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Hawaiian columnist says it’s no competition: ‘Las Vegas is kicking our okole’

Updated November 22, 2021 - 11:24 am

Whenever Las Vegans start feeling sorry for themselves over blown tourism opportunities, they should take a look at a column from a Hawaii-based journalist who thinks our city lapped the island paradise long ago.

“Las Vegas is kicking our okole.”

You don’t have to know any Polynesian dialects to guess what that means.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser sportswriter Stephen Tsai was in town this month to cover UNLV’s surprising 27-13 football win over the University of Hawaii at Allegiant Stadium. After wrapping up his sports coverage, Tsai wrote a column on what Las Vegas has that Hawaii doesn’t, and why Southern Nevada is a tourism destination that’ll never be caught by rival destinations.

Locals do their fair share of whining about what could be better here. I hear the rants all the time.

Our mask mandates are killing off tourism. No, they’re making the fun safer for visitors and workers during a killer pandemic.

The casinos are too tight. Nevada’s gaming industry is setting revenue records every month, and customers — tourists and locals — don’t seem to be shying away from trying their luck at our games of chance.

Resort hotel rooms cost too much. Las Vegas’ room rates rise and fall just like they do in Hawaii based on supply and demand. People come to get away and often want to splurge on vacation. Las Vegas offers plenty of ways to do that, but has value options and is often much cheaper than other locations, including Hawaii.

The public was hornswoggled into paying $750 million in room-tax money to help build $2 billion Allegiant Stadium. This investment is starting to pay dividends with full crowds for major events that bring thousands of people to Las Vegas to see everything from Raiders games to Garth Brooks and Rolling Stones concerts.

The city’s tourism picture will only get better as international flights and conventions come back. The reality is our island in the desert is much more suited to visitors than those islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Check out some of these snippets about Las Vegas from Tsai’s writing:

■ “Everything is bigger and way better in the desert. McCarran International Airport makes ours look like the airport on ‘Wings.’ McCarran has video poker and slot machines; HNL does not sell gum.”

— “Vegas has the Raiders, Golden Knights, Max Holloway fights, and your high school class reunion and birth-year celebration. It is a city that is fun, welcoming and inclusive. My father-in-law is crabbier than Tamatoa. He refers to me as TJ (‘that jackass’). But mention ‘Vegas’ and he salivates like Pavlov’s dog.”

— “Vegas has even made the most of what used to be a Hawaii staple. Tickets go on sale to the general public today for the 2022 Pro Bowl. Prices range from $66 to $435 before taxes and fees. There is a deluxe package, beginning at $1,995 a person, that includes stays at Resorts World, pregame hospitality, a behind-the-scenes experience, and a meet-and-greet with an ‘NFL legend.’ Maybe Kenny Mayne will be there, too.”

It’s true that Las Vegas successfully took the Pro Bowl away from Aloha Stadium, a move that could rejuvenate a meaningless, underattended game because it’s being played here and not there. Even the players like the change of venue.

Tsai suggested that maybe Hawaii should legalize gambling as a start to becoming a more appealing destination. Hey, why not? Forty-seven other states have tried that and it only seems to make Las Vegas stronger.

Last week, more than 100 readers had weighed in on Tsai’s column, with comments ranging from agreement to not wanting Hawaii to become the next Las Vegas.

Our city’s tourism infrastructure continues to grow and be reinvented and expanded for the next generation of tourists.

It shouldn’t be lost that some of Las Vegas’ best customers come from Hawaii. They don’t call Las Vegas the ninth island for nothing. Boyd Gaming Corp. has been dialed into that for years, drawing thousands of Hawaiians to the resorts it operates in downtown Las Vegas.

And what did the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority think about Tsai’s musings?

“We are completely flattered,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications for the LVCVA.

“Mr. Tsai’s comparison of our two destinations truly underscores what we’ve long believed makes us one of the world’s most desirable travel destinations,” she said. “Only in Vegas can you enjoy nonstop action, live entertainment, innovative experiences, attractions and some of the world’s premier and most fascinating resorts and casinos.”

Efforts to reach tourism leaders in Hawaii last week were unsuccessful.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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