I'm not a Vegas old-timer--my first trip there was less than eleven years ago--but I've noticed a real decline in Downtown Vegas that seems to have had little to do with increased competition from legalized casino gambling in other parts of the country. For the low-roller, Downtown Vegas used to be a real hoot and a holler, and the start of the decline, curiously enough, seems to have coincided with the advent of the Fremont Street Experience--the very thing that was supposed to revitalize the area. In practice, I think the lightshow became just one more thing the casinos had to write off, as many gawkers never went in the casinos, and thus the notion of giving value to the customer kind of flew out the window.
Binion's Horseshoe once provided the sort of cheap thrills that can hardly be had anymore: abundant $2.00 single-deck blackjack (and none of this �6:5 payouts on blackjacks� crap), free photos with a million dollars, a $2.99 late-night New York Strip special, easy comps for the coffee shop, and craps with 100x odds and table minimums that sometimes went down as low as $.25. Even the Golden Nugget, another place I used to love, once had two $1.00 single-deck games that stayed open 18 hours a day. (Of course, you can still find $1.00-$2.00 blackjack and $1.00 craps, but somehow the Gold Spike, the El Cortez, and the Western just don't hold any charm for me.)
Objectively, the absence of perceived value in Vegas is a good thing for me insofar as it has nearly killed my desire to go back. (I've studied elementary card-counting systems, but have never really been able to implement them fully; therefore, I'm only one small step up from your typical basic-strategy player.) However, I will always have fond memories of Vegas in the mid-1990s, and I will wish with teary eyes that I could turn back the clock to when Vegas represented pure, unadulterated excitement to me and I couldn't wait to return. I�m certain I�m not alone.