Chronicles of the Cosmic Couple
What happens in Vegas…is happening all over America! And I don’t mean gambling. I’m talking about an economic downturn, a monetary meltdown, a crisis of confidence on the part of America’s debt-ridden consumers.
It’s the dreaded “R” word: Recession. Yes, even in Sin City the pinch is being felt. Big time.
Recently the wife and I went to Las Vegas for a short getaway. I went kicking and screaming; I haven’t been too fond of the place since the town’s marketing geniuses decided to turn the decadent desert playground into a “family” destination in the early 1990s.
This had to be among the stupidest marketing ploys in history, and it nearly drove the gambling mecca to ruin. Only when the big resort owners got smart and decided to return Vegas to its former glory as a paradise for hipsters, losers, drunks and would-be sinners did it bounce back economically.
We went to Vegas in early April this year because the wife wanted to see the fabulous Cirque du Soleil show “Love,” based on the music of the Beatles. The show was at the Mirage Casino, first of the super-resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. We also stayed at the Mirage. The tab was more than 300 bucks a night for a room that was pleasant enough and would have cost us $80 or less down the street at Motel 6.
Back in the day I used to gamble a bit, mainly craps, blackjack and roulette, and I have left my money in casinos from Vegas to Monte Carlo, but these days gambling bores me. So at the Mirage I drifted to the kids’ arcade to play some pinball, if possible.
To our chagrin, the arcade was just a day away from closing — for good. The lady in charge said the management would be replacing the space with slot machines. This would prove to be a bad sign.
Later that night, we wandered into the all-night gift shop, where you can buy overpriced T-shirts, cheap wine and souvenirs from the “Love” show. The place was deserted, so we asked the lady clerk how business was going.
She said she and the other clerk on duty were lucky to still have jobs, as the hotel was cutting loose several employees. We were mildly surprised by this, since the high-stakes tables were full of gamblers, the slot machines were clanking, and the place was abuzz with life and activity.
When we gratefully returned to our home in Sedona, Arizona, an article on Yahoo! News signaled that more bad news was yet to come: “MGM Mirage fires 400 managers,” screamed the headline. In a move to save $75 million annually, the resort’s parent company,MGM Mirage Inc., laid off more than 400 “middle management” employees from several of its Vegas properties, including the MGM Grand and others.
Vegas visitors are staying for shorter periods of time and spending less across the board, including gambling, said an MGM exec. “We were able to see signs of trouble on the economic horizon last August,” he added.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” says the town’s famous slogan, created in 2002 to reshape the bustling town’s image as Sin City. That certainly applies to our money. But it also signals an ominous downturn in our economic fortunes.
Postscript: How true this turned out to be! Las Vegas itself is in serious economic trouble, with arguably the highest unemployment and home foreclosure rates in the USA. I have no desire to go back.