Thursday, January 16, 2014

Las Vegas Could Learn a Thing or Two

Last week, when I was in Johannesburg (before the unfortunate airport incident), I had a free afternoon and decided to take advantage of the time by visiting one of the main attractions in the area, the Apartheid Museum.  I figured with Nelson Mandela’s recent death that there may be some interesting exhibits about him.  I was correct.

The Apartheid Museum itself was good.  Actually, I should revise that statement.  By African standards the museum was exceptional.  However, having visited at least half of the 17 Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. and countless other museums around the world, the Apartheid Museum was adequate.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a museum connoisseur, but I can appreciate a good museum.  My mother thinks I am the most annoying person, second only to my father, when it comes to museums.  “Seriously, do you have to read EVERYTHING on EVERY SIGN EVERYWHERE? Where’s the gift shop?  Find me when you’re finished.”  I blame my father for this character flaw.  Of course, I don’t highjack road trips to take unwilling passengers to battlefields and proceed to reenact Picket’s charge.  So, I suppose I could be worse.

I will hand it to the Apartheid Museum though; there were lots of exhibits, plenty of photographs, videos and documentation.  The information about the arbitrary reclassification of people into different races during Apartheid was something I was unfamiliar with and really enjoyed learning about.  However, I felt the museum was arranged in a confusing manner. There was no real flow and you often had to backtrack from one area to the next.  A little more attention to direction and organization would have made a world of difference.

Here’s the interesting thing about the Apartheid Museum:
No, I didn’t mix up my pictures, that above is deliberate.  The Apartheid Museum is actually located on the property of the Gold Reef Theme Park.  You enter the gate and drive to the left for the museum.  To the right is the casino and theme park.  Here is the real Apartheid Museum:
After my visit to the museum I figured I should visit the casino and theme park, since it is related to my job and reason for being in Africa in the first place.  First of all, I thought it was kind of brilliant to have a theme park AND a casino on the same property.  You could bring your kid and let them roam free and enjoy the rides (if they are old enough) or let your spouse or a babysitter stay with the younger ones while you go to the casino and gamble.  I didn’t want to pay for entrance to the theme park, but I looked at the map and talked to a few workers and it appeared to be quite sufficient by most theme park standards.

Then I went to the casino.  The casino was an excellent experience.  I was slightly surprised that you had to go through full airport-style security (x-ray machine for all bags, metal detector, wanding by guards) right at the entrance to the property.  I did a few laps around the casino floor and realized I could breathe!  This is why:
I love this idea.  The first three letters on the sign were burnt out, so it looks like King Casino.  In fact, I thought that was the real name until I entered the sliding glass doors and then realized it was actually the SMOKING casino.  What a brilliant idea.  I asked one of the casino managers and she said the main casino floor which includes about 75% of the games is non-smoking.  The remaining 25% is the smoking casino.  I love it.  Everyone is happy, you can play wherever you like, and if you don’t like the smoke, or are allergic, you can protect your health.

Another great idea which I think Las Vegas might consider adopting is that there was a Kid Zone. Part of the kid zone had boardwalk type games the kids could play themselves.  There were attendants there to supervise them.  Or you could put your younger kids in daycare:
Regardless of what you do with your kids, the casino checks in the kid and the parent.  The child may only be left alone for 2 hours.  After the time limit expires the parent must claim the child and depart.  The parent cannot immediately check the kid back in.  The casino gives both the child and the parent matching arm bands with GPS capabilities.  It locks on the arm so if the parent attempts to leave the casino security will see them at the door and refuse exit.  The GPS means that the parent can be located anywhere on property so if the two hour time limit expires without them returning to claim their child the casino can see exactly where they are and hunt them down.

All in all, I ended up being very happy the museum was on the casino/theme park property.  If it hadn’t been I would have never visited the casino and realized how Las Vegas could really learn a few things from what is going on here.  Here is one thing I did find a little funny:
Any of my Hospitality and Tourism students out there reading this BETTER pick up on what I am referring to in that sign.  As for everyone else, the casino industry does not use the term gambling.  Instead, they opt for gaming.  Gambling insinuates a vice, something dangerous or bad.  Gaming connotes recreation and fun.  So you will never see or hear anyone use the term gambling in Las Vegas.  If you work in Vegas and say the word “gambling” to a customer you will almost certainly be reprimanded if someone hears you.

According to the casino manager I met there are only a handful of casinos in South Africa, but their popularity is growing.  And the casino is the main attraction.  It is mostly locals who come to the casinos; there are practically no tourists there at all.  In fact, that casino had only 34 hotel rooms for exclusive use by high rollers.

No comments:

Post a Comment