OK, that’s probably hyperbole, but let me explain some things before I begin. First, I must apologize to the faithful readers of our humble little newspaper. This was a week with Vegas heavy content in The Observer. But c’mon, there was no way I was going to travel to Las Vegas and not write about it. Feel free to stop reading at any point if you have Sin City burnout. Second, as I wrote before Labor Day, if you get the chance to travel for Notre Dame football, take it and run with the money. The atmosphere inside Allegiant Stadium was electric and the football team’s turnaround under the leadership of Marcus Freeman and company must be commended. My excitement for the coming years can hardly be contained, as Notre Dame versus Texas A&M in 2024 is already on my calendar. With that being said, I only came to Las Vegas for a Notre Dame football-focused reunion, and without the pomp and circumstance of the Irish, I will find it hard to make it back to the city. Allow me to shed some light on the subject.
Upon arriving to Harry Reid International Airport on Thursday night, I found myself as an exhausted little man. The week of Oct. 3 was a finals week for MBA students, and upon completing finals on Thursday morning, it took nearly us three and a half hours to make it to O’Hare in Chicago. Unreal. (JB Pritzker, you owe me $12.50 for overcharging us in tolls). The stop-and-go traffic made us nearly miss our flight, but by the grace of God, we made it. The six-hour flight was made worse by what must have been the world’s most annoying flight attendant. This dude seriously would not shut up. I’m sorry. His jokes were even worse. “Why was the mountain bad at hide and seek?” he asked. “Because it peaks!” Dead silence followed until a rowdy bachelor party sitting behind us began to curse him out. After that, I just may never fly Southwest again. Once we landed, we ventured out of the airport to hail an uber. As we were taken into the heart of the strip, the next sixty hours in the city would give me some keen insights on a place I’d rather not return to in the immediate future.
My euphoria certainly increased upon seeing old classmates and taking in an Irish Victory, but my opinions regarding the city persisted throughout the high and lows of the weekend. How badly the city smelled was my first thought. Both inside and out, Las Vegas is a stinky town. Imagine Cheers Pub met a hot steam shower met a piece of gas station pizza and that will give you the insight on how I think Vegas smells. It was repulsive. It probably doesn’t help that folks are allowed to smoke inside, but the smell is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. My second thought regarded the price gouging. It was most apparent at a Notre Dame function at Caesars Palace on Friday night. My friend Camden ordered a cocktail, and I eagerly awaited the receipt like a tiger stalking its prey. “That will be $73.50 sir,” the bartender responded. Lol. Bring back Prohibition if the venues in Vegas have the gall to charge nearly 100 bucks for a drink. But since people will gladly pay, I suppose those prices will stay the same (I chose to settle for a $17 Michelob Ultra, how lucky am I. Look at us, who would’ve thought).
But as my thoughts continued to linger, they were always brought back to how depressing the town is. The sunshine, palm trees and bright lights don’t do a good enough job of hiding the depressive ooze of overpriced booze, bad behavior and the manipulation of customer appetites. The house always wins, and the gambling industry that has made Vegas a household name deserves a lot more criticism than I think it gets. While Vegas serves as a cultural center of America that brings people together for conferences, shows and bachelor parties, gambling sits at the heart of it all. A revenue driver that pieces the whole place together, it cannot be escaped. The airport is cluttered with various slot machines that beep and blink for any traveler that wants a taste. Casinos up the ante, as their floors can become filled with hundreds of guests looking to win it big on the blackjack table. But the reality is, almost all of them end up leaving with less money than they came in with.
And I know what you might be thinking. “Oh Stephen, shut up nerd, live a little.” “Oh Stephen, you’re just a sore loser who lost money at the tables and now wants to complain about it.” “Oh Stephen, you’re just a guy who clearly can’t handle Vegas.” To answer that, yes I have lived a little, and love a healthy wager from time to time, whether that be on the golf course or on a downloaded sportsbook. And yes, I lost a little bit of money playing blackjack, but thank God I know my limits, because unfortunately for some, they don’t.
Sadly, gambling can be devastating for those who don’t know their limits. Gambling addiction is a vice that can affect the wellbeing of not only those afflicted but the well-being of their friends and family as well. “I can make it all back on this hand” is a mindset that can be cancerous and once compulsive gamblers find themselves in a hole, it becomes very difficult to climb out of. Las Vegas’s bread and butter has been made off those with this crippling addiction. I found this great article written by a compulsive gambler fighting his addiction in Las Vegas. “Unlike alcohol or drugs, gambling was easy to hide. You couldn’t smell it on my breath. I could walk in a straight line and drive safely after a binge (my drink of choice while playing slots was sparkling water with a twist of lime). Gambling didn’t leave track marks on my arms or white residue in my nostrils. Several times, I met up with friends for dinner or to see a comedy show twenty minutes after losing a thousand dollars at the machines. I simply put on my happy social mask and carried on.”
A harrowing but optimistic story, the predatory nature of “Adult Disneyland” on those with addiction is the biggest reason why I will always find myself contemptuous with the city. While surely many people can enjoy a weekend in Nevada without worrying about overdrawn bank statements and maxed-out credit scores, gambling addictions have cost people their homes, careers, marriages and even their own lives. So, if you are reading this and have a compulsory gambling addiction, I am praying for you and your courage to be honest about your addiction. Viva La Vegas, I think not.
Stephen Viz is a one-year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or in Mendoza. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @StephenViz.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.