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« How's Your Pitch Perception Ability? | Main | Hand-Made »

November 25, 2006

Fun Countries

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Yes, I'm in Las Vegas this week. This is my third consecutive post using the town as a content hook (I'm pretty busy and have to dash off what's convenient to write about). Worse, I've been snapping low-res digital photos suitable for blog posting, so beware! -- more might be coming.

Yesterday evening my wife mentioned that there were no German-themed casinos in Vegas.


None for Scandinavia. Or Russia, Poland, Belarus, Latvia, Rumania, Senegal, Paraguay and Korea. Not to mention a lot of other places shunned by the corporate bettors wagering hundreds of millions to create a three-thousand room hotel attached to a casino and shopping area.

Seeing as how Las Vegas bills itself as a "fun" town (to distill the various advertised elements to the nub), it might be interesting to note the theme locales that are intended to appeal to Americans and tourists from all over the world.

To simplify, I'll pretty much restrict my survey to (1) large Strip casinos that (2) I'm somewhat familiar with and that (3) have an identifiable theme. (Some casinos are gamblin' joints, pure and simple. The large Bally's on the Strip as well as nearby Harrah's fit that category.)

Perhaps the most common theme is "tropical" -- Vegas is in a desert, after all, and water seems like a nice thing there. So we find Mandalay Bay. It has a (pay-to-see) aquarium and some Southeast Asian decor here and there, but essentially theming is downplayed. The Mirage has lots of palm trees and such, so I suppose it's a desert oasis despite the fact that it has a "volcano" that "erupts" to a schedule. Treasure Island has a Caribbean Pirates theme.

Then there are historical/classical themed casinos. Luxor is in the shape of a pyramid and there are lots of ancient Egyptian touches including statues and a sphinx. Caesar's Palace is Imperial Roman. Excalibur has a King Arthur sort of storybook theme. This hotel-casino seeks the family demographic.

Getting more place-specific we find Bellagio -- Lake Como villa themed, and my fave.

Also Italian is The Venetian, reproducing Venice to the point of including canals, gondolas and singing gondoliers. Under construction is a huge extension that should also have an Italian theme.

Paris recreates Parisian bits, including a half-size Eiffel Tower. The Tour d'Eiffel supposedly was to have been full-scale, but had to be stunted because of the proximity of the Strip to the airport.

Otherwise, there is New York - New York. What else -- from Hudson Street to Central Park via Radio City. MGM Grand is a mammoth place that used to be Hollywood themed, but that is disappearing refurbishment-by-refurbishment. Aladdin is North Africa - Middle East, as the name suggests. Its shopping mall is decked out as a flashy north African street or souk. Wynn, the latest huge casino/hotel, is simply luxurious.

Off-Strip are the Rio (I find little that seems South American) and The Orleans (New Orleans, that is),

Other casinos (mostly smaller) that, by their names, have themes include Imperial Palace, Barbary Coast, Circus-Circus, and Greek Isles. Plus there is a smattering with Western themes, evoking the original Las Vegas atmosphere.

Besides no German-themed casinos, we noticed no German restaurants. Italian restaurants seem common. Somewhat to our surprise (given that Vegas is in the Southwest), we didn't see many Mexican restaurants in the large casinos we frequent. (I should mention that I don't gamble; I like Vegas for shopping and people-watching.)

So I suppose the Vegas scene settles it. I come from northwestern European stock. I'm not a "fun" guy, party-wise. And no one is likely to stake me to build a casino called The Scottish Heath. [Sigh]



posted by Donald at November 25, 2006


The Aladdin is being convered to a Planet Hollywood, though I don't know how much if any of the Arabian theme will remain. The Sahara, up at the north end of the Strip, also has an Arabian theme. This is funny in a way, because at least in recent years the Middle East does not seem too associated with fun and games.
In addition to the Bellagio and the Venetian, there used to be a third Italian-themed casino right off the Strip, the San Remo. It's now Hooters, and we all can figure out that that theme is :)
Bally's obstensibly has a continental-European theme. As with the MGM Grand, however, its theme has pretty much dissipated over time.

Posted by: Peter on November 25, 2006 1:08 PM

Interesting question: which countries and themes actually make it as attractions and which don't even get onto the short list? And why? I wonder why some seem to have the magic and others don't. I mean, why not a theme bar with a beer-garden theme? You'd think tons of mid-American tourists would enjoy it. But maybe not.

Visuals! Bring on the visuals!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 25, 2006 1:31 PM

With the beer-garden exception, German culture isn't really seen as being fun, romantic and lighthearted, nor is it particularly elegant. It has more of a serious, down-to-earth, businesslike image. German culture therefore isn't a natural fit for a casino theme.
It's also interesting to note that despite attracting large numbers of Asian visitors Las Vegas has only one Asian-themed casino, that being the run-down, and probably soon to be demolished, Imperial Palace.

Posted by: Peter on November 25, 2006 4:00 PM

Since we're talkng fantasy here, I don't see why a Scottish themed casino/resort, ala Brigadoon, wouldn't be a big hit:
Guess What's Under His Kilt Night -- support or no support?
With each porridge breakfast in our Olde Edinburgh Inglenook -- free haggis!
And no damp or cold to put up with. 8^)

Posted by: ricpic on November 25, 2006 6:04 PM

We visited several of these recently and on the whole, they reminded me a lot of Disneyworld's Epcot Center when it first opened back in the 1980's (well, except for the gambling. And topless shows.) And I don't consider that a compliment.

...I'm not a "fun" guy, party-wise...
Oh, I am so there. On the whole, Las Vegas just creeps me out – not my idea of a good time, at all.

Posted by: David Fleck on November 26, 2006 4:02 PM

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