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Inside gaming column: Las Vegas still luring visitors from L.A.

20 November 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Sample survey research suggests Southlanders are a newly contented market for Las Vegas. Whatever the cause, Los Angelenos are making plans anew to spend money on homes, high-priced durable goods, and pricier consumer items. They've even turned Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger into a Democrat, so why not be confident? The results show their new spending plans embrace added chances for vacations, especially in Las Vegas, not because they feel rich but because we're still a bargain, or so they say.

The news nationally isn't so hot. Surveys show that recent erosions in consumer confidence and increasing passenger anger about new systems of security could spell softer demand for high-end Las Vegas vacations. In the long run, however, casino chieftains in Las Vegas say nothing can put a lid on the baby boomers' propensity to spend.

Another point local executives have been making is that the drive for casino development in Asia is offering whole new markets. For the first time, Las Vegas operators will be using their own investments to create in China, the second-largest, fastest-growing middle class in the world, a whole new demand for coming to Las Vegas. American Gaming Association Chairman Frank Fahrenkoff echoed the same sentiment privately and publicly at the Gaming Control Expo here last week.

Let a guy (developer Steve Wynn) poke his elbow through a painting and everybody jumps all over him. But in this case, it was his painting, in this case the "Le Reve" by Pablo Picasso, arguably one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century. Curators say there is an entire cottage industry for obscuring such damage. But art critics say the case of "Le Reve," which Wynn had contracted to sell for $139 million, was the first in which a private owner poked a hole in his own painting in public. The law protects his right to do so. But the critics say the incident is leading to talk about establishing new standards to protect great works. Given his bond with the art he loves, that is one consequence even Wynn might welcome in the long run.

James Bond is back in "Casino Royale" with a new flourish of the cards on behalf of the gaming industry. Casino executives in Las Vegas who claim on background to have been part-time consultants on the movie, which opened nationwide Friday, say the Las Vegas experience, high rollers in general and the winning worth of modern techniques were first and foremost in the eyes of producers. You really can't get any better publicity than that, public relations experts say.

Gaming Wire Editor Rod Smith can be reached by e-mail at rsmith@reviewjournal. com or by phone at 477-3893.

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