In the early 1990s, Las Vegas was facing stiff competition from not only Atlantic City drawing away gamblers on the East Coast (at its height, AC had over twice as many tourists as Vegas), but the looming threat of Indian casinos, legalized in 1988note , drawing away gamblers from Middle America as well. As a survival mechanism, Las Vegas began its now-infamous attempt to expand its appeal to tourists by rebranding the city as a destination for family vacations. Every Strip hotel built over 1990-93 had at least one theme park-esque attraction – the new MGM Grand had an actual theme park – and theme.
This backfired badly. Adult tourists who preferred to gamble and party without dodging kids were upset, hotel-casino staffs trained to operate adult-oriented resorts couldn't handle the unique needs of families, cases of parents rushing off to the gaming tables and leaving their kids to fend for themselves made the news – one abandoned child ended up kidnapped and murdered – and the theme parks turned out to be a bomb. (To quote Brian Griffin: "The town of Vegas has got a different face / Because it's a family place / With lots to do. / While in The Fifties a man could mingle with scores / Of all the seediest whores, / Well now his children can too!")
This age ended with the opening of the Bellagio in 1998, which was explicitly geared towards a very classy and very adult clientele with its fine art gallery, conservatory, resident Cirque du Soleil show, and high-stakes poker tables. While the hotels that opened to serve families are still around, and Vegas still markets itself as being about more than just gambling, said hotels have been progressively de-themed and the city's entertainment mix now mostly excludes families.
- This was referenced and summed up pretty well at the end of the film Casino.
Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior's college money on the poker slots.