And this makeover has helped the major casino companies take in more revenue. Room rates on the Strip, for example, have almost doubled from an average of $54.19 in 1992. And the cheap, money-losing, all-you-can-eat buffets and other deals that abounded in previous eras have largely faded.
Although gamblers can still get a free drink in the casinos and plenty of perks and room comps if they bet enough, more often than not hotels have become the venue of three-figure dining bills and shows.
"Now, everything has to be a profit center," Lanni said.
Longer term, Lanni figures his company can do well by catering to aging baby boomers. Which is why MGM Mirage is planning a $375-million expansion at Bellagio, including a 928-room spa tower, with additional spa, retail, restaurant and conference space.
For now, though, Las Vegas will have to wait for the economy to recover.
Ed de Laix, a travel agent at the Arcadia office of the Automobile Club of Southern California, doesn't see Las Vegas recapturing the frenetic pace of the late 1990s anytime soon. Back then, he said, "there were more people willing to take the higher-priced room without questioning it."
"Now people want nicer accommodations at a value price," he said.