By Jerry Schafer
Las Vegas hotel-casino properties no longer rely on gaming revenues to
provide the bulk of their profits.
To be sure, gaming revenues are part of the revenues collected;
however, for a multitude of reasons, the main lure to Las Vegas is no
longer the casinos.
In the past — prior to the advent of corporate mentality becoming the
way of doing business in a Las Vegas hotel-casino operation; prior to
the IRS moving in on the gaming industry, imposing their rules and
regulations; prior to more and more Las Vegas hotel-casinos being
built bigger and better than their competition; prior to more gaming
taking place throughout the USA in Indian casino operations; prior to
more foreign gaming attractions; and prior to the change from Las
Vegas being known as an adult playground to becoming a family-oriented
vacation place — Las Vegas casinos were the backbone of every hotel
operation in the city.
The twenty-first century has found Las Vegas hotels adding nightclubs,
bowling alleys, movie theaters and other attractions to their
properties, together with a variety of shops and stores, a multitude
of restaurants, world-class swimming pools and other attractions that
attract potential players away from the casinos.
As far as entertainment is concerned, that too — compared to the
showroom attractions that were found on the Las Vegas Strip and in
downtown Las Vegas back in the ’50s and ’60s — has become, for the
most part, a second-class series of attractions.
Las Vegas was dubbed the Entertainment Capital of the World back in
the 1960s because Las Vegas hotels presented a multitude of “stars”
who appeared in many Las Vegas hotels simultaneously.
It was commonplace to find Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Liberace, Elvis
Presley and other famous stars, all appearing at the same time in
different hotels. Tourists were dazzled by the menu of first-class
entertainment offered throughout the city.
Hotels that weren’t on what was known as the ‘star policy’ presented
lavish musical variety shows with topless showgirls clad in expensive
feathers and rhinestones and eye-dazzling headpieces. The sets were
amazing moving objects complete with rain curtains and sets that took
audiences into visual adaptations of things like earthquakes right on
Together with this were the beautiful, expensive and sexy costumes
worn by the chorus of dancers and singers; and added to this was the
presentation of world-class variety acts, backed by large live
Corporate mentality caused these wonderful crowd-pleasing shows to
disappear and become a thing of the past.
No longer would Las Vegas hotels present dinner shows in their main showrooms.
No longer would Las Vegas hotel showrooms use live orchestras as the
new breed discovered that they could get by using ‘canned’ music, a
much cheaper way to operate.
No longer would hotel-casinos finance the production of the shows
taking place in their showrooms. Four-walling to independent producers
became the order of the day.
Independent producers would sign agreements based on criteria that
included showroom attendance, wherein the producer would be
responsible for all costs related to the presentation of the shows…
the cast, stagehands, lighting and sound and every other cost,
If the showroom maintained a minimum of 50 percent capacity at each
performance, the show would be allowed to run indefinitely. If,
however, showroom attendance fell below the 50 percent mark, the
producer was given a two-week notice and would be replaced by a
different producer who was waiting in the wings ready to present ‘his’
Las Vegas hotel lounges were closed.
Like dinner shows, lounge shows became a thing of the past, even
though back in the ’50s and ’60s, Las Vegas lounge shows were packed
to capacity and presented many famous star attractions and variety
acts. It was common knowledge in all Las Vegas casinos that their
lounges added lots of revenue to their casino operations. Nonetheless,
corporate mentality dictated the closure of the lounges.
Today, many independent producers present shows in Las Vegas hotel
showrooms that consist of look-alike shows, magic shows and
inexpensive versions of musical variety shows using canned music
rather than using live orchestras.
As I’ve said, Las Vegas hotels operating in the twenty-first century
find that offering tourists a variety of ‘things to do’ inside their
hotels, such as bowling, movies, a variety of shops and stores, lots
of restaurant choices, and what seems to be becoming their main
attractions — nightclubs — seems to be the way to go.
Corporate mentality has reasoned that collecting rent revenues from
restaurant operators like McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food
operations found today in most Las Vegas hotels, together with
collecting rent from other restaurant operations located inside the
hotel, added to collecting rent and sometimes a piece of the action
too, from a variety of shops and stores doing business on their hotel
property, are in themselves the way to create revenues that provide
yearly profits — not taking into account the hotel casino which, as
I’ve said, was formally the backbone of all Las Vegas hotel
While some may say this is progress, I say that it’s only a question
of time until the past will catch up with Las Vegas and turn it into a
Of course, this is a thought that to most is unthinkable and unimaginable.
I say we can only learn from our past. What worked before — things
that made Las Vegas become known worldwide — is no longer part of the
equation. Today, the competition is different and more compelling.
Big-time players no longer gamble in Las Vegas; the IRS has caused
that to become a reality. Today, whales (big money gamblers) prefer to
gamble in Macau or Singapore, or in other casino operations where
there is no IRS reporting requirement.
Casino operations outside of Las Vegas, including Indian Casino
operations, Atlantic City Casinos, etc., all offer the same kind of
attractions that Las Vegas has to offer. The fact of the matter is, if
you look at the reality of it, Las Vegas’ only real attraction today
is her name: LAS VEGAS. But I’m here to tell you that that won’t last
Las Vegas casino operators must return to the thrilling days of
yesteryear — from whence came the sound of silver dollars, star
attractions, live orchestras, beautiful topless showgirls,
multi-million-dollar variety shows, complimentary drinks for all
players… And who wouldn’t want the return of lounge entertainment
and dinner shows and so much more?
If they bring it all back, the city will be uplifted and will have
something to say… something they cannot say today.
Las Vegas should start making a new name for itself today, and that
name could well be The City of Nostalgia.