Prior to this president’s week, I had never been in Las Vegas but now based on the experience, I should have gone sooner and more often. And I think my family feels the same way. It isn’t the gambling that turned me on, though I adjusted well to my overall loss of $2.00. Rather, it is the entertainment and just the sense that Las Vegas is an easy place to have a good time. Las Vegas also gave me the opportunity to explain to my kids the economics of gambling.
Everywhere you turn in Las Vegas gambling is prominent, starting at the airport when you disembark from the plane. Prime real estate in virtually every hotel is dedicated to gambling and clearly the public responds very favorably. My kids asked about winning a mega prize and talked about everything they would do with their large scale winnings. What I explained to them, and I think it registered well, is for so many hotels and other public places to devote so much space to gambling meant that it was a very profitable activity—for the hotels etc. Otherwise the space would be allocated for other purposes. And if these establishments as a whole are making substantial profits on gambling, the public was incurring substantial losses. I think they understood clearly that not everyone could be a winner and if the casino makes a tremendous amount of money, the public as a whole is losing that money. Yes individuals do win, but the odds favor the casino and the reality is that there are many more losers than there are winners. Just leave it to an economist to find those teachable moments to stress important economic concepts.
Las Vegas clearly benefits from legalized gambling but it also benefits from providing wall to wall entertainment, some of it free, others at varying costs. Many of the hotels had great free entertainment and great shopping malls; others had super amusement park rides and still others had thoroughly enjoyable shows that cost money but were worth the cost. We tried to cover as much as we could but there clearly is enough available to justify a few more visits. My kids loved the fire show at the Mirage, the pirate activity at Treasure Island, and especially loved the rollercoaster at New York New York. But the highlight of the visit was an unexpected stroll down memory lane that I took with my 15 years old daughter. We went to see Human Nature, which is a very successful Australian singing group, now in Las Vegas, that specializes in the Motown sound. I grew up on Motown and still love the music. My daughter had heard bits and pieces over time but it certainly didn’t make much of an impact on her previously. She loved the music and even loved the fact that Motown pioneers such as Smokey Robinson and Mary Wilson were present and introduced to the audience.
At the end of this vacation and especially at the end of this show, we were more in sync than before and what more can you expect from a vacation than great sights, entertainment, and being more closely aligned with your kids.
One last point, what impressed us most on this trip—the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam or Las Vegas? No contest—all of the above. I would gladly go back and the fact that there were some great chocolate desserts is icing on the cake.