Earlier this month, I took a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, to meet up with some friends from high school. I’ve visited there at different times before as a child, a teenager, and as an adult for my father’s passing around 6 years ago. This visit, however, was the first time I got the chance to truly observe the culture that exists in Sin City. It was eye-opening to me in terms of the blatant and unapologetic way that money is the lifeblood and compass of this corner of America.
I spent the bulk of my Vegas weekend hanging out with my classmates. We got to catch up and make up for loss time over the last several years. As a group we went out to eat at a buffet at one of the hotel casinos, and we toured the strip and the old strip.
After our buffet lunch, I tried my hand at a roulette table and lost $22.00. I gave up after that. During my last night, I stayed at a hotel, and after some persuasive encouragement, I tried my hand at some slot machines. After losing or breaking even on a couple of different machines, I won $150.
I stopped after that, and I’m glad I did.
As I walked the strip and through some casinos, I made some observations that were a bit unnerving.
- At least in the casinos, there were cameras EVERYWHERE. Tons of them. Hundreds? Maybe thousands? They were all encased in these little black globes that popped out of ceilings and corners. I understand that casinos want to catch people who cheat at gambling, but it’s all a little too big brother for me. I imagine that no cough, sneeze, or conversation goes unnoticed. That’s creepy.
- Every hotel has a casino. Every casino has a huge buffet. All casinos give their patrons free drinks. It seems to me that this is the perfect equation to seduce people into staying for a long while. People are almost hypnotized and satiated into a comfortable environment that is conducive to gambling your money away with reckless abandon.
- Smoking is allowed in every casino. It certainly seemed that way. The smell of nicotine wafted in the air and lingered as I walked through. For the employees and patrons who have to be in this environment all of the time, this cannot be healthy for their lungs and their bodies. In most places everywhere else in the country, smoking takes place outdoors as it should so that non-smokers are not unfairly subjected to the smoke. The people in Las Vegas do not seem to mind.
- Casinos operate 24 hours a day. People gamble or play at slot machines literally all of the time and any time. If you want to play black jack at 4 AM, you can do so in multiple places!
- Gamblers seemed like zombies. I observed many people with drinks in hand intently pressing buttons and lulled into a relaxed state.
- All of the slot machines are now digital. At what point did everyone decide that this was okay? Could it be possible that each machine is now more rigged than they were before? Couldn’t they now operate under some sort of algorithm that manages people’s wins and losses? To me, this seemed like bullshit and a total scam. Miraculously, I won my $150, but I can’t help but wonder if this was a way to induce me into playing more. Algorithms and technology can be powerful entities.
- There are slot machines in the airport. Enough said.
Clearly, money and the hunger for it is what drives this city. This hunger is its ultimate commodity, and there is a design that feeds this hunger in perpetuity. The allure of winning lots of money is palpable. If you are desperate for cash, this is where you can feed that desire.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Las Vegas is a spectacle in and of itself. If I return to Sin City, I may spend more time taking in the shows than the casinos. They offer entertainment value and lots of beautiful creativity that I can geek out on. If you are a foodie, those massive buffets will make you happy.
Well, without further ado, here are some photos from my trip:
The experience of visiting Las Vegas felt surreal. The gambling culture and the hoards of tourists made it a bit jarring for me, but the whole experience was saved by the presence of some great friends from high school.
Maybe that’s the gist of it all. If you have to go Vegas, go with good friends. If anything, the human connections you make can overshadow the industry of money in this city. That would make the experience truly worthwhile.