Tourists 'feel pretty bad' having a good time in Sin City

Las Vegas: It is an odd sight to see the main boulevard of Sin City, famous for its hedonistic nightlife and gambling culture, lined with signs asking for prayers.

With lairy high-rise hotels that sparkle in the desert sun and poker machines at the airport, the infamous city has not built a reputation on piety and restraint.

But in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, visitors are finding that the party may be over in Las Vegas.

"You feel pretty bad being here and having a good time," said Australian visitor Beth Cole, 44, who was on a girls' trip a year in the making but stood on a footbridge over Las Vegas Boulevard on Wednesday taking photos of the famous Strip as it lay empty except for police cars.

Hotels along the Strip have removed ads from their electronic billboards and replaced them with messages asking for blood donations.

"Our prayers for the victims pray for the victims. Our gratitude for the brave first responders," signs say.

Yellow crime scene tape spans much of the Boulevard and forensic officers in white jumpsuits walk to and from the site of the Route 91 Harvest festival, one of about 100 events that would usually happen on any night here. The day after the shooting, most shows were cancelled.

Armed guards stroll the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay, but the incessant sound of slot machines indicates that even a shooting won't dim the lure of easy gratification.

Las Vegas hit a new record for visitors last year, recording 43 million people of which 3.3 million were from overseas. Visitors outnumber residents five-fold and the city ranks behind only the US behemoths of New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Francisco for tourists.

No other city has a higher percentage of people employed in the private leisure sector, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Paris saw visitation drop by about 6.1 per cent last year, partly due to successive terror attacks, but Las Vegas won't suffer long-term, University of Central Florida economics professor Sean Snaith said.

"I think the impacts of this thing are going to be more long-lasting for the people of Las Vegas than they will be for the tourism industry," he said. "In the short run, the shock and the horror of it could affect behaviour, but I don't think this goes on to define Vegas as a tourism destination."

Pat Roe, 68, who visits from Seattle each year with his wife, said it felt odd wandering the streets in the shadow of such horror but the reality was that it was no different to any other US destination.

"Welcome to America," he said. "Everybody has a gun, it's crazy. Shootings happen in every city."

Ironically, Vegas has proven safer than home. His wife was shot in the arm while sitting in their spa a few years back. It was a stray bullet from a neighbour celebrating an event with gunfire.

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The story Tourists 'feel pretty bad' having a good time in Sin City first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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