You can bet on Vegas

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on: Sep 22, 2011

Young American ‘Sin City' stays desirable year-round.

When you land at McCarran International airport in Las Vegas, you are immediately struck by how small it is when compared to the larger gateways of New York and Chicago. But the speed and friendliness with which you are cleared by immigration is enough to convince you that the way to America is through these small airports.

For the first time in six visits to the US (and the first to Las Vegas), I came upon a friendly immigration officer. “So what brings you here to the United States today?” he asked. On being told that I was a journalist who will be writing about the city, the officer helpfully informed me that the airport was going in for a $1 billion expansion and that the city's gaming industry was adapting itself to the ever-changing needs of visitors, a growing number of whom are Chinese.

“Do Indians gamble?” he wanted to know. I described to him the growing craze for cricket betting in India and we spent a good 15 minutes chatting about the gaming industry, much to the chagrin of my waiting hosts, who mistakenly thought I had been detained by Customs.

A short limo ride took us to the Bellagio hotel, our home for the next three days. As we turned into the hotel driveway, our host asked the limo driver to switch on the musical water fountains. As if on cue, the minute we entered the driveway the fountains, which are a great attraction both for tourists and locals, put up their show.

At the Bellagio, made famous by Ocean's Eleven starring George Clooney, we were checked in by Sonia, originally from Jaipur but now settled in Vegas. Over the next three days we came across many more Indians and other people of Asian origin in the city.

“Most Indians come for 3-6 days. The preferred mode of transportation for Indians is bus, which means they arrive at another American city and then drive down here,” says David Gonzalez, Manager Public Relations, MGM Resorts International.

At this world-famous gambling destination and ‘Sin City', a majority of the hotels are housed in glitzy buildings, with an array of in-house slot machines and gaming areas. You can see people crowding around the machines any time of day or night. It is also not uncommon to see food trays lined up next to the gaming machines, as visitors feast and play.

Big cats in Sin City

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the city has a lot more to offer than just its glamorous casinos.

Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is definitely a must-visit here. The bottlenose dolphins, some of which were bred at the habitat, don't perform any synchronised acts, but it is nevertheless a treat to watch the staff training the dolphins to exercise or perform stunts such as jumps, flips and spins.

The Secret Garden is home to several lions and tigers that live in wonderfully recreated natural habitats. We had a rare treat in store here — the sighting of a white lion.


We also discovered that the best way to see glittering Las Vegas is from the sky. The city has a number of helicopter services that offer short flights over the mile-long strip in the heart of the city. You can be assured of stunning views of the glitzy multiplexes and towering buildings lighting up the skyline. Also on offer is an eight-hour flight to visit the Grand Canyon.

Every night, a host of clubs and theatres put up shows that give visitors a feel and flavour of America. These include the Elvis show at the Viva Elvis Theatre — a live dance and music tribute to the rock-and-roll legend, and a comedy and magic show at the Queen's Canyon Club.

A home in Vegas!

And if you happen to love the city so much that you wish to own a home here, then you will find enough helpful people in the city with a ready tip or two for buying your dream Vegas house. Our cabdriver's tip: “You can get a four bedroom house with a swimming pool for anything between $110,000 and $160,000.” He also threw in some friendly: “It may be a good idea to tie-in water with the contract, as water can be expensive!”

As for those who have no such long-term plans in Las Vegas, you can still visit the city any time of the year as it is a year-round tourist destination. A relatively young American city, it receives about 38 million tourists a year, with 18 per cent international arrivals.

Catering to the wide variety of visiting nationalities, the city has restaurants offering cuisine that span from Italian to Continental and Chinese to Thai and Indian. The Bellagio's in-room dining experience includes Indian chicken curry, which for $28 is accompanied by basmati rice, popadom , cucumber raita and mango chutney.

However, despite its many attraction, Las Vegas does have one drawback — its weather. Like in Delhi, it is not unusual for the mercury to shoot above 40 degrees Celsius during summer while dipping to about 4 degrees Celsius in winter. But if you're in the real mood for Las Vegas, you can easily weather that.

Fast facts

The McCarran International airport is served by more than 30 airlines including international carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Philippines Airlines, Aero Mexico and Air Canada. Several American airlines including Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Blue Airways and Southwest operate regular flights connecting various American cities to Las Vegas.

A one-way bus journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas takes about six hours and costs about $90.

Published on September 22, 2011
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