Viva Las Vegas

Because hotels in Las Vegas have the tendency to be torn down and replaced every 10 years, the amount of conference space has grown exponentially. No hotel is worth its salt unless it can accommodate 10,000 bums in seats for a keynote speech and as a result, you can have half a dozen events happening simultaneously without anyone noticing. Except sometimes it is impossible not to notice, say for example when the worlds of IBM, the Shriners, Comiccon and the adult film awards collide.

I am still trying to figure out which unlikely universes were intersecting when I saw some Orthodox Jews in full regalia getting off a plane at the Las Vegas airport last week. Near as I can tell, Las Vegas embraces and amplifies every single thing on the non-kosher list. But maybe when there’s an international diamond swap meet or a wholesale fast fashion festival or a seminar on pawnbroker best practices it’s possible to give the location a hall pass. But I digress.

Despite the aspirational pivot to being a fine dining destination, gambling it still the thing that makes Las Vegas go around. However, unfortunately gambling ain’t what it used to be. Used to be you would put some coins in a slot machine, pull the handle and wait for the result. Now there are no slots on the slots, just a reverse instant teller device that takes real paper money or the fake paper money generated by the machine, which means it is impossible to play the one cent slots for a penny. Or maybe I guess technically you could feed it a dollar bill and just play one one-hundredth of the stake, which would happen exactly never, which is of course exactly what the casino has in mind.

Of course you don’t pull a handle anymore either, eliminating the misguided impression you might actually have control over what ends up on the ‘win’ line once everything has stopped spinning. And if you do end up winning, no money drops into the tray. Instead, your number of ‘credits’ (a much better way to say money if the word ‘money’ has an unfortunate association with something you might want to hold onto) increases. But at least someone in the robot slot machine department tried to make amends by supplying a sound track of coins merrily falling out of the machine whenever you land on the right combination of cherries and bells.

The fine dining thing exhibits exactly the characteristics you would expect for fine dining in Las Vegas, remembering this was the place you could go to lose money and feel better about it by consoling yourself with cheap, plentiful food. I regret to inform you that although plentiful, food is no longer cheap. That’s because you can’t throw a poker chip without hitting an incarnation of celebrity chef. I have dined under the marquee of Jean-Georges, Emeril, Wolfgang, Giada, Bobby and who knows who else. And I’d like to tell you I had meals of unparalleled excellence but that would be like telling you it’s a good idea to hit seventeen when you play against the dealer.

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