Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Viva Las Vegas?

Indeed, welcome to quite possibly the most surreal place anywhere on Earth, where the temperature peaked today at 106 degrees fahrenheit (that's 41 degrees celsius for those of you that prefer it that way).

It has to be admitted that, after the comparatively gentle charms of Luxembourg, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Kyoto, Rotorua, Auckland and Nadi, this has all come as something of a sensory overload, especially given that, thanks to the International Date Line, I got to experience Monday night in both Nadi and Las Vegas (don't try this at home, so to speak...).

However, inspired by the view from my 26th floor window overlooking the famous Strip, I did venture out into the stifling heat to see if Sin City is as described in the brochure. The good news is that it is just as excitingly weird as they say it is, with replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Sphinx, an entire hotel and casino decorated in the style of a medieval English castle, or New York, or ancient Egypt, if that's what you fancy.

It's also astonishingly tacky, with people trying to thrust cards into your hand bearing pictures of scantily clad and pneumatically breasted young women who want to 'entertain' you for a price (prostitution is illegal here in Clark County, Nevada, yet there are 117 pages of 'entertainers' in the local Yellow Pages!).

Of course, the main feature here is gambling. My first sight on getting off my flight at the airport was a gate lounge filled with slot machines - lots of them. I suspect that if you took them away, the terminal buildings could be two-thirds of their current size and still handle the passengers that flood into the city. Slot machines are everywhere and if, like me, you are staying in a casino hotel (Palms, and, if you have broadband, you must see their website, check out the fantasy suites!), you arrive at the front entrance to be confronted by a sea of slot machines and, hidden somewhere far away, reception.

My problem is this, I don't gamble. I was trained as a mathematician (not a very good one I admit, but...) and I understand the odds, which are against me. This tends to take the fun out of it, if truth be told. What makes it worse is that the people playing slot machines always seem so miserable. They tend to look poor (as though they really can't afford to do this) and you sense that they're waiting for the miracle that never comes. It depresses the hell out of me, let me tell you...

And yet, I'm not one of those who would ban gambling, or tighten restrictions on it. If people want to gamble, they should be willing to accept the consequences of their own actions.

I have been known, on very rare occasions, to play roulette. I am possibly the world's least adventurous player, I admit, as I tend towards low stakes, high percentage choices but what can I say, I have fairly conservative personal morals (and yet I'm very liberal in terms of the moral values I apply towards others, go figure...).

But for now, I must leave you in order to prowl the night and, more importantly, grab a bite to eat...


Richard Gadsden said...

"Be conservative in what you emit, but liberal in what you accept", hey?

Mark Valladares said...


Sounds good to me!

Andy said...

A mathematician, and when you do gamble the game you choose is *roulette*? Ye Gods!

Follow the MIT boys and try blackjack... at least you have some sort of hope there.