Las Vegas 2020 Is A Dangerous, Violent Free-For-All


The Sin City you knew and loved has gone a little bit “Mad Max” and a whole lotta “Resident Evil: Extinction”…

Back in October 2018, I penned a piece announcing my transition from “Vegas visitor” to “Sin City local”. In that article, I promised to continue writing from the perspective of a tourist, while peppering in the additional tips I’d absorb as a resident along the way.

Since then, a lot has changed. You’re about to read what may be the final entry in this blog. Only time will tell. Keep in mind that the name of this site is “Vegas Unfiltered”. You might not like what you’re about to read, but quite often, the truth is ugly. And that’s the state of Las Vegas right now. Very ugly.

apocalypse now

It’s often said that art imitates life….and vice versa. So when I looked towards the entertainment world for a representation of Las Vegas circa “summer 2020”, I found myself inside the dystopian setting of “Resident Evil: Extinction“. You’re probably familiar with that particular film, and if you aren’t, the description might seem uncomfortably familiar.

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Based on popular video games and third in a series of movie adaptations, “Resident Evil: Extinction” depicts a post-pandemic Las Vegas in which our iconic hotels and casinos are overrun with hoards of the infected. The Strip is a wasteland, and those who survived the global pandemic become victims of bloody violence.

Factor in “Mad Max”-style high speed police chases along with the new phenomenon of ¨scooter gangs¨ in place of outlaw bikers…and you’ve got an post-apocalypse double feature that none of us could have imagined witnessing during our lifetime.

Does that seem dramatic and exaggerated? Well, perhaps you should follow Vegas news more often. Sin City has indeed become a seedy, violent place to visit. Since the shaky reopening of the Strip, downtown and surrounding areas, the shootings, muggings, murders, suicides, protests, riots and brawls have become rather routine. Sounds like the perfect vacation spot, doesn’t it? Just bring your tear gas canister and join in on the fun.

Grim business prognosis from 8NewsNow published 9/21/20

Sights like this were common just a few short months ago…

The seeds of chaos were planted in May

Las Vegas Metropolitan Captain James LaRochelle told ABC News on 6/24/20 that the department saw an increase in crime starting late the previous month.

“Three weeks ago, we had a really bad week, with 11 murders in 10 days. Some of those were domestic violence-related. Our gang murders are about 22% of our homicides, and our rate of solving those is a bit lower. At one point in April we had solved 100% of our murders, and now we’re at about 80%,” LaRochelle told the outlet. “We’re still slightly down in violent crime year-to-date, but lately we are seeing an uptick and it is a concern.”

Police chase on Las Vegas Boulevard, Labor Day weekend 9/5/20

When the first restrictions were rolled back and chains were cut from casino doors, I penned a series of articles detailing the efforts to lure tourists back. From new sanitation protocols to removal of parking fees, I assured readers that Vegas was ready and waiting for you. In retrospect, that was a foolishly optimistic stance.

Brawl at Encore 9/6/20 (Labor Day weekend)

Getting here is one tough battle

If you plan on visiting in the coming weeks or months, prepare for a very nerve-wracking experience. It begins at your local airport, where restrictions and measures will make everything from going through security to sitting at the gate and your actual flight anything but pleasant.

Chances are that you already had a rough time booking your trip, as airlines are bleeding cash and have slashed the number of daily flights into and out of the city. Along with limited options, expect an increased likelihood of delays and cancellations, too.

You’ll be required to wear a mask from the time you enter your departure point until you actually breathe Nevada air…it’s not a negotiable matter. You can say goodbye to having an in-flight cocktail to set the mood, and forget about even having a soft drink unless you buy a bottle at the pricey terminal newsstand. In an effort to minimize contact, flight attendants will mostly remain at the front and rear of the plane. You’ll get a cup of water and perhaps a bag of crackers…also known as “prison rations”.

You won’t know if the flight attendants and gate agents are smiling behind those masks. They certainly don’t want to be in an enclosed space with potentially infected passengers, but they’ve got to make a living. So shut up, avoid your neighbors, follow the lengthy list of rules, deal with the lack of in-flight amenities and sit still until the plane comes to a complete stop. 

It may be a long time before McCarran International Airport is thriving again…

Things are beginning to look bleak

Once you disembark, the airport will provide a depressing first impression, with closed restaurants and bars, darkened slot machines and minimal available services. Due do decreased demand, you may deplane in a different terminal than usual, requiring a shuttle bus, tram or lengthy walk to pick up your baggage.

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Most local UBER and LYFT drivers have given up servicing the airport, so anticipate a wait time of 30 minutes or so for a pickup. Tempers are short and I’ve witnessed multiple arguments in the terminals and at pick-up areas. Are you happy to be here yet?

When you arrive at the hotel, you’ll have your body temperature scanned by one of a variety of different methods, walk through a maze of stanchions to get to the few human beings behind the reception desk, or opt to check yourself in via an automated kiosk. The goal once again is to limit human contact in a city once known for its heightened hospitality. And keep that mask on at all times…unless you’re smoking, of course. Then it’s okay.

First class service is a thing of the past

After standing in line to pick up your room key, you’ll most likely stand in another line to use the elevator. Most resorts are restricting the number of persons allowed on each trip, yet they’ve closed off certain areas of the hotel to maximize efficiency during decreased occupancy. So you’re all going to the same floors in the same tower while being instructed to practice social distancing and not crowd into the elevators together. Did you follow that? 

Las Vegas Review-Journal 9/22/20

Take note that, just like the airlines, Vegas hotels and casinos are operating at a loss. They’ve cut their workforce tremendously, so services are minimal and not always offered in a pleasant manner. Those who remain employed are severely overworked and under a great deal of stress.

South Point Casino 8/30/20

Are you the kind of person who likes to have your hotel room serviced on a daily basis? Most travelers do…it’s nice to have someone else fix the bed, replace the towels and wipe down sinks and countertops. Well, not in today’s Vegas. It’s now standard for housekeeping to only do their tasks when you completely check out.

Need towels or supplies? Leave a message with housekeeping, and if you’re lucky, what you requested may eventually be hanging from the knob outside your door. Is your trash can full? Bag it up and leave it in the hallway with everyone else’s. There’s no room service if you wish to have breakfast in bed or splurge on a midnight snack. Doesn’t this all sound lovely?

MGM Resorts recently announced the layoff of an additional 18,000 workers. That’s on top of the thousands that they’ve already let go. So yes, that associate you’re engaging with is happy to have a job, but that’s the extent of their joy. Don’t hint for an upgrade…they aren’t in the mood to hear about your birthday while they’re wondering if or when they’ll get the ax.

Popular hotels like The Palms, Rio, The Cromwell, Planet Hollywood, The Linq, Tropicana, Main Street Station, and Park MGM continue to remain dark. Others have reduced operating hours, closed restaurants and buffets (Wynn already shut down their buffet after re-opening it in June), scaled back gaming options, eliminated valet service, and closed pools, spas, salons, fitness facilities, player’s club lounges, and more. You’re still on the hook for the full price of resort fees, despite the removal of most amenities.

The once-popular Wynn Buffet during peak lunch period on Saturday 8/16/20

Low down and dirty

Maintenance at most Strip hotels, with the notable exceptions of Wynn and Westgate, has been downright disheartening. Common areas and guestrooms are receiving poor to indifferent upkeep, despite the PR crap they’ve been shoveling. Hotels may be promising “Clean and Safe” but the puddles of dried urine/vomit, dirty rooms, grungy common areas and filthy parking garages tell a different story. Once again, cost-cutting and workforce reduction are to blame.

Guests returning to Flamingo Hotel Casino during reopening week were greeted with filth and disarray…

Glitz and glamour have been replaced with crime, decay and neglect.

If you decide to venture out, know that Las Vegas Boulevard is a mess. As usual, outdoor escalators are out of commission despite months of opportunity to repair them during the shutdown. Sidewalks and overhead walkways are filthy, too. The homeless problem has grown, so you’ll be dodging a lot more beggars than in the past.

One place that doesn’t seem to be suffering economic loss is Fremont Street. Nevertheless, the nightly street party is a COVID-friendly petri dish of overcrowding, gang bangers, hot heads, and anti-maskers. Going there on a weekend evening is literally taking your life into your own hands.

Labor day Anarchy as crowds go “Mad Max”

Check out this shocking video from Friday night, 9/4/20 (Labor Day Weekend). Take note of the pair of Las Vegas Metro police officers at 00:11 to 00:17, strolling through the crowd without masks. Apparently it’s optional for them to wear face coverings but not for you. So why aren’t they stopping the violators they see in every direction?

Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen has gone viral…

After a Labor Day weekend filled with violence and brawls, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Patricia Spencer held a press conference at the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on Tuesday 9/8/20. She declared “We understand that our neighboring states all have COVID restrictions and the residents are looking for places to go and be entertained and get out. However, we cannot tolerate the violence.”

“There were numerous fights that took place with large amounts of people in various Strip properties,” Spencer continued. “For those people who are coming here to have fun and take part in the festivities and the entertainment here, we welcome you. For those of you who are coming here to prey on the tourists or residents of this community, it will not be tolerated.”

Here’s another video from Labor Day weekend on Fremont Street, capturing the tail end of a confrontation between the crowd and law enforcement. Why would you subject yourself to this kind of atmosphere?

Public video posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen…

Tourism has plummeted – let’s continue building!

Massive construction projects like Resorts World, the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, MSG Sphere, Downtown Arch and Circa Hotel have created lane closures, traffic back-ups, and annoying detours all over the tourist corridor. It’s an absolute cluster-fuck out there. We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic…so let’s build-build-build!

Despite thousands of empty hotel rooms, abandoned hotel towers, and a vacant new stadium, massive construction projects continue…

Room rates have been slashed, so people who couldn’t normally afford high-end hotels are taking advantage of once-in-a-lifetime bargains. What does that mean to you? The luxurious experience you may have once enjoyed has now gone “ghetto”.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. spokesman Michael Weaver said the company is increasing its room rates and investment in its security workforce and procedures after a fight broke out at Encore over the weekend. The company has no record of injuries from the incident.

Weaver said the changes are being made to ensure Wynn’s two Las Vegas properties, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, “maintain the guest experience standards for which (they) are known.” Las Vegas Review-Journal 9/8/20

Brawling at Wynn/Encore 9/6/20 (public photo posted to Facebook by Martin Laursen)

Vulgar, obnoxious, and violent behavior are prevalent around the clock. Both the police force and private security officers have their hands full dealing with anti-maskers, fights, street racing, protests, on-property marijuana use (prohibited by law) and additional crimes. 

Downtown and the Strip saw their share of protests and riots this spring…

Why bother coming when there’s nothing to do but brawl?

If you can look past all of the above in hopes of “getting your Vegas on”, what’s left to do? Well, right now there are no nightclubs, day clubs or casino bars. There are a few scattered deejays, no karaoke and minimal live entertainment. Dancing is strictly prohibited (I’m not sure if you’re allowed to quietly hum the theme from “Footloose”, though). You might catch a lounge singer here and there, or perhaps some “Streetmosphere” performers at Venetian/Palazzo. That’s about it.

On and around Las Vegas Blvd 10 am on Tuesday 9/22/20. It’s a ghost town.

There are no production shows, no headliners, no topless revues, no singing gondoliers, and no magicians or comedians. Cirque du Soleil has gone bankrupt, Human Nature and Blue Man Group have left the building, and Wynn’s Le Reve has sunk to the bottom of the pool. Every single stripper joint is out of commission, and prostitution is still illegal here, too. I’ll ask again….are you having fun yet?

Update 9/23/20 – Nevada’s governor lifted restrictions on bars effective Monday 9/21/20. I ventured out the following evening for happy hour at a Palazzo eatery, then a nearby local tavern during the first Raiders home game. I was expecting a healthy turnout, yet both places were nearly empty. See below.

Entertainers bite the wrong hand

If you’ve followed this column for any length of time, you know that I have a soft spot for the entertainment community. I’ve hyped individual performers, new shows, revisions, special events, and pop-up appearances. Charity efforts, openings, profiles pieces, sexy celebrities, and passion projects have made up the bulk of Vegas Unfiltered Blog.

In an effort to assist the return of live entertainment, last week I contacted dozens of entertainers and requested that they record a 30-second video plea to Governor Sisolak to eliminate restrictions on live performances. I volunteered to gather and forward them to the Governor. After all, if movie theaters and water parks can reopen, why not production shows? But it would seem that many entertainers would rather eat their own tails than use their voices to make a difference.

In this age of selfies and TikTok videos, turning one’s phone into a tool for self-preservation should seem like a no-brainer. What I got instead was an avalanche of negativity, mockery, apathy and downright hostility from a number of entertainers. To say that I was shocked would be mild, especially after years of selflessly supporting them. I’m still reeling from the pain.

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“You aren’t an entertainer…stay out of it”. “Are you crazy, suggesting that I go back to work? You’re telling me to put my life at risk!”. “I’m busy right now, let me think about it”. “I don’t appreciate being put in this position”. “I can’t take a political stance…it might jeopardize my job”. Oh, you mean the job that left you high and dry without unemployment compensation? The one that might never actually return while you sit on your ass getting fat? Yeah, that one. 

Where am I going with this particular tangent? Well, the response I got was a punch to the throat, and quite indicative of the ugliness that has pervaded Sin City…and the nation as a whole. The amount of negativity around us is off the charts, but especially here, where there is little hope of things returning to normal anytime soon.

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Considering all of the lost jobs, closed businesses and violence in the streets and neighborhoods, it’s completely understandable for people to feel this way. But would I recommended coming here for a vacation at this time? Absolutely not.

After recovering from the 10/1 mass shooting, 9/11 attacks, and 2008’s economic crisis, COVID-19 may be what finally causes Las Vegas to topple…

Consider sitting out the next couple of rounds

This city can no longer deliver any of the excesses that it’s famous for. Carefree revelry doesn’t have a place in a COVID-impacted society, and today’s Vegas offers nothing that you can’t get somewhere else. After spending the better part of a decade encouraging you to come here, I can no longer do that in good conscience.

Las Vegas isn’t worth your time, the inconvenience, the expense, or the risk to your health and safety. For now, it’s better for you to just stay home and wait it out.


Update 9/11/11 – in an effort to reduce the amount of violence on their properties, Wynn Resorts has filed an agressive and daring lawsuit.  They’ve also vowed to increase their security force and have committed to raising room rates to discourage bad apples.

In a 9/9/20 interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal, CDC Consulting Vice-president Greg Mullen stated “Several of our higher-end profile clients say their high-end guests are done coming until this is under control. They’re scared to walk outside their rooms, and don’t feel safe on elevators or on the casino floors themselves. It’s a bad look. … You can really, severely, put a tarnish on Las Vegas.”



If you’d to learn more about the Las Vegas response to COVID-19, consider reading my article : “Sin City Shutdown – They’ll Never Learn”

…as well as its companion piece: “Sabotaging Sin City’s Return”

Vegas Unfiltered Blog will be taking an indefinite break. If and when there is a reason to put Sin City back on your to-do list, you might see this site return. Until then…stay safe, stay smart and be well.

Sin City Shutdown – They’ll Never Learn


The rebirth of Las Vegas was stillborn, and it’ll be years before this city is relevant again.

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Update 8/16/20 – Well, here we are five months later and things are worse than they’ve ever been. Aside from the rollback of parking fees on the Strip, the corporations have learned ZERO about luring people back. There are still the exorbitant resort fees, $20 cocktails and nickel-and-diming practices.

Tourists have been hit with COVID-19 surcharges, mask and temperature-scan requirements, limited dining options, no live entertainment and darkened storefronts. Major casinos remain dark, thousands of staff members have been let go and even McCarran Airport has laid off almost a thousand employees.

Cirque du Soleil has filed for bankruptcy, Wynn has closed down Le Reve permanently, Human Nature tossed in the towel, and the Blue Man Group has been given their walking paper. I’d be hard-pressed to encourage people to visit Las Vegas for the foreseeable future. There’s nothing here that you can’t get elsewhere cheaper/faster/easier. If that sounds like a downer, of course it is. But if you were expecting rosy bullshit from a site named “Vegas Unfiltered”, you were mistaken.

The rebirth of Las Vegas was stillborn, and it’ll be years before this city is relevant again.


UPDATE 5/19/20 – It appears that SOMEBODY has been listening to all of us who have urged the major resort chains to make changes. MGM Resorts and Cosmopolitan have announced that they’re dropping parking fees. As VitalVegas.com reported, Caesars had no choice but to do the same. Unfortunately, nothing has been done about resort fees. In fact, Cosmopolitan will be raising theirs from $39 per day to $45.

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Venetian/Palazzo is slated to unlock their doors on June 1st. The giant resort has launched a program called “Share the LOVE” and they’re showing their appreciation with an offer geared towards essential workers. MGM and Westgate have publicized their sanitation protocols, which I’ve elaborated on here and here.

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Sadly, there have been major layoffs during the interim, and some casinos have decided to label themselves as “Permanently Closed”, allowing for the termination of thousands of employees without recourse or compensation. Among them are The Palms, Fiesta Henderson, Texas Station and Rampart casinos (read more here).

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So….it’s a mixed bag at this point. One victory. one stalemate…and plenty of casualties. But everything remains in flux, with major announcements arriving in my email nearly daily. As hotels ramp up their reopening plans, it is in your best interest as a customer to investigate the best deals, best prices and best overall plan before you decide to return to Sin City. Good luck and have fun…..we’re (kind of) back!


On March 17th, 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak shut down the City of Las Vegas, along with the rest of the state, for a minimum of thirty days. In order to slow the rampant spread of COVID-19 aka “Corona Virus”, all non-essential businesses were ordered to shutter. This included bars, hotels, casinos, indoor-dining restaurants, gyms, spas, salons, movie theaters, shows, most stores, parks, recreational attractions and much more.

                                Caesars Palace Forum Shops and Bellagio….both empty…

Thousands upon thousands of people are currently out of work (myself included). Very few are receiving compensation from their employers during this dark period, leaving homes and families at risk for multiple hardships. Can a town that’s already endured major drops in tourism due to 9/11, 2008’s economic collapse and the 10/1/17 massacre rebound from yet another cataclysm?

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                  The party is over on Fremont Street…at least for the time being…

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             An insider source requesting anonymity sent these astonishing photos…

Will the stuffed suits in powerful boardrooms learn from their own mistakes…ones that were already dragging our tourist industry downward? What can be done to lure people back…and will we see a return to the perception of Las Vegas as a value destination? One can only hope.

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                  A darkened Wynn/Encore offers hope to the remaining few passers-by…

The days leading up to the Governor’s declaration were filled with unbearable tension. Grocery store shelves were plundered as major Strip productions shuttered one by one. Next came the closing of buffets and restaurants, then entire hotels and casinos.  Working parents suddenly had to figure out what to do with their children when all schools closed down this week.

                                 Town Square near McCarran Airport is a ghost town…

As in other cities around the world, mundane activities like getting a haircut or meeting friends for lunch are no longer part of our lives. Everything has changed in just a matter of days. Once it became clear that this was our new normal, a friend and I entered “survival mode”. I was just laid off from two regular writing gigs (supposedly temporarily, but who knows?) and he needed a place to live, so now I have someone to share expenses with…and lean on at the same time.

Having resided for 14 years in hurricane-prone South Florida, this writer was used to disaster preparation as a routine activity. Stock the pantry, refill prescriptions, get extra pet food and litter, withdraw cash from the ATM, gas up the vehicles and charge everything that uses a battery. Then comes more drastic steps like buying plywood to board up the windows, checking/replacing fire extinguishers and having weapons on hand in case violence ensues.

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All of this may sound drastic or even dramatic, but let’s face it…if people trample each other for a TV on Black Friday, what would they do when food and supplies run out? The answer isn’t an easy one.

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Despite the seriousness of the situation, many have been working hard to maintain hope…and a sense of humor. Facebook has been a great outlet for people to offer assistance, share their talents and keep each others’ spirits high. Cirque du Soleil performer Alberto Del Campo (read about him HERE) is hosting free online pole fitness classes.

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           Sing along with Mak and the Cheese – You Can’t Spell ‘Virus’ Without ‘Us’

Talented spouses MaKenzie Fly (Sex Tips) and Colin Cahill (Atomic Saloon Show) have created “Mak and The Cheese” a Facebook page featuring witty songs and skits inspired by the “virus hiatus.” And yours truly hosted a “Sexy Apocalypse Party” at Palms Place, where shirts were optional (this is Sin City, after all).

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As we locals ride out the long month ahead in our own unique ways, it’s clear that we’ll come out on the other side as very changed people. Thousands will undoubtedly remain unemployed. Homes will be lost and crime rates will rise. Many businesses will most certainly close for good.

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                    The Bronx Wanderers toast their final performance…for now…

Entertainment offerings may no longer be the flashy, expensive productions (like Cirque du Soleil’s R.U.N) that have recently racked up millions in losses. Virgin Hotel (the former Hard Rock) and Allegiant Stadium completion dates will be pushed back. And you can forget about Resorts World and Fontainebleu/The Drew opening any time soon….yet again.

Steve Sisolak

The Governor’s announcement was like licking the stamp on a death notice that was waiting to be mailed. Las Vegas has been struggling for quite some time, mostly due to poor decisions that have turned an inexpensive, beloved retreat into a tourist-gouging cesspool of greed. The bigger the city has grown, the less forward-thinking it has become. What we as citizens saw and heard tonight will forever be embedded in our minds. But can we say the same about the big-company execs who are directing the city’s future?

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After the news conference, my new roomie and I gathered our wits and headed to the Strip to absorb the shocking reality of it all. What we witnessed were empty sidewalks, abandoned massive resorts, and shuttered storefronts. The world-famous Bellagio Fountains were dark, as was the Mirage volcano and the boardwalk along Treasure Island. Gone were the endless lines of taxis waiting to pick up tourists.

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Overhead, pedestrian walkways were void of people, and the outdoor escalators at each major intersection went silently up and down with nary a soul to ride them. Amusingly, they all seemed to be working for a change, now that there was nobody to use them. If you were looking for the company of others, all you had to do was head for the nearest dispensary, where people encircled the buildings, hoping to get their stash before mandatory shutdowns went into effect.

                  Lines at marijuana dispensaries stretched around the block…

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         “Visit Las Vegas” is airing nationwide TV promising a bigger, better Vegas…

Now that we’ve witnessed that fall of Las Vegas, where do we go from here? As I said, it will most likely be a very different place…but will it be better? Maybe the “new normal” will yield smaller-scale ideas, where charming lounge-style acts push multi-million-dollar headliner residencies out of the way.

                         Terminal 1 at McCarran International Airport 3/18/20, 10am

Perhaps we’ll see a resurgence in gaming, bolstered by better odds than visitors can get at their local casinos. And if we’re lucky, quality service by smiling human beings will shove out main offender MGM Resort‘s move toward automation and self-service. If I’m paying $50 for a buffet, is it too much to ask for an actual person to refill my iced tea?

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                                                    Found on my Facebook feed…

What Las Vegas REALLY needs is to learn a hard, definitive lesson from this punch to the stomach. Hotels must send parking charges out into the desert, never to return. People are sick of looking at their restaurant/bar tab and finding a laundry list of bogus service charges and taxes added onto their already-expensive bill. And when a hotel advertisement says “Stay here for $___”, that better be the actual rate. We’re done with $45 resort fees. Stop it…right now!

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There are only so many times that a city built on tourism can bounce back from major disasters. Las Vegas has survived at least three of them in the past two decades. If the corporations that run this city don’t push the “restart” button and bring back what made this city successful for decades, then maybe it doesn’t deserve to recover at all. Right now, the only thing we all share is hope for a better tomorrow.


 

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Click HERE to read this article’s companion piece: “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

Photos: Sam Novak, Bobby Watson, Kevin Janison, Marianne LeMoine Phoenix, Greg C., Bill Chenowith, Vin A., Andrew Hill. Special thanks to Richard Lindblom.

Banner photo: ABC News