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The trouble with Vegas is not architecture that glorifies the pseudo over the real, not breasts that glorify the pseudo over the real, not the town's loopy pride in family entertainment and restaurants, not even Wayne Newton. The problem is in the gambling itself. With the exception of sports gambling, a fine American activity, Vegas concentrates its wagering on games no one cares about. Who plays Keno for fun? Who plays the slots at home? Roulette? Can you imagine anything duller? Why not let folks bet on games they actually enjoy playing? Bring on the big money Monopoly, the high-stakes Scrabble, the no-limit Super Mario Brothers!
And while sports betting is a fine start, Vegas shuns many other equally absorbing public events. I look forward to the day when I can walk into a casino, be handed a complimentary cocktail by a 6-foot dancer in an ostrich feather headdress (that is, I wear the feathers), and bet 20 bucks on the Academy Awards, the Miss America contest, the annual total of Texas executions, the success or failure of Vera Wang's spring line.
Part of the fun of sports betting is to have money riding on an event you can see unfold live on the casino's giant screens. A similar treatment would add a new kick to even the most inane nightly news show if we could bet on, say, the cliché count. Looked at more broadly, if horse-race gambling grew out of an equine culture that relied on the horse for transportation and work, surely America deserves Prime-Time Neilsen Ratings gambling.
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Russia's Hermitage Museum is teaming up with New York's Guggenheim to bring great art to Vegas in a minimusem in the lobby of the Venetian Hotel.
The two museums will show about 20 paintings from each of their collections in a 7,660-square-foot space designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, in an exhibit that will change twice a year.
Directors of both galleries were eager to accept the casino's money and pretty handy with rationalizations about why they were right to do so. "Las Vegas is America; it is a place where a lot of people go," said Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky of the Hermitage.
Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim, initially rejected the proposal as "too tacky" but was won over by a visit to the Bellagio Hotel and the most astonishing hooker he'd ever seen, except for the hooker. It was the magnetic Steve Wynn that broke down the resistance of the Guggenheim's finicky director. "Everyone was on the audio machines, listening to Steve Wynn's tour, which was intelligent and accessible. And I thought to myself, 'what is wrong with this picture except my own attitude?' " It was a rhetorical question.
Tragic Consequence of Mixing Art and Vegas Extra
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