Waking Up From Recession, Las Vegas Still Hung Over
LIANE HANSEN, Host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HANSEN: Last week, I paid my first visit to Las Vegas, Nevada. It reminded me of what writer Somerset Maam said about Monaco: a sunny place for shady people. When the sun goes down and countless neon signs light up the Strip, from my hotel balcony, I could see the fake Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel and Casino and the fake Empire State Building at New York, New York. A block away, at Bally's Casino, there's a huge billboard advertising an old-fashioned showgirl extravaganza that's been running for decades, Jubilee.
CHORUS: (Singing) Welcome to Las Vegas, and to our show Jubilee...
HANSEN: Unidentified Woman: Nightclub passes (Unintelligible). No line, no (unintelligible), free admission. Any club any time.
HANSEN: There is no shortage of ways a visitor can spend money here. Gambling is a big industry, and everywhere you go, from the fancy hotels to the gas stations, you hear this:
(SOUNDBITE OF SLOT MACHINE)
HANSEN: Unidentified Woman #2: E-200.
HANSEN: The picture used to be different.
JEREMY AGUERO: It was sort of a common joke that the state bird or the county bird, the city bird, for Las Vegas was the building crane, a landscape littered with high-rise development and projects going up.
HANSEN: That's Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with Applied Analysis, a Nevada-based urban economic research firm.
AGUERO: You go back to 2006 and 2007 and the risks were that we couldn't find enough people to work in all of the hotels and casinos that we were constructing. The concerns were that we wouldn't have enough affordable housing for the workforce. You know, that contrasts incredibly sharply with what we see today: half-built stalled structures along the Las Vegas Strip and in our suburban areas, you know, are certainly monuments to an expectation that was there that never materialized.
HANSEN: Is there any new construction going on?
AGUERO: You know, those stand, of course, in stark contrast to all of the major construction projects that are half-finished today, both along the Las Vegas Strip and what have been for a very long time, very affluent suburban areas.
HANSEN: On his company's website, a ticker scrolls the latest stats. Red or green arrows point up or down on figures for home sales, hotel occupancy rates, visitor volume, gaming revenue. I asked Aguero what people are looking for.
AGUERO: But what they're looking for is that sort of consistent sign or that comfort level, almost the psychology to it all that the worst is behind us. And I think that there's a growing momentum that some of that's there, but that is met with a healthy dose of skepticism, just given how difficult this recession really has been on a community that's just not accustomed to that type of economic downturn.
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