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Flying Cash Spotted

Flying Cash Spotted

There was a time when all you needed to enjoy yourself in Las Vegas was gambling money. Heck, I can remember when I could order a mixed drink and not do a Danny Thomas-style “spit-take” when I got the bill.

Somewhere along the way, it became fashionable to show everyone how much money you had, so we started to see “ultra lounges.” This is the same as a regular lounge, except that you get to pay hundreds of dollars for a $30 bottle of booze.

People fork this money over without blinking an eye. It’s the same compulsion that leads one to buy a luxury Humvee. Why do you pay the equivalent of some mortgages for a car that looks like a tool shed on wheels? Is it because you’re worried about all the landmines on I-15? Or is it because you want people to know you have enough money to buy it?

Ultra lounges are the same way. People think nothing of tipping a doorman hundreds, even a thousand bucks. (Pretty soon, people are going to start dropping out of Harvard to become bouncers at Pure.) Greg Jones, one of our editors, complained at our blog site recently (Yes, we have a blog-are we hip, or what?) that bottle and drink prices that would be laughable anywhere outside of an ultra lounge are nonchalantly peeled off wads of bills in these joints. On top of that, people from the guy who brings the ice to the guy who cleans up binge-induced messes have their hands out for tips.

The lounges aren’t the only places where enough money is being thrown around to finance the budget of a Third World country. Restaurants are getting mighty pricey too. It’s so they can pay for the “celebrity chefs.” I’ll make you a deal-I’ll pay $300 for dinner at a celebrity-chef restaurant if you let me pick the celebrity who’s going to make my dinner. I pick… Eric Clapton. Have Clapton fix me a hamburger and I’ll give you $300 for it.

Better yet, get Dawn Welles-Marianne from Gilligan’s Island-to make my dinner. She can cook my dinner and then roll a doobie for dessert. How about Eliot Spitzer as a celebrity chef? A guy with his connections can set me up with after-dinner entertainment to go with the meal. In fact, Eliot would probably make a great ultra-lounge customer. Anyone who would pay $3,000 for a couple of hours with a woman named “Amber” is the perfect modern-day guest for Las Vegas non-gaming amenities.

But I digress.

With all this money being palmed by doormen, ice-bringers, vomit-cleaners and everyone else, one would think Las Vegas was doing great.

Not the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Those folks are worried that tourism is down-so much so, that they introduced the new Las Vegas slogan earlier than planned, hoping to boost business. The new slogan is “Vegas, right now.”

I thought Vegas already had a great slogan with “What happens here, stays here.” This new one smacks of desperation. “Vegas, right now. Please! Right now! For the love of God, come to Las Vegas so we can afford to pay our doormen!”

I can think of a lot of good ways to boost business. How about $4 prime rib? Free shows by bad, has-been comedians? A free bus ride down to Laughlin? Cash-back and comps that are better than your competition?

I know, I know. That’s the old way of doing things, left over from when all you had to do was gamble in the casino, to be treated like royalty by guys with names like Vinnie the Chin and Johnny No-Nose. (For those keeping score, Vinnie the Chin was a real guy. Johnny No-Nose, I made up.)

That dinosaur way of making money with a casino resort no longer cuts it. These days, you’ve got to have the lounges; you’ve got to have the celebrity chefs-Wolfgang Puck, not Eliot Spitzer-and you’ve got to get the word out to the monied classes that you’ve got the hot spot in town to dance, drink, binge, purge and throw your cash around like it was confetti.

There’s plenty of business, and the convention folks don’t need to worry. The general consensus is that the temporary dip in tourism is just that, and that Vegas will be just fine. This was verified just before press time, when Paris Hilton was seen partying at LAX.

She was with her new boyfriend. I think he’s a doorman at Pure.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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