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Thursday, 16 October 2008

image for Las Vegas Strippers, Hookers and Mobsters Losing Money in Recession
Mobsters and hookers are hurting

LAS VEGAS (FMLiveWire) -- Sandy Smegaloff who spends her evenings stripping, lap-dancing and hooking at Frick's Cabaret here says she's making only a fraction of her income of a year ago.

''You don't shop, you don't buy stuff you can't afford now,'' the 26-year-old Smegaloff said between dances at the Las Vegas club. "Where have all the Johns gone? Do you want a date?"

She has postponed buying a house and is reading Deepak Chopra and the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series for advice on increasing her wealth. ''I know how to save money. I'm not a dumb stripper and hooker,'' she says, although others disagree.

The mob city that sold Americans on the dream that they could lay down a small bet and walk away millionaires is reeling in the housing and financial crash that brought down Wall Street.

Las Vegas leads the nation in falling home prices, foreclosures and stalled construction projects as economic fear and loathing overcomes America.

More than $100 billion of hotel and casino construction projects with 100,000 rooms have been delayed on Las Vegas Boulevard, better known as the Strip.

Gaming revenue for casinos on the Strip fell for the eighth straight month in August from a year earlier, the longest falling streak since records began according to the Nevada Prostitution and Gaming Control Board. The 46 percent drop in May was a record. August revenue fell 37.4 percent.

Now, as residents flee Vegas, most of its homes are empty and worth less than when they were built.

Las Vegas and had the biggest home-price decline in the country in July and Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate in August. One in 11 homes in Vegas are in some stage of default, compared with one in 416 for the U.S. overall.

The signs of decline are right on the Strip, where idle construction cranes soar over downtown Vegas.

Construction equipment, including excavators and backhoes sit idle. Sixty-four tower cranes stand poised over the unfinished steel skeletons of casino-hotel complexes.

Underemployed hookers like Smegaloff are trying to finish the projects but they lack the skills and the capital needed.

''With things slowing down, there may not be the demand for the new casinos and hotels," she says as she drives a bulldozer. ''There's almost no way to get financing for projects right now. It's scary.''

Occupancy at Las Vegas hotels fell 64 percent and the average daily room rate dropped 76 percent in the seven months through July compared with a year earlier, according to the Las Vegas Convention, Prostitution and Visitors Authority. In July alone, the latest month for which numbers are available, room rates were down 90 percent.

The unemployment rate for the Las Vegas metropolitan area rose to 71 percent in August, a 21 percentage point increase from a year earlier.

Hotels are using new promotions to try to get budget- conscious suckers to visit Vegas. Sandrah's Entertainment Inc., the world's largest casino company by revenue, offered a ''Two Cent Tuesday'' deal this month at its Sandrah's Las Vegas property.

The promotion allows guests to stay for that price with a two-dollar hooker as long as they book two nights before or after Tuesday at the regular rate, said spokeswoman Trudy Trout.

Gambling was legalized in Las Vegas in 1931. Mobster Benjamin ''Bugsy'' Siegel, a member of the Meyer Lansky crime organization, popularized Las Vegas in 1946 when he opened a hotel named The Flamingo, the nickname of his girlfriend.

Now his descendants are losing their capital as visitors flee and Vegas dies.

The city was once the destination of millions who came for the shows, the gambling tables and just to sit bleary-eyed in front of the slot machines pumping in coin after coin, ''still humping the American Dream, that vision of the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last-minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino,'' as Hunter Thompson wrote in ''Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.''

Vegas strippers, hookers and mobsters have seen their pay continue to shrink as tourists, turned off by the casino-style wagers they placed on their homes and retirement funds stay away, says Faith Popcorn, who tracks cultural trends and spending habits as chairman of New York-based Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve.

--Copyright Felix Minderbinder Live Wire

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