Checking Out 2020’s Best Online Gaming Trends


Guest author Apex Web Media brings us up to speed on internet gambling…

Online Gambling Trends –

2020 has been an interesting year for online gambling, with operators benefitting from the socially-distanced entertainment nature of the business, whilst being subject to ever stricter laws and restrictions. We look at a few of the trends we expect to continue into 2021 and beyond.

The Rise of E-wallets –

Credit cards had long been a popular payment method at online casinos, but that changed with Government research connecting the use of credit cards with problem gamblers. In response, the UK Gambling Commission issued a country-wide ban on online casinos allowing players to deposit using credit cards which came into effect in April 2020. Since then, e-wallets such as PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller have continued to gain popularity, helped by the fact that they can be used for international transactions much faster than a bank transfer.

Pay n Play –

Pay and Play is a relatively new system which aims to streamline the acquisition and deposit process, to benefit both players and operators.  More than 100 gaming brands now use this technology, powered by Trustly, which enables players to ‘bundle’ their registration and deposit process.

Trustly shares the data with the casino operator who uses it create the player’s account. From the player’s perspective, this is a much faster process than traditional registration for an online casino, it’s also secure, and free to use. For gambling companies, it eliminates the possibility of players signing up but never depositing.

Operators are not reliant on complicated welcome offers of free spins and match bonuses on your first three deposits to help their acquisition, so tend to have simple one-off welcome bonuses, using other promotions for retention.

Cryptocurrencies

Another form of payment which is increasingly in use in online gambling is cryptocurrencies. Like E-wallets, cryptocurrencies have benefited from the credit card ban. Many online casinos only offer Bitcoin and perhaps Ethereum, but that is quickly changing, with other popular cryptocurrencies beginning to become more mainstream.

Cryptocurrencies are often cheaper for both the player and operator, so it’s no surprise the online casinos are embracing this fast and safe payment method. Players enjoy the anonymity a cryptocurrency affords them and transactions are not subject to the same kind of security as other payment methods, enabling those in countries where online gambling is heavily restricted, such as the USA, to make bets. Gamers are also familiar with ‘in-game’ currencies, which makes betting with cryptocurrencies, particularly on esports, a natural fit

Live Dealer Games –

The success of liver dealer casino games isn’t hard to fathom – players have all the convenience of playing card games online but with the real-time interaction with a real host. However, whilst the popularity of live dealer games has steadily increased year on year, it has likely still not peaked.

With mobile phones becoming ever more ubiquitous, not to mention other forms of live entertainment being heavily restricted this year due to the pandemic, the social aspect of live dealer games is very appealing for players.

For gambling companies, live dealer ‘studios’ and the dealers themselves can be used to promote other products, and affiliates, and make cross-sells. As technology improves and virtual reality becomes more mainstream, gambling companies will continue to create more about more realistic live dealer games and online casinos.

You can find more information on the best slots, online casinos, and welcome offers at whichcasino.com

Banner photo by weirdworm.com

Close Encounters with Area 51’s Men In Black


Guest author Tasja Dubenko returns with a continuation of her eerie experiences in the Nevada desert…

I can recall vividly about seven years ago my friend Crysti and I doing endless research about Area 51. We would stay up late, sometimes even until 5am exploring Google until there were no more search results available. We had multiple books cracked open to various pages next to our laptops as we relentlessly combed through every tidbit there was to know about the subject.

Area 51 Alien Head Geocaching

We were only nineteen or twenty at the time, but the subject absolutely fascinated us. We couldn’t gain enough knowledge and even came up with our own conspiracy theories about what experiments took place there. Thinking about Area 51 excited us. It was like reading about something sci-fi with so much mystery encasing a hidden truth in it.

As I recall, we did this almost every weekend for months. Crysti would often sigh and exclaim, “Wouldn’t it be so awesome if one day we could at least just see the entrance? If we actually took a trip specifically just to see Area 51?” We would continue to dream about the opportunity that seemed so far-fetched. Little did we know that we would in fact do just that several years later. However, we may have gotten a little more than we bargained for.

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We had just gotten done doing a four hour hike in the middle of the desert on our geocaching adventure that was relatively close to Area 51. But our day was not complete. We absolutely had to see the enigmatic place that holds some of the greatest secrets that have been hidden from civilians for years.

Crysti guided me as I drove for what seemed like an eternity that appeared to lead to nowhere. And I mean nowhere. We literally drove at the bare minimum for an hour or two from our last destination at the Alien Head where we had geocached. I was going a little faster than I should have on the heavily graveled road, as the drive seemed endless and we had no concerns of encountering anyone else.

As expected, it was in the middle of nowhere and a very unusual place. There were several side roads that seemed to just disappear out of view. They would either lead towards a mountain where you could no longer see the road, or even on a flat terrain that seemed to just continue on, leading to nothing. As I continued driving, I got to a point where I thought to myself, “This is really weird. It’s like a maze deliberately trying to deter us with no real end point.”

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I also had a weird vibe about the area. It was exciting as we had dreamed about doing this for years, but something was off. Something just didn’t feel quite right. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My friend and I had been in a deep conversation for quite some time about certain events that happened in our earlier years when she abruptly interrupted the conversation to say, “You know, I have a really weird feeling about this place. It’s like a really weird feeling I’ve never had before and it’s not good.”

We discussed it briefly and came to a consensus that despite our peculiar feeling, we had come too far to turn around. So we pressed forward. We took a few random turns according to the map while Crysti convinced me we were on the right path. Nothing made sense out there, but maybe that is precisely their reasoning for it.

Suddenly the gravel road began to transition into a paved road. “We are only about thirty minutes away now!” she exclaimed. I continued to follow the random directions to Area 51 and as I did, the anticipation and excitement continued to grow and grow along with the uneasy feeling.

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When we saw the gate entrance in our horizon, we couldn’t have been any more exhilarated. After all these years, our dreams of this day happening had finally come true. As we drove closer and our destination became tangible, we became overcome with feelings of anxiety. “I feel like we shouldn’t be here,” I said quietly.

“I know. I feel weird like we are being watched from every angle” Cristi replied. “Don’t park too close to the gate. Should we even get out?”

“I didn’t drive all this way not to!” I said as I jumped out of the car.

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We only walked a few short feet away from where I stopped the car. We could feel as if a thousand eyes were watching us although we didn’t see anyone. It was the mother of all Big-Brother kind of feelings. “Let’s just take a few quick pictures and get out of here!” Crysti suggested. I was more than happy with that idea.

For being in such a remote area, I never had such an uncomfortable feeling before in my life. However, we both have always been extra sensitive to feelings and vibes we get, whether it is from a person or place. I quickly pulled out my phone and hit the button as many times as I could in the shortest amount of time possible to get a selfie of us.

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The sun was blinding us as we faced it to capture the gate and building behind us. But I couldn’t stop. “Let’s go!” she shouted to me as she began to walk to the car. “I want to get a quick picture of the sign!” I yelled back. I snapped a few of a post that had a sign that read ‘Military Installation, Off Limits to Unauthorized Personnel.”

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As I began to walk back to the car, I briefly looked over my shoulder just to catch one last glance of the gates that led to Area 51. Suddenly, my heart briefly stopped. There was another sign I didn’t see before that stated something along the lines of ‘Will Use Deadly Force.’ Shit. We had literally just cracked a joke about us accidentally dying due to getting lost and shot because we came too close to Area 51.

It was all fun and games when we were in the car joking about it, but now it felt like a real possibility. As we power walked to the car, suddenly we saw something coming towards us in our horizon. It was another car. In uncomfortable times we tend to make jokes. We laughed about the idea of another tourist getting lost and ending up where we were now. That joke quickly ended.

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As we sat in our car waiting for the other vehicle to drive closer to us, it suddenly pulled over and came to an abrupt halt still at a far distance from us. We were puzzled. “What should I do?” I asked. “Just drive, maybe they really are just tourists and are waiting for us to leave so they can take pictures,” she answered.

They were not tourists. As I began to drive the car slowly forward, the other car began to do the same. When we finally began to pass them, Crysti and I couldn’t help but stare. I mean, I could be wrong about them not being tourists, but both the driver and the passenger were dressed in suits with thin sunglasses that made them look like the Men in Black. They weren’t like any tourists I had ever seen before.

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“Drive slowly, I want to see them go through the gate.” I slowed the car to a crawl. We waited to see if they would go through the gate. They sat there directly in front of it, not budging. We were almost out of eye-shot when I started to see the gate lift and the car go forward right as they disappeared from site of our rear view mirrors. We wondered why they would wait until we were so far away before they actually went through, as we must have been a mile away.

We laughed it off and continued to joke that maybe they were actually not humans but maybe a part of some experiment that was being conducted at Area 51. We quickly dismissed the encounter as anything to be alarmed over and continued to drive for some time.

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At this point, we forgot about the car and had gotten into another in depth conversation that was suddenly interrupted. I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a vehicle hauling ass towards us kicking up every bit of dust possible. We were now back on the gravel roads and a ways away from the gate at Area 51.

“Did you notice that white pick-up truck at the gate?” “Yeah.” “Is that the same one?” Holy crap it was. When we were taking pictures, we had noticed a truck behind the gate next to the building. But we didn’t see anyone there. I guess people really were watching us the entire time.

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Now they were after us, coming in hot. I began to panic. “What should I do?” “Pull over and see if he passes you,” Crysti said with some concern in her tone. I pulled the car over and the truck came to a screeching halt. It felt like a standoff with neither vehicle moving. The moment seemed to last forever even though it was only ten seconds or so. Still, the truck wouldn’t move.

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I began to drive again slowly. The truck waited for me to drive an acceptable distance before turning 180 degrees and drove off at an incredibly slower pace than when he was tailing us. The truck made it a point to ensure we were still continuing to drive in the direction away from the gate at Area 51. It was obvious our every move was being tracked and watched.

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Whoever they were, did not take unsolicited visitations lightly. They were willing to hunt our location down to protect their territory. As we watched the truck drive until we were out of view from each other, we breathed a sigh of relief thinking all this nonsense was behind us. We were actually eager to get out of there and back to our hotel hundreds of miles away.

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When we were (semi) close to getting back onto the highway, I noticed the road I was on didn’t look familiar and asked Crysti if we were on the right path. “I mean, the map says we are but I don’t recognize this either.” We continued to follow the directions, turning onto roads we obviously didn’t take when we started the journey.

We saw a few houses, but had another weird feeling about the direction we were taking. Finally, we saw the highway and were able to get onto it after a few more turns. Crysti seemed puzzled. “It’s weird because the last five roads we took aren’t even on the map.” “What do you mean? You told me to go this way,” I questioned. “I know but it just isn’t on the map. There are no roads names listed. It only told me to take a right or left. Like none of these roads exist on GPS or Google Earth. Even the houses aren’t showing up as listed addresses.

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What’s even weirder is that when we were headed to Area 51, the option of taking a right or left on these roads wasn’t there. I didn’t even see this area.” “What do you think that means?” I asked. “I have no idea, I’ve geocached all over the place in some really weird places but never had this happen. It’s almost seems like someone changed the routes on our map to make us head a different direction. I wonder if these homes belong to the people who work at Area 51?”

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This area wasn’t even visible when we started driving to Area 51. It was carefully tucked away and apparently hidden even from maps. Whether they belonged to anyone who worked at Area 51 or not, we were relieved to be out of there and on the highway again.

“Thinking back, did you ever think we would actually do this?” I asked. “We talked about it for years but I never thought if we ever did, we would have gotten chased down, discovered unlisted areas, or have seen the MIB!”

Be sure to check out Tasja’s previous article “Area 51 and the Alien Head” by clicking here.

All photos provided by the author (well, maybe)…

Moving To Vegas: Expectation vs. Reality


A guest author shares his year of living in Sin City…the great and not-so-great…

Tommy Gun came to the United States to perform in the Aussie Heat male revue. Having lived the Sin City life before returning to his native Australia, he now reflects on his experiences and if they met his preconceived notions of Las Vegas.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

                       Tommy (far left) with the cast of Aussie Heat…

We all have expectations. Let’s be honest. We all carry preconceived ideas about new experiences and sometimes they turn out fantastic. Sometimes it just really sucks. G’day everyone, my name is Tommy. I’m from sunny Australia and I lived and worked in Las Vegas for one year. I did as much as I could and experienced everything with an open mind.

“A little bit of everything” I said to myself, because after all it is Vegas, and you have to go ALL IN. When my working VISA was finalized for the USA, I couldn’t have been more excited. My initial thoughts of Las Vegas were fast food everywhere, casinos, flashing lights, millionaires on every corner, HOT weather and nothing to do but drink and gamble.

Boy, was I in for a surprise! Luckily for me, I worked as a dancer for the Aussie Heat show (then known as Aussie Hunks) inside Planet Hollywood Casino. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet many incredible people and experience the ‘real’ Las Vegas.

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       The luxury apartment complex I shared with other members of the cast…

The Food – 

Expectations:

My first thought was I would find it hard to eat healthy. I was concerned there would be junk food everywhere I looked, and eating out would mainly consist of burgers, chips, burritos and everything that is delicious yet naughty. I didn’t think I would find much cultural variety of food to be honest.

Reality:

Wow! What can I say? I’ve never been so wrong. Vegas had a little bit of something for everybody. If you dig deep enough and talk to the right people, you can find food gems!
I was able to eat healthy and also indulge in the naughty foods too.

I’m a “cheap and cheerful” kind of guy. I like good deals, delicious food and generous servings. Nothing too fancy, just a ‘good feed’ is what I love. So for me it was the 24/7 diners that really take the cake. I’m going to mention two of my personal favorites.

Ellis Island – Village Pub Casino Cafe
Just a five-minute walk off the strip, you will find a small casino that frequents the locals. It’s charming yet excessively noisy. The cafe has some of the best food deals you can get. I ordered the ‘NY steak and eggs’ special at least 4 times a week. It only cost $5.99 at the time (11 pm-11 am) and is an ‘off the menu’ deal that only locals know about. Thank me later!

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                          Ellis Island NY Steak and Eggs special is only $5.99

Silver Sevens Casino – Sterling Spoon Cafe
It’s not the most popular casino, but the cafe sure gives you a great deal on the prime rib. Service was okay. Atmosphere? Not that amazing. Do I care? Absolutely not! Like I said, guys, I just enjoy good, satisfying grub, and you can’t go past Silver Sevens with a happy appetite. Try the prime rib meal for only $9.99. It’s great value with good portions. Not the best rib you will ever eat, nor will it be the worst. It’s just a great bargain.

I’ll quickly mention a few other absolute winners you can find:

Holstein’s Shakes and Buns – for the best thick shake in Vegas (and I’ve tried many). Creamy, cold and smooth silky texture just melts in your mouth.

Samba Latte – If you’re a coffee lover like myself and enjoy a good latte, then there is no competition to this world famous cafe located just outside the Monte Carlo Casino. Expensive but worth it. (Editor’s note – Samba Latte is currently closed due to ongoing renovations at Monte Carlo/Park MGM)

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

The stylish interior of ‘Samba Latte’ adds to the hipster vibe of this successful cafe.

Quality of Life

Expectations:

The Millionaires’ Playground is what Vegas is portrayed to be in films. Flashing lights, glamorous girls, limousines, pool parties and lavish lifestyles. I expected to see a well-structured city with a stable economy and plenty of employment for everyone. Since it’s the world’s playground with millions of dollars flowing in and out every year, I thought the everyday locals would have a relatively comfortable income.

Reality:

I was shocked to see how the majority of Las Vegas people were living. Let me share with you a few stories of my experiences. Before our show moved to Planet Hollywood, we were based in the D Hotel Casino on Downtown’s Fremont St. On this particular day, we all had a few hours of free time before the show started so we decided to go work out at the gym.

Upon arrival we discovered the gym was closed for some unknown reason. A bunch of Aussie blokes being our optimistic selves, made the decision to venture by foot into North Las Vegas suburbs to find a playground in which we could do pull ups, calisthenics, etc.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

Walking through the suburbia streets, I have never felt so unsafe. We must have stuck out like sore thumbs because we got stares everywhere we went. The neighborhood looked like a scene from Boyz n the Hood. Broken windows boarded up, cracked roofs, rubbish in the front yard, old beaten-down cars, neglected lawns and doors barely hanging on by the hinges.

We found a park and exercised for about 30 minutes before a bunch of ‘gang-banging’-looking kids appeared from the shadows near the basketball court. It looked as though we might have intruded on their ‘turf’. It was at that point we all decided it was a good time to leave, and I’m glad we did because it certainly wasn’t a place we felt welcome.

The day we went for a photo shoot at a studio located near the Stratosphere Casino, I was stupid enough not to pack lunch with me. So during our lunch break I was forced to walk to the casino for a meal. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The houses around and just off the famous Las Vegas Strip were absolute dumps!

Not only was suburbia a shocking sight for us to see, but the poverty extends right next to the tourist hub. Every now and then I would walk past a house that was literally falling apart, yet the car in the driveway would be a brand new Ford F-350 (or something similar) with shiny new rims and tinted windows. If that isn’t a clear signal that a drug dealer lives there, then I don’t know what is.

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This apartment complex located right behind the LINQ Casino was on my walk to work every day. We all called it the “Kitchen Tiles Complex” because of the terrible exterior design.

Things To Do – 

Expectations:

To be honest, I didn’t think there would be much to do In Las Vegas besides drink, gamble and watch the odd Cirque show. My expectations didn’t really extend past there. I set the bar low, and I was genuinely worried I would be bored quickly because I’m not a drinker nor a gambler.

Reality:

I can happily say that I was never once bored during my whole year working in Las Vegas. That’s not an exaggeration…I literally always had things to do. Maybe It was in part due to me being in a show and surrounded by people in the entertainment
industry.

I personally think Vegas has a plethora of activities and entertaining things to do regardless. In my one year as a resident, Vegas surprised and invigorated me enough that I still miss the city to this day. We all know casinos have all kinds of entertainment, ranging from theater shows and shopping to themed bars. But there is a lot to be said about other parts of Vegas besides the obvious.

Brooklyn Bowl –

As a group of dancers, one of our favorite pastimes would be seeing live music at the Brooklyn Bowl. This modern venue which hosts live music, bowling, beer and food is the ultimate night out for those who want a little bit of everything. What I enjoyed most about this venue is the variety of music they had. On a Wednesday you might
see a soul band, Thursday a punk rock band, then on Friday a hip-hop artist. I found myself checking their website every week to see who was playing.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

Lake Mead –

Sometime it’s nice to get out of the city for a little bit, and with the beautiful crystal clear Lake Mead only a thirty-minute drive from Las Vegas you can’t go wrong. Wake-boarding was my activity of choice, and when the average summer temperature can reach
104 F, there nothing better than the feeling of fresh cool water on your skin.

Sometimes the pool parties just won’t cut it, especially when you’re not in the mood to deal with drunk obnoxious people and overpriced drinks. There are also a host of other water activities to choose from and the scenic backdrop of the desert mountains just tops off the real American-style landscape you expect to see as a foreigner.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

A picture I took at Drai’s Beach Club, and a still from a video of my fiancé wake boarding at Lake Mead. Which do you prefer? Personally, I will take Lake Mead any day

ATV Tours –

As you can see, I’m a lover of extreme activities and outdoors adventures. So it’s no surprise I’m also advocating these super-fun ATV tours in the Las Vegas desert. Seriously, what better way to see the incredible Nevada landscape AND experience an adrenaline-rushing activity?

The more I Googled “things to do in Vegas” the more I found! I couldn’t have been happier with the variety of entertainment options for all kinds of people. So much for “only drinking and gambling”. It turns out Las Vegas has so much more to offer. If all you do is sit at slot machines when you’re in town, then you’re doing it wrong! You need to start living life!

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                    My fiancé and I on an ATV tour in the Vegas Desert.

The Grand Canyon –

I feel compelled to finish off my outdoor activity rant by advocating the incredible and vast Grand Canyon in Arizona. Yes, it’s nowhere near Las Vegas, and it’s not even in Nevada, but it’s something you HAVE to see! Words can’t describe how amazing this mile-deep geological wonder is.

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If you decide to go, see it either when the sun rises or the sun sets. It’s simply a magical experience when the light captures all the crevasses and ridges of the canyon as the sun moves across the horizon.

The drive to the Skywalk is only roughly two hours. The entrance to the National Park where you can test yourself with a day trek is only a four-hour drive. If you don’t like to drive, there are many helicopter companies that offer tours over the Canyon at affordable prices.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

                      Taking in the beauty of Grand Canyon national park.

The People

Expectations:

Having not known much about Las Vegas, I expected to see mostly white people…overweight and very loud. Why? Because in my experiences with Americans in Australia, that’s usually what I saw. It was more of a subconscious expectation and not something that I premeditated.

Reality:

Much can be said about people anywhere in the world. There is good and bad everywhere you look. I would like to talk about one aspect of the Las Vegas people that genuinely surprised me. The variety was astonishing.

There were people from all walks of life. I discovered that Las Vegas not only had white people, but also a huge Latino population, African Americans, Asians, Europeans and even Islanders. I may seem naive to you, but I did not expect this magnitude of cultural variety. Las Vegas seems to to bring people from all over the world, and I think if you live here long enough you are blessed to see, meet and talk to many people with all different views on life.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

Being part of the Aussie Heat show’s cast, I had to opportunity to mingle with the audience after the show and get photos etc. The thing I enjoyed most about this was meeting the people from all over America. I was learning about people from North Carolina to Oregon. From all different backgrounds, religions and cultures, I learned that America is such a diverse place.

I believe many people in Australia fall into the trap of generalizing the people in California as ‘all of America’ because that’s usually all we see from Hollywood films. The truth is, the people from Texas to New York couldn’t be any more different!

Casinos

Expectations:

Having seen films such as The Hangover, Ocean’s Eleven and What Happens in Vegas, once again I had the Hollywood perspective of casinos. I expected lavish lights, cocktail waitresses, fancy interiors and the lure of the ‘High Roller’ lifestyle.

Reality:

I have mixed emotions here. There are some things I love, and some things I hate about the main attraction to Las Vegas tourists. Yes, the films were pretty, accurate in my opinion. The casinos really are an adult’s playground with a little bit of something for everyone, but there are definite drawbacks.

I simply couldn’t get enough of the Cirque du Soleil shows. Simply amazing…jaw dropping. I clapped until my hands hurt. If I had enough expendable income I would have seen every Cirque show, but alas I could only see two – Zumanity and . Tickets are expensive, but when you witness the amazing performances and life-threatening stunts, you understand why.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

              Backstage with the cast of KÂ. I’m at the back, trust me!

Most casinos boast successful shows, millions in revenue from gambling and shopping, amazing decor and nightclubs packed to the brim. You would think these places make a killing, and they do! However with all the millions of dollars in revenue, there are certain casinos that charge for parking! Say what?

At this point do you really need to suck every single cent out of your loyal (sometimes gambling-addicted) customers? I think it’s sad. And I would think if parking was free (like it is in most places), your customers would appreciate it and return more often (resulting in better profit over the long term).

With that aside, I LOVE the attention to detail in the aesthetics of both the interior and exterior of the buildings, with special mention to Venetian, Caesars Palace, Bellagio and New York NY. They represent the intended themes perfectly. Having personally traveled to Venice, Rome, Lake Bellagio in Italy and New York City, I can safely say that the decor did each location justice. I didn’t feel as though they were a cheap rip-off, but more of a homage to the intended locations.

 

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

                             The fabulous New York NY casino exterior… 

However, once inside, my spirit became a little dampened by the people occupying it. I feel as though Las Vegas, while fun for adults, should not be a place to bring your children on holiday if you are gambling. Let’s be honest here, most parents coming here are spending lots of time on the casino floor.

Imagine taking your beloved dog to the beach, but instead of letting him swim and run around playfully in the waves, you keep him on a leash and sit on the walkway chair texting on your phone. Bringing your kids to Vegas is just as bad.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations

     The ‘Pitbull’ concert I attended at Planet Hollywood – he did an amazing job!

I’m glad I chose to work for one year in Las Vegas, It’s been one of the best choices I have ever made. All in all, Vegas really surprised me and taught me lessons I would never have learned otherwise.

If you haven’t been to Las Vegas yet, you simply must go at least once. It’s a city full of surprises.

Tommy Gun has returned to his native Australia and now operates his own entertainment company – Gold Coast Male Strippers. You can visit his website for more information, pictures and videos. 

Photos: Tommy Gun