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Op-Ed: Las Vegas is a bargain again and still a great time Special

By Jay David Murphy     Aug 28, 2009 in Travel
Las Vegas has become a real bargain again with great room rates, show discounts, wonderful food, and now you get some insider information to everything that is Vegas. Plus, Vegas is home to beautiful people as we give you Natalie Holbrook, VIP host.
Living in Las Vegas these past eight years and having seen some huge ups and downs there are many things that the outside world is just not aware of.
So let’s debunk a few things and let our readers in on some others while showing that Vegas is a bargain vacation once again.
And just for fun, some photo's of Natalie Holbrook, one of the new faces hosting VIP's around town, modeling, and trying to make her way in Vegas after coming from Utah just two months ago. She went out to Kyle Canyon with this journalist for a photo shoot.
First, winning big in Vegas is almost every tourist's dream, dropping $20 into a slot machine and, whamo, big money.
Sorry to tell you, but it's so rare that the axiom holds true, “Vegas was built on losers.”
There are the Mega Bucks machines at selected hotels and two people hit it big at the Palms very close together, winning millions. But in order to win, you have to load it up. The first person who won it at the Palms had $500 in the machine before it paid off.
The most popular machines are the penny slots with themes like Star Wars, the Beverly Hill Billie’s, and other familiar names from TV shows and movies. Again, to win anything you have to load it up. So you can actually be playing more than a dollar a press.
Today’s slot machines are digital and do not take coins, just paper money. They also have slots in them for your player’s card which will give you a few benefits and a few discounts on inflated prices.
The poker machines are still very popular, but ask any old-time gambler and they'll tell you they just don’t give up the Royal Flushes like they did five years ago.
Caesar Statue
Greeting visitors is this statue inside Caesars Palace
Jay David Murphy
It is true that the machines on the strip are much tighter than off the Strip, and locals know to gamble off the Strip for a better chance at winning a couple of bucks and better comps. Station Casino, who is now in Chapter 11, has always been a local favorite. But the Palms constantly come out tops with the best programs and payouts consistently. The Palms also has an aggressive giveaway program showering its players with cool, quality branded gifts, and is always giving its card holders free buffets.
Sports betting is still the one gamble that is at least a little more profitable for the professional in Vegas. The largest sports betting facility is just off the Strip at the Las Vegas Hilton. This is a monster facility with TV flat screens the size of barn doors. The Fiesta way off the Strip even has drive-thru sports betting now. If you’re a novice and want to win, college football is great bet to cut your teeth on.
Most sports betting in the casinos have individual desks with their own monitors which are designed for the horse race gambler.
Poker is has popular as it as ever been and gamblers love it because they are not playing against the house. The house takes a cut, but card players like their chances against each other rather than against the house.
Table Blackjack is still popular, but with five deck shoots, it's tough to win against the dealer (especially when beginners hit the table and break the rules and break you).
Baccarat is still for the Fortune 500, and they play the big money. But now, those tables have grown quiet.
In Roulette, the odds are stacked against you and if you don’t know how it works you will lose your money.
Craps really hasn’t changed much and in most casinos there is at least one crap going on at all times.
This is not to knock gambling by any means, it is just to shine a little clarity on what really goes down. What happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas in the age of the Internet.
So, are your odds better at winning downtown? Probably not, but the Strip is definitely tougher to win and the machines are tighter.
Gambling in Vegas has changed since corporations took over and ran the mob out of town. Locals who have been in Vegas for more than 30 years mostly remember the good old days when a comp meant something.
Hotel employees who worked in the good old days remember them with fondness. Many tell how good employees were cherished and taken care of. Those who have carried over complain about the corporate mentality and uncaring executives.
The Wynn and the Fashion Show Mall
The Wynn and the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas
Jay David Murphy
There are a couple of exceptions to that: Billionaire Steve Wynn is one, and George Maloof is another. The Wynn and the Palms, respectively, have incredible employee retention and most employees you talk to express their happiness with their employers who take a hands-on approach. Of course, both resorts are on top of the hotel food chain and customers can expect a top-notch experience. Both resorts' rooms are among the best, and both boast intense night life attractions. Both have wonderful pools, and the Encore, part of Wynn, has the European pool. The Palms, run by George Maloof, offers a better value and the Wynn is just beautiful and tasteful.
Although the Wynn is a corporation with shareholders, there is no doubt who is running the show: Steve Wynn. The Palms is unique in the resort landscape because the Maloof family, under the guidance of George Maloof, is privately owned and does not answer to shareholders. Both properties attract top celebrities and you never know who your are going to run into at either.
The Hard Rock is also another local and tourist favorite and has made some strides to update it’s off-Strip facility. Rock-n-Roll still blasts and it has a hip atmosphere.
The restaurant business has become huge in Vegas; over the last eight years a lot of big chefs are putting their name plates out for the tourist and the locals to enjoy unique flavors.
You could say the Wolfgang Puck opened up the door at the MGM Grand and the rest followed. A couple of tips: If you really like a great steak, the best in the city could arguably be at ‘Nine’ in the Palms. Their porterhouse and rib eye are huge and delicious, with sides like garbage salad and the crème brûlée desert will fill you up and put a smile on your face.
The Firefly, which for years did not have a hotel to call home and was behind the Hughes Center on Paradise, is a huge local favorite, serving everything tapas style. This means they bring out each item on a plate to share with your party. The baked dates are out-of-this-world. They just opened up downtown on the West of the Fremont Experience in the Plaza and provide a wonderful view of the massive structure.
As far as buffets are concerned, if you’re willing to lay down some extra money, the one at Paris is very good, and the Bellagio is outstanding. Expect to spend $30 a head.
The best-kept secret is Sunday at the Palms in Garduno’s Mexican Restaurant were they have a wonderful brunch with wandering Mariachis, with all-you-can-eat Mexican food and all-you-can-drink margaritas for about $15. Plus, when the pool is open you can sit outside and enjoy the scenery.
Las Vegas rooms are also now going for bargain rates -- just make sure you shop the Internet travel sites and stay away from going directly to the hotels.
The nightlife venues went big in the last five years, which spread like wildfire when the Hard Rock and the Palms paved the way for everyone else to follow. Caesars did a great job with its premier night club Pure, which is still tough to get in to if you're not one of the beautiful people.
Places like Body English and Wasted at the Hard Rock, Rain, Ghost Bar, Moon, and the Playboy Club at the Palms attract the best of the local party crowd and celebrities. Reality television crews flock to these places to gather hot footage for their shows.
The shows in Vegas have become dominated by Cirque du Soleil offerings which bring extravaganza to the Strip. They will be opening up more shows in the New City Center when it opens up its doors. You cannot miss any of the shows they put on.
Since Celine Dion left the Strip, names like Donnie and Marie, and Bette Midler have replaced the marquees and each give quality shows each night they are open. Comedy still hangs in there, with Penn and Teller and George Wallace doing steady gigs.
Giant poster on the Tropicana
Giant poster on the Tropicana advertising bargain swim wear.
Jay David Murphy
This bring us to the latest advertising incarnation in Vegas: The monster-sized advertising wraps that are 10 stories high and cover the sides of the buildings. When you ride around town you can see the huge images of Donny and Marie on the Flamingo, and Penn and Teller on the Rio.
Getting around Vegas is actually pretty easy; the double Decker buses run minutes apart up and down the strip and a 24-hour pass is $7. Cabs still dart around the Strip by the thousands. And the new Monorail is a cool way to get around. Vegas is unique in that tens of thousands of tourist take to walking up and down the Strip each evening, creating an on-going party atmosphere.
One tip on parking: Use the valet. It’s a great cheap way to avoid walking from parking garages which are free at the Strip hotels. But you still have to pay downtown, which has hurt the local traffic to the Fremont Experience
Golfers still bring their sticks to Vegas and play some wonderful courses around the city, but break out the big money to play on the Strip. Wynn has the only game and it will cost you a pretty penny.
Shopping on the Strip has become big business with the Forum Shops at Caesars and the Fashion Show across the street from the Wynn which has a small fashion mall. Both offer some of the biggest names in the world, and price tags to match.
With the corporate convention business way off pace of years past, the average tourist right now has a great opportunity to stay at some of Vegas’ finest and pay bargain rates. The food is great in the city, gambling still runs 24/7, the nightclubs are still pounding well into the morning, and Vegas is still attracting big names. The Vegas vibe is still alive in a tough economy and the airport still has jet loads of tourists from all over the world landing every three minutes.
So if you want to take a last shot at a summer vacation, Vegas is waiting with open arms and still offers a great time with a bargain.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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