Desperate times, desperate measures and mermaids


ImageThe mermaid convention and awards at Silverton Casino Lodge in Las Vegas on Aug. 12 and 13, 2011.

For the better part of 60 years, Las Vegas dominated the world of gaming; Las Vegas was the epicenter of the industry.  It was the place where every new idea went to be tested, developed and perfected – once a concept was Las Vegas certified it was likely to travel the gaming circuit and appear in some smaller, cheaper and simpler form in every casino in the country; much like a Broadway music touring the provinces.  But no place every quite did it up the same way as Las Vegas: a new casino, a new resort or a new show on the Las Vegas Strip was always bigger, gaudier and more expensive than any other – any place on the planet.  Of course all of that changed and came to a crashing halt with the bursting of the real estate bubble and the beginning of the Great Recession; and because Las Vegas had led the national in population growth, real estate appreciation, new housing, retail and casino construction Las Vegas is at the bottom of the recovery table – highest in unemployment, the home of highest percentage of unoccupied commercial and residential space – and unlike any time since 1946, when Benjamin Siegelbaum -Bugsy Siegel – opened his famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino – the last place one might expect a new casino project in the foreseeable future.

There are no new casinos under construction, in fact those left unfinished by the recession are simply standing and waiting for better times and new investors.  No new hundred million dollar shows have announced – by Vegas standards these are quiet times, very quiet indeed.  And because of that catastrophic collapse, casino operators are looking everywhere for new ideas and gimmicks to drive revenues; however due to the repressed revenues, they are looking sans cash.  And that means retreaded and recycled ideas and other acts of desperation; ferris wheels – two are currently in the planning stage, bingo games and mermaids.  Mermaids? Yep, Mermaids, the Silverton has a 117,000-gallon aquarium filled with sharks, fish and performers dressed as mermaids.  And last week Silverton hosted a convention of mermaids, including the International Mermaid Pageant.

Across the country, Resorts – nee Resorts International, nee Haddon Hall (circa 1869)  and the first casino to open in Atlantic City in 1978 – has three circuses in its parking lot, one of which is called a “naked” circus.  I wonder who will open the first “naked” aquarium filled with naked fish, naked sharks and naked girls?  Not quite a $200 million KA by Cirque Du Soleil, but people have to do the best they can with what they have.  Desperate times do call for desperate measures.

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