Vegas to terrorists: Not here, not now!

Jun 25, 2002 10:38 AM

What, us worry? Talk of a terrorist attack on Las Vegas is withering in the summer heat.

"We’re seeing no difference in bookings,’’ Rob Powers of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority told GamingToday on Monday after a rumor-wracked weekend.

The LVCVA, along with major resorts up and down the Strip, report few cancellations in the wake of a Henderson man’s claim that he overheard on his cell phone discussion of a terrorist assault targeted for July 4.

The city has projected the arrival of 260,000 visitors for the holiday ”” up 3 percent from last year. And Powers says that number hasn’t changed in the past five days.

Powers cautioned, however, that the slight gain is partly due to the fact that July 4th falls on a Thursday instead of a Wednesday, as it did in 2001. A Thursday holiday generally attracts bigger crowds who can swing a four-day weekend.

Still, any increase looks good amidst a post-September 11 tourism slump.

Billy Vassiliadis, owner of R&R Advertising, said public relations agencies throughout the city will be blanketing national media outlets this week with one main message: Las Vegas is safe.

"Surveys have shown that Las Vegas is perceived as one of the top two or three safest destinations in the world. In fact, the Strip is one of the safest,’’ he said.

Now that the FBI and Metro police have all but dismissed the alleged threat relayed by Henderson resident Michael Hamdan, Vassiliadis says, "The onus is on us to get that message out.’’

Hamdan on Friday failed a polygraph test and news accounts of earlier erratic behavior further undermined his credibility.

In August 2000, Hamdan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Lebanon, was arrested at Barley’s Casino on charges of trying to cap a blackjack bet (illegally increasing his bet after it has been placed). He pleaded guilty to attempted theft and was sentenced to three years probation. He was barred for a year from entering a casino to gamble and was required to complete a compulsive gambling program.

If major resorts and their customers seem generally unfazed by the terror talk, Las Vegas’ visitor numbers have been somewhat flaccid. Year-to-date occupancy rates for the city’s 126,667 hotel rooms are down 3.2 percentage points to about 85 percent, the LVCVA states.

At MGM Mirage properties, weekday room rates remain off 4.2 percent and weekend rates are down nearly 14 percent compared with last year.

The average rate decreased nearly 11 percent during the week at Mandalay hotels and fell 12 percent on weekends.

Advance room rates on the Strip for the week of July 13 are down 3 percent on weekdays to an average of $104, while weekend rates declined nearly 8 percent to $147, according to one survey.

But there are exceptions. Weekday rates at Park Place properties are up 1.4 percent, while weekend rates increased nearly 25 percent.

For bargain hunters, there are some good deals out there, with scattered Strip rooms available for as little as $19.50 per person, per night Sunday through Thursday.

At this point, though, the Fourth of July appears pretty well locked up ”” in more ways than one.