08/22/2002 11:00PM

With a few exceptions, business as usual 9/11


A big part of the allure of Las Vegas is that tourists can check the reality of their life at the door, let their hair down, and feel free to have a great time.

However, that unfettered freedom will come under scrutiny on Sept. 11.

Last year in The Review-Journal I criticized four tracks that raced on Sept. 12. In response, an editor of a local publication wrote, "I don't think I would feel any better if those racetracks had gone dark for whatever number of days Eng thinks would have been enough. And I can almost guarantee you that the bereaved families of the victims were unaffected by those tracks racing."

Regardless of the differing degrees of emotions we feel about Sept. 11, life does go on. Here is an overview of some Sept. 11 activity in the local gaming community.

Two airlines that serve Las Vegas, Spirit and National, ran specials to encourage air travel on Sept. 11. Spirit gave away its inventory of 13,400 seats in less than eight hours. National sold one leg of a round trip for $1, essentially making the ticket half-price. Most of its 12,950 seats are sold.

MGM Mirage, which operates six Las Vegas casinos, expects to be sold out the week of Sept. 11. The same goes for the Venetian and for Mandalay Bay, which is hosting the Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas title fight Sept. 14.

Much of the strong volume on Sept. 11 is credited to pre-existing business conventions coming to Las Vegas.

Because the occupancy rate for the city's 126,000 rooms will be near peak levels, the Las Vegas service industry will be working in full force. Where tourists will see a difference is that some entertainment options will be dark on or around Sept. 11.

Shows such as "Blue Man Group," "Skintight," "Splash," "Showgirls," and "Boo" are taking the day off.

So is comedian Rita Rudner.

"I just couldn't be funny on that day; it's impossible," said Rudner.

Other performers like Lance Burton, Wayne Newton, and Penn and Teller extended their vacations to cover the week of Sept. 11.

Sept. 11 is a Wednesday, a normal day off for performers Siegfried and Roy and Melinda: First Lady of Magic.

Tourists will still have dozens of shows available. Many of the shows plan to incorporate a moment of silence or patriotic moment into their normal act.

Though it won't be business as usual, it will be close.

No matter what one decides to do on Sept. 11, it's important that we maintain that freedom of choice.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up Show.