After countless hours I came back from Las Vegas yesterday night. I have been travelling to that city for the last ten or more years, pretty much same time every year. I liked Las Vegas only the first time I went there, each time after that my disappointment with that city grew. Now, I pretty much cannot stand it.
In those years I followed changes Vegas was going through and now I can see that the biggest change is that Vegas has forgotten what made it great all those years ago. People, or to be more exact, visitors. Tourists. We did. We have been treated like customers, pampered, awed and surprised by the attractions Vegas had to offer. Casinos, shows, architecture, rides, clubs – all this was for us to experience and wonder at.
The revenue was mostly coming in from casinos, then from entertainment, hotels and food. Now, casinos lost their top spot in terms of revenue. Food and accommodation took over, which means, that cheap breakfast is the thing of the past. The prices anywhere near the strip have become exorbitant, loosing all relation to value offered. Smart advertising is targeted at convincing us that we are being given the best, when in reality we are being simply squeezed like lemons to get rid of our cash as soon as possible, to be sent home with a bewildered wonderment and a question: did we really had that promised good time? I think that more often than not we are convincing ourselves that yes, we did. But will we come back? Unlikely, if we don’t have to, forced by friends or our jobs.
There is a reason for that rampant robbery under disguise of entertainment. World casino market has become very competitive, and Vegas lost its top spot in terms of being the greatest gambling destination. Macau, Singapore, even the US states offer the same if not better. Vegas reacted not by adding value but in adding more fancy architecture, more casinos, more fantastic shows, which meant more debt and need to get it all back quicker. Casinos switched (at least on machines, the most mass market) to lower payback percentages, taking cash out of our pockets quicker. People lost their gaming budgets quicker and were left to wonder around the strip. So casinos increased prices for the rooms, making them adjustable to demand, and increased prices for food, alcohol, entry fees and all that we need when we are there, even internet access. If we are not playing the tables, we have the worst deal ever in Vegas.
How long can this go on, before the call and fame of Vegas will die? Not very long, for the same reasons I mentioned above. We have other places to go to. Cheaper, better, with friendlier folk and service. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, even though I was there on an expense account. I can only imagine what a “normal” tourist has to feel. For me, Vegas is in the process of committing suicide.