Las Vegas: What a Trip!

The success of Las Vegas indicated that Nevada casinos continued to suit the orientations of American society.

As the postwar vision of a boundless future grew more obsolete, the appeal of a gambling resort that made anything seem possible was strengthened.

Moreover, as postindustrial patterns of work and leisure became more prevalent, and as individuals heightened their efforts to establish identity in a mass society, gambling in Las Vegas retained its appeal to tourists.

In fact, as other states came to consider gaming as a source of tax revenue, Las Vegas became more tolerable of the cultural landscape, a place that no longer attracted much scorn and suspicion.

Las Vegas remained unique, but seemed more accessible. More women, blacks, and foreigners played in the casinos, adding to the growing number of tourists.

Increasingly diverse crowds and relaxed dress codes permitted observers to see more clearly than before that the gambling resort catered to the broad middle strata of American society.

Las Vegas seemed to be a monument to American classlessness and--- if the truth be told--- tastelessness too.'

Newcomers still perceived the community as a place to strike it rich, and the residents of Las Vegas still worried about the fate of their children, the influence of the fast life, and the social problems associated with rapid expansion.

Economic and ecological concerns combined during the 1970s to reduce confidence that Las Vegas could continue to grow as it long had.

Increases in the resident population placed a heavy strain on natural resources. Pollution tainted the atmosphere of Las Vegas Valley and prospective shortages of water and electrical energy worried a population that was devoted to modifying the desert climate through sprinklers and air conditioners.

A tourist-based economy made conversation difficult. The town needed to present itself as an oasis in order to attract customers to the desert of southern Nevada, and could hardly expect visitors to sympathize with the environmental plight of permanent residents.

Perhaps more than other people in the arid West, Las Vegans found the future of their hometown thrown into question by threats to natural resources.

Local risks were compounded by the nation's new attitudes toward energy which increased the costs of travel. The gambling resort had succeeded in part because it stood at a distance from large population centers.

In years of inexpensive gasoline and airfare, Las Vegas could afford to be remote.

During the 1970s, on the other hand, the rising price of fuel cast doubt on sustained rapid expansion. During the energy crisis of late 1973, major casinos turned on many exterior lights as a gesture toward saving energy.

Darkened casinos raised the question of how long Las Vegas could continue to attract enough customers to keep growing, and conditions deteriorated as the decade progressed.

By 1980, rising fuel prices had altered Las Vegas tourist profiles substantially. A larger number of Westerners visited Las Vegas, perhaps because it now cost them too much to travel outside the region.

At the same time, however, even more Easterners stopped going to southern Nevada.

The cost of transportation to Las Vegas from outside the West proved increasingly prohibitive, especially after the opening of casinos in Atlantic City during the late 1970s and early 1980smade that gambling resort a more convenient destination from East Coast population centers.

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