Commentary: Will New England Gaming Follow the Sad Affairs in Las Vegas?

Welcome to Las Vegas SignLas Vegas is one of my favorite places in the whole world.  For some of us, it captures the our imagination and interests like no other city.

But it, like much of the gambling is changing – and not for the better as far as I am concerned.  Humor me while I tell you why…..

Las Vegas, “the Meadows” the gambling mecca. It’s called many things with no gray area implied:

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip

Sin City or the Adult Disneyland, Lost Wages or Home away from Home, Heaven or Sodom & Gomorrah. Whatever it means to you after your initial visit, it sticks with you.  For some of us, we love the experience, and it does become our favorite vacation, even an obsession.

But it’s not just the gambling, especially now when you can gamble within almost 90 minutes of your home almost anywhere in the United States – or closer.  It’s the eats, it’s the drinks.  It’s the free stuff (although that gets less & less each year) and free entertainment. It’s the shows.  Put it all together and there’s no place like Vegas.

Las Vegas in the 70's

Las Vegas in the 70’s.  Thanks to

I have loved watching it expand.  I have loved watching it sprawl out to the suburbs to Henderson and Summerlain.  I stayed and/or visited the Riviera (our first Vegas Hotel), the Stardust, the Hacienda, the Sands, the Boardwalk, Westward Ho & the Frontier.  I played $2 Blackjack at Slot-a-Fun and hit a Royal Flush at the Desert Inn just before it was demolished.

Desert Inn in its last years

Desert Inn in its last years

Monte Carlo Vegas opening

Monte Carlo Vegas opening

I loved NYNY and Monte Carlo for the first time. Staying downtown when it was deserted, vacant and crisp at 8:00am.  Casinos downtown offering great odds, value-packed coupon books, and begging to give you their best service.  I could just go on reminiscing……

But lately, I have been saddened by the casino industry, especially in Las Vegas. Sure, I get it, as I have been reminded, “it’s America.  Everybody fights for your dollar and you vote with your dollar.”  But the vast majority of patronage visiting America’s casinos don’t understand the history that is constantly and forcefully being changed in the favor of casinos, by the casinos, that continue to nickel and dime you until you begin to feel taken advantage of.  Everyone wants to feel appreciated, even if you know you’re paying for it.  But when a line is drawn that makes you feel like just another consumer, Las Vegas and all that makes it special,  is diminished to any capitalistic venture.

Resorts fees upon resorts fees, paid parking, lack of freebies such as drinks, gambling odds down turned to almost insurmountable lows – when will it stop?  If I vote with my dollar to say “I’m not going to take it anymore,” 9 other ignorant gamblers will mindlessly vote with their dollar to allow casinos to badger them into loss oblivion.

So, how does my dollar have a chance in “H-E-double hockey sticks” to make the industry sit up and take notice?

First Light

First Light Resort Casino

My biggest concern is that the changes in Las Vegas will eventually be transported 3000 miles east to New England. The big casinos and industry giants are coming. By 2020, Genting will have helped build the Mashpee Wampanoag’s tribal mega-casino and resort, competing with Mohegan Sun, Twin River and the biggest in New England, Foxwoods.

Those blue collar folks depending on the jobs provided by all these casinos could see saturation beyond our wildest northeast dreams taking away promised jobs, unemployment, maybe even similar effects to the Atlantic City demise.

imagesMGM will be in Springfield, exercising its Profit Growth Plan (or PGP) and who knows what that means to New England.  In Las Vegas, it means an end to free parking – something we Las Vegas obsessives thought would never happen.  It was a part of visiting Vegas as sacred from the days of the Rat Pack and Jay Sarno’s Circus Circus.

Steve Wynn with his rendition of Wynn Boston Harbor

Steve Wynn with his rendition of Wynn Boston Harbor

Mr. Wynn will have his Wynn Boston Harbor Resort going strong – but for who?  This is the guy a few days ago that said during his company’s investor day presentation that wealthy gamblers who come to his high-end casinos don’t want the less fortunate hanging around with them. “Rich people only like being around rich people,” he said. “Nobody likes being around poor people, especially poor people.”

It’s a very confusing time in the gaming industry, and the northeast is very unsettled.  Pennsylvania is on an upswing, online gambling is looking for homes in states needing the tax revenue from it if it can be controlled. Draft Kings and Fan Duel are gambling sites? Yes, No? Depends who you talk to.  And New Jersey could finally help or kill Atlantic City soon with additional casinos in northern Jersey.

FiveHundyLas Vegas is still a wonderful place, believe it or not.  But the things that made it great are changing too drastically and too quickly, at least for me.  A friend of this site, Tim Dressen of the famous Las Vegas podcast “Five Hundy by Midnight” advises not to get to attached to anything in the gambling world – including drinks, hotels, dining, shows, gambling – anything.  I truly agree – but couldn’t these changes happen a little slower and with a little more consideration for the consumer.


Many people feel that he beach is a great place to hang out,with the water, the sun and the sound of the waves.  But it only takes one big wave to send me under water, gasping for air and coughing up salt water for the next 15 minutes.

New England has so much beach area…..will it change quickly here, too?





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