When you get off the plane and land in the city, you’re immediately assaulted by slot machines, ringing happily, promising that you will be the lucky one to beat the machine. The next thing I saw was a giant poster for Chippendales, featuring buff, topless, shiny men. The next poster was a small woman holding a machine gun and smiling: shoot any gun you want for only $10!
Whatever your vice is, be it gambling, alcohol, sex or even violence, Las Vegas provides an attractive way for you ruin your life. The reason “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is that’s its practically impossible to leave there without being ashamed of yourself — without feeling dirtied, if not by your own sin, then by the constant barrage of sin around you.
Make no mistake, it is a dazzling city. Incredible buildings, decorated opulently, and adorned with all matter of luxory. That it is set in the middle of a desert only serves to highlight just how incredible “the strip” really is. But you don’t need to look hard to see that its an elaborate facade over an empty wasteland. A glittery inferno. A pretty face with an empty soul beneath.
Behind the merrily chiming machines, the scantily clad women dancing on video billboards or on a stage above the roulette tables, or the frat boys laughing raucously over their 8th beer in a very fancy bar, there is desperation in people’s eyes. People who thought they were here for a vacation, but will be returning home with very empty wallets and very empty hearts.
But even if you set out to avoid wine, women (or men) and gambling, you will give Vegas your money. Everything costs you. Despite my hotel room costing (my company) $200, Internet was another $15 a day. A show — a clean one — will cost nearly $100 to see. A $2 coffee costs $4.50.
And as for alternatives to typical Vegas entertainment… what few there are will cost you too. Want to float down the lazy river at the man made beach? A tube will cost you $24. Want to sit on a padded reclining chair instead? That’s $30 a day — one with shade will cost you $175. Want to visit the hotel’s aquarium instead of its casino? That’ll be $16 for the 20 minute tour. Want to work out in the gym? That’ll be $20 a day — $30 if you want to soak in the hot tub afterward.
Of course, you can walk down the strip for free — expect to be practically assaulted by pimps handing out “business cards” for prostitutes. You can look at the hotels for free — although not without hearing their casino call. You can take pictures for free — as long as you’re careful what you take those pictures of. And you can hide in your hotel room, where even on the 28th floor, the music from below will still shake your windows and hammer on your ears while you try to sleep.
If you’ve never been, you should probably see it once. Bring only the money you can afford to lose. Do not take out more money from the ATM once you’ve lost what you brought. Do not go alone, or with someone you can’t trust. Do not go with someone who shares the same weaknesses as you. Do not drink until your inhibitions are gone. Do not be fooled by the scantily clad people on the billboard — no one finds anything but your wallet attractive or interesting. This is a city built to fleece weak, stupid people out of their money, by offering an illusion of happiness that will disappear like smoke as soon as your overdraft limit is reached and your credit cards are maxed.
Like everyone on the plane with me when I arrived, I had a smile on my face when the happy sounds and warm air hit me. Like everyone on the plane with me when I left, I had a shell-shocked, exhausted and directionless gaze as I shuffled out of hell and back to the real world. And I thanked God that He kept me through this week, even managing to learn a thing or two at the conference and have a couple successful meetings, without falling on my face like practically everyone around me.
I have seen much of Asia, most of Europe, and a lot of North America. I’ve never hated a place so much as I loathe Las Vegas. I never, ever want to go to there again. I imagine hell will be a lot like it…