For a while entertainment analysts used to think that gambling was not a cyclical component of the economy–that people fed their gambling addiction in good times and bad. In Vegas it’s looking like that’s not true.
With Americans cutting back on luxuries, and the price of transport rocketing, the so-called “Vegas vacation” is facing the axe. This week, as the nation celebrated Independence Day, major hotels were taking stock of a fall in all-important room occupancy rates from their usually impressive 95 per cent levels to nearer 80 per cent.
More worryingly, new figures showed gambling revenue has also dropped – a further 3 per cent this month – starting a price war between worried firms anxious to lure punters back. Hotel rooms, which last year averaged $130 each, now go for less than $100 (£50).
At the vast Planet Hollywood resort, the clatter of fruit machines and poker chips was this week replaced by an uneasy – and, for Vegas, very unusual – calm. A large if slightly tatty double room could be found for less than $80.
No tourist resort can afford to lose its buzz. Yet the slump now runs so deep it’s starting to hurt even the town’s Elvis impersonators, wedding chapels, and sex industry. When money’s tight, the prospect of stuffing another $20 bill into a lap-dancer’s gyrating stocking-top somehow doesn’t seem quite so enticing.