Theme-based casinos have become Las Vegas' bread and butter in recent decades. It's no longer enough to provide gambling, adult entertainment, and torrents of liquor to please the clientele; now, casino/resorts must travel through time and space to give the necessary frisson to tourists. Visitors to Sin City can choose among the hedonism of Ancient Rome, the anarchy of the Frontier West, the carnivalesque sensuality of the tropics, or the sophistication of the world's great cities. But, just how complete are these experiences? How serious are the casinos about reproducing the entire environment? During my most recent trip to Vega$, I evaluated five different casinos. Below, I describe two of the casinos I visited; the rest will appear on the website soon.

Where? On the Strip
When visited? 1 pm on a Saturday
Whose? Elardis

Ostensible theme? I'm unsure it has one. Perhaps the theme is Casino Renovation? Or, maybe it's striving for a disco theme. From the name, I thought maybe it was going for a suave James Bond sort of deal, but that doesn't seem to be the case, either.

Clientele: Guests tend to be on the young side, featuring many representatives of the t-shirt and tattoo crowd.

Employee costumes and demeanor: Cocktail waitresses strut their stuff in the classic little black dress, with a little fake brocade here and there for Continental flavor.

Carpet and other decor: The carpet featured rampant torches on medallions- tres Euro-stocracy! The Old World ambience was balanced by the use of lots of black mirrors and disco music in the main casino. The bathrooms were decorated in Classic American Public Facilities Tile, just right for all those illicit coke parties. Less than Zero, baby! The coin cups were ornamented with confetti and gambling motif. 'Are you ready to party, or WHAT?" As a bonus, the air conditioning was new.

Food: The restaurant was under renovation.

Games: The games and machines were standard Vega$ issue, nothing specific to superspies, disco, or renovation. However, the renovation did prevent the highly touted slot tournament from occuring.

Did it work? The folks at Casino Royale are "partying" too "hardy" to follow through with any theme, even if it's something as appealing as disco superspies.

Suggestions: Go for Euro-trash disco! All the young ironic hipsters would love it, and this place could truly become a party joint, instead of just a slogan on the coin cups.

Where? I-15 and Tropicana
When visited? Saturday, at 2:30 pm
Whose? Michael Gaughan

Ostensible Theme? Joining the plethora of Carnival themes (ie Rio, Harrah's), the Orleans perpetually celebrates Mardi Gras in the Crescent City.

Clientele? Unlike the diverse population in NOLA, visitors here are mostly middle age, middle class, middle of the road, with large middles. No one flashed her boobies.

Employee costumes? Dealers wear purple flowery satin shirts and Mardi Gras beads; the indifferent waitresses wear shiny skimpy bodices that wouldn't look out of place on a New Orleans postcard.

Carpet and other decor? The wrought iron on the outside of the building looks more like a security door in Sacramento than Vieux Carre style, but it doesn't exactly look like Sacramento inside. Visitors are greeted by a giant cartoon alligators tooting silent horns for eternity. The carpet design features crowns and tassels. The crowns are emblems of the Mardi Gras King and Queen; the tassels stand for the boobies of the exotic dancers. The walls are adorned with Mardi Gras masques, seals, and sashes in the traditional green, gold, and purple. Towards the back of the casino, a bunch of creepy shiny porcelain mannequins in Mardi Gras sequinned costumes appear to gaze at the action below. Their hair seems to be askew, just like all the drunks on Bourbon St. This casino features no decaying gentility to speak of, no drunken dissipation or craziness, no bayous or cemeteries, just lots of cartoonish alligators and portly ladies with elaborate coifs. The decor definitely takes the easy road, and it doesn't seem enough to fill up the warehouse-like interior.

Food? The Canal Street Grill serves some Cajun and Creole specialties- seafood, bread pudding, bananas Foster. The French Market Buffet and a Tex-Mex restaurant provide other dining opportunities. Appropriately, lots of liquor is available- lots of bars.

Games? There is a machine called Gator Bucks, otherwise the games are pretty nondescript. For those on a budget, the Orleans does have 2 and 5 dollar tables, some nonsmoking.

Other Facilities: Chapel Orleans, acknowledging the fervent Catholic tradition of the Crescent City, serves as a wedding chapel. Unfortunately, there's no voodoo. It doesn't even look very Catholic, more like a nondescript bridesmaid swathed in pink satin and fake flowers. There are also conference rooms and a bowling alley. Free beads are available to all visitors, though!

Entertainment: At the time I visited, Eddie Money, the Righteous Brothers, Glen Campbell were the performers of choice.

Did it work? This casino was about as similar to New Orleans as my left buttock.

Suggestions: The music is one of New Orleans' main attractions, and it seems a shame not to capitalize on that. Also, get rid of the dummies. Hire real alligators to keep troublemakers in line.

More of Amy's casino theme reviews will soon be available in our "Las Vegas on 25 Cents a Day" Section.

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