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February 1999 Article

Exclusively Found in the Insider Viewpoint of Las Vegas

“The Good Old Days”
By: Frank Rosenthal

The Good Old Days”, a meta-phor for a missed era gone by or a dissatisfaction for the state of the present. This metaphor seems more and more prevalent on the minds and tongues of the original gaming entrepreneurs who placed Las Vegas on the map as a city that offered the best in entertainment, food, lodging and fun. Many original personalities who built Las Vegas into the “10th Wonder of the World” remain at the helm of their respective companies today.

Las Vegas has emerged as the true “Entertainment Capital of the World”. Every aspect of the city is bigger than imaginable reality. On every corner are 3,000 room hotels, volcanoes exploding, ships emulating battles of the swashbuckling era, animals disappearing and reappearing, magical feats (with the assistance of state-of-the-art visual and computer effects) defying even dreams of Houdini, a pyramid, castles, the facsimile of Vegas has attempted to create its own microcosm of the world of entertainment. Let us take a deep breath and answer the question: “Is Las Vegas of today a better place to visit than a decade or two ago?” In the mind of this writer, they should answer the question based on whether they serve the visitor better today than he or she was before the advent of mega resorts with their many Disneyesque and Fantasia creations . . .

My answer and conclusion are “The Good Old Days” were the glory days of Las Vegas and they treated every visitor to special experience. They lead the visitor today through a breathtaking cornucopia of visual experiences unmatched in any other place in the world. The sensations of visual mastery will never replace the special treatment a person receives when treated in a special manner; a special manner that makes the person, in this case the visitor, feel special.

Las Vegas has lost the unique intrigue, the glamour and ordinary sophistication that made it Las Vegas. How many people leave Las Vegas today and reflect back upon an experience which made them feel like a “very important person” whether they were the subway conductor from New York, the farm foreman from Iowa, the high roller from Chicago, the cattle rancher from Denver or whomever?

People make people feel special by treating them with warmth, courtesy and sense of belonging. People are numerical statistics most of their lives, no matter what levels of achievement they reach. People want to feel good when they go on holiday, and they want to be treated to an experience above and beyond their day-to-day routines.

I believe the visitor today who leaves Las Vegas has been subjected to a unique experience, unfortunately superficial. Who would not like to feel like that proverbial “King or Queen for a Day”? The owners of the hotels and casinos of old, mandated their employees to treat each guest as if they were the owners. Today guests are a statistic to fill a room or a number enabling the company to achieve a bottom-line projection. Perhaps I am too critical, perhaps nostalgia has clouded my objectivity and perhaps I cannot accept that mediocre talent has ridden the tidal wave of an industry so strong that it has made ordinary seamen look like admirals.

An intriguing cast of characters built Las Vegas. These men and women were pioneers where few knew the science and operational aspects of the gaming industry. In the formative days of Las Vegas, survival and hotels were the priorities. The operators of “old” brought the intrigue and charm into their establishments. These casinos were the training grounds that developed a core of seasoned gaming professionals. Those professionals were the true architects of “today’s” Las Vegas.

A few of the original operators have gone on to build casino empires today. However, somewhere on their rapid ascent, the true prospective of the visitor/guest was lost. The dynamics of this industry were and are so strong that talent and the needs of the customers were not primary. I predict in the next millennium a new era for Las Vegas, an era in which an over built and over hyped Las Vegas will revisit the concepts that made it great in the first place. A place in which the visitors will roll sevens more often than the house, and the house will be delighted.

I marvel and respect the genius of those who began this new era in Las Vegas and envy those who were fortunate enough to ride the tide of the success of all of it. To those, I tip my hat and congratulate.

I do not fault them for creating an industry that is dynamic but artificial, creative but insensitive and career opportunity for thousands, but impersonal to the millions who visit. This is the natural evolution of unharnessed growth, no limits of financial resources and uncontrollable egos. I do, however, sincerely regret that “The Good Old Days” of Las Vegas is no longer there to experience for me and especially for you.

Stay tuned… next month’s story will have something for everyone, maybe it will contain information more than some people may want known!

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Frank Rosenthal

 

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