Las Vegas Returns to Sin City Roots

ByABC News
April 24, 2002, 2:32 PM

April 24 -- Las Vegas spent the 1990s trying to attract families by transforming itself into a kid-friendly entertainment paradise.

But children don't gamble, and they can distract their parents from gambling. So now the city is returning to its roots, with a new mantra: Leave the kids at home.

The family-oriented hotels that redefined Las Vegas over the last decade are switching to more adult fare, including topless revues. Newer hotels like the Palms are designed as adult-oriented party hotels, built around nightclubs and sexy shows rather than amusement parks and family restaurants.

City officials are abandoning the family-friendly line. "We want it to be an adult play land," said Mayor Oscar Goodman. "We want people to feel free. We want them to think that this is the place that they can come to and not have any inhibitions."

Family Central

At the beginning of the 1990s, Las Vegas was facing new competition from a boom in legal gambling on riverboats and Indian reservations. The city's gambling revenues plunged, declining by almost half a billion dollars in 1992 alone.

Las Vegas seemed tired, and needed to find a way to set itself apart from the rival gambling establishments that were popping up across the country. The city's leaders decided to make Vegas a spectacular "experience" that would attract whole families rather than single gamblers.

In less than 10 years, virtually every hotel on the Strip was demolished or rebuilt, at an estimated total cost of $12 billion. The new hotels were huge 20 of the world's 23 largest hotels are in Las Vegas and provided spectacular entertainment like the artificial volcano at the Mirage, which spewed out flames every 15 minutes after dark.

One of the biggest of the new hotels, the 5,000-room MGM Grand, spent $100 million to build an amusement park so children would have somewhere to go while their parents gambled. "We really made a very concerted effort to try and focus on all of the nongambling aspects of Las Vegas," said Alan Feldman, vice president for public affairs for MGM Grand.