Photos: Welcome to Vegas

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  1. Welcome to Las Vegas

    The Bellagio's fountain show entertains visitors nightly. In the background is Bally's Las Vegas, left, and Paris Las Vegas, which has a 50-story Eiffel Tower replica in front. Over 37.5 million people visit Las Vegas each year. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fremont Street Experience

    Located in downtown Las Vegas, this exciting pedestrian promenade is home to approximately 16 million lights, making it one of the largest LED screens in the world. (Brian Jones / Las Vegas News Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Looking for Lady Luck

    Casion visitors play slot machines at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dunking Elvis

    An Elvis impersonator performs a slam dunk during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game on February 18, 2007, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAEGetty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Grand casinos

    Lights from passing vehicles are seen in front of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Poker face

    Jamie Gold, right, of California and Paul Wasicka of Colorado go head-to-head on the final table of the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Aug. 11, 2006, in Las Vegas. Gold outlasted more than 8,700 other poker players to win the top prize of $12 million. Wasicka won just over $6.1 million for finishing second. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Glitz and glamour

    A Canon display is seen inside the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas is the nation's top business travel destination, with easy airline access, numerous hotel rooms, low rates, plentiful convention facilities and a wide range of dining and entertainment options. (Karl Polverino / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Over-the-top entertainment

    Performers ride a Volkswagen Beetle across the stage during a preview of "The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil" at the Mirage Hotel & Casino on June 27, 2006, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A New York minute

    The New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas recreates the Manhattan skyline, complete with replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Entertainment mecca

    Kenny Chesney performs "Out Last Night" at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 5, 2009. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tying the knot

    From left, Elvis Presley impersonator Norm Jones plays guitar as Bruce Barnett of Virginia Beach, Va., escorts his daughter Gayle to her wedding ceremony at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Graceland is the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas and offers ceremonies with or without Elvis impersonators. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    The $25 million, newly redesigned volcano display in front of the Mirage Hotel & Casino features 150 choreographed FireShooters sending fireballs more than 12 feet in the air and a custom soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for MGM Mirage) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A night on the Strip

    Hotels and casinos line the Las Vegas Strip. From thrilling roller coasters to erupting volcanos to art museums, Las Vegas' many attractions appeal to people of all ages and interests. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Fight night

    David Diaz and Manny Pacquiao fight during the fourth round of the WBC Lightweight Championship at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 28, 2008, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won in a ninth-round knockout. (Harry How / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Day at the races

    Rookie driver Shawn Langdon earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Richard Wong / NHRA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Fabulous shopping

    The Juicy Couture retail store at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is seen before the grand opening February 5, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Juicy Couture) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Stunning shows

    Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING Las Vegas. (Joan Marcus / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A slice of Italy

    Visitors take a gondola ride at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Get into the groove

    Dina Buell, left, and Carla Giordano, both from California, dance at the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during Rehab, the resort's weekly pool party, in 2005 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Let’s get this party started

    Party goers gather for the grand opening of LAX Nightclub Las Vegas in 2007. (Chris Weeks / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Big laughs

    Comedian Ellen DeGeneres performs at a taping of ''Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show'' during The Comedy Festival at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2008 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A kingly stay

    The Excalibur Hotel and Casino features a castle motif with newly refurbished hotel rooms. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A dancing fountain

    Visitors are silhouetted against the backdrop of The Bellagio's fountain show on the Las Vegas Strip. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 7/27/2009 11:39:39 AM ET 2009-07-27T15:39:39

As a 490-room tower opens at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino just east of the Las Vegas Strip this week, hotel operators citywide are struggling to fill existing rooms and staggering at the prospect of 10,000 more coming online this year and next.

"It's (the) wrong place, wrong time," said Randy Fine, a former Harrah's Entertainment Inc. vice president and the founder of Fine Point Group, a casino marketing and consulting firm based here. "They want to turn a boutique property into a mega-resort. This is probably not the time to be doing that."

More than 6,000 rooms are planned at the six-tower, $8.5 billion partnership between MGM Mirage and Dubai World known as CityCenter, which is to open in phases starting later this year. And the Cosmopolitan next door expects to add just under 3,000 rooms in 2010.

Industry analyst Bill Lerner said it could take at least five years for the local economy to absorb the rooms now financed or under construction here. Meanwhile, room rates could keep falling in Las Vegas even more than they have nationwide.

"Our view is one more room in Las Vegas right now is too much," said Lerner, the founder of research and advisory firm Union Gaming Group. "I understand someone carving out a niche but it's seemingly impossible to overcome the downward pressure simply from just more supply."

The average room rate in Las Vegas for the first five months of 2009 was $97.23, already 27 percent below the same period last year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Nationwide, the average room rate slid much more gently — from $108.10 the first half of last year to $98.66 this year, a drop of 8.7 percent — according to Smith Travel Research.

A $55 weeknight August rate available online at the Hard Rock wasn't what officials had in mind when they started building the 17-story Paradise tower, which includes eight pool suites along the resort's 3-acre pool complex and a penthouse with three bedrooms, a full bar and hot tubs.

But president and CEO Randy Kwasniewski of the Hard Rock, owned by Morgans Hotel Group and an equity partner, believes CityCenter and the Hard Rock's expansion will help the overall market grow.

The $750 million expansion includes a new concert venue that has already opened, as well as the Paradise tower and another tower with casino space and 374 rooms to open in December, which will be branded differently from the rest of the Hard Rock and have a separate check-in desk, though its casino will flow into the existing slots and table games area.

Kwasniewski said the additions will attract more guests and cater to existing customers who stay elsewhere because they prefer quieter sleeping quarters.

"I lived here for five months, and it can be a little intimidating at 4 o'clock in the morning when it sounds like the middle of the afternoon in your hallway," Kwasniewski said. "It simply goes back to a manner of being creative, and providing a product to the consumer that they've never seen before and never experienced before."

Fine said the Hard Rock likely had no choice but to go forward with its expansion after funding it because it needs money to pay off its lenders.

The 10,000 hotel rooms coming soon to Las Vegas don't include thousands more from projects that have been halted or canceled.

The 4,000-room Fontainebleau on the north end of the Strip is fighting with lenders in federal bankruptcy court in Miami to get the last of its funding to open this year. Harrah's Entertainment has halted its 660-room Octavius tower at Caesars Palace until further notice.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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