I had never voluntarily visited Las Vegas, but if my company was willing to pay me to go there, why not?


As our plane eased down to land in Las Vegas, passengers who'd been there before excitedly pointed out landmark hotel/casinos. (Until this trip, I didn't know that "hotel" and "casino" were synonymous.) The Luxor, a black pyramid, was easy to pick out, but many Las Vegas veterans could identify even the non-descript ones.


"Remember that time we won $2800 at Caesar's?"

"Oh, yeah! When was that anyway?"

"Six or seven years ago, I think."

I wondered how much they had lost since then.


Las Vegas isn't subtle.

Even the airport's baggage claim is crowded with slot machines.


As soon as I finished my equipment set-up at the convention center (one of the few public spaces without gambling), I hiked over to The Strip. Again, no mystery about it: just walk toward the tall buildings and freaky "structures."


By structures, I don't just mean the Eiffel Tower and the famous landmarks of New York, although it is freaky to see them just a few blocks away from each other.


The signs for the casinos are also freaky. They aren't what we normally consider signs, so much as structures complete unto themselves, which, almost as an afterthought, identify the casino they stand near.


The Bally's sign features huge video screens that flash, show advertisements, then flash even brighter than before. The sign screams at passersby through huge speakers, heavy on the bass.

You could just stand outside and enjoy the sign, except it promises you that you'll win more often at Bally's than at any other casino.

Of course, that doesn't mean you'll come out ahead; somebody's got to pay for signs like these!


Some casinos don't need signage. The Paris has that Eiffel Tower out front, a universally understood symbol for "You got money?" It's only a half-sized replica of the Tower, but it's still the biggest one that most of us had ever seen. A ride to the top is just $5, so I assume a ride to the top of the real one is $10.


The lion in front of the MGM Grand appears to be larger than life, or else the lions in zoos are dwarfs and zoos have been short-changing us for years.


But you can't just walk around The Strip forever.
Eventually you have to go inside some of these huge buildings and see gambling for yourself.


In my experience, going into one of these places is a gamble in itself. The front door generally leads, not to the hotel lobby or reception desk, but directly into the casino.


Some places use a little misdirection. In that one place, you know, the one with the volcano that goes off every hour? the entrance is a replica of a rainforest, a genuine relief after cruising The Strip for a while. You pass through the rainforest with delight, then suddenly find yourself dumped into the casino. When you back away in horror, you find yourself walking in circles. Somehow all paths in the rainforest lead back to the casino. Being experienced with map and compass, I eventually found my way back to civilization (well, back to The Strip anyway).

In other hotels I wasn't so lucky.


On to Part 2
Back to the Galleries Index
© 2003 NuMoon Creations