Las Vegas Is a Good Place

Before I went to Las Vegas, I thought I wouldn’t like it. After I went, I found that it’s a pretty darn good place for a vacation.

Of course, there is a lot of sinning going on in Vegas, but as I keep reminding Christians, they don’t have to sin just because other folks are doing it. No one has to imitate the Big Hypocrite, William Bennett, who gambled away many of the millions of dollars he made on books about virtue.

Because gambling subsidizes everything, eats and sleeps are about as cheap as I’ve ever seen them. You can stay in a snazzy hotel in Vegas for a lot less money than it would cost you in Florida. You can also find cheap airfares to Bugsy Siegel’s desert dream. And the entertainment is first-class.

I’m not a real gambler. For one reason, I don’t have the money, and for another, I hate losing. All gamblers lose in the long run (and most lose in the short run) because the odds of all casino games favor the house. I follow the rule my daddy taught me. I decide ahead of time how much I can afford to lose, and when I’ve lost it, I quit. Should I win, I also quit. That was Rule No. 2: Always quit when you’re ahead.

The casinos count on people not quitting when they’re ahead. Too many people consider their winnings as "play money" and keep on gambling. Pretty soon, they’ve lost not only what they had won, but what they brought with them. Real fools lose even more by sticking their credit cards into cash machines.

There are a lot of things we should never do on credit, but gambling tops the list. Casino gambling is so profitable (to the casinos) that even the gangsters figured out they didn’t have to skim to make money hand over fist. The gangsters, of course, have all been shoved aside by the big corporations. I’m not sure that’s an improvement, as one is about as ruthless as the other, but today the games are honest, and security is probably better in the casinos than in the White House.

There is a beautiful desert park just outside of Vegas where a lot of old cowboy films were made, and Boulder Dam and the Grand Canyon are an easy drive. The casinos are attractions in themselves, because if ever there was a place where "over the top" applies, it’s Las Vegas. Everything — to understate it — is extravagant. There is, for example, a multithousand-room hotel built like a pyramid. It has "inclinators" instead of elevators, because they take you up and down at an angle. You’ll find hotels imitating Venice, Paris, New York City and Hollywood, to name a few.

If you prefer the old gangster decor, there’s the Riviera. It’s the only hotel I’ve ever stayed in that offered the guests free hypodermic needles. I assume, of course, that is a service for diabetics.

I guess what I like most about Vegas is its intellectual honesty. Vegas doesn’t run advertisements talking about how it wants to ensure your future. Unlike stock and mutual-fund peddlers, Vegas doesn’t pretend to be interested in your family or your future. It’s a tough town, and I like that.

Everybody who lays a bet knows what the odds are or can find out easily enough. There’s none of this carnie-talk about "keep trying and you’ll get rich." It’s a vacation spot for psychologically mature adults. No bull. No false promises. No mercy. If you can’t control your gambling, you’d better be sure to buy a round-trip ticket, because once you’re busted, nobody’s going to help you.

It’s funny that Vegas got its start as the dream of a mob guy and ironic that Siegel got a mob retirement party before he ever saw his dream come true, but come true it did. If you want to gamble, Vegas is the place to do it. There is literally no other place like it on Earth.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.