I had just turned 21 in the spring of '97, and had gone home to live with the parents for the summer (in college at the time). Having just been legally introduced to gambling by my fellow casino enthusiast parents, I was itching for a trip to Las Vegas when I could actually 'participate'. When I found out Boz Scaggs (one of my Dad's favorites) was playing Hard Rock, the lobbying went from optimitic to successful, and the planning began.
We got a Sun Country flight out of Tulsa, and headed out in the afternoon, and getting to LV at virtually the same clock time, due to time zones. We got the rental car, and headed to Sunset Station, which was brand-spanking-new at the time. It was a thursday afternoon, and fairly sleepy in this spotless casino. I played a little VP for a small profit, and we moved on to Vacation Village. This is of course closed now (see more 'What was different in '97' below), but I kind of dug it at the time. It was quiet as well, but had sort of a homey feel to it. They didn't have craps, so I played BJ and a little roulette. Next we checked in at Harrah's, and the rest of the night was spent on the mid-strip taking it all in.
Friday was concert night, so we went to Hard Rock late that afternoon. I thought that was the coolest place I'd ever seen when I walked in. I lost some dough, but felt sufficiently entertained for the trouble. As I will usually do, my last night there I stayed up all night drinking and gambling. I had a $400 roll at the Craps table at Harrah's, and won a little bit more at O'shea's, before coming back to the room to nap before being roused for a quick shower and the journey back to the airport.
WHAT WAS DIFFERENT BACK THEN...
because 1997 is practically the paleolithic era, in Vegas terms.
-Sands was freshly torn down, and the Venetian was simply a few construction trailers and a cleared site.
-Caesar's Forum Shops were simply a dog-leg run from the strip, banking to the left into the Forum Casino. The conveyor belt ran into the building only. If I'm not mistaken, it's two-way now(?)
-The old Aladdin was still open, but I didn't make it in. I wish I had.
-The NYNY was brand new and impossible to even walk through it was so crowded. We did anyway...I'm amazed that we all emerged with our wallets.
-Mandalay Bay was under construction and having serious structural problems at the time...the half-erected structure sunk 13 inches within days. Of course, all this was overcome.
-The MGM still had the Lion's mouth entry at LV Blvd.South and Tropicana. It was very cool, but, how many people got fired for so blatantly overlooking the traditions and superstitions of the Asians, their most treasured clientele? No one knew they would think walking into a lion's mouth would be bad luck and foreboding!? Please.
-Binion's was still run by Jack Binion, and all was still right in the Horseshoe world.
I ended up playing blackjack and craps about 80% of the time on this trip, other 20% was VP with a little roulette and let-it-ride thrown in for good measure. My stake was $1100 and I came back with $800. Due to the fact that I was in college and had no income, I didn't make it back until '99, when I went with friends after graduation. Since then, I've been 4 times, and will be back in May.
Let's see some more old-school reports!