I love Las Vegas. In fact, I’m heading there again with my groomsmen tomorrow for a long weekend of male bonding time. This will be my 10th trip to Vegas in my 13 years of being “of age”. In that time, I’ve seen a lot of things come and go down there. One thing you can be sure of, is that every time you go, it will be different. There will be new and amazing sites and old familiar ones will be gone. It’s just the way Las Vegas is.
There have been changes in Las Vegas that have been for the better, but there are also ones that have been for the worse (at least in my eyes). And, in honor of my trip this weekend, I would like to detail some of these out for you.
First the changes that I really like, in no particular order.
1. Touchless Bathrooms
This is a big one for me. In nearly all the casinos now all of the bathrooms are touchless. No doors to open. No handles to flush. No faucets to turn on. Even the soap dispensers squeeze out soap without having to touch a thing. Just wave your and and voila, your paper towel is provided to you. See, when it comes to bathrooms, nothing grosses me out more than people that don’t wash their hands. Ugh. I am one of those people who use the paper towel to open the door in public bathrooms. I mean, the sheer number of guys who just traipse out the door after holding their junk is appalling. But, Vegas has got that all squared away. Of course, those same dirty schmucks who didn’t wash their hands are now touching the same cards and chips I am, but at least I can fool myself into thinking that those are fine.
2. HD TV
In the rooms. Flat panel HD TV. Now, I know you don’t go to Vegas to hang out in your room, but that being said, when you’ve got a nice TV at home that you are used to watching, then you go to a hotel that is far swankier than your house, shouldn’t the TV be as least as nice as what you’ve got at home? That only seems to make sense to me. Plus, when you are trying to catch up on a sporting event while you’re getting ready to hit the tables again, shouldn’t you be able to watch in HD? (This is a function of my thought that all televised sports should be in HD at all times, no exceptions. But that is a different post).
3. HD Displays
Speaking of HD TVs in the rooms, this is an extension of that. The sheer number of HD displays of all kinds has exploded in Vegas, and it is a wonderful thing. There are gigantic HD displays on the signs of the hotels along the strip. There are HD displays in hallways, in the airport, everywhere. It is fantastic. Especially when compared to the old style displays they used to use for their huge signs (the hundreds of little lights method). Of course, there appears to be an arms race happening to get bigger and better HD displays everywhere, and I think that is a good thing.
4. More Music
Years ago, there was very little music on the gambling floor. The only sounds you heard were the slot machines chiming along and the shouting from the craps pits. Then, one evening George and I were gambling in the MGM Grand and they kept playing freaking commercials for their upcoming acts. I mean on a never ending loop. Yes, we know Carrot Top is coming, can you PLEASE stop playing that damn commercial!? That was the last straw. The next day, we decided to venture off strip to the Hard Rock, and it was so refreshing to actually hear real music while we were gambling! We ended up playing Pai Gow there for about 6 hours. And had dinner there after.
Now, however, it appears that other casinos have finally figured that out. The last time I was in Vegas, it was nice to hear music in just about every casino. I played for a few hours at NYNY and it was a joy. Yes, gambling is more fun and you even feel luckier when a song you really like comes on. How could it have taken the casinos this long to figure that out? Amazing.
Of course, for every positive advance Vegas has made, they have, in my eyes, taken some backward steps as well. Some of these are through no particular fault of anyone, but they’re negatives anyway.
1. Time Shares
Holy shit. Everywhere you turn, you’ve got people accosting you to buy a time share. It is absolutely HORRIBLE. On the street is one thing, but now the hotels are getting into the act. One time a couple years ago, I got suckered into talking to these people as I was checking in. I didn’t realize it was a time share until after they had roped us in. They were offering free show tickets, so I thought it was some promotion the hotel was running. Needless to say, once I found out what it really was, I wasn’t pleased. From then on, the next couple trips the numbers of outfits pushing time shares has grown exponentially. Now, when you’re walking anywhere you are afraid to make eye contact with anyone because you don’t want to give them an opening to talk to you about their shit. It’s like walking through the midway at your county fair with the carnies shouting at you to play their bullshit games, except like 100x worse. Ugh, it totally sucks.
Vegas hotels are now all about their dance clubs. Having the swankest, hippest, most exclusive, etc etc etc. Frankly, I don’t care. Vegas is for gambling, drinking, and dining, in that order. Not clubbing. I’ve never been into clubs. I just don’t find it fun to be in a place where the music is so loud you can’t hear anyone you’re with, pay $20 to get in and pay $14 for a vodka tonic. That is just not fun for me. Although I will admit when Jess and I were down there last fall for her conference, some of her fellow coworkers dragged us to Studio 54. I had had enough to drink that evening prior to, that I didn’t totally hate it. But, still, the advertising for all these clubs is the same and shoved down your throat at every turn.
3. Shopping Malls
Back when I first started hitting Vegas, Caesar’s was the only place with a legit shopping mall. It was cool. Lots of high end stores (Gucci, Tiffany, etc) and it was a unique draw. Well, it ain’t so unique any more. Just about every single hotel-casino has a shopping mall now. They all have the same dozen stores. They all look exactly the same. Besides, I’m not one of those people who go on a vacation to buy a bunch of crap. I can buy crap at home or online. I travel for the experience. Buying shit in a department store you have at home is NOT an experience. Not to mention, you gotta lug or ship all that crap home anyway. But, if they didn’t make money, they wouldn’t have them, I suppose.
4. Coinless Slot Machines
I’m not much of a slot player. I always saw it as a very fast and not very fun way to lose a bunch of money. However, I have played slots before and probably will again. Now, however, Vegas doesn’t want your spare change. See, you can’t even walk up to a machine and put a quarter in. There are no coin slots at all. They only take dollar bills. Not only that, but they don’t pay out in coins either. So long to the metallic *clunk* *clank* of your falling quarters when you do win something. Instead, they just print out a voucher that you take to the cashier to claim your money. It’s simply not as interactive as it used to be. There is no tactile feel to winning. I mean, what was better than scooping out all those quarters until your bucket was so heavy you couldn’t hardly lift it? Not to mention, that if you have a pocket full of spare change, it is virtually worthless. Say you’re waiting for someone to use the fancy new touchless bathroom. You can’t kill time by plunking your quarters into the nearest machine. That just sucks, in my opinion.
5. Show Prices
This one is an easy one. I’ve been to Vegas going on 10 times, yet I have NEVER seen one of the big strip shows. Never seen a Cirque d Soleil. Never seen Blue Man Group. Sure, a lot of these shows sound cool, and I would probably enjoy the hell out of them. But, I am very hard pressed to pay $145 a ticket to do so. Even though I make pretty good money, that just seems exorbitant to me. I can’t get myself to do it. Apparently, I’m in the minority here as those shows are all wildly popular and always full. *shrug*
6. The Skyline
Back in the day, when you flew into Vegas, you got that great shot of the skyline. You could pick out every hotel along the strip. You heart raced just a bit faster with excitement. “Look! There’s Caesars! There’s New York New York! ”
Now, the skyline is radically different. Sure, the casinos are all still there obviously. But Las Vegas has seen a real building boom unrelated to the hotels. These are the condo high-rises that border all of the hotels. I’m assuming these are what all those time share bastards are hawking. The nondescript buildings just muck up that beautiful strip and make it difficult to see the hotels. Now, I know, this is a small petty annoyance that probably only affects me, but it still kinda stinks. But, I suppose that is the price of progress. I just don’t have to like it.
7. “Themeless” Casinos
Used to be, when they put up a new hotel-casino, you were excited to see what the theme was going to be. Ooo… this one is a medieval theme. Wow, ‘Paris’ in Las Vegas? Cool! Even MGM Grand which was much like a gambling warehouse, had the ‘classic hollywood’ theme. Well, those days are apparently gone. For all the recent additions to the strip all have the same “theme”. That would be “fancy expensive”. That’s it. First brought to the scene by the Bellagio, now you see it everywhere. Mandalay Bay is like that. The Wynn is just like that. The newest addition to the Venetian called the Palazzo is just like it. I’d be willing to bet that Trump’s place will be the same as well. I’m sorry, but that gets boring. When they all look the same inside, what is the motivation to walk the strip and see whats new? Seriously? I was in the Wynn for about 10 minutes before we moseyed on somewhere else. But, you can bet they have shopping malls. *sigh*
8. Building Advertising
Now, I realize that you want to maximize the number of eyeballs that see what you have to offer. I get that. But at the same time, when you put a poster on the side of your building that is as BIG as your building that is just overkill to me. All it does is cover up what the building looks like and detracts from the overall aesthetics of the strip. These things have to be monstrously expensive and even then, they are only temporary and frankly look all crappy and cheap. They get dirty and dusty, maybe torn in places. It just looks low rent. Personally, if you want your entire building to be an advertisement, then go all the way. Cover the entire exterior with an HD display and do some cool shit with it. I could totally get behind that. Kinda like the Freemont Street Experience but on the side of the building. That would be cool as hell. But what I don’t want is a 100 foot tall poster advertising your upcoming Toni Braxton concert.
And with that, we’re off for more Vegas adventures. Check back for the full rundown after the weekend, provided I survive.