Still the world's gambling capital

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2006, 12:00am

A five-minute primer on an issue making headlines

With half-year gross gaming revenue in Macau reaching US$3.1 billion and the city poised to become the world's gambling capital, we take a look at the current title-holder, Las Vegas.

What makes Las Vegas, well ... Vegas?

The city, while billing itself as the entertainment capital of the world, is well known for legalised gambling and the fact that a punter can get a drink 24 hours a day. Last year 38.6 million people visited Las Vegas, not bad for a city in the middle of the Mojave Desert. To accommodate these weary pilgrims to Mammon there are 133,347 hotel rooms - more than 10 times the number in Macau. The centre of action is the Las Vegas Strip, inspiration for Macau's soon-to-be-developed Cotai Strip. The self-contained mega-resorts not only house casinos but shops, restaurants, convention centres and show venues. Among the most famous of these are MGM Grand, which with 5,044 rooms is the largest hotel in the world, and the Luxor, styled on the Egyptian pyramids. In the first half of this year casinos had gross gaming revenue of US$4.1 billion.

Just how sinful is Sin City?

While prostitution is legal in some areas of Nevada, it is not so in Las Vegas. That does not mean there are no prostitutes there, and they can be seen cruising around hotel lobbies. It's a quick 45-minute drive to nearby Nye County, where there are many legal brothels.

Is it also true people go to Vegas to get married?

Most resorts also have a wedding chapel. On average, 230 couples get married each day in Las Vegas. It costs just US$35 to obtain a marriage licence in Nevada, but US$450 to file for a divorce.

What's the favourite game?

Slot machines are the hands-down favourite, according to a 2005 survey that found 59 per cent of gamblers taking a punt on them. Blackjack comes second, with 18 per cent, followed by video poker, 10 per cent, and craps, 4 per cent. The city has close to 200,000 slot machines. The average gambling budget per trip was US$627, spread out over 3.6 hours a day, over the average 31/2-night trip.

Do people go just to gamble?

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, last year, while only 5 per cent of people go there solely for gambling, nine out of 10 visitors end up putting money on the gambling tables in one way or another. The city has for years been moving away from reliance on gambling towards conventions, shopping, dining, shows and, to a lesser extent, light manufacturing and banking. Of the US$36.7 billion from last year's tourist receipts, just US$7.6 billion came directly from gambling. The average age of visitors last year was 47. Foreigners are a minority among visitors, making up just 12 per cent.



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