Postcard from the Edge of a Baize

Well off to the Nevada desert for a few days of fun in sunny (but surprisingly chilly Las Vegas), where the green baize of the casino tables patiently waited.

This was the first transatlantic flight since the new US security regulations has been introduced are there some changes. The first thing is the plane safety announcement where you are warned that no congregating is allowed on the plane. Apparently more than more than 3 people are defined as a congregation, which is good news for the Church of England. This did lead to confusion at the bathroom queue, were the 5 people waiting in line were obviously violating federal law. Then it was the old finger printing and photo experience. You don’t really look your best after 8 hours in economy class, but I smiled.

Arriving in Las Vegas, the line for taxis was enormous, mostly consisting of large men, with their trousers slipping at the back. All became clear when the taxi driver informed me these people were part of the 90,000 “Home Builders of America” arriving for a conference. Las Vegas has over 100,000 hotel rooms (with at least another 5,000 being added this year) – the building business here is booming, perhaps explaining the large turnout for the conference. The taxi driver also informed me of another “issue”. Due to this influx, prostitute prices had gone up 300%. This did not stop me being accosted on the street by 2 working women kindly offering me a $99 “sandwich”. I declined to be the filling.

It was then off to see the sights and attractions that the casinos have to offer. The main strip becomes more gaudy every year with more themed hotels and billboards popping up everywhere. Emerging from one casino, I overheard a couple of builders remarking that now they had visited “Paris”, “The Venetian” and “the Luxor” it was hardly worth traveling to Europe now, as they had seen it all.

Each casino has some gimmick to get you in to the place. Surprisingly, to get to the gimmick you have to walk through the casino… now isn’t that a shocker? Most of the gimmicks are either nice things to look at (such as a Guggenheim Museum, a Grand Canal, a menagerie, shark reef etc) or more up my street a “thrill ride”. There were a couple of roller coasters, we sampled the one running through the façade of New York, one that sent you forwards, then backwards through a 360° loop and one on top of a 350 meter tall tower.

The tower had an additional new ride call X-Scream. Basically it is a huge see-saw pivoted on the edge of the tower. 8 people sit on one end, the other (empty) end then “magically” descends over the lip of the tower and you slide down towards it, thinking you are going to shoot off and plummet 100 stories to your death, but just before you reach the end, the either see-saw tips back up and you slide back to your original position. Personally I would have preferred some ice cream rather than the X-Scream, but it had to be ridden.

As for wearing out the baize – did I break the bank or loose my shirt? Well, following on from the theory that the slot machines facing a casino’s entry door have the better payout than the rest, I inserted $5, and walked away with $10.25. Hardly riches beyond my wildest dreams but probably better off than most leaving Las Vegas.

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