The VT Interview With David G. Schwartz, UNLV Gaming Historian

Cutting the Wire and Rolling Bones in Suburban Xanadu

Posted by Chuckmonster

VT: Many factors have combined in recent years that have made the Las Vegas gaming industry a white hot commodity. These being, the opening of Wynn Las Vegas (and the coming re-development of the North Strip), the TV and online poker boom, the near-maniacal land grabs in the name of hi-rise condos and the ever present Vegas/gaming related programming on cable TV.

How do you see the influence of any and all of these playing out in Las Vegas and the gaming industry over the near and long term?

DS: These are really continuations of long-standing trends. In the 1940s, land was so cheap that people had trouble giving it away. It's obviously become much more valuable. I think that the real question is, how successful can Las Vegas be at establishing itself as a non-gaming destination. So far, it's been very successful, and I think this trend will continue. As gambling becomes more commonplace, it's the only way to grow. This has some precedence: back in the 1940s, Nevada was America's divorce capital. In the 1960s, other states liberalized their divorce laws. Today, very few people come to Vegas to get divorced, but because operators moved into other areas, tourism grew anyway. That's what will happen with gambling over the next 20 years, I think.

VT: Downtown Las Vegas seems to be in transition, with changing ownerships, luke warm financials, and fewer "outs" as competition on the strip raises the stakes. It appears that Fremont area may be on the cusp of a dwindling chip stack. What's your prognosis for Fremont Street? What are Fremont properties not offering that strip properties are? Can they compete or will two stratified eco(nomic)systems evolve in divergent parallels?

DS: I think downtown is in a good position because, as the Strip gets more expensive, there is a need for the old Vegas: cheap rooms, cheap eats, serious gambling. I think that downtown has to play to these strengths. The development of that 61-acre parcel should help, and the Performing Arts Center should draw locals in increasing numbers. I think that Poster and Brietling had the right idea with the Golden Nugget: a more personal touch. There's times when I go down there that it's hard to find a parking space, which is a great sign.

VT: Your photographic survey of casino carpeting is fabulous. You state on your carpet website that "Casino carpet is known as an exercise in deliberate bad taste that somehow encourages people to gamble." Is this bad taste truly deliberate? What is the significance of plush multicolored carpeting? Do you have a favorite casino carpet? Ours: Peppermill Reno and Showboat AC.

DS: I don't know exactly what the deal with the carpet is. It just struck me that nearly every casino had this really garish carpet and managers would say, "yes, it's hideous, but we need it." My favorite is Treasure Bay in Biloxi: I mean, it's a freaking treasure map! On board a pirate ship, no less. You can't get much better than that. For pure aesthetics, I really like what they've done with Resorts AC.

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damn good interview.

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