Las Vegas Casinos
Gambling was legalised in Las Vegas in 1931, but large-scale construction of casinos did not begin until after World War 2, and for many years they were dominated by individual property holders, often with Mafia connections. In recent times, the businesses have been taken over by big conglomerates, many of the older places have been demolished to make way for huge showy entertainment complexes aimed at attracting the whole family, and rate of development seems to be increasing. Brief details of some of the major casinos are as follows
Bellagio – a luxurious, upmarket casino with an Italian theme which opened in 1999. An extravagant display of moving water fountains takes place in a huge lake outside, while the interior, set far back from the street, is lavishly decorated and includes sculptures, plants and trees, and extensive use of natural light illumination.
Caesar’s Palace – one of the most well-known casinos, famous in part because of the many heavyweight boxing contests staged there. Caesar’s features a lavish recreation of Roman life and decor although the exterior is quite restrained and elegant, and covers a large distance along the main road.
Circus Circus – one of the older hotels, still popular. Its owners also operate several other casinos including Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Family entertainment centers on an indoor amusement park with a rollercoaster, plus traditional circus acts in a large amphitheatre. The casino also operates the only RV park in this part of town; it has 600 sites, good facilities and is relatively cheap.
Excalibur – a huge (4,000 room) castle-like complex with an Arthurian knight theme – Merlin slays a dragon at regular intervals near the entrance, there is nightly medieval jousting in the main arena and a selection of old-English dishes are available in the restaurants. The centre of the hotel has several eye-catching towers, colourfully lit up at night.
Luxor – a large black pyramid with a search light beaming from the top that can reach several miles into the sky and is visible for up to 40 miles away. Entrance is through a replica of The Sphinx, and the interior has an unusual design with the guest rooms, all with slanting exterior walls, lining the fascia of the hotel while the centre is hollow, and contains the casino and other attractions.
Mandalay Bay – the southernmost casino (thus far), built with a South Sea Island theme in 1999, next to Luxor and close to Las Vegas Airport, so perhaps capturing the most impatient of the newly-arrived gamblers. A free aerial tramway links to Luxor and continues on to Excalibur.
MGM Grand – the largest hotel in the world (over 5,000 rooms), with a massive entertainment/theme park complex adjacent. It has a relatively restrained exterior, apart from a large golden lion at one entrance and as with Caesar’s Palace is also noted for staging championship boxing contests and other large scale events.
Mirage – a well-known Las Vegas landmark, the 3,049-room Mirage hotel is built in a distinctive Y-shape and features a frequently erupting volcano outside, with waterfalls and tropical island scenery.
New York, New York – completed in 1998, this 2,000-room hotel features a replica of the Manhattan skyline including the Statue of Liberty, with a 67 mph rollercoaster around the outside. The interior has Times Square, Central Park and a whole street of restaurants.
Paris – the newest resort on The Strip, this has been open for business since 15 September 1999. Outside, visitors are greeted by a colourful replica of a Montgolfier balloon, while inevitably the Eiffel Tower looms overhead.
Stratosphere – at the north end of the Strip, this casino is famous for its 1,149 foot tower, built in 1996 – the highest point in Las Vegas and also the tallest accessible tower in America, with a revolving restaurant and an open air rollercoaster at the very top.
Treasure Island – another family-oriented casino, notable for the regular recreations of a battle between the English navy and a pirate ship, staged in a full sized set in front of the hotel to the accompaniment of much fire and smoke.
The Venetian – one of four big new casinos to open in 1999, constructed on land that used to be home to The Sands, one of the famous old casinos built in 1952. Familiar landmarks of Venice are recreated including St. Marks Tower and the Bridge of Sighs; inside, gondolas cruise along a system of canals past the shops and restaurants.