they and their familes don't starve.  Employees who hate their jobs do the bare minimum to get paid.  

Such a system has no place in a service-oriented town like Las Vegas.  If the corporate casinos don't take care of their employees, the employees will not take care of the casinos, nor will they take care of the customers.

If the customer is not taken care of, the customer stops coming.  Period.

6) Bring Back Themes

Nobody wants to gamble at their local office park, and that is what Las Vegas is beginning to look like.  While the metrosexual crowd should be catered to, average people on vacation like themes. 

Yes, they are tacky, yes they are silly, yes they seem ridiculous, but Vegas boomed while offering themes, and we need to stop fighting it and just embrace them.

7) Eliminate Junk Fees

Bad news travels faster than good news.  It always has and it always will.  Once people arrive at their hotel and are whacked with a junk fee, they pay it, but they also remember it.  It feels scammy.  They tell their friends, they tell the Internet, and before you know it ... people are criticizing the fees.

It's not only "resort fees", however.  I think ATM fees should be eaten by the house.  Putting a barrier between a gambler and his cash on the casino floor is beyond stupid.  Just like free drinks, comp the fees, and people will withdraw more money.  This should be painfully obvious to anyone without an MBA.

8) Diversify Ownership

Harrah's and MGM/Mirage are going to kill Las Vegas.  If you don't believe me now, you will believe me later.

Large corporations don't do vice well, and the more properties they gobble, the less competitive the town will become.  Less competition means creative stagnation, fewer choices for both employees and tourists, and more of the same nonsense that got us into this mess.

The executives will always make their salaries, and once they have milked Las Vegas dry, they will take their golden parachutes and land in their retirement homes far outside the Las Vegas city limits.

Las Vegas needs aggressive competition to survive.  Without this, the downward spiral will continue.

9) Build a Free Wi-Fi Network

A gigantic Wi-Fi hotspot covering both Downtown and the Las Vegas Strip would be a huge benefit, and it would market itself.  There is no stronger marketing tool than the Internet, and with a hotspot, you would have people Twatting, Facebooking, and posting pictures live from Las Vegas in droves 24/7/365.  It would create a synergy, a buzz, and a word of mouth.  

When people are deciding where to take their trips, "well, Las Vegas has free Wi-Fi everywhere" would be a tie-breaker, and I also think people would be willing to pay a little more for rooms because of it.  It would also show that Las Vegas is serious about moving into the 21st Century. 

Those of us who have enjoyed Vegas for the last 10-20 years don't fully "get it".  The generation behind us were born into the Internet.  It's as integral to their everyday life as TV and Radio was to ours.  To them, traveling to a place without Wi-Fi is like traveling to a place without TV reception. 

Future-proofing Las Vegas with free, ubiquitous Internet connectivity just makes sense.

Who would pay for this network?

Well, I know $80 million in public money which is currently being squandered, which brings me to ...

10) Replace the LVCVA

This group scored a home run with "What Happens Here Stays Here", and they have been riding this one-trick pony ever since.  The problem is, one good marketing campaign per decade simply is not enough. 

Though you wouldn't know it by watching R&R Partners and the LVCVA, there are creative people in the world.  I swear they exist.  At some point, we need to begin investing in those people.  

Come on guys, "Camp Vegas"?  It doesn't even make any sense.  

Let's use the competitive marketplace to hire ad companies on a per-campaign basis, and have them compete for the contracts.

We'll get better ideas.  I guarantee it.

It's time to bring Vegas back, and it's time to start thinking a little more aggressively about how to do that.

This list is a start.

Read: Prelude to a Recovery


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