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September 17, 2014

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UNLV professor: What if we were a three-shift town, had schools in casinos?

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Sam Morris

Art critic and UNLV professor Dave Hickey says Las Vegas’ middle class lacks education.

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In 20 years, Las Vegas will be an enhanced three-shift town or it will be nothing.

Imagine what would happen if Las Vegas suddenly became an 8-to-5 town. With that pressure on the infrastructure, we would drown ourselves.

The real future of Las Vegas is its three shifts. I think we exploit that.

If you have a cross-shipping point for Amazon and you want to have a 24-hour schedule, where else do you have a 24-hour town?

Nobody recognizes the primary virtue of Las Vegas as a three-shift town. The wisest thing to do would be to take advantage of the casinos, which operate like little cities, and let the casinos offer K-12 education for children of the employees, let them go to school where mama works.

That is a major benefit. It means that your kids could go to school while you’re working.

And everything that’s wrong with Las Vegas can be fixed with school, even a private college. What Las Vegas doesn’t have is an educated middle class. It has an educated upper class and a smart lower class — the gamblers — but not an educated middle class.

Public school would still exist. You can’t fix Nevada politics, but I think there is a role for private education. If I wanted my kids to study dance, I’d rather have them study at Cirque du Soleil than at the university.

I feel like we’ve done what we can without an educated middle class.

We also need more Steve Wynns and Rob Goldsteins. I’ve seen Steve Wynn arrange flowers.

They are really ruthless businesspeople, but deep in their hearts, they’re your Aunt Sue. They’re running around with their hands in the air, yelling, “Company’s coming! Company’s coming!” Now things are being done with a nonhospitality point of view.

Las Vegas could sort of look like Roman ruins in 2020. There’s about 50 times more ghost towns in Nevada than real towns. I figure that was the goal here: One big mistake and you’re a ghost town. All it takes is for us to spend a lot of money on some place nobody wants to go. Las Vegas is not quite as much fun as it used to be.

The food is better than it used to be, though.

Dave Hickey is a MacArthur Fellow, renowned art critic and author who teaches English at UNLV.

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