Moving to Las Vegas? Here’s a Reality Check
Monday, September 22, 2008
An astonishing 1.5 million people have moved into Clark County since 1980 in pursuit of the Las Vegas dream. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they’re still coming at a rate of 5,000 new residents a month. Sure, some of those folks moved to the City of Neon only to return to their home towns, but the net year-over-year increase in population indicates that more people come than go.
I moved to Clark County in 2006 so I know what happens the moment you announce, “I’m thinking of moving to Vegas.” Objections and stereotypes come rushing at you from all directions. Before you pack your bags, you need a reality check. And here it is.
Stereotypical Remark No. 1: “So you want to work in a casino?”
Reality Check No. 1: Check into employment opportunities.
Because of its rapid growth, some of the best job opportunities in Las Vegas are in the medical, legal and service industries (check LasVegasJobs.com to get an idea of the scope). But Vegas is still a company town, and the resort and gaming industry remains the largest employer. There are almost always jobs to be found at one of the resorts, but be warned: It’s not as easy, or as lucrative, as it used to be.
Major employers are Harrah’s, the MGM-Mirage Group and Station Casinos. Check their listings to get an idea of the wide variety of positions available within the gaming industry. Aside from expected floor jobs like blackjack dealing and bartending, there are also career paths in accounting, operations, marketing, hospitality, retail and restaurant management. Turnover is high in almost all jobs, so persistence is key. As in most company towns, it’s to your advantage to have someone already on the inside working as your advocate.
Aside from card dealing, which usually requires a certificate of completion from an accredited dealer school like Casino Dealer College, the skill sets required for other Vegas jobs often cross over with more mainstream industries like retail, computer operations and construction. Many job ads call for gaming industry experience, but skills usually trump experience. For instance, retail cashiers often have the cash-handling skills necessary for working in sports books, cashier cages and even count rooms. Computer experience, especially in network maintenance, is more important than casino experience for most IT positions. Project management and construction experience are in especially high demand as the major casinos are constantly rolling out new systems, rebuilding and undergoing renovations.
Working for a temp agency like Apple One and Robert Half is a good way to get a foot in the door. But be warned: Most employment agencies and many of the largest casino chains will put your name at the bottom of their applicant list if they don’t see a 702 area code in front of your contact number. If you’re serious about moving to Las Vegas, do yourself a favor and get a local cell phone number.
Stereotypical Remark No. 2: “You’re going to die of the heat!”
Reality Check No. 2: Visit in July at least once.
It’s true, Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert. Midday and late afternoon temperatures in the summer months will usually reach 110 or even 115 degrees. The relative lack of humidity, compared to anywhere on the East or West Coast or in the Midwest, means you won’t sweat through your clothes the moment you step outside, but there’s no denying that the summers are sizzling. Visit Vegas at least once in summer to see how you fare.
You might be pleasantly surprised. Las Vegas has many private and public pools, and the casinos environs are downright icy, so relief from the heat is generally available nearby. Plus, Lake Mead is a boating, kayaking, cool, wet paradise and it’s less than an hour away.
The tradeoff for the hot summers? Spring and fall months offer some of the most incredible weather in the entire country: 85 degrees and sunny almost every day. Winters are usually windy but mild, and frost is rare. Nearby Mount Charleston, only about an hour’s drive from the city, soars to 9,500 feet and offers snow in winter and a refreshing alpine climate year-round.
Stereotypical Remark No. 3: “Are you going to become a professional gambler, or did you meet a stripper?”
Reality Check No. 3: Take a hard look at your gambling and sex addictions.
Sin City didn’t get its name by accident: The opportunity for vice is readily available, day and night. This temptation should not be taken lightly by anyone who has ever been accused of having a codependent or addictive personality. Take this quick Gamblers Anonymous test to see if you’re at risk of falling prey to the mesmerizing lights and ringing bells – and then keep it handy to monitor your progress.
As for sexual temptations, take the Gamblers Anonymous test and replace the word “gambling” with “sex” to see how you do. Because if you haven’t met a stripper yet – either male or female – don’t worry, you will. They often have second jobs as bartenders, real estate agents, dental hygienists, faith healers and, yes, even missionaries. Ironically, for all its vice, Las Vegas is also a very pious city. There’s a surprisingly large Mormon population, along with representatives of most every other major and arcane religion, including a stalwart base of born-again Christians happy to save you if you veer too far off the straight and narrow.
Stereotypical Remark No. 4: “Where will you live? In a hotel?”
Reality Check No. 4: Get lost! Rent a car, buy a map, get off the Strip.
By now, most everyone has heard about the phenomenal housing bubble that buoyed Las Vegas from 1995 to 2004, when many homes doubled and even tripled in value. Although purchase prices have come back down to earth since then, I think new residents should consider the rental market before buying a house. Apartments, condos and houses are available for affordable rents and they offer a great way to learn about the city’s neighborhoods and traffic patterns before taking on a mortgage. Craig’s List is a great place to start, as is the Las Vegas Review–Journal real estate section.
So now you have a four-point reality check to answer the most common stereotypes and objections to your move to Las Vegas. The rest is up to you. Opportunities and pitfalls abound. But if you decide to place your bet and move to the Neon Oasis, here are a few other numbers you might need:
Nevada Power 702-367-5555
Southwest Gas 702-365-1555
Henderson Water 702-267-5900
Las Vegas Water 702-870-2011
Cox Cable 702-383-4000
Republic (trash service) 702-735-5151