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Unexpectedly, Las Vegas hit by downturn

23 September 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- As reported by Reuters: "...Vegas barreled through previous U.S. economic recessions with no problem, but the current slowdown -- marked by home foreclosures and then high gasoline prices -- has had a much bigger impact on the gambling mecca than economists expected.

"And while free rooms and room discounts have kept hotels relatively full -- occupancy is down just 1 percent in the year to July -- gambling revenue is down 6.5 percent.

"Harrah's and MGM, which operates 10 properties on the Strip including Bellagio and Circus Circus, have each cut about 1,500 Las Vegas jobs over the past year.

"...Two factors make the current downturn harder for Las Vegas than previous ones, according to analysts.

"One is high gasoline prices, which will hit the pockets of the more than half of Las Vegas visitors who drive in by car or bus.

"The other is the growth of places where gamblers can get a cheaper fix close to home, like riverboats in the U.S. Midwest and new casinos on Indian reservations like the MGM Grand at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut..."

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