Vegas Pawn Shop Biz Exploding (Guns & Jewelry): Homeless/Unemployed Line Up for Food

Discussion in 'Economics' started by ByLoSellHi, Sep 8, 2009.


    Repossession capital of the US

    People queue for food donations in Las Vegas, which suffers from some of the highest rates of unemployment and foreclosures in the US

    By Jon Bithrey
    Business reporter, BBC News, Las Vegas

    Rising majestically out of the desert sands of Nevada, the lights and lure of Las Vegas are legendary.

    Its casino resorts attract tens of millions of visitors each year, eager to explore the self-styled Entertainment Capital of the World.

    But the city has also become notorious in the US as one of the places hardest hit by the housing crisis and recession.

    Job losses

    House prices here have fallen by almost a third in the last year alone.

    The number of foreclosures, or repossessions, is the highest of any large city in the United States.

    And unemployment stands at 13.1%, well above the national average.

    Ed Leigh lost his job as a chef at one of Las Vegas' casino restaurants in January.

    His home was repossessed shortly afterwards, and he found himself homeless.

    "Until about a year ago the food industry was vibrant," he says.

    "Now it's really lacking. The job market just crashed. There's just nothing out there."

    He says that six years serving in the US army helped him get through his period on the streets.

    "We were taught basic survival skills. Find a place to make a camp, find a few people to hang out with, somebody you can trust. [You] just try and protect yourself."

    People are coming in and selling everything. Their jewellery, tools, televisions, pretty much anything that pawn shops deal in [including guns]
    Glenn Parshall, Pawn shop manager

    Boom and bust

    He is now being supported by Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, a major provider of services to the homeless and unemployed.

    Its director of residential services, Philip Hollon, says the impact of the recession in Las Vegas is amplified by its reliance on casinos and tourism.

    "If you're a valet driver in Vegas and you park cars, now that people aren't actually visiting the city you don't have the cars to park."

    He adds that many workers who until recently have had secure employment at the casinos don't have skills that are easy to take to other industries.

    For most of the past two decades, Las Vegas has been a boom town.

    The early 1990s saw a resurgence in investment in new casinos, and a renewed desire to build and market the city as much more than a glorified gambling den.

    Visitor numbers shot up and the resorts took on more workers. Many flocked from other states, driving a property boom on cheap, plentiful land.

    That was amplified - as elsewhere - by the availability of cheap loans, including more sub-prime mortgages, extended to people with poor credit ratings.

    Financial crisis

    So when prices eventually began to turn, Las Vegas suffered disproportionately.

    Prices hit a record high in August 2006. Since then, they've fallen by 54.3%.

    And although house prices in many other parts of the United States have begun bottoming out, they are still falling relatively quickly in Vegas.

    The height of the financial crisis in September 2008 exacerbated the problems.

    All the big casino groups reported an immediate fall in visitors, with people apparently staying away because of fears about the future.

    Those who did still come didn't spend as much.

    "Right in the middle of September we started to experience a 20% decline in revenue," says Gary Loveman, chairman and chief executive of Harrah's, which owns Caesar's Palace and several other casinos on the world famous Strip.

    "It's memorialised in my mind. I thought 'holy cow, what the heck's happened'. From that point on it got really ugly."

    Hope for the future

    Falling revenues - particularly from the previously lucrative convention business - have pushed casino groups into cutting thousands of jobs.

    They've also halted work on some new construction projects, depressing the local property market still further.

    However as you might expect in a gambling city, there is the occasional winner.

    "People are coming in and selling everything," says Glenn Parshall, manager of a pawn shop on the northern side of Vegas.

    "Their jewellery, tools, televisions, pretty much anything that pawn shops deal in."

    When asked if business is good, he replies candidly. "Business is very good. We're getting a lot more people in. It's been continuous growth".

    Glenn isn't the only one with some optimism about the future.

    Janice Birch lost her costume jewellery business when recession struck, as well as a property she bought as an investment. But she's not giving up because she thinks there's always someone worse off.

    "Just like my grandma used to tell me, you complain about having no shoes, there's somebody out there with no feet," she says.

    "You don't complain, and you be prepared and ready when opportunity comes.

    "You have to make sure you have the right attitude. A positive attitude."
  2. I have a friend who visited the US and Vegas some time ago.

    He said no free snacks at the slotsmachines.... at all!

    He was very disappointed.
  3. I flew into las vegas to get to another destination, but took some time to look at the strip

    it looks like there is a lot of aborted construction on the strip

    the strip has lost all it's charm, it's a disnyland like concrete and steel canyon, obliterating out all of the beautifull scenery of the southwest that surrounds it

    i think LV strip has really screwed the pooch drastically overbuilding the strip and has no way to back out

    a place starting out fresh, building what vegas once was could blow it away, competition wise

    gambling is no big forbideen fruit deal for most people anymore, most are within a weekend-able drive, many much closer, like within an hour's drive

    the mores available it is, the more obvious it seems to be a quick way to blow away the proceeds of your last ATM stop
  4. I was there three months ago for the ICSC jig.

    It was literally amazing to see the completely frozen construction projects, big, medium and small, all over the place.

    It was amazing to see the head count at the convention down 70% from 3 short years ago.

    It was amazing to talk to a guy who works as a pit boss and have him tell me that guys and women making 6 figures are living on the streets and that many of the restaurants are surviving by making and selling food to locals for cheaper than you can buy it.

    It was amazing to see the contrast from several years ago.
  5. Las Vegas and a few other areas are still hurting from the RE collapse, but the rest of the country is spending like the crash never happened.
  6. I remember visiting the turnberry place off of paradise road when they were first building the towers. I remember thinking they were so nice, but pretty expensive. Now I see on the internet, one condo that was worth 1.5 million back then is now trying to be unloaded for under 500k. Some of the smaller 1700 ft ones are asking 300k. I think if any of those are bank owned, someone could really come in and take some of those for even cheaper as I remember Turnberry had said the HOA fees were between $800 to $3000 per month back in 2002. Who knows what they are now. The banks have to be taking a beating holding onto those things, not to mention the taxes.
  7. My daughter lives there. The same condo model on nearby blocks that they bought for $220K 4 years ago, is going for $70- $100K in bank sales/foreclosures.

    What a depressing and pitiful place...