McChump #2 wanted some excuse to drive to the Phoenix area, and I could get a cheap airfare to Mesa, so why not? It's on!
Unfortunately I kind of screwed around getting my ticket due to work and so on, so we missed Turf Paradise live season. But that's okay, we thought. We could just drive up to Las Vegas from Phoenix for a few days of giant fun, playing horses at race books and assorted other gamblin; and gawkin' activities, just as we've done so many times in years past. Road trip!
But things have changed there. Been changing there for the past few years. For the worse. And this time it finally went over the cliff. Absolutely the worst and most depressing Las Vegas experience I ever had in my life.
Now up front I'll admit, the only places we visited were the El Cortez for racing and a couple (?) night stay plus some casual gamblin', some other assorted casinos downtown Fremont Street for walkin' around and casual gamblin', and then the Orleans and nearby casinos for racing and two nights of walkin' around and casual gamblin'. Just like always. Walk around some, marvel at some stupid stuff and various characters, enjoy an adult beverage or two, do some more casual gamblin, and spend a couple afternoons in horse books. In the past, that's been plenty of fun. More than enough. But this time it felt like an eternity of misery.
Let's start with the employees.
Big thumbs down. I've never encountered a more sullen, unsmiling, grumpy lot on my entire life. And that's everyone: Racebook tellers, cocktail waitresses, restaurant employees, bartenders, hotel staff, gaming table staff, you name it. All behaving as though they were disgusted with the world, barely tolerating the clientele, and really wanting to be somewhere else. Their attitude permeated the casinos. No smiling, laughing, beautiful people having fun like you see in casino TV commercials in these casinos. Just unsmiling zombies walking around in a grinding, clanging money-extraction machine, with the dull patrons dutifully laying it out and the sullen employees dutifully (though grudgingly) raking it in. The only two people I encountered all visit who had a pleasant attitude were one Orleans hotel security guy, and the cabbie who finally and mercifully took me to the airport to get me the hell out of there. Maybe it was because the union had labor issues with management right then, but I don't care. Don't take it out on us.
Let's move on to the episode of McChump #2, desperate criminal.
One day we're in the El Cortez sports book, and McChump #2 has all these friends from Phoenix calling him wanting him to make sports bets for them. Real dumb stuff, too, that no book in Vegas is taking. And he has no idea about sports bets anyhow. So McChump #2, that true American friend that he is, stands there in front of the big odds board talking to a friend on his cellphone about what bets they CAN make, when all of sudden Rrrrrrrrr! Rrrrrrrrrrrr! Rrrrr! along comes the racebook fuzz, normally fully occupied rousting TV watchers who don't have a live sports bet and telling them to get out from in front of the TVs you bums, but since today there were none of those and in fact hardly any patrons at all, the long arm of the law fell on McChump #2 for lack of anything better to do.
"Okay buddy, you're busted. We know what you're doing." "What is it I'm doing? I'm talking to a friend to tell him about what bets he CAN make at your sports book." "Oh, sure. We know what you're doing all right. Time for you to leave."
Finally McChump #2 managed to convince them he was just a clueless schlub talking on the phone, exactly like he looked, and wasn't doing anything nefarious much less passing along their top secret ten hut! Air Force Generals Only super duper A-1 platinum elite special racebook odds to the mafia in New Jersey. or whatever they thought it was he was doing. So they allowed us to stay ... for now ... but don't ever let us catch you making a cellphone call in front of the big El Cortez odds board again, buddy. Which I thought was big of them considering we were at that point paying hotel guests of the El Cortez. Well, okay, so how's this sound, buddy, you won't catch me in your sports/race book again for any reason, ever, much less spending money there. Cripes.
Let's end with the prices. Of everything, everywhere. Friggin' ridiculous.
Okay the rooms were reasonable because McChump #2 had accumulated degenerate gambler points from his many degenerate gambler outings to the various Casinos Of Our Land, but everything else like food and drinks and etc. was a total ripoff. Prices were higher than in Chicago fer cripes sakes. And for this we had to put up with the God-awful stink of cigarette smoke everywhere, probably including cigarette smoke infused into the walls from 1958. And nasty floor managers always walking around and peeking over your shoulder to make sure you were playing enough credits on your electronic poker machine to warrant that free beer from the bartender, a beer they probably got for maybe $0.50 wholesale but wanted $7.50 for at the bar. Geez get outta my face! Makes me feel like I'm a murder suspect or spy, or something.
And concerts, etc.? Fuggetaboutit. Elton John was in town while we were there, finishing a residency at Caesar's or some such. Cheapest tickets available were like $300+, and those were crap. So a big nope to Elton, I won't even spend that for the Stones anymore. But Carlos Santana was also in town, and we could have got reasonable but not fantastic seats for like $125. So McChump #2 agreed we could do that. EXCEPT by the time Ticketmaster added its service and convenience fees and Las Vegas and Nevada added their various taxes and fees, and some other parties like maybe the local DAR or Shriners' Clown Car Fund or whatever other leech tacked on this or that and the other, each ticket ran over $200. WTF? McChump #2's response when I told him that? "F*** THAT!". My feelings exactly - "F*** THAT!". I mean for cripes' sake okay it is Carlos Santana, and he's woth $125, but over $75 in add-on fees to middlemen? Yeah ... no. Not on our watch.
On the brght side I DID win money on the horses while there, so this isn't just losing talking. And watching the Golden Knights play for the NHL Stanley Cup when out at various pubs, that was kind of exciting, because all the locals were so pumped.
But otherwise, a new miserable experience.
So adios forever, Las Vegas. You've become a ripoff, and sullen, and depressing, and you suck. That's it. I am never going back. Most likely.