ecember in Las Vegas means a few things, but for the casino business, it’s the quiet season.
“There was a saying in Las Vegas that Santa Claus and slot machines don’t mix,” says Dan Lee, CEO and president of Full House Resorts, which owns Bronco Billy’s
and other casinos. But he’s bucked that saying, and his company has reopened the former Imperial Casino in Cripple Creek as the Christmas Casino and Inn
, which will operate year-round. It’s bold, but he thinks Vegas slowing down in December is as much a product of cooler temperatures and office parties clogging the calendar as the sanctity of the season.
As inspiration, Lee cites past holiday visits to Germany — namely the 500-year-old annual Christkindlesmarkt
(Christmas market) in Nuremberg and the German Christmas museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. He’s also tested the idea of a Christmas casino as a seasonal concept at the Rising Star Casino Resort in Indiana, where it’s moved November and December financial figures from red into black for four years.
So far, he says he’s had no complaints, either about the Indiana pop-up or the Christmas Casino. He says it’s because they’ve stayed well clear of any religious connotations; there’s no slot-side midnight mass or anything of the kind.
“We think the recognition of the birth of Christ is phenomenal and [that] people should go to church,” he says. “But people are not at church every day.”
Rather, Lee says his research led him to non-Christian midwinter celebrations. Their purpose, he says, was in part to bring communities close to make winter pass more easily. Slaughtering a few livestock animals for feasting meant fewer mouths eating through winter stores, and the cold helped it keep longer. No harvest meant there was time for knitting and toymaking. And a little tipple helped keep the cold off.
If there is a universal truth to the idea of holiday spirit, it’s in coming together to celebrate camaraderie, peace and love, and to make the darkest days of the year more bearable. And in that, to each their own.