Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Welcome to Sin City, Mr. President!

With an unprecedented 30-mile radius air traffic prohibition in place (usually it’s half that) during his trip to Las Vegas, costing commercial air tour travel operators thousands of dollars of lost revenue, President Barack Obama remains undaunted, planning to land his Air Force One gas guzzling hog later tonight, marking his second presidential visit to Sin City– you know, the little hideaway berg that encourages corporations to blow their government bailout funds or simply have students waste their college savings on gambling forays. 

Despite having such a notorious moniker, Las Vegas tourism officials have weathered the multiple gaffes and predict a million more visitors in 2010.  Thank you, Mr. President. 

He’ll probably need to bring a strong suit of armor and sharp swords when he speaks Friday for select invitees at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, where his prior barbs were specifically aimed.

His olive branch offering, if you will, will be his quest to seek congressional approval of the Travel Promotions Act- an overseas $4 billion promotion program that could bring more moneyed foreign tourists to Las Vegas.   Morevover, the bill promises it could bring 40,000 new American jobs and $320 million in new federal tax revenue, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 

If that doesn’t stick when the Prez throws it against the wall, his backup plan (or an add-on, depending on crowd rancor) could be to announce the Department of Transportation’s $30 million project for a new Sahara Avenue – one of the most traveled byways in Las Vegas – bus project as part of the multibillion stimulus package. 

But outspoken ex-mob lawyer turned Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will not being rolling the red carpet out.   Goodman remains upset at President Obama. Goodman said he needs to be true to his conscience and, therefore, won’t accept invitations to greet the president of attend any town hall meeting unless he personally gets “some kind of retraction.”  

If you like to be part of this surely politically entertaining event, you can line up for tickets now at Green Valley High School in Henderson for Friday’s 10 a.m. town hall meeting. 

Mr. President, please be sure to enjoy yourself when you’re in the home of sin.  It’s a devilishly fun town.

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Go to Las Vegas- and Go Broke?

A careless remark by President Barack Obama about Las Vegas has triggered a furious backlash from Nevada’s cash-strapped gambling mecca and a key Democratic ally fighting a tough re-election battle in the state. 

Speaking about the economy yesterday at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr. Obama told Americans: “When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don’t go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you’re trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices.” 

The economy of Las Vegas, the world’s most famous gambling and entertainment destination, is heavily dependent on tourism and Las Vegans were already incensed by a crack from Mr. Obama a year ago that companies should not use federal bail out money for trips to the city.   The city is still reeling from that comment, trying to keep bookings and revenues up on conventions and other events. 

Mr. Obama’s latest remark about Las Vegas prompted a swift and angry retort from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, who is fighting an extremely uphill battle to win re-election in Nevada, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. – a whopping 13 per cent.

Mr. Obama hurriedly dispatched a letter to Mr. Reid. “I hope you know that during my Town Hall today, I wasn’t saying anything negative about Las Vegas,” he wrote. 

Oscar Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas and an independent, also got into the fray, raising his voice and describing President Obama as “a real slow learner” who has a “psychological hang-up” about Las Vegas. 

Mr. Goodman added that this time an apology from Mr. Obama wouldn’t be enough. “I’ll do everything I can to give him the boot.” 

Last year, Mr. Obama apologized for his prior gaffe and during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas said that it was good to get out of Washington and “there’s nothing like a quick trip to Vegas in the middle of the week.” 

Repercussions surrounding the current incident are not nearly over.  In a couple of weeks, Mr. Obama is planning another visit to Las Vegas, which surely will cause sparks to fly anew.

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President Obama Visits Nellis Air Force Base today in Las Vegas

Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas hosted President Barack Obama today giving him an up close tour of the 140-acre solar photovoltaic array that has been running since December 2007.  The installation at Nellis is the largest of it’s kind in the United States and an example of how solar energy can be captured and processed in a sun-soaked state. nellis

The Nellis power plant was funded by NV Energy in return for energy credits which may be sold to other utilities.  The Air Force buys their power at reduced rates and rough estimates indicate that the solar array could save the service $1 million per year or $40 million over the 40 year lifespan of the project. 

While at Nellis, President Obama gave a speech at the Thunderbirds’ hanger to 400 airmen and other base personnel about the progress made during the first 100 days of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  

Obama said the expectation is that there will be more than $467 million in stimulus money used “to expand and accelerate the development, deployment and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States.” Nevada is in line for more than $1.5 billion dollars in Recovery Act funds. 

Today’s event followed the Tuesday night Caesars Palace fundraiser for Democratic Senator Harry Reid that the President attended. 

President Obama will leave Nevada for Los Angeles later today where he will attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

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U.S. President Barack Obama Swoops into Las Vegas, Leaves Little Impact

Not long ago outspoken Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was taking to the air waves to voice his dismay at comments that President Barack Obama made.  In the February speech on bank excesses and the economic distress faced by so many, Obama stated “You can’t get corporate jets. You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.  There has got to be some accountability and some responsibility, and that’s something that I intend to impose as President of the United States.” 

Goodman responded with a full-media assault – demanding an apology, even as 340 corporations and business meetings were canceled or worse, moved from Las Vegas to San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix. 

But it’s always been said that politics make strange bedfellows and now, just months later, the media was on hand when Goodman met Air Force One at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday, shook President Obama’s hand and escorted him to the waiting motorcade. 

After starting his day in Washington with the announcement of  Sonia Sotomayo for the Supreme Court, President Obama ended his day at a Caesar’s Palace fund raiser for Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid.    

The Las Vegas fundraiser wasn’t the routine chicken and a handshake event.  The sold-out party of 4,000 at the Colosseum listened to about 15-minutes of Obama speaking about and touting the accomplishments of Reid and his support for issues “that matter not just to Democrats but to middle-class families all across America.” 

Obama didn’t mention anything about the local controversy over his remarks earlier this year condemning lavish Las Vegas junkets by corporations getting federal bailout funds, but did praise Caesars Palace where he spent the night in a lavish 22,000-square-foot suite in the Forum Tower, the first time a sitting president has stayed at Caesars.

In fact, for those that had long hoped to hear some substantial “magic” words from Obama during his visit to help boost the Las Vegas and Nevada economy from the doldrums, they never came.   And while Goodman shared his disappointment from the visit, his prior demands appeared to soften and he expressed much more optimism than Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, who said the President’s comments “were better than nothing, they were also next to nothing.  I thought he could have done more.”

Hopes and rhetoric were set aside as entertainment ensued with performances by Rita Rudner, Sheryl Crow and even Bette Midler will take to the stage for her milestone 100th performance. 

During it all, about 100 peaceful protestors gathered outside in front of Caesars Palace, chanting “Heave ho!” waiving flags and carrying signs protesting against Harry Reid, criticizing his “tax-and-spend,” “big government” ways.

Today, President Obama will give a federal stimulus package and solar energy speech that primarily will highlights job-creating solar and geothermal energy projects.

Will the Las Vegas crowd expect the President to stand on stage and apologize for his February comments anytime soon?  Not many – if any – are predicted to look for a retraction or softening of his words.  The unfortunate reference cost Vegas in the short run but in a city that plays all the angles, this visit by Barack Obama is guaranteed to become a showman’s golden opportunity.  

So it was lights, cameras and You Tube at Caesar’s Palace with the city of Las Vegas betting on, but not receiving, a Presidential image upgrade, all the while pouring $2 million into Reid’s 2010 campaign coffers.

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Legalizing Internet Gambling in Top 10 of President Obama’s Citizen Briefing Book

Poker players simply passively sit, blow wispy smoke designs in the air and look at their cards from behind their stealth disguise of dark sunglasses and ball caps all day long, hoping to just cash in on a good payday.Gambling

Wrong.

Rather, many members of the one-million strong Poker Players Alliance saw fit to actively make their voices heard on the issue of legalizing Internet gambling by flooding the Obama Web site, suggesting online gambling should be made legal.

Their efforts paid off. Poker playing made the top 10 list of subjects sent to the White House when President Barack Obama – a self-proclaimed poker player -asked Americans to send him their policy priorities. Poker playing also ranked as the No. 1 issue in the technology category.

The citizen requested priorities were unveiled last week in a Citizens Briefing Book, made public just days after legislation was introduced in Congress to repeal the 2006 ban on Internet gambling.

In all, more than 125,000 users suggested 44,000 ideas to help the administration properly prioritize their agenda. They cast 1.4 million votes for their favorite ideas, with each supportive vote earning 10 points.

Legalizing poker was suggested by an online player from Washington, D.C., under the heading: “Boost America’s Economy with Legal Online Poker.” It earned 46,890 points.

Poker players beat out a suggestion for increasing automotive fuel efficiency standards (46,120 points), but didn’t outscore “the permanent closure of all torture facilities” (61,250 points).

An American Gaming Association study released Monday shows that 2 percent of adult respondents gamble online. The Poker Players group estimates between 10 million and 15 million Americans regularly gamble on the Internet. They also estimate $3 billion annually could be generated from legitimizing the online gambling business.

This month, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., introduced legislation that would essentially repeal the Internet gaming ban by instituting a framework for licensing and regulating online games.

Religious groups have vowed to maintain the online gambling ban, saying Internet gaming is a threat to home life and family finances.

This year Harrah’s Entertainment became the first major gaming bricks-and-mortar operations to back the online legislation. Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley signed on as a co-sponsor.

Franks spokesman Steve Adamske said support for the bill depend on the extent to which backers contact their lawmakers, adding that actions like the briefing book onslaught are “hugely helpful.”

In some ways Obama’s briefing book reads like a to-do list he has already started – closing Guantanamo Bay detention facility, developing clean energy sources, supporting investment in high-speed rail.

In others it is purely the voice of the people.

The top 10 issues also include: “Revoke the George W. Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent,” “Commit to becoming the ‘greenest’ country in the world,” “No more wars on abstract concepts” and “ending marijuana prohibition.”

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Nevada Travel & Tourism Sales Blitz This Week

Some may still not feel promoting Nevada travel and tourism benefits is a good idea in our stagnating economy, especially following President Obama’s February comments about frivolous travel in Las Vegas by corporations that accepted federal bailout money.  

But don’t tell that to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman or casino mogul Steve Wynn.  Both want to bend the ear – and more – of President Obama when he vists Las Vegas on May 26 and headlines a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  (Las Vegas Backstage Access April 1 article.) 

Wynn wants Obama to specifically address Nevada tourism.  “The people that voted in the Democratic Party, for the main part, work in the tourism and travel industry as cooks and waiters and housekeeping,” Wynn said. “They are being hit very hard not only by the recession but by federal policy that has discouraged travel.” 

Providing added fuel to boost Nevada’s flailing tourism industry, six Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCOT) staffers have taken to the road early today for a western sales “blitz” during National Travel and Tourism Week to promote special travel deals designed to boost Nevada visitor numbers, according to NCOT chairperson and Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian K. Krolicki. 

The sales team will visit travel agents, tour operators, AAA offices and other influential tourism industry representatives in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. Several tourism industry partners from around the state will accompany the staff members from NCOT’s Sales and Industry Partners department. 

“There’s no better time for fun in Nevada than now, because of the special travel deals at hotels, golf courses, shops, spas and entertainment venues throughout the state. It’s a productive way for NCOT to observe this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week and a great way to attract more visitors in this current economy,” says Krolicki.   

The team will visit AAA offices that advise consumers about travel destinations, tour operators that bring groups of customers to Nevada and receptive operators who help with arrangements in the state. At each stop they will distribute USB flash drives that contain the new NCOT Industry Partners Newsletter, Nevada Magazine’s Events and Shows publication, a listing called What’s New in Nevada and an introduction to the new Web site, NV.Mobi, which makes travel information accessible by mobile phones and devices, a consumer newsletter and special spring travel packages. They also will hand out the Visitor Guide and fliers with information about special events and attractions. 

The team will also visit six different tribes to exchange ideas and generate interest in attending American Indian events in Nevada throughout the year and meet with a Japanese credit card company in Los Angeles to promote special Nevada travel deals for the company’s cardholders. 

Nevada’s attractions and deals with tour operators and motorcoach companies will be promoted in Salt Lake City, a strong market for travel to Elko County and other points in eastern and southern Nevada including Las Vegas. 

“Tourism is a highly competitive industry, and we need to be aggressive and never let up in our sales and marketing efforts,” Krolicki said. “Nevada is a destination that allows consumers to maximize the value of their dollars, and we must do all we can to boost awareness, attract more business and maintain our place as a leading destination.” 

The sales blitz is NCOT’s second since December 2008, when economic challenges were escalating and the commission stepped up its already vigorous sales efforts. 

National Travel and Tourism Week on May 9-17 is an annual observance by the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, D.C., that focuses on the industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy, which is worth more than $700 billion.

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President Obama Makes Tracks to ‘City of Excess’

It must not be a bad business move anymore to attend a junket in the City of Excess. 

President Barack Obama is planning to visit Las Vegas on May 26, headlining a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 

It will be Obama’s first visit to Nevada since being elected president.   

Although it’s not known whether the president will have a public event while he is in Southern Nevada, a political firestorm and public outcry was created in February when President Obama announced in his speech that companies that receive taxpayer bailout money shouldn’t use it party in Las Vegas. 

The White House has been mum on the details of the president’s visit, but Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley says she expects Obama to talk about the importance of leisure and business travel. 

“I believe that he’s going to be using that opportunity to say…that it’s part of the American dream, this travel, and encourage people not only to do leisure travel, which Las Vegas is famous for, but business travel as well,” Berkley said last week from the House floor. 

It’s also not known if Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman will be scheduling a face-to-face pow-wow with the president after the mayor requested a formal retraction from him after hearing the president’s speech statements.

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Las Vegas ‘Turns Off’ for Earth Hour

To the uninformed, looking out their window in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 28 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. may appear like a prelude to Armageddon or perhaps Apocalypse Las Vegas- dark and sinister, with none of the normal blinding neon to excite the senses. earthhour2

In reality this is not the end of days, merely Las Vegas’ non-hedonistic (say what?) participation in Earth Hour, a global attempt by the World Wildlife Fund to focus worldwide attention on the growing problem of climate change.  

So far, more than 2,200 cities and towns in 81 countries have agreed to go dark in this environmental activism movement. 

And this year, Earth Hour has particular importance to America:  Not only do we have a new president who appears to take climate change seriously, but the U.S. has a chance to redeem itself after former President Bush ceremoniously dissed Mother Earth when he refused to sing the Kyoto global warming agreement in 2005. 

In Las Vegas, hotel marquees on and off the Strip and signs (including the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign), Fremont Street Experience, and all businesses and residents are being encouraged throughout the Las Vegas Valley to participate and take a bold stand on climate change using their light switch as a ballot,  casting a vote for environmental action in the first global election on climate change- giving Las Vegas a chance to expand our definition of green beyond greenbacks, green felt and Green Valley. 

Las Vegas is one of 10 Earth Hour flagship cities.  The effort on the Strip is led by Harrah’s, but even MGM Mirage also has agreed to shut off its lights.  (Just so no one is misled, it’s just the marquees that will go dark, not the lights in the casinos.) 

Here are some Las Vegas locations to capture the experience: 

Earth Hour Las Vegas Official Media Center

The VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, offers a stunning view and vantage point of the Las Vegas Strip. VooDoo Lounge will give complimentary admission to all guests until 9 p.m. for those wishing to participate in Earth Hour.

 “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Susan Brager, and World Wildlife Fund’s Nick Sundt are scheduled to “turn off” the sign at 8:30 p.m. using a six foot tall light switch. 

Fremont Street Experience

Lights will go out on the Viva Vision canopy and hotel casino marquees at 8:30 p.m., proceeded by an Earth Hour video presentation and countdown. Glow necklaces will be given to first 5,000 guests. 

A list of Las Vegas participants to-date, and additional events and activities can be found at www.earthhourlv.org.

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Las Vegas Visitor & Tourism Stats Down

On  March 10, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that potentially $131,600, 000 was lost in non-gaming revenue in the past 90 days resulting from 340 event cancellations and 236,700 lost room nights and untold amounts of casino betting.  January results, though, showed Nevada collected $47 million, a 42.4 percent drop from a year ago, and the 13th straight month gaming revenues have declined. 

Las Vegas visitors in January were fewer than 2.8 million people, a decrease of 11.8 percent from a year ago, yielding a 71.9 percent average occupancy citywide in January. 

A survey conducted by the authority reported 60 percent of Las Vegas resort operators think 2009 convention and meeting attendance will fall further than it did last year when business travel was down 5 percent.  That could spell trouble for the estimated 46,000 people in Las Vegas who have jobs relating to this business sector. 

Las Vegas boosters and the business travel industry blamed President Obama and his defenders, in part, for exacerbating recession-related travel declines by suggesting companies that hold events in appealing destinations could be in line for public shaming.

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Tourism Leaders Want Stop to Las Vegas Business Travel Bad-Mouthing

Enough of the business event convention bashing say the leaders for the U.S. Travel Association.  They are fighting back against a severe tourism tumble in a new advertising campaign launched Wednesday to fight negative publicity brought about by the recession and made worse by bad-mouthing from a handful of members of Congress and President Obama. 

While those remarks were aimed at trips taken by companies that have accepted federal bailout dollars, tourism leaders say the fallout is pervasive and has spread throughout the corporate world.  “A climate of fear is killing (destination) communities, and it has to stop,” says Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association. 

The result has been millions of dollars in meetings and events are being cut back, canceled or merely being left in the planning stages. 

Las Vegas is a major victim, expecting to lose $20 million in trips from Fortune 500 clients alone. 

A recent survey by Meetings and Conventions Magazine showed that more than 20 percent of companies that have not received bailout money have canceled their events, with fear of bad publicity reportedly a big factor.  “What has occurred is we have a witch hunt mentality, and this has a huge cost, not just in dollars, but for the people who work in the industry,” says Dow. 

“Stop bad-mouthing Las Vegas and stop telling businesses and major companies to stay away from Las Vegas.  You are hurting our economy, you’re forcing major layoffs of employees in the hotel industry,” says Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.  

The new advertising campaign by the U.S. Travel Association is aimed at toning down the rhetoric and to detail punitive bills.  One such bill proposed last week by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, would prevent bailed out banks from “hosting, sponsoring, or paying for conferences, holiday parties, and other entertainment events.”

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Las Vegas Leaders Irate Over President Barack Obama’s Remarks

It’s difficult to find anyone in Nevada, politician or otherwise, who is not ticked off – boiling mad- over President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation comments on Monday while he attended a town-hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana.  Obama said: “You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”travel

Since then Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has appeared in front of every camera and microphone he can muster, nerves frazzled and hotter than fish grease about the President Obama’s comments, demanding an immediate retraction and apology.  He followed his demand in a letter. 

In our Nevada economy that has been particularly hard hit by the recession, the enflaming remarks by could prove disastrous, many Nevada leaders say.   The number of Las Vegas tourists fell 4.4 percent last year and the descent continued in December, which saw a 14.2 percent dip compared with 2007. 

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive officer for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, appeared alongside Goodman, saying later he couldn’t put a price tag on repairing damage from Obama’s remarks. 

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher followed suit, saying Obama’s comments had “wildfire potential.” 

Most business leaders agree that extravagant, ostentatious frivolous spending is one thing, but it’s the “Las Vegas fun factor” under control that can precisely be the economic stimulus ticket to drive up the attendance at Las Vegas conventions and serve as a win-win lift for our sagging national and local economies. 

But are out-of-town business conventioneers really listening? 

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. continued to draw heat and withdrew its plan to hold a three-day conference in Las Vegas after accepting $10 billion in federal bailout funds. 

Similarly, last week Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer money, cancelled a planned employee recognition conference in Las Vegas. 

The fear is that Las Vegas is unjustly getting a growing reputation as a frivolous destination for companies- and not just those getting federal bailout money.  To which Goodman responded, “What we’re famous for has nothing to do with the fact that you can have a serious meeting in Las Vegas.” 

Only time will tell what will be the ultimate economic tourism impact of Obama’s remarks- time Las Vegas has very little of.   It could be that Obama’s comment might tilt the economic pendulum more in favor of Las Vegas tourism, actually bringing in more tourists as Las Vegas continues to work damage control on its reputation as a place for serious business.

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Las Vegas Banks on ‘Ox Karma’

With all the Las Vegas economic gloom and doom prophecies running rampant, the city is hoping that the Year of the Ox Chinese New Year, which normally brings in millions of dollars annually to Nevada coffers, will be just what is needed again to boost business revenues and spirits. 

 The actual holiday starts on January 26 and runs through February 28. ox

But Chinese fortunetellers and seers have their doubts that the festive event will bring a much needed economic bump. The mystics say that fire is essential for financial well-being.  And it is nowhere to be found in the mythology of this Year of the Ox.  Rather, Chinese soothsayers see a deepening recession, with millions more losing their jobs, and stocks and home prices continuing to plunge.

Even newly elected President Barack Obama, born in a prior Year of the Ox, has mystics worried.  His bad omen is that he’s the 44th president- a number the Chinese deem extremely unlucky because “four” is pronounced the same as “death” in Chinese.

 If positive economic karma doesn’t win out, it’s not because local businesses haven’t tried to lure in revenue.   Virtually everywhere in Las Vegas something is going on at some time, as was previously posted in the Las Vegas Backstage Access blog:  Top Five Picks for Chinese New Year Celebrations in Las Vegas

baccaratOne of the best indicators of the rise of the Chinese New Year in Las Vegas is the revenue coming from baccarat play.   The amount dropped on baccarat during the Chinese New Year’s celebration has increased from $455.6 million in 1996 to more than $1 billion last year.

 That was last year- before our global economic bubble burst.

 With the disturbing trend of more and more Chinese high rollers – commonly referred to as “whales” – ending up dead, imprisoned or just broke because of corruption schemes gone bad and prosecuted, only time will tell if Asian wealth will pour into Las Vegas this year.   Or will it merely trickle?

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Miss Indiana Katie Stam Crowned Miss America in Las Vegas

Culminating at least a year of preparation, and followed by weeks of pre-pageant festivities in Las Vegas, on Saturday evening, January 24, Miss Indiana Katie Stam was crowned the 2009 Miss America at the pageant broadcast live from the Planet Hollywood Theatre for the Performing Arts.  katiestam 

Norm Clarke, entertainment columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported that the number of free tickets given away to fill the 7,000-seat theatre for the event was in the thousands. But, even so, a jump in the TV ratings is anticipated when voting results are tallied.

Stam, a 22-year-old communications major from the University of Indianapolis, whose platform was promoting community service, called it “a dream come true.”  

During the question-and-answer session that followed, Stam gushed to the media about what an exciting year it has been, with Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president, adding “and now I’m Miss America.”

The fresh-off-the-farm, church-going beauty tactfully thumped first-place winner Chastity Hardman, 24, of Georgia to take home the $50,000 scholarship and the right to represent the Miss America organization through 2009. 

After walking the runway with her new crown and bouquet of roses, the new Miss America quickly pointed out that she loves breakfast food and can’t live without laughing. 

Many Miss America contestants had eating on their minds and in their agenda, attending many eating fests while enjoying Las Vegas.

Days before the 2009 Miss America Live! Pageant, saucy Miss Massachusetts Alicia Zitka, 22, of West Springfield, quickly dispelled the stereotype pageant image of having to adhere to a strict diet. 

 Thankful she was wearing and evening dress and not shoe-horned into a swimsuit, the talented Miss America dance contestant was a quick study when she learned to prepare Italian food- and then ate with gusto her high-caloric creations. 

 Her January 17 pageant outing was to the Buca di Beppo restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Zitka was accompanied by 51 other ravished Miss America contestants.  “I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook fine Italian food,” said a beaming and hungry Zitka, a University of Massachusetts – Amerst student, as she received cooking tutelage from Buca di Beppo executive chef Michael Miyahara.  

Providing a brief food profile to accompany her impressive pageant credentials, Zitka revealed, “My real favorite food is chicken noodle soup.  I’ll eat it anytime- when it’s snowing outside, and even on hot days.”  Then she added she wasn’t fond of eating fancy seafood, though.  Guys take note for your blackbook.

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Barack Obama’s Inauguration Plays on Huge Las Vegas Hilton HDTV

The Las Vegas Hilton is opening its main headliner theater – where Elvis Presley launched his comeback – to the public on Tuesday, January 20, and will be the host for a special viewing of the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.  The doors will open at 8 a.m. for this history-making event that will be shown on an 18-foot-by-32 foot HDTV with state-of-the-art theater sound.

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Barack Obama Moves to Las Vegas

Barack Obama is now a permanent part of the Las Vegas experience.  On January 15 Madame Tussuad’s unveiled their Barack Obama wax sculpture at five locations, including their museum at the Venetian in Las Vegas.  The highly detailed sculpture shows the president-elect smiling with his arms casually crossed.

The artists at Madame Tussuad’s were prepared to update their presidential exhibit regardless of who won the election.  Clay molds were designed for both Senator McCain and then-Senator Obama.  Unlike most real-person sculptures that require meticulous measurements, photographs and video were used to create the best representation of both men. 

Obama’s arrival didn’t mean the end of President Bush.  While it’s true that at the Amsterdam Madame Tussuad’s, George W. Bush was left on the sidewalk surrounded by luggage, in most cases, the current president’s image will be carefully preserved in the museum archives.

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President-Elect Barack Obama’s Inauguration Train Leaves With Las Vegan Aboard

On Saturday, January 17 a history-making train will depart the Philadelphia station with President-Elect Barack Obama about for his inauguration in Washington D.C..  But this time, it’s different:  Guests being referred to as “ordinary Americans” will be riding along with Obama.  These are the folks who wouldn’t be able to pay the costs of attending an inauguration- but they are the exact same folks who made the inauguration of Barack Obama possible. 

Invitations to the expense-paid event went out nationwide and one of those invitations was sent to Las Vegas resident Rosa Mendoza.               

Mendoza, a teacher and Vice Chair of the Nevada Hispanic Democratic Caucus, helped organize Nevada Latino support of Obama from the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign.  During her years as a single mother, working as a waitress while she earned her college degree, Mendoza believed in the possibilities for her and for her daughter in the “Land of Opportunity”.    And in candidate Obama, Mendoza found someone who had lived her life and understood her world.                                     

So in September 2008 when Mendoza had the chance to introduce then Senator Obama to 12,000 cheering supporters at Cashman Field, she told her story and invited the Nevada voters to choose Obama as the 44th President of the United States.  

When Barack Obama takes his oath of office on January 20, becoming the first black president of the United States, Rosa Mendoza will be there front and center- a witness to the history in making she helped create.

Rosa Mendoza never dreamed her actions would lead to selecting a dress for the presidential inaugural ball.

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Morph Into President-Elect Barack Obama

In our Las Vegas Backstage Access blog posts we’ve given you information on how to register your new inaugural dress on-line to prevent the embarrassment of being seen wearing the same one as other women.  And we’ve given you the inside scoop on where all the Las Vegas inauguration parties will be.  But don’t just stop there. 

Now, you can top it all off and be morphed into Shepard Fairey’s iconic style print of President-elect Barack Obama with your own mug.  Just surf on over to http://obamiconme.pastemagazine.com  (no .www) and upload your beaming photo, choose the word you’d like to have  placed underneath it, and – Viola! - you’ll be visually transformed immediately and effortlessly into Barack.  You can e-mail your work of art to all your family and friends.  Or just place in their gallery.

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What’s A Woman to Wear to the President’s Inaugural Balls?

What’s a woman to do?  The 44th President of the United States walks into the inaugural ball and across the room – she’s there, another guest is wearing your dress and she’ll be introduced to the first couple before you!dress  Oh no!

Or worse yet, imagine you are the First Lady, on the arm of the Commander-in-Chief, and as you make your grand entrance, you see three other women wearing the same red Oscar de la Renta gown.  Unlike Laura Bush at the 2006 inaugural ball, most of us wouldn’t have a spare evening dress waiting in the limo, or the grace to carry off a quick change for such an obvious reason. 

To avoid this embarrassing faux pas moment on the dance floor, your best bet is to register your inaugural gown at http://www.dressregistry.com.    Whether you’re going to the Washington D.C. bashes or going to the Palazzo in Las Vegas, this website allows woman to upload an image of their personal selection for evening attire as well as the event they will be attending. 

Considering the time spent to find the perfect dress, it’s worth it to take a few minutes to ensure that you’ll be the only designer disco diva at THE party of the year!

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Presidential Inaugural Celebrations in Las Vegas

Washington D.C. isn’t the only location to enjoy a proper inaugural celebration on Tuesday, January 20.   Las Vegas is ready to welcome our new president with morning toast’s and evening gala’s.  Get your new dress and polish your inauguationshoes now. 

Watch the inauguration in real time at the Southern Nevada Inaugural Watch Party at the Porchlight Grille, 8416 West Desert Inn Road.  The event begins at 8:30 a.m.   Send an e-mail to “rsvp@nvdems.com” if you’d like to attend. 

You can also dress in your cocktail best and watch a replay of the inauguration at the Porchlight Grille from 6 to11 p.m. for a $25 per person fee (includes one free drink; food may be purchased separately).    RSVP to the Clark County Democratic Party Headquarters (702) 586-6402 or save your place at the inauguration party on http://www.clarkdems.com/content/view/682/71/ 

However, if you’re looking for a chance to wear an evening gown, The  Las Vegas Black Historical Society is sponsoring The Las Vegas Obama Inaugural Ball, “The Party for the People”, at the Plaza Hotel on Main Street.  The ball begins at 6p.m. and tickets are $44 – in honor of the 44th president – $55 and $75.  Proceeds will benefit the Black Historical and Cultural Center.  Tickets may be purchased at the Plaza Hotel or visit the event website: www.lasvegasobamaball.com

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Las Vegas Celebrities Prepare to Head to Obama’s Inauguration

The ‘Obama Soul Train’ will soon be at the Las Vegas station and be ready to boogie down to Washington, D.C. on January 20 for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration.   On board for all the hoopla, will reportedly be Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, and longtime leading Las Vegasclintholmes headliners Clint Holmes and George Wallace.  Holmes, who headlined at Harrah’s Las Vegas from 2000 to 2006, is in talks to sing his recent song, “Who Will Stand,” a documentary ballad about American soldiers returning home with physical and other challenges.

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Parties Galore Surround Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

barrackFrom champagne flutes to beer on tap, Las Vegas will most likely be celebrating the January 20 inauguration of Barack Obama with parties and after parties galore- and in a way no other city can.  

 

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will also have plenty of comfortable dancing shoes on hand and bottles of Excedrin on January 20, as they plan to attend 10 official inaugural balls.   Despite all the people involved in planning the inauguration festivities, everything has been hush-hush as to what they will wear or even if they daughters Sasha and Malia will attend. 

 

Six of the official balls will be the Washington Convention Center, with others planned for Union Station, the Washington Hilton, the National Building Museum, and the DC Armory.

 

Between the NFL championship game on January 18 and the Chinese New Year on January 26, Las Vegas valley restaurants and meeting facilities will no doubt be keeping their HD TVs tuned to the coverage of this historic inaugural event.   

 

But while the cost of accommodations around Washington D.C. continue to escalate – the cost of spending time at 4-star hotels and celebrating with a Bette Midler performance here are dropping.   Plenty of folks are turning to Las Vegas for their presidential party – the question is, where will you turn to find the stories and images that only Las Vegas can offer?  Stay linked to our VBA blog for news updates on these parties. Vegas Backstage Access is your source for Las Vegas entertainment news.

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