Las Vegas Bets on Shops, Glamour to Lure Tourists
Byline: Gail Todd
I recently heard Las Vegas casino owners no longer depend on gambling to pay for their children's shoes. Instead of blowing their wad at the blackjack tables, visitors are dropping big bucks at shows like Cirque du Soleil and maxing out their credit cards at four-star restaurants or glitzy, Rodeo Drive-type shops.
Las Vegas ain't what it used to be.
You can even see it at the airport. While the slot machines still clink and light up on every concourse, it's the shops that seem to lure passengers the most. Cash registers at airport stores, owned by the casinos, have become the modern one-armed bandits, racking up last-chance purchases of togas from Caesars Palace or magic tricks from Circus Circus.
During the old days of glory, casinos sponsored junkets that regularly flew high rollers into the city free of charge. They would charter flights on major airlines to bring gamblers west.
Jovial passengers, eager to make a killing at the tables, flew into Las Vegas on Friday-night flights. Zombies, who were killed at the tables, flew out of Las Vegas on Sunday-night flights.
The gambling made people crazy. One man, who was flying from Detroit to San Diego to visit a daughter who was in intensive care after a serious car accident, had a plane change in Las Vegas.
While waiting for his next flight, he dropped a few coins in an airport slot machine and never made his flight to see his daughter. She survived. He didn't. He gave up his job as a college professor and died as a Las Vegas dealer a few years later.
During the old Las Vegas days, casinos literally gave away the store just to get you in the door.
Stand near a craps table and a waitress would offer you a drink. Go into the restaurant and they practically gave the food to you. Big-name entertainers performed in free lounge shows. Dinner shows featuring top entertainers were often complimentary to hotel guests.
After earning my wings in 1966, I spent my first vacation in Las Vegas. …