LAS VEGAS -- To step into club XS at the Wynn Las Vegas is to enter the dreamscape of a modern artist with fetishes for gold and bronze and bodies in motion.
A golden-plated frieze made from casts of nude women sits atop a shimmering staircase. Waves of electronic dance music grow louder with each downward step toward a pulsating, football field-sized club, where lasers cut the air above thousands of dancers.
In Sin City, where over-the-top is always the sales pitch, lavish nightclubs featuring a heart-pounding party have become the backbone of a billion-dollar industry that is soaring while gambling revenue slips.
"We learned a long time ago that in order to continue to attract people from around the world, we have to provide things that are hard to find anywhere else," said Jim Murren, chief executive of MGM Resorts International.
Las Vegas has more than 50 such clubs, with new ones opening all the time. The rise of the Vegas super-club coincides with the decline of the town's gambling supremacy. The tiny Chinese enclave of Macau surpassed this desert oasis as the world's top gambling destination in 2006. Singapore is on track to claim the No. 2 spot.
With extravagantly paid DJs and larger-than-life venues, casinos are trying to pull off a tricky balancing act: keeping the kitschy core that draws older generations while finding a way to make the city hip enough to attract a younger, big-spending set -- emphasis on big-spending.