Here's a twist on an existential question: If a techno music festival comes to town and no one notices a bump in the local economy, did it really happen?
If the three-day Electric Daisy Carnival starting Friday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway draws the quarter-million people Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman reportedly expects, it has to have a significant economic impact in the valley. But how much and what kind of impact remains a mystery.
There's already some indication that the expected influx for what's billed as the largest rave of the year will translate into more dollars on the street.
Take hotel room rates, for example.
Many Las Vegas hotels are charging several times their normal weekend room rates during the Electric Daisy Carnival.
The Imperial Palace's least-expensive room Saturday will be $400, with a two-night minimum for a total of $740. Later, the hotel will revert back to $110 per night with no minimum.
At the Flamingo, the two-night minimum will be $1,050, compared with a more regular $155 per night.
The same numbers hold true up and down the Strip, where The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood Resort, Bellagio and Caesars Palace report they're sold out on Saturday.
Off-Strip, the story is much the same: No room at any Motel 6 and just one Super 8 reporting available rooms, at $215 for Saturday.
Hotel industry analyst Robert LaFleur, of Rodman & Renshaw, suggested in his weekly newsletter that the rates might be "...defensive moves by the hotels to discourage patronage by (Electric Daisy) attendees. ... Attendees probably won't gamble much, (so) we're not expecting a big revenue weekend despite the expected large crowds."
Few hotel operators would comment, but Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Gary Thompson said the boost in rates isn't an attempt to exclude anyone.
"This is just a weekend of very high demand," he said.
In addition to the Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas has a busy weekend planned with five large events alone -- ranging from the World Tea Expo to the Gaming Chips and Token Collector's Club -- expected to attract a total of 25,000 attendees.
"If you could set certain rates for people under 19, it might be believable that the Strip was trying to keep them away," said Randall Fine, CEO of the Las Vegas consulting firm Fine Point Group. "The reason for these rates is that there are 80,000 people coming to Las Vegas for this thing,"
Even if cost-conscious young people stack four to a room, demand for more than 20,000 rooms for them would be enough to influence rates, he said.
It's unclear exactly how many people will attend Electric Daisy. Producer Insomniac Events hopes to sell tickets for 246,000 over three days, but projections vary widely.
On Tuesday, no single-day general admission tickets were available on the venue website, suggesting a sellout, though two- and three-day VIP passes for up to $500 were still on offer.
A CHECKERED PAST
Las Vegas became the all-night music festival's largest stop because Los Angeles took a pass. The festival drew nearly 185,000 people over two days at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2010, but the death of 15-year-old girl and hundreds of drug busts prompted the venue to reject a return trip and forgo a reported $300,000 in revenue.
Beacon Economics, a research firm, said in March that last year's L.A. rave "boosted economic output in Los Angeles by almost $42 million" and "generated a demand for the equivalent of 354 full-time jobs, bringing in $14.6 million in income for workers in the region. EDC generated $3.1 million in tax revenues: local governments earned over $1.2 million in revenues, and $1.9 million went into the state budget."
Will Las Vegas rake in that much?
It's hard to say.
Electric Daisy made three stops on its way to Las Vegas -- May 26-27 in Orlando, Fla.; June 11 in Denver; and last Saturday in Dallas.
Orlando, where admission was limited to 20,000 per night, saw high interest but Denver's performance attracted just 2,000. And the Dallas stop reportedly drew 23,600 people, a good crowd but little more than half of the venue's capacity of nearly 43,000.
It's also unclear whether those crowds did more than buy a ticket and dance.
On Monday, the Orlando Chamber of Commerce and Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau had nothing at all to say. Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Kate Horle said the event barely registered with its development division, which would have measured the economic impact.
"To be totally honest," she said, "this didn't even cross our desks."
Saturday's stop in Dallas made headlines after a 19-year-old man died of a possible drug overdose, but economic data was nil. Sharon Pete, marketing research specialist at the Dallas Convention & Visitor's Bureau, said Tuesday that her agency tracks economic impact data for meetings, conventions and even the Super Bowl.
The Electric Daisy?
Not a clue.
WAITING TO SEE
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority spokesman Jeremy Handel said Monday that his agency had nothing on Electric Daisy because it's new here.
Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson said Tuesday his company will study the rave, but he didn't know what to expect.
Christenson did draw a parallel between the Electric Daisy Carnival and a series of massive Grateful Dead concerts held in Las Vegas in the early 1990s because Los Angeles had trouble with crowds and drug use.
Christenson, a former director of the Thomas & Mack Center, Sam Boyd Stadium and the Cox Pavilion, said attendance increased every year for the Dead concerts, which started with a two dates in 1991 and continued with three concerts a year until 1995, when 130,000 packed Sam Boyd. The series ended that year with the death of Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia.
Christenson said promoters, University of Nevada, Las Vegas officials and the Metropolitan Police worked seamlessly when the Dead were here. For example, he said, stringent security in front of the stadium stopped would-be gate crashers.
"We created an environment in which the event could flourish," he said. "And once the Dead played here, they never wanted to go back to Los Angeles.''
Christenson said the Dead concerts' success shows that Electric Daisy can be a good fit and a regular event for Las Vegas, though how much it will mean to the local economy remains to be seen.
"We'll know a lot more after this weekend," he said.