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04/20/2011 09:05 am ET | Updated Jun 20, 2011

The Strip Diary, Day Sixteen: An Open Letter to Parents Who Bring Their Children to Las Vegas

Day Sixteen: Flamingo ($40)

Dear Parents Who Bring Their Children To Las Vegas,

Sorry to interrupt your "vacation of a lifetime", but I need you to do me a quick favor. Put down your frozen margaritas for a second, look up from the poker table and take a long hard look at yourselves in the mirrored ceiling.

How do you look?

Ashamed?

Thoroughly and visibly mortified at the sight of your own criminally-negligent faces?

No? Well, you should. Because you are terrible parents.

"Now hold on a monument" you're saying, probably pausing mid-word to take a swig from your lurid green drink, "you've got it all wrong. We love our kids. They're safely tucked away in our hotel room, with a babysitter. They're having a ball; watching in-room movies, ordering room service and playing with the toys they won at Circus Circus."

Well good for them, and I'll give you half a point for not tucking them under the poker table while you gamble away their college fund. But none of that changes the fact that you're terrible parents. You became so six months ago when you had this conversation...

Mom: "Honey, we have two choices for our vacation this year. We could put the interests and safety of our children first, and take them to Disneyland. They'd love that, but we might be a little bored."

Dad:"Yeah, that sounds like a snooze. What's the second option?"

Mom: "The second option is to put our interests first, and drag our children to a town which will probably scar them for life. A place where they won't be able to walk ten feet without seeing an advertisement for a strip show. Where the sidewalks are littered with photos of hookers. Where everyone is drunk. Where they'll learn to play blackjack and enjoy the taste of second-hand smoke before they've learned to write cursive."

Dad: "Let's do that! We can totally stay at Circus Circus. That's good for kids, right?"

Mom: "Sure."

Dad: "Oh, and honey - when the kids are asleep, why don't we rent a hooker and have that threesome we always wanted! Wait -- honey? -- why are you crying? Are those happy tears?"

Honestly, if there was such a thing as a parenting license -- and you are the reason why there probably should be -- then parents who take their kids to Las Vegas should have theirs revoked. There's literally no excuse.

Sure, Circus Circus has an amusement park and games where kids can win fluffy toys; MGM has a Rainforest Cafe -- and there's a roller coaster at New York New York. In fact, every casino has something for kids, even if it's just a late-afternoon show that doesn't have any swearing. But like so much else in casinos, the inclusion of those features is entirely cynical: an unconscionable sop bolted on to a smokey, boozy gambling den in order to provide a justification for terrible parents -- like you are -- to choose Vegas as a family holiday vacation, rather than heading to somewhere that is actually family friendly.

This is my fifth trip to Vegas, and I've seen some heartbreaking things in this town -- an old woman dressed as Britney Spears, begging for coins; a hooker wearing braces; people lining up to see Kriss Angel -- but all of that pales next to the tragedy of the child -- maybe eight-years-old -- who I spotted on the Strip about half an hour ago (11pm) wearing a pastiche of one of those "hot girls delivered to your room" t-shirts. The parents probably thought it was cute, or ironic, or arch, to dress their firstborn as an underpaid pimp. In reality the scene was the perfect distillation of all that is wrong with parents who bring their kids to Vegas.

Parents like you.

Now, don't misunderstand me. Yes, I'm taking an ostensibly moral position here -- your children are going to spend the second half of their childhood in therapy, and that's probably a bad thing -- but frankly if you're the kind of parent who brings your kids on vacation to a place called "Sin City" then anything resembling a moral argument is likely to fall on deaf ears. The truth is most of my disgust is firmly rooted in selfishness.

You see, over the past 16 days, I've grown sick and tired of having to deal with the consequences of your terrible parenting. I'm sick of fact that the check-in lines in hotels move ten times slower than they have to because you're too preoccupied trying to keep track of your screaming, whining, crying brood to realize that it's your turn to be served. I'm tired of having to dodge and duck your errant issue as I walk down the strip, or across casinos; and of having to apologize when I inadvertently step on one of the little bastards. And I'm both sick and tired of moments like the one I had last night when I found myself having to censor an otherwise wonderfully profane anecdote simply because your little fucking darlings were within earshot. In a bar. In Las Vegas.

Is nowhere unsacred?

Enough. It has come to something when I'm the one giving lectures on responsibility, but clearly all else has failed. You can stop looking at yourself in the mirror now not least because if you have an ounce of shame, you'll be feeling pretty nauseous right now. In fact, hopefully you're feeling so sick that you decide to go and rescue your poor neglected children, check them out of whichever flimsily justified "kid-friendly" hotel you've booked them into, cancel your tickets to see Mac King, and get on a plane to Florida, or Anaheim or -- frankly -- anywhere else in the world for a proper family vacation.

And then, in ten years or so, once your children have gone off to college, or at least reached an age where they can look after themselves, by all means come back to Las Vegas. Spend the rest of your lives here for all I care, blowing what's left of your money on all the roulette spins and frozen cocktails and threesomes with escorts that your heart desires.

And just think how much fun all of that will be when you can look up at the mirrored ceiling without two terrible parents staring back at you.

Am I right?

I'm right.


You're welcome,

Paul