Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times is uncomfortable with the symbolism of the Winter Meetings in the fabulous Bellagio Hotel and Casino:
Reporting from Las Vegas — It’s the symbolism, stupid.
As Americans lose their jobs and homes at a frequency unseen in decades, baseball convenes today for its annual holiday shopping spree in Las Vegas. The setting, according to the hotel website: “Contentment and opulence are the hallmarks of your Bellagio hotel luxury experience.” The pitch, according to baseball executives from the commissioner on down: Believe us, times are tough.
The retort is the same one Congress used on the auto executives that flew to Washington in private jets: It’s hard to believe you amid all that luxury.
It’s not the economy. It’s the symbolism.
I’m a big fan of sending the right signals, but I put greater faith in facts than Shaikin’s brand of symbolism. And here are the facts: right now, if you go to the Bellagio’s website, you will find that you can get a room at this very moment for $129 a night, checking in this morning and checking out Friday morning. Last year the Winter Meetings were held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Right now, if you go to the Opryland Hotel website, the cheapest room you can find for the same now-thru-Friday stay is between $199 and $219 a night.
When you factor in the built-in-chapeness of everything else in Las Vegas due to the greater competition for food and entertainment dollars, and of course, when you add in the fact that all things are subsidized with gambling receipts, travellers to the Winter Meetings are looking at a much, much cheaper week this year than they had last year. And that’s just if they’re staying at one of the two or three nicest places in town. Check in to Bally’s across the street and you’ll pay only $59-79 a night. At these prices, you can’t afford not to go to the Winter Meetings!
Upshot: Shaikin can keep his symbolism. I’ll take the lower bottom line.