It looks as if London Clubs International is putting its money in the right place, buying into the Aladdin in Las Vegas. This casino- hotel, situated plumb on the Strip, has been languishing for years. A huge white, or rather, pink elephant of a place, it can hardly fail to make money if properly developed. London Clubs will take charge of the high roller end of the Aladdin. It knows this sector inside out from its casinos here on the "Mayfair Strip".

The marketing figures for Las Vegas never fail to astonish me. The place just goes on and on and on. New figures for the first half of 1996 continue a 30-year boom. Gross gaming revenues reached $2,312m, up 4.7 per cent, on visitor volume of 14.6m, up 1.5 per cent. One day, no doubt, the trend will be reversed, but there is no sign of it yet. Vegas is exciting, it is non-stop, it is cheap. Above all, it is living proof of the American people's desire to gamble. One cannot seriously imagine Las Vegas's pulse beating so fast without its neon gambling heart.

The latest attraction is New York, New York. The cityscape of skyscrapers and other well-known buildings which comprises its exterior make New York, New York the wittiest architectural take-off I have seen. The crowds throng the casino day and night. September 1998 sees the opening of Bellagio, jamming the already hyper-crowded, hyper-active Strip. This is a "small" up-market casino-hotel of a mere 3,000 rooms. Other places will follow in the relentless quest for novelty. Even old gambling saloons, such as Binion's Horseshoe downtown, are rebuilding. But success is not automatic. The Stratosphere Tower has not as yet succeeded, mainly because it is located beyond the celebrated Strip, in an amorphous section mid-town.

There was supposed to be an anti-gambling reaction in the United States recently. If so, it has not had much impact. Critics of gambling fear its addictive element. Others are opposed on moral grounds. It is true that a minority of players are at risk. Perhaps 1 or 2 per cent will fall into problem gambling, just as a minority of drinkers risk falling into alcoholism. Still, one has to ask: Can the 30 million people a year who visit Vegas all be wrong?

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