Casino? It's a few blocks over

When Las Vegas was in its infancy, high-end hotels practically gave away rooms to lure gamblers. Today, travelers can break the bank paying for a few nights' lodging. But there are alternatives: condo hotels, time shares and vacation home rentals.

Time shares are as ubiquitous here as slot machines. Besides those already built, more than a dozen others are under construction. When not occupied by owners, they're usually available for short-term rental, as are units in condo hotels, another fast-growing segment of the market.

On a recent trip, I stayed at the Platinum, a new condo hotel not far from the Strip, and at Hilton Grand Vacations Club, a time share at the Strip's north end. A suite -- a small apartment really -- at the Platinum was $195 a night midweek including tax; a room with kitchenette at the Hilton averaged $191 per night for three nights including a weekend.

I also looked at units at the Signature at MGM Grand, a top-end condo hotel, and at various time-share properties -- the new Tahiti Village and the Grandview, both south of the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard; the budget-friendly Jockey Club on the Strip; and the family-friendly Summer Bay Resort, just off the Strip.

Finally, I saw a couple of homes available for rent, a popular choice for families or a group of friends.

The Platinum, which opened in October on Flamingo Road east of the Strip, calls itself a "luxury condominium resort hotel and spa." It's an attractive property with large suites, a rooftop pool and chic restaurant. But it's not, as advertised, "steps" from the Strip -- more like two long blocks.

It has a sleek contemporary lobby with a bar-lounge, a fitness center and valet parking. Amenities include 24-hour room service. I stayed in a Solitaire suite, 900-plus feet with a king bed, a spacious bath and a large, equipped kitchen with breakfast bar. Very nice. The Platinum's Princess Suites are almost 1,100 square feet.

The Platinum doesn't have a casino or slots, nor does the Hilton Grand Vacations Club (one of three Hilton time shares in Las Vegas). The Platinum is a smoke-free hotel; Hilton permits smoking only in designated guest rooms. My unit at the Hilton was basically a hotel room with a kitchenette and a small bath, although one inviting suite I peeked into was spacious, with a separate bedroom and a proper kitchen.

I liked the location, just close enough to the action yet apart -- and the Deuce double-decker bus stops right in front. Circus Circus and the Sahara are an easy walk. The club has no restaurant, only a poolside bar serving light meals and the 24-hour Marketplace, with pizza, salad and sandwiches.

The vast "desert Deco" lobby of Hilton Grand Vacations Club is grand, and the club also has a fitness center and a spa with pricey treatments ($65 for pedicure) and a spectacular recreation area with two huge swimming pools.

A luxurious option for those who want to be in the center of the Strip but away from the roar of the crowd is the Signature at MGM Grand, a condo-hotel complex tucked behind the hotel and reached by an enclosed walkway with moving stairs.

Units include 550-square-foot junior suites and 950-square-foot one-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens that have top-of-the-line appliances (Sub-Zero and Miele).

Signature sells serenity and service. "We don't get the young party crowd," said concierge Tony Paoli. Concierges will book limos and clubs and, he said, "If you want rose petals on your bed, we'll do that." Rates fluctuate depending on demand. (Units were $750 a night for the last Oscar de la Hoya fight.)

The Jockey Club, which sits about half a block back from the Strip, is in the throes of a construction project to reconfigure its entrance. It's affordable but not luxurious. And it's smoke-free.

Tahiti Village, a time share on Las Vegas Boulevard not far from the airport, has South Seas décor and a huge swimming pool with a beach. A second tower is being built. I was shown a Bora-Bora suite with a full kitchen, large and attractive. Frequent shuttles take guests to the center of the Strip.

Another time share, Summer Bay Resort Las Vegas, is behind the Strip in a '70s complex with a huge lobby but dated units, including one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchens. The 489-unit resort occupies several blocks, with multiple swimming pools and spas. The resort will soon relocate just down the block to a newer, more deluxe complex and will become Summer Bay Resorts-Las Vegas Desert Club.

Farther south on Las Vegas Boulevard, adjacent to the South Point Hotel Casino, is the Grandview at Las Vegas, another time share. It's a complex of high-rise towers with pleasant one- and two-bedroom units with standard gold and burgundy décor. All have full kitchens and washers and dryers.

The explosion of time shares and condo hotels is dizzying. Marriott's Grand Chateau, just off the Strip, will open a second tower in November and begin construction on a third this year. MGM Grand's 66-acre multiuse CityCenter will include 1,650 deluxe condo hotel units, opening in the fall of 2009. Trump International will open Tower 1 of its condo hotel complex next spring, with Tower 2 slated for completion in late 2010.

The Cosmopolitan, a condo hotel with 2,000 privately owned units and 900 other units, is projected to open in mid-2010. Planet Hollywood Towers by Westgate, opening in July 2009, will have 1,200 units.

For those seeking a home rental, there are agencies and numerous online sites with listings: , , www and http://www.alwayson, among others.

Most properties are in surrounding areas, such as Summerlin, Henderson or Green Valley, 10 to 15 minutes away by freeway. A car is essential.

Showing me around a four-bedroom home in the Green Valley section of Las Vegas, John Palmer of Las Vegas Retreats said, "This is a classic setup." The living room had been converted to a poolroom, and there was a big-screen TV in the den. A pool is "an absolute requirement," he added, and this house had a nice one. The rent was for $289 weeknights, $349 weekend nights, with a three-night minimum.

Prices may escalate during special Las Vegas events. When I visited, the World Series of Poker was underway and, Palmer said, "Half our houses are filled with poker players."

Some area cities have ordinances prohibiting short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

"We have people coming from all over the world to Las Vegas to party," said Clark County planning manager Chuck Pulsipher. "That's why we have the Strip. That's why we have these huge hotels."

Rod and Anthony Kershaw, father and son, run Las Vegas Vacation Home Solutions, offering accommodations ranging from studios to a 13,800-square-foot home.

"Las Vegas does not want people in vacation homes," Rod said, because they want to get them into the casinos. "We cater to people who say, 'We love Las Vegas, but we're tired of hotels. We want big-screen TV and a pool, and we don't want to be herded into their hotel restaurant.' "



Where to stay


2650 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; (702) 765-8300. . Lowest rate: $89 for a studio, weekday. Highest: $559, two-bedroom, weekend.


211 E. Flamingo Road; (877) 211-9211, .

Lowest rate: $139 for one-bedroom. Highest: $799 for two-bedroom suite.


9940 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; (702) 966-4700, . One-bedroom units $140. Two-bedroom $190.


100 Winnick Ave.; (702) 731-6100, . Two-bedroom units $85 to $210.


7200 Las Vegas Blvd. S., (702) 440-6800 or (800) 775-8463, . One-bedroom suites start at $299, two-bedroom suites at $599.


145 E. Harmon Ave.; (877) 612-2121, . One-bedroom suites from $210, two-bedroom from $400.


3700 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; (702) 798-3500, . One-bedroom suites from $125.


(888) 887-0951, .


(800) 856-2426, http://www.lasvegas


(800) 447-2742, Ext. 110, .