Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety | 30 May 2009

Las Vegas is the polar opposite of the nanny state. Which is why it’s under threat

Las Vegas is the polar opposite of the nanny state. Which is why it’s under threat

My friend Rob Long, an American television producer, once joked that he couldn’t understand the movie Leaving Las Vegas. ‘I just don’t get it,’ he said. ‘Why would anyone want to leave Las Vegas?’ After spending four weeks here, I’m beginning to see what he meant. I was warned before I arrived that staying in Vegas for longer than three days was a mistake, but that hasn’t proved to be the case. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve developed a chronic gambling habit, I would quite like to live here.

If you are a libertarian conservative, Las Vegas is the heavenly city. It is not merely politically incorrect — it is a monument to political incorrectness. Whatever the opposite of a nanny state is, Las Vegas is it. Last Monday, I walked on to the casino floor of the Luxor at 9.30 a.m. and the air was thick with cigarette smoke. Men and women of all ages were crowded round the crap tables, slugging back liquor and rolling the dice. ‘What happens here, stays here’ is the city’s official advertising slogan and these people had clearly taken it to heart. It was like a scene out of the Wild West.

Of course, this degree of freedom comes at a price. As I cruise down Las Vegas Boulevard on my way to the Strip every day, I pass a middle-aged man holding up a sign that says ‘Timeshare Resales’ above a local telephone number. The funny thing is, he looks quite respectable and I can’t help wondering what has brought him to this point. Was he a hard-working family man who came to Vegas for the weekend and ended up losing everything? The casinos certainly make it easy.

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