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Las Vegas offering everything but marriage to LGBT tourists

Thursday, August 21, 2014
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Scott McCann, left, and Jeremy Gilson of Nashua, N.H. kiss while having their commitment ceremony photos taken at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas on June 30, 2014. Smae-sex marriage isn't legal in Nevada but the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel will perform a commitment ceremony for couples of any sex.John Locher, AP

Scott McCann, left, and Jeremy Gilson of Nashua, N.H. kiss while having their commitment ceremony photos taken at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas on June 30, 2014. Smae-sex marriage isn’t legal in Nevada but the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel will perform a commitment ceremony for couples of any sex.

LAS VEGAS — While same-sex couples still can’t get married in the marriage capital of the world, Las Vegas wants to let them know they – and their money – are more than welcome to the buffet of other activities Sin City has to offer.

The city’s tourism authority recently launched its first mainstream TV campaign aimed at the LGBT community: a commercial featuring a hunk and a heavy dose of innuendo. The first gay nightclub inside a Las Vegas Strip casino opened up this summer.

People wade in the pool during "Temptation Sundays" at the Luxor in Las Vegas on June 29, 2014. The event is an LBGT pool party held at the casino on Sundays during the summer months. John Locher, AP

People wade in the pool during “Temptation Sundays” at the Luxor in Las Vegas on June 29, 2014. The event is an LBGT pool party held at the casino on Sundays during the summer months.

People crowd the dance floor at Liaison Nightclub in Bally's Las Vegas early in the morning on Sunday, June 29, 2014 in Las Vegas. Liaison Nightclub, which opened in 2014, is the first gay club inside of a major casino on the Las Vegas Strip.John Locher, AP

People crowd the dance floor at Liaison Nightclub in Bally’s Las Vegas early in the morning on Sunday, June 29, 2014 in Las Vegas. Liaison Nightclub, which opened in 2014, is the first gay club inside of a major casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

And casino pools that struggled to distinguish themselves in the high-flying world of day-clubs have found a niche in gay pool parties.

The efforts have landed the city among the top destinations for gay travelers, who LGBT tourism experts say are more likely to be childless, take more trips and tend to have more disposable income than the average visitor.

But some business leaders fear that Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban is preventing Las Vegas from reaching its true potential among the demographic.

“We have reached a point in the state of Nevada where our current laws governing gay and lesbian marriage have made our most vital industry, tourism, uncompetitive,” said Michael Weaver, senior vice president of marketing for Wynn Resorts.

“Nevada resorts, restaurants, caterers, florists, photographers and musicians all need to be allowed to compete with the 19 other states that allow the freedom to marry,” he said.

While the state’s gay marriage ban winds its way through the courts, Las Vegas’ marketers are losing no time in building up the image of an edgy, LGBT-inclusive adult playground.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority website sidesteps the wedding question and trumpets non-binding commitment ceremonies, honeymoon packages at the Paris casino and musical acts revered among LGBT fans – icons including Cher, Celine Dion and Elton John have held court in town.

And then there’s the suggestive commercial launched this spring that extends the “What Happens Here Stays Here” mantra.

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