In Vegas, Clubbing Almost As Popular As Gambling

By HANNAH DREIER

LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ The cannon at the Flutter Fetti booth near the front of the gambling trade show in Las Vegas last week delivered regular bursts of metallic and crepe paper cutouts, shooting them to the ceiling in big booms and carpeting the floor with shimmering hearts, stars and circles. The glittery mess outshone the slot machines and online poker touchscreens in more ways than one.

A poll conducted this year by the national gambling lobby found that 26 percent of casino-goers now skip wagering, and the city's growing mega-clubs are threatening to become the most lucrative draw for a town built on betting.

"It's an arms race," said Flutter Fetti CFO John Stern, eying the laser booth nearby at the Global Gaming Expo's "entertainment pavilion." Lasers flickered in blinding circles on a white screen. Brightness is one of both products' major selling points.

"Clubs want to add an extra element of wow," said Marty Canavan, owner of the laser company YLS Entertainment Inc. "It used to be you were lucky to have two lasers on your show. Now you might have 26."

Sin City now boasts 21 of the country's 100 most profitable nightclubs, according to the trade publication Nightclub & Bar. The town also dominates the top 10 spots, with seven clubs bringing in more than $25 million a year. The other three clubs with earnings in that range are LIV and Mango's Tropical Cafe in Miami Beach, and LAVO in New York City.

As clubs become increasingly important to casinos' bottom line, programmers are competing ever more fiercely to offer partiers novelties they would never see at their local dance spot.

"It's the full package these days," said Pauly Freedman, director of operations for Encore Beach Club, Surrender and Andrea's at the Wynn Las Vegas. "The DJs come in and they have their music, but they're also bringing lighting directors in. So it's up to us when we're working alongside them to make sure we have the latest and greatest in our clubs."

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