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Las Vegas economy bouncing back?

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The New York Times ran an article a week
and a half ago that basically said the Las Vegas
economy was as dry as the desert sand. And Sin City’s not recovering as fast as other
cities across the country. Las Vegas Review-Journal entertainment columnist Doug Elfman took issue with the Times assessment and talked to me about it a few days ago at a popular gathering place right on the strip.

Doug Elfman, thanks for meeting me here at the Las Vegas sign.

DOUG ELFMAN: Thanks. It’s a real pleasure.

CHIOTAKIS: So why this place? Why are we here talking near the Las Vegas sign?

ELFMAN: This is quite the touristy place. And as you can see, it’s just wall-to-wall tourists, sort of. I mean, as much as you can get. Cars are coming in, you can see the planes coming in. And unlike what some people might think, Vegas is sort of bouncing back.

CHIOTAKIS: So what do the signs of economic recovery then?

ELFMAN: Gambling revenue up 21 percent. Casino proceeds up 4.5 percent. Casino revenues up 12 percent. Visitors coming to Vegas has been up for 12 straight months to 25 million people. It’s been up 2.5 percent this year. Car traffic is up 4.4 percent. I could go on and on. We have lots of signs and if you live here, and you actually come here, you know all this. Compared to a year ago? It is a bouquet of roses every day right now.

CHIOTAKIS: When you talk to locals here what are they telling you? You sort of work the beat, right?

ELFMAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK. Well, on the downside there’s quite a few people in town who have been working 60 hours a week for 6 days a week for two years — ever since the recession kicked in. Because, remember, unemployment is high at 14 percent. So a lot of people are tired, but we still smile and we still get through it because it’s Vegas and we’re a service industry.

CHIOTAKIS: So as a journalist, as a columnist, somebody who covers this town, what’s the future look like?

ELFMAN: A lot of locals keep saying the same thing. They go, Life Magazine, decades ago, had a cover photo of a little motel and a headline that said something like, “Has Vegas finally overdeveloped and gone too far?” Well, that was like in the ’50s or something, right? So that’s just the way it is. That’s how cities are.

CHIOTAKIS: The eternal optimist. Doug Elfman, thanks.

ELFMAN: Sure, thanks.

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