Vegas #3: A City of Indulgences

From a business perspective, Las Vegas is one of a kind. It’s a city built with the money of people who came there to get lucky. It’s a place where people convene with the common desire to indulge. Not one restaurant, not one retailer…an entire city built on this concept.

On my last day there, my friend asked a question that summed up the entire concept of the city for me. He had lost a few hundred dollars playing blackjack over the course of the weekend, but a few of our friends were sitting down at yet another blackjack table, so he shrugged and sat down, saying, “Why not?”

“This city thrives on that question,” I replied (sometimes I’m quick like that).

The tricky thing from a business perspective is that there are so many options to ask “why not?” to, particularly in terms of casinos. That’s where Vegas makes its money. In January, for example, Vegas casinos pulled in $1.06 billion. Billion! In a month!

So you’re a casino owner among over a dozen casino owners on the Strip. How do you get people to come into your casino instead of the other casinos? You install a variety of other cash cows like restaurants and clubs and shops and shows, and then you add layers of extravagance onto that. Hence the Bellagio fountain. Hence the Venetian canal. Hence the oasis and the baby tigers in the Mirage.

The flip side of all this is that these casinos are also hotels. You could easily go to Vegas and never leave your hotel. This is intentional. If you never have to leave the hotel, then you’re much more likely to gamble at your hotel.

I admire the structure of Vegas. The city is literally built to take your money. You either lose at gambling or you win at gambling and feel like you’re rich, so you splurge on a $45 buffet or a $500 wristwatch. It’s just as brilliant as it is disgusting.

No kittens in my master bath

On a personal level, I was very intentional about how I wanted Vegas to take my money. I wanted to indulge like everyone else, but not on gambling or women or shopping. Here are the things I was hoping to get out of Vegas:

  1. Fantasy baseball draft (this was the main reason for the trip)
  2. Old freshman floor friends
  3. Gelato
  4. Soft pretzel
  5. In and Out burger
  6. A kitten bath (clearly, a bathtub with me in it, filled with kittens instead of water)

The last two didn’t happen, unfortunately. Apparently they look at you weird when they ask for a kitten bath. But I bet if I had put down enough money, I could have made it happen.

What would you indulge on if you went to Vegas?