Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport previewed this week

The Strip in late 2009 – Wikipedia


The blog I wrote about Las Vegas and the Electric Daisy Carnival generated quite a few comments.   People were surprised by the dimension of  “things Vegas.”  The number of people who attend major events,  the number of hotel rooms and the number of dollars invested on the Strip always startle people who do not follow the gaming industry closely.  Even people in Reno are caught off guard; people here know that Las Vegas is bigger and more energetic, but the degree of the difference still shocks them.  And it is the same for the citizens of every city in the country with casinos;  they have casinos and think Las Vegas just like that with just a bit more  – but it is not true.  Las Vegas is not like any other city with casinos, it is truly in a category of its own.  People often compare Las Vegas to Disneyland, calling it an adult Disneyland.  The Las Vegas Strip is an adult entertainment park, but it is much, much more than Disneyland.  For Disneyland to be like Vegas, Los Angeles would have to have a strip of theme parks, all as large and expensive as Disneyland – 10, 15 or 20 Disneylands lined up in a long row.

As I said in the blog, Las Vegas is anticipating 40 million visitors this year – a record for the city.  A record even though Nevada and Las Vegas are suffering more than any other state in the country from the recession.  The majority of those 40 million people will arrive by air, which means that Vegas needs a large and efficient airport; indeed it has been in a continual state of expansion and improve for decades.   In 2010, the McCarran International Airport was the 22nd busiest airport in the world and 9th busiest in the United States; but the majority of the those airports with more traffic are hubs, not primary destinations as is Las Vegas.  On June 27th, McCarran is opening it latest expansion – the terminal cost $2.4 billion to build; that is right, over two billion dollars – equivalent to the cost of a luxury casino resort on the Strip.

This week the airport had a preview of the new terminal and invited the citizens of Las Vegas to come out and see it.  In four hours, over 12,000 people showed up and entered a drawing to win some free airline tickets and other prizes. That is as many people as showed up in Toledo, Cleveland or Baltimore for the opening of the new casinos in those cities.   And that airport terminal in Las Vegas cost about 5 times as much as to build as those casino that just opened in Ohio and Maryland.  Of the latest casinos to open – only one casino, Revel in Atlantic City, which had its grand opening Memorial Day, cost as much to build.   For me, that fact alone, that an airport terminal in Vegas costs more to build than any casino in the country, illustrates just how different is Las Vegas.

It may be crass, it may be gaudy and it may be tasteless – all common criticisms of the Strip – but it attracts 40 million people annually and those 40 million people attract billion dollars of investment and those billions of dollars attract more millions of people.  There is no trickery or slight of hand, although there is some magic – to be as successful as Las Vegas has become it has to be providing what people like and want.  If there is a moral flaw in the equation, it must be in the people who come to Las Vegas and not in the people who built Las Vegas – they have done what every successful business must do – deliver a product that people value and at a price they are willing to pay.


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