What if Las Vegas became normal?
Imagine Clark County (home to the Las Vegas Strip and home to approximately 2.2 million people), without the glamour, the glitz and the glitter. Las Vegas could become just another desert city with no identity. That could be a nightmare.
And, what would bring on this sudden change? It could be a sudden drop (post-Covid) in our tourism business, the lack of visitor demand for entertainment, or the inability of our hospitality leaders to create an exciting image for our destination. Gamblers could find other venues rather than visiting our tables, our slots and our sports books.
Las Vegas has been through an identity crisis before, survived it, and even prospered. Once we divested ourselves of our old identity (no more organized crime, no more showgirls and very few Elvis impersonators), we then adopted a new identity—a Las Vegas that offered more than gaming and entertainment. We added dining, retail, conventions, special events, and sports into the mix. And, that new identity has served us well.
But to the point: what if it all disappeared? Could we live with ourselves as a normal city, with no more 24-hour slot machines in convenience stores, no more celebrity sightings in supermarkets, no more handbills being distributed on the Strip?
Imagine Las Vegas as a larger-sized Fresno. There would be no need for marquees, except those announcing current gas prices. The monorail would be diverted to neighborhoods to serve residents instead of visitors and Hoover Dam and Lake Mead become the only destination draws.
Practically, some things would remain: the blistering temperatures during the summer; the allergy season, and UNLV football.
But, could we reinvent ourselves and create a new market or would we accept bland?
For long-time Vegas residents, these are not enjoyable choices. We have known only one kind of life, one filled with comps, entertainment and cheap shrimp cocktails.
Many of us, migrating from Los Angeles and other cities, have no plans to return. Covid has leveled the playing field for all cities, including Las Vegas. No more bright lights needed here, just the lights from computer screens as we all Zoom together.
Admittedly, Las Vegas is different. As a relatively young city, we can start from scratch and build a new identity. We have the entrepreneurial spirit, the private-public partnership, and organic optimism.
On the negative side, we have become somewhat lazy and complacent; and we only know how to be Las Vegas. For instance, look how long it took us to understand that we needed more than slot machines and table games to attract younger demographics.
So, what to do if it all disappeared? In Vegas, when the going gets tough, the tough form a task force. Wiser heads than mine would then have to decide what Las Vegas could be as a normal city.
And, being normal, could that still include Elvis impersonators?