01/23/2008 7:04PM

Vegas, Reinvented Again


LAS VEGAS --As more and more Americans don't have to stray far from home to drop their money into slot machines, Las Vegas keeps reinventing itself to encourge them to continue getting on airplanes to fly here.

There was the brief flirtation with becoming a "family destination" in the 1990's, a concept abandoned when it became clear that families with children both annoyed the other patrons and failed to spend Vegas-sized money.

Then came the resurrection of the Sin City pitch, where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and visitors are encouraged to don wigs and fake names in search of random hookups.

More recently there's been a sideways expansion into nightclub-laden, hipster-friendly resorts away from the glittery Strip, the best example of which is the Red Rock, the palatial new home of the National Handicapping Championship, which begins here Friday morning.

The Red Rock, 11 miles west of the Strip and a $42 cab ride from the airport, was the most expensive off-Strip Vegas property every built when it opened two years at a cost of $925 million -- an astounding sum for a 450-room property (since expanded to 850.) It's the new flagship (and corporate headquarters) of the Station casino group, which began as a chain of bingo halls and was once known for its budget-minded casinos catering to locals. The Red Rock is a violent departure from all that, a swank yet consciously ironic retro take on 1960's Space Age modernism. The overall feel is one part desert resort and one part futuristic casino. The colors are muted earthtones, and the slots volume is turned down lower than the onmipresent trancey lounge music.

The NHC tournament players, who will arrive tomorrow, will find themselves in slightly nicer rooms than in the past and will appreciate the well-wired built-in workstation desks in the rooms for staying up and poring over pp's at night. The racebook, where the tourney will be held, is spacious with massive walls of projection screens. And it's right next to the 25-table poker room, the 16-screen first-run movie theatre and the 72-lane bowling alley.

The idea is that you never have to leave the property, and that's a good idea. Step outside and you feel like you're at a lonely shopping mall in Phoenix rather than in Vegas, where once upon a time the whole idea was to hit the sidewalks and the strip and cruise from one neon joint to the next. Now you might as well have flown to Dubai City or some other fabulous, self-contained 21st Century metropolis that looks like where people might vacation in a science-fiction movie. It's pretty cool, but it sure ain't your father's Las Vegas any more.

C More than 1 year ago
Lane, I don't like to play the "what-if" game, but "what-if-Culin" in the Derby is not the same as "what-if-StreetSense" in the Preakness. I'm not quite sure if you meant to equate the two in the first place, but the Preakness was a head-bob that could've legitimately gone either way... Curlin was a distant 3rd in Kentucky, although I'd agree he deserved 3YO and HOY over StreetSense. Also, why does everyone feel that being defeated by a filly, especially in a 1 1/2 3YO race, makes the boys some kind of laughing stock? Twelve furlongs is really beyond the outer limits for American dirt horses. At that point, lungs and joints count more than sex. Pletcher entered Rags because he thought she had the stamina to run that final quarter. So did Curlin (again, a head-bob finish). In this case, the distance ended up being the great equalizer, IMO. I don't think Curlin deserved the ridicule he received after the Belmont.
Lane More than 1 year ago
C, Why do my posts seem to bring out the argumentative side with you? I was more amused with the suprising post about santa anita and cancellations, new mixtures, etc. I played Rags out here at santa anita before she shipped east and still love that she won that day. Not to metion she won me money as a key in the oaks. I grew up with racing quarter horses and know fully well sex doesn't matter. He(Curlin) was a distant 3rd in the derby, but still didn't get a smooth trip. I'm not taking away from Street sense as he was my A horse in that trifecta and I was lucky enough to hit it three times thanks to "Exotic Betting" and luck. I'm just saying, had Curlin raced before at two, had he matured as fast as Street Sense, etc, etc. My main objective was to thank Mr.Crist for another thought provoking article and for "making" me go back and watch last year's key races. Any huge filly out of A.P.Indy would never lead to a laughing matter with anyone who knows horses, trust me. Lane
Lane More than 1 year ago
Flip, thanks for the "scoop". Please keep us informed on any changes at Santa Anita. What's next...bloggers reporting a fire in Vegas? Seriously, the article on Street Sense not winning the Preakness really made me re-think last year after I thought I had moved on to this three year old crop. I have to admit I enjoyed going back and watching all the races and seeing these three year olds all get the much deserved attention. Thanks Steve for that great article. I still think Curlin was the best and everyone could've thought, "What if Curlin had won the Derby?". On his way to a triple crown, if Pletcher had still put her there, he gets knocked out by a filly !!!! That would've been pretty awesome too.
paulf More than 1 year ago
I live 10 minutes west of Santa Anita. Monsoon rains for the last 5 hours. Saturday highly unlikely.
Flip Dawson More than 1 year ago
What a bunch of blockheads at Santa anita. I was looking for the Thursday results on the DRF website, and could not find them. Today ( Friday) I see that Thursday was washed out.(no pun intended.) To add further insult, the track has now gone to a competitor of their cushion track to fix the drainage problem. If they had left well enough alone, racing would still be going at 100%. Instead, now the head honcho of SA says they are racing day-to-day, and that the Sunshine Millions may be a no-go. What a joke!!!
rfb0318 More than 1 year ago
Possible disaster en route for Saturday at Santa Anita. That's right, the cancellation of.....Frank's Energy Drink Model Search!!! Speaking of drinks, isn't having Cushion Track at one location and Tapeta at another kinda like a McDonald's selling Coke at one location and Pepsi at another?
Greg Calabrese More than 1 year ago
The Red Rock is a nice joint, under the glitz the heart is all Palace Station a casino joint that always took care of horseplayers. Frank Fertitta is going to treat you right at the Red Rock.
jrzingg More than 1 year ago
Just read your "what if Street Sense". I think Calvin Borel cost Street Sense a Triple Crown. And I'm a big fan of Calvin.
EJXD2 More than 1 year ago
I guess it all depends on what you want out of your trip to Vegas. For me, part of the fun is checking out the different casinos, restaurants, etc. that are easily accessible on the strip. Red Rock is a fantastic property but it doesn't seem worth the travel and the isolated feeling once there considering so much more is so close. Maybe I'd feel differently if I could drive in from LA or went more than once or twice a year, but that strip mall backdrop you described sounds depressing.
David Najar More than 1 year ago
Steve, another excellent article. You continue to excel with your well written and timely articles. I always look forward to your editorials.