Las Vegas: Gambling Paradise or Entertainment Capital?

Ok. I am getting a little tired of the back-and-forth.

The reports that show that Las Vegas is rebounding because they are focusing on entertainment, which is what the younger crowd wants. The hipsters from Los Angeles don't want to gamble, the experts say. They want to shop and go to clubs and eat at fancy restaurants.

Then there are the numbers. Gaming revenues continue to increase.

So hotel/casino execs have to figure out what to do. If they want a younger, cool crowd, they de-emphasize slots and tables. They focus on famous chefs and build mini shopping malls. They stick them on the casino floor and move out the gaming. But then again, they make a pretty good living off of those one-armed bandits and double-zero roulette tables.

What results is an awkward layout that doesn't really work. The spaces that were designed for casino games on the main floor are re-purposed. Coffee shops and retail stores suddenly pop up out of nowhere. Most Strip properties are in constant flux. Walk through any of them and I guarantee that you'll some some maintenance folks building something or tearing down something else.

Times change. I get that. What worked 10 or even 5 years ago may not work now. After the recession seven years ago, many wondered if Las Vegas could rebound. Major Strip projects stalled or came to a complete halt. The good times were over. The high-roller mansions behind the casinos, were not getting much business. Like a cat with infinite lives, Las Vegas came back again.

Many suggest it was because of the entertainment value, not the gaming revenue, that kept Vegas alive. Maybe. But there is still the lure of the casino. Even if visitors aren't paying as much attention to gaming as they used to, I have to wonder if they would visit at all if there were not any casinos. I have to think not. I know I probably wouldn't.

So if casino games of chance mean anything at all, I have to think that the execs would want to offer the best, especially considering that competition is high because gambling is all of the U.S. now. But Las Vegas is special. It has the combination of top-notch entertainment, four-star restaurants, amazing spas, nutty wedding chapels, clubs galore, shops till you drop, and yes, casino gambling. Las Vegas has turned up the entertainment value to draw people in, and that's great news. But it can't deny that gambling is part of the equation. And with that being said, it's time to re-vamp the casino, much like it has re-invented its entertainment venues.

I'm taking this opportunity to ask the powers that be to please, please take a close look at what you are offering in terms of slots, video poker and table games. They are getting crummier, and the spaces dedicated to them are not as appealing as they used to be. Offer some appealing games with decent player rules. Make the surrounding areas comfortable and easy to access. Have some fun with it! After all, most of us know that we're not going to strike it rich playing $5 craps and $10 blackjack. But we want to be entertained inside the casino as much as we are outside of it.

There are still some great places to gamble. During the week (daytime), you might even be able to afford to sit at a table at the Wynn, Encore, Bellagio, and TI. At night and on the weekends, it's a different story. Table minimums go up, the few decent ones are packed, the bad ones are empty, and it takes a solid week to get a drink from a cocktail waitress. Not fun.

Wouldn't it make more sense to re-think the casino operation? It wouldn't' take much, really. Spice them up with fun surroundings. Make sure dealers smile and joke with guests. Have your pit bosses and floor managers watch them carefully. I don't just mean the action at the tables, I mean the empty ones. Change that $25 table to a $15 table and see if some of those seats fill up. Once they are jammed packed, you can raise the minimums for new players.

Las Vegas, you do a fantastic job entertaining us. I love your bright lights on the Strip. I enjoy your block party and light show on Fremont Street. You have everything a major city could possibly offer. And don't forget, you have casino gambling.

Balance. It's not just good for life. It's good for Las Vegas.