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THE TWO FACES OF LAS VEGAS : The new breed of Las Vegas vacationer is more interested in relaxing by a swimming pool than crowding around a gaming table--and developers are responding with resorts divorced from the bright lights of the city.

December 18, 1988|JERRY HULSE | Times Travel Editor

Steve Wynn of the Golden Nugget is building a 3,600-room high-rise (The Mirage) at the southern approach to Las Vegas that will be a touch of Hawaii in the Nevada desert. Waterfalls will spill into gardens planted with palms. Plumeria will spread its fragrance. Myna birds will sing out from banyan trees. Volcanoes will erupt regularly. Gas jets will set reflecting pools aflame. Wynn promises everything but a personal appearance by Madame Pele.

A 17,000-square-foot atrium will be the centerpiece of Wynn's monument. Before forging ahead, Wynn and his sidekick, Barry Shier, checked out Disney World, Disneyland, Opryland and Florida's Botanical Gardens to gather ideas. After that they hired Broadway lighting director David Hersen to set the scene for the flaming volcanoes and fiery lagoons.

A 20,000-gallon aquarium is in the works, along with a swimming pool with waterfalls to shower bathers. In addition, Wynn's resort will feature six lanai apartments with six individual swimming pools. The bill for water features alone will add up to $30 million.

Guests at this $565-million playpen will slip by a white Siberian tiger and cross a bridge to reach a colonial-style porte-cochere. Baggage will be moved underground. Cars will be driven beneath the lagoon. After that, high rollers will find themselves in a casino surrounded by the Garden of Eden.

It's possible that guests will ask themselves, "Is this really Las Vegas or a corner of Kauai?"

While Wynn moves ahead with The Mirage (the new resort is scheduled to open next December), the operators of Circus Circus are putting up a 4,000-room hotel-casino to be called The Excalibur. What's more, it promises to resemble Disneyland without the Matterhorn. A Circus Circus entourage eyeballed 20 castles in Germany, England and Scotland before coming up with its own castle theme.

Based on a variety of European castles, when completed in mid-1990 it will feature a royal village, costumed performers, shops and booths. Everything but Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Obviously, The Excalibur won't be playing to the no roller. Not with 100,000 square feet of slots and gaming tables spinning dreams of riches for its owners.

There's more.

Another developer recently jumped in with the announcement of a $1.2-billion resort with 5,000 rooms to be called Pharaoh's Kingdom. This would make it the world's largest resort, with a casino three times bigger than those being built by Wynn and Circus Circus.

Besides the hotel-casino, the developer told of plans for an 80-acre family theme park, a golf course, a $100-million spa and 700 villas.

With a promise of 6,000 jobs, the opening date of the Egyptian theme resort with its glass pyramids is set for 1990.

All of which leaves the no roller to concentrate on the Liberace Museum, the Imperial Palace Auto Collection, the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory, the Scandia Family Fun Center and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Meanwhile, should some inveterate gambler be tempted to deposit a few bucks on the green felt and come up a loser, he has only to turn to Stoney's Pawn Shop off Fremont Street.

Stoney's Henry Kronberg, a transplant from New Jersey, has been rescuing gamblers since 1962. As evidence, his display cases are crowded with every imaginable item known to drifters down on their luck.

A cowboy hocked his saddle. A motorcyclist left behind his helmet and a security guard traded his handcuffs for a loan till payday.

Kronberg smiles and shakes his head. "Me? I only gamble across this counter."

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