The Las Vegas Strip of the Future – Vegas Seven

I have a big feature in this week’s Vegas Seven: The Las Vegas Strip of the Future. Fittingly, I approached the future by taking in the past:

Looking at how the Las Vegas Strip has evolved over the past 60 years can give us an idea of where it is headed. We’ll survey what’s popular in three facets—gambling, entertainment and nightlife—by decade to give us a feel for how the landscape will continue to transform over the next 10 years.

Times change. Tastes change. So Las Vegas changes.

Read more: The Las Vegas Strip of the Future – Vegas Seven

Traveling back through time by immersing myself in the back issues of local magazine was, as always, an amazing journey. It was such a different place in so many ways. Anyway, I hope you like this walk from memory lane to the near-future.

Esports Draw an Audience – Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I reflect back on EVO 2017, which I attended a while back:

Which brings us to EVO 2017, which took place at the Mandalay Bay last month. EVO is short for the Evolution Championship Series, an annual tournament that seeks to crown the best players in several fighting video games, one of many popular genres of esports. This isn’t the first time the tournament has been held in Las Vegas—it’s been here since 2005.

Read more: Esports Draw an Audience More Interested In Fun Than Payouts – Vegas Seven

If you don’t know anything about the tournament, it features fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken. Esports in Las Vegas are interesting to me because they show (I think) how esports are becoming more mainstream and (simultaneously) how Las Vegas continues to adapt to a post-gambling-monopoly existence. People come to Las Vegas to do many things, and gambling seems to be sliding further down the list.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing; I’m just saying it’s happening.

The Circus Is Coming Back to Town – Vegas Seven

Who doesn’t like a circus? Besides the people who stopped going to circuses because they don’t like circuses? In my latest Green Felt Journal, I explore the links between the circus and Las Vegas entertainment:

The latest incarnation of the circus to hit Las Vegas is Circus 1903, which will be performing at Paris Las Vegas beginning later this month. What makes the arrival of Circus 1903 interesting is that, nationally, circuses are at a low ebb. This May, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus held its final performance. After nearly 150 years, the “Greatest Show on Earth” ended. Shifting tastes, particularly growing concern over the plight of circus animals, led to the circus’ American decline.

Read more: The Circus Is Coming Back to Town – Vegas Seven\

Of course, the circus never really left, but that wouldn’t make a good headline. And I just realized I used “circus” five times in that paragraph alone, and that’s not even the one I mentioned Circus Circus in.

Someday, we may even seen a show based on Charles Mingus’s “The Clown:”

Or maybe not.

Visiting the Island at UNLV Special Collections

The last of my trilogy of Tropicana birthday/anniversary pieces is this blog post from UNLV Special Collections that looks at a different era of the Strip mainstay that is celebrating its 60th:

For research into the Tropicana, one of the best resources is the Tropicana Promotional and Publicity Material Collection, nine boxes of press clippings, press releases, newsletters, and assorted other ephemera that document the Tropicana’s history. While the earliest documents date from 1969, the majority of the collection is comprised of materials generated during Ira David Sternberg’s tenure as director of advertising and public relations in the 1990s.

Read more: Special Collections | University Libraries

The Promotional and Publicity Materials collections for the Tropicana and other casinos are incredibly useful to those interested in reconstructing the past of Las Vegas–I have gotten many insights from those materials that have made it into my articles and books. And I have good news: if you are an academic researcher, Eadington Fellowships are available to defray the costs of a research trip to Las Vegas to use these–and other–collections at UNLV.

The Tiffany of the Strip – Vegas Seven

In this week’s Vegas Seven, I take a six-decade look back at the Tropicana, which celebrates its 60th birthday next week:

However, a piece of paper police officers discovered in Costello’s pocket while he was at Roosevelt Hospital was more eloquent. “Gross casino wins as of 4-26-57,” it read. “$651,284. Casino wins less markers $434,595.00. Slot wins $62,844,” followed by a list of amounts paid to “Mike,” “Jake,” “L.” and “H.” Investigators later determined that, over its first 24 days of operation, Las Vegas’ new Tropicana casino had earned … exactly $651,284. For the next 60 years, the Tropicana would be home to some of Nevada’s most respected gaming executives, a massive skimming operation, a purloined fortune and corporate buyouts. If any single property reveals the many facets of the Las Vegas casino business, it might be the Tropicana.

Source: The Tiffany of the Strip – Vegas Seven

The Tropicana has an incredible history–its’s right up there with Caesars and the Flamingo in terms of notoriety and impact.

But no other casino has a video as cool as “A Musical Tour of the Island.” That video makes me wish I had a time machine so I could go back in time and stay at the Tropicana. Because “on the island, the action is hot 24 hours a day.”

Seven Year Switch: How Las Vegas Hospitality Has Changed – Vegas Seven

Not to fear. Yes, I talked about the past seven years of casinos in Vegas Seven this week. Yes, I began with a scenario from the book of Exodus. But no, I have not abandoned talking about gambling for a career in Biblical exegesis. This was just my way of trying to think more deeply about what the last seven years mean:

…this hasn’t turned into a soul-seeking tract. I only want to remind you how deep the idea of economic cycles runs in us. We understand that there will be good years and bad years, and that if we fail to plan ahead, the bad years will be tragic. If Biblical wisdom doesn’t do that for you, next time I’ll talk about Kondratiev waves.

Read on: Seven Year Switch: How Las Vegas Hospitality Has Changed – Vegas Seven

So it all seems good, but I’m not content to say “the Recession is over!” and leave it at that. As I discuss towards the end of the article, there is some evidence building that more fees has slowed or even halted revenue growth in other areas. It’s not a concern this quarter, but someday, it might be.

Howard Hughes: Neon Ozymandias in Vegas Seven

This week in Vegas Seven, I took a different look at Howard Hughes in Las Vegas. The story has been told plenty of times by lots of other people and even me (I first wrote about Hughes in Las Vegas in my dissertation back in 1999) but with the 50th anniversary of his arrival, I wanted to do something for Seven.

My challenge was telling the Hughes story in a way that was creative enough to keep people reading but also took advantage of the only asset I have as  a writer: the perspective of time. I wasn’t going to be able to interview Hughes or Maheu or other people with first-hand knowledge.

So I thought of Hughes as being like Ozymandias. I’m happy to confess that I only know about the Shelley poem from Watchmen, which is still one of the best things I’ve ever read.

The main piece is called Neon Ozymmandias, and it gives an account, in three acts, of Hughes’ arrival, empire-building, and departure from Las Vegas:

That was how Hughes found himself in a sealed sleeper car, steaming past the cities and through the prairies of America. The man who once set air-speed records now watched the landscape slowly peel away.

Read more: Howard Hughes: Neon Ozymandias – Vegas Seven

My theme was that Hughes’ power, as mighty as it was in his time, was fleeting. Like Ozymandias’s kingdom, nothing of it now remains.

I also wrote two sidebars:

Boundless and Bare: The Hughes Casino Empire details what he bought, a highlight or two, when his company sold it, and its final fate.

The Atomic Horror is my brief recap of Hughes’ frantic campaign against the Boxcar nuclear test.

I enjoyed approaching Hughes from a different angle and taking a different approach than straight-up history. I aspire to do more like this.

A Look Back at Caesars Palace in Vegas Seven

In this week’s Vegas Seven, I’ve got a cover feature on the 50 years of Caesars Palace:

Caesars Palace has always been more than the sum of its parts. Yes, it’s just a place where people pay for rooms, eat dinner, watch shows and gamble. But there remains something compelling about the property. It may no longer be the highest-grossing on the Strip, and as of 2016 it still isn’t the oldest, but it might just be the most successful.

Read more : An Empire Like No Other – Vegas Seven

I also have two sidebars connected with the story:

Modern-Day Gladiators about fight nights at Caesars Palace.

The Birth of a Brand about how Caesars became a marketing juggernaut.

The Long, Hot Summer of ’55 | Vegas Seven

 

In this week’s Vegas Seven, I have a cover story on the frustrating summer of 1955–a year that has plenty to teach Las Vegas 2015:

Lanza’s no-show aside, opening night at the New Frontier was regarded as a success. One of the Strip’s first resorts had reinvented itself for the Atomic Age, bigger and better. It whet the appetite for what was to come.

Source: The Long, Hot Summer of ’55 | Vegas Seven

This was a story that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. Thanks to Matt Jacob and Greg Miller I have.

First, it’s got the story behind the openings (and subsequent struggles) of the New Frontier, Royal Nevada, Riviera, Dunes, and Moulin Rouge. It also talks about lesser-known failures like the Desert Spa.

For today’s readers who are interested in more than “just history,” 1955 has clear parallels to the recession, and the pivot Las Vegas did in the years after 1955–chiefly, moving towards conventions and investing significantly in them–has lessons for today.

Why Las Vegas’ Gaming Revenue Decrease Is Not a Bad Thing | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I talk about why the fall in gaming revenue doesn’t matter as much as it would have a few years back:

Once upon a time, an annual drop in Nevada’s gaming revenue was greeted with the same reaction of denial, fear and panic that might accompany the diagnosis of a terminal disease. In the natural order of the past several decades, Nevada casinos are supposed to win more every year than the last—and that’s usually how it went. So it’s noteworthy that Nevada’s casinos won less in 2014 than they did in 2013. But here’s what’s more telling: Nobody seems to care, and for good reason.

via Why Las Vegas’ Gaming Revenue Decrease Is Not a Bad Thing | Vegas Seven.

We’ve known that the Strip isn’t all about gambling for a long time, but I thought those numbers really illustrated why.