I may be very much mistaken, but I don’t think the Las Vegas Heritage Trust is particularly active.

I recently travelled to Vegas with a companion who yearned for a taste of the golden age. It was his first time in Sin City and he had romantic visions of Sinatra strolling the strip in a tux or perhaps Judy Garland sipping on a Fluffy Duck in a cute little Coco Chanel cocktail dress, probably with five oily-haired lotharios, Zippos at the ready, offering to light her Virginia Slim. We’re talking about acres of neon, classy broads, floor shows, crap shoots, brat packs, and all the other Vegas hallmarks.

After a confounding conversation with a Turkish cab driver who had only been in the country a few months, we found ourselves at the Flamingo in search of such retro glamour. The Flamingo’s glory days are well and truly behind it. The neon facade might evoke the glamour of classic Vegas but once over the threshold it’s simply a tired slots hall, where tuxs make way for tracky dacks and Marlboro Lights replace fat contraband Cubans. No wonder our cabbie was so confused… what were we doing? What were we expecting to find? A shrine to the ’60s? Dean Martin stumbling, half cut, into a limo?

The truth is, Vegas has never done nostalgia, it’s always looking for the next big thing; the latest gizmo; whatever it takes to give it the edge. Money is a telling one-dimensional barometer, and Vegas is all about money. Pure and simple.

I stayed in the Aria Hotel. It’s part of the brand new City Center development. The Mandarin Oriental and the Vdara hotel are also part of the new precinct. I don’t know what a ‘Vdara’ is exactly, but there’s no question that City Center heralds a clean break from the days when a new hotel had to look like it was transported from the Valley of the Kings, Paris, Venice, or a Land Far Far Away. There’s no ‘theme’ to City Center, it’s simply clean, elegant, comfortable and sophisticated.

As you’d imagine, City Center picks up on some of the latest trends. The spa is enormous, the nightclub is as well kitted out as you’d expect and there are some very impressive conferencing facilities. And the pools (yes, there’s a whole cluster) fill the space of a couple of football fields.

I know Australian licensing differs to The States’ but let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like kicking back on a sun lounge, being served something frosty by a tastefully semi-clad waitress, and lolling about in a pool when the desert sun gets a little oppressive. Come the weekend, the temperatures continue to soar with poolside club nights… where the buff and the pert come out to play.

The Aria’s in-room experience was something new as well. Control 4 has designed an intuitive room automation system that incorporates lighting modes, the curtains/blinds, wake-up times, TV and radio. It’s all accessed via your telly or from a touchscreen beside your bed. It’s a fabulous setup and a window onto how most hotels will operate in the near future. There’s nothing futuristic about the control itself – AMX and Crestron have been offering control like this in the pro AV sector for years – it’s the integration and the sheer size of the installation that impresses (the Aria Hotel has more than 4000 rooms).

As we know, Vegas attracts the super-talented like moths to a flame. Money again is the driver. Whether it be interior design, lighting or audiovisuals, who wouldn’t want to work on a space where money is no object? But if City Center tells us anything, and if the GFC has precipitated anything, it’s ‘lay off the cheese’. I don’t want to have a beer in a bar that looks like the Death Star’s trash compactor, I don’t want to play the slots on an Edwardian carousel, and I’m not interested in a square hamburger with a side of green fries served by a Klingon. The word ‘authentic’ springs to mind. Not because Vegas isn’t still the epicentre of make-believe, but real quality, real design and the genuine article is now en vogue. And thank goodness for that. Ker-ching! – CH.

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