The Effects of Las Vegas Casinos on the Environment

The popularity of casinos has never been higher with the global casino market set to generate more than $130 billion by 2019. From slots to table games, the demand for this thrilling form of entertainment continues to rise with 2018 seeing an increase of almost $3.2 billion from the year before. Online and mobile slots have taken the world by storm and with over 60% of the global population now owning a smartphone the number of online players has grown significantly.

Gambling Mecca

However, whilst land-based casinos around the world have taken a downturn, there is one place that has seen no such slump. Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world with its over 150 casinos welcoming more than 41 million players each year. This city in the desert has been opening its doors to travellers looking to bet a few bucks since 1905. With internationally renowned casinos each with their own niches, no two establishments are the same. The Aria is well-known for offering the very best slots on the whole of the Las Vegas Strip with some machines charging $5,000 for a pull.

For table games, the Golden Nugget comes in number one and it was the first place to introduce Free Bet which gives players the opportunity to boost their winnings in exchange for a tie if the dealer lands a 22.

Finally, the famous Bellagio is considered the best place to try your hand at some high-stakes poker and if you are lucky you can routinely see some of the biggest names in the poker tournament world playing in ‘Bobby’s Room’ named after the 1978 World champion.

Environmental Responsibilities

Now more than ever there is the need to be mindful of the energy we use and if there is one place that uses a lot of energy, it is Las Vegas. All of the bright lights and vibrant displays come at a huge cost and casinos use around 20% of Las Vegas’s total energy output. One of the worst offenders for energy consumption is the Luxor Beam that projects out from the top of the pyramid-shaped casino. It generates over 41 billion candlepower and uses around 40,000-watt bulbs to maintain its strong beam.

The fountains of the Bellagio project water to a height of over 450 feet and it has a running cost of almost $5 million per annum.

Using all of this energy is not without its consequences and with the state of Nevada still incredibly reliant on fossil fuels drawing an immense 2,400MWh of energy from natural gas alone, a lot is being done to try and utilise more effective and environmentally-friendly ways of generating energy.

Slot machines are also highly wasteful when it comes to energy consumption, not only with their dazzling lights and deafening sounds but also from the people who play them. Some people will spend hours stood in front of a machine; in fact you would think with so much time spent playing, they should instead invest some of that time into learning how to win at slots. With some slots running 24 hours per day, it is easy to see why the average Las Vegas casino generates an electricity bill of over $350,000 per month, with the larger establishments paying close to half a million dollars per month. Slot machines use between thirty and thirty five percent of all electricity in a casino, and as a result the MGM resort casino plans to produce renewable energy from the solar farms that are placed in Nevada.

The Cost of Tourism

It is not just the cost of keeping the lights on that is a problem, the tourism industry in the Las Vegas is booming with visitors coming not just to win big but to relax in one of the many spas and to dine in one of the world-famous restaurants. This means that a lot of international flights to and from McCarran airport and with planes consuming almost a gallon of fuel every second a whole flight can easily see 36,000 gallons being used. If you are travelling both there and back you will generate an incredible 2.69 tonnes of CO2, putting further strain on the environment.

Renewed Hope

Renewable energy is offering Las Vegas a lifeline and a way to keep all of the lights firmly on. This desert area sees on average just four inches of rain per years and with temperatures reaching a staggering 41° in some summer months, making use of the intense solar energy has allowed some casinos to cut their energy bills considerably.

A recent decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has allowed three major casino operations, Sands Corp, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts, to leave the NV Energy market. Large casinos are now able to explore alternative methods of retrieving power such as solar or wind that goes a long way to powering their slot machines. By installing these devices, it reduces the strain on Nevada’s power grids particularly during the hottest period of the year.

Another way that casinos can reduce their power consumption is to increase the number of Live Dealer games that they host and reducing the number of slot machines they run. By developing more human interaction-based games and moving away from energy-driven ones could allow the state to further reduce their bills and bring their energy usage in line with their consumption goals of running the city using only renewables.

However, renewable energy is not an entirely positive solution and there are still some drawbacks. One of the major arguments against solar power is the amount of energy it takes to manufacture the solar panels in the first place. These photovoltaic panels are usually created using components from other industries like aluminium and copper which might not be so environmentally friendly. When you factor in the energy it takes to create these panels, the panels start their working lives with a huge energy deficit which will take quite some time to overcome; even in a sunny place like Nevada.

Furthermore, there is currently little in the way of solar panel recycling. The panels contain plenty of toxic elements which could have a serious negative impact on the environment if the panels become damaged. Such components include gallium arsenide and cadmium-telluride amongst others. If they are not disposed of properly, there could be serious effects on Vegas and the surrounding areas. Luckily, as more people turn to solar energy as a renewable power source, we can hope to see a rise in recycling solutions for solar panels and other pieces of equipment involved.

No longer the City of Sin

A lot is being done to reduce the energy consumption of the city that never sleeps and to offset the carbon footprint of long-haul flights to the gambling hotspot such as:

  • Reducing the number of slot machines
  • Using solar power panels to generate electricity
  • Increasing Live Dealer games

All of these measures will move the city closer towards its energy goals and make it just that little bit less sinful.

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