The End of Viva Las Vegas?

Las Vegas’ fall from grace and the city’s relinquishing of its position as the number one international gambling location has been increasingly discussed by the media since the turn of the decade. In 2015, the decline of Las Vegas’ iconic Strip has been put into even harsher perspective. In a report published on Forbes.com, the online version of the USA’s leading business magazine, it was revealed that gaming revenues have dropped for the fourth consecutive month in Las Vegas. Whilst state-wide gambling revenues were up 0.4 percent (now standing at $876 million), the Strip had a decline of 4% over the same period. The biggest casualty of this overall revenue drop was the 8% fall of table games revenues. But how did this happen?

The fall of Las Vegas can be symbolised by the James Bond blockbuster Skyfall. Las Vegas had last featured in the influential franchise during Sean Connery’s final outing, Diamonds are Forever. Back then, Las Vegas was seen as an edgy and gritty equivalent to the old-school class of Monte Carlo’s casino scene, but with the same respectability and luxury. However, whilst Monte Carlo still got the Bond stamp of approval in 1995’s Goldeneyeand 2006’s Casino Royale, when Bond next returned to the casino it was Macau, rather than Las Vegas, that got the call. As superficial as it may seem, the Bond series moving on to a newer casino city was indicative of how Las Vegas’ reputation had changed. More precisely, it is a reflection of how it is no longer seen as a hotspot for jet-setting gamblers.
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Las Vegas has transformed itself since the 1960s into an all-around holiday destination and one which caters for the general public rather than the elite. It is now a popular location for bachelor parties and features pop music acts and other forms of entertainment. Whilst this initially saw a rise and diversifying of its visitors, it also diluted Las Vegas’ position as an exclusive gambling location. By the end of the 1990s, Las Vegas was welcoming more families, Hen Parties and backpackers than it was businessmen, royalty or diplomats. It had become a destination for casual, rather than serious, gamblers.

Therefore, when the online casino boom happened in the early 2000s, Las Vegas saw a massive hit to its gambling revenue, if not its tourist intake. Ultimately, people who now go to Las Vegas are likely to spend the rest of the year on online casinos anyway and, as they are not committed or seasoned gamblers, are unlikely to spend big bucks. Moreover, if this audience is not intrigued by the shows or entertainment on other, they might not even bother to go to Las Vegas at all. They could prefer instead to go to some other exotic location with a larger variety of activities on offer and just play on an online casino from the comfort of their hotel room.

Unlike Macau or Monte Carlo, which have remained pure gambling locations and maintained an exclusive clientele, Las Vegas is simply too garish and touristy now to appeal to the hardcode gamblers who prefer the glitz and glamour of a land-based casino to the ease and accessibility of the online casino. Ultimately, Las Vegas picked the wrong audience and was not prepared for the change of terrain created by the rise of online gambling. Therefore, as is already happening, it seems that Las Vegas will have no choice but to cut its loses, cash its chips, and transform itself further into an all-round entertainment destination.