In fact, there is almost no place where one is safe from the temptation to transfer money to the casino owners. From the moment you step off the plane to the moment you go back through airport security, you are forcibly entertained. Even the TSA video educates travelers by showing various hypothetical Vegas characters going through security. You see a showgirl stuffing her massive headpiece thingie through the X-ray machine. Visitors are allowed no opportunity for reflection or introspection. That might interfere with the ability to relieve them of their money.
Mr. T and I used to gamble occasionally back in our 20s, before my populist worldview hardened sufficiently to realize that gaming – at least in Vegas – is the most effective means, short of simple force, to transfer wealth to the super rich from the rest of us.* And all without giving anything in return except the frisson of imminent loss.
And when someone does manage to wrest some lucre from the clutches of The House, she need only walk a few steps to the stores waiting just beyond the casino area to give it all back again. I suspect that very little money actually leaves a given hotel, and even less leaves the city. This is a clever strategy, to be sure, but a dreadfully cynical one nonetheless.
In short, this industry preys on hopes and manipulates desperation for the gain of the corporate or the already wealthy. And while most people escape with no more than a headache and a bit of lingering self-disgust, others suffer more. One of the most appalling things I saw with some frequency were signs depicting an adult hand holding a smaller hand, with the caption: “Don’t leave your children unattended while gaming.” Dear God. It was enough to make me gather The Kid protectively in my arms.
But what really got me was the artifice of it all. As I walked through the airport on the way home past the zillionth public message congratulating me for my numerous acts of unrepentant decadence, I couldn’t help but think: Okay, I get it. You’re Vegas. You’re outlandish, outrageous, and totally transgressive. Whatever. Now show me something that's actually interesting.
But the thing of it is, there is nothing about
Perpetuation of the existing economic power structure through heterosexual sex, smoking and drinking. How original.
I kept comparing Vegas to
This is not to bash on people who like Vegas, and enjoy doing all the things that Vegas tries to get people to do. It can be fun, in its way. But look through the artifice so you can do it with a clear understanding of the elements in play.
Next: It's not all beer, babes and blackjack, or: Would I go back? You bet. So to speak.
*Except, perhaps, the credit card industry and our current taxation scheme. But the latter qualifies as a form of force, I think.