LAS VEGAS (AP) — Casinos bosses were hoping for a bright and profitable night as thousands of partiers descended on Sin City to usher in 2013 with big-name concerts, celebrity toasts and a fireworks display billed as the country’s largest.
Tourism officials believe more than 330,000 visitors flocked to the desert for Monday’s festivities.
A crush of high-profile musical acts including Beyonce, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Black Keys played in the New Year during sold-out concerts.
Casinos also hosted nightclub parties with bottle service starting at $3,000 hosted by musical and reality television celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj and Ice-T.
Police shut down the Las Vegas Strip to vehicles from the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino to the Sahara as night fell, allowing tourists to flood a four-mile stretch of road normally packed with cars.
Temperatures dropped to the low 30s as midnight approached and casinos locked their doors to all but paying guests. The bundled-up masses outside still had access to plenty of 2012 knickknacks, novelty hats and street-side entertainment, as well as oversized drinks.
Among the street performers lining the Strip were a red-eyed man in goblin makeup, several women in rabbit costumes, a couple dressed like giant birds and a host of actors dressed for a Venetian masquerade ball.
Revelers wore red, silver and gold plastic beads over silky mini-dresses and button-down shirts. They erupted into groans when glass beer bottles shattered on the street and cheered when the volcano outside the Mirage erupted on the hour.
Eddie Garcia, of south Texas, was shuffling toward 2013 with an alcohol-filled plastic test tube called the “yard” dangling from a ribbon around his neck. He was counting out the last hours of his 20s and hoping to find someone to kiss at midnight.
“You never know, sometimes it just happens,” he said.
When the clock strikes midnight, seven hotel-casinos will unleash a coordinated eight-minute rooftop fireworks display costing $500,000, about 10 times as much as the Mandarin Oriental’s “Ultimate Presidential New Year’s Eve Package.”
The city’s 2,700 police officers mingled among crowds on the lookout for brawls and “people who are too sick to move on,” said Lt. Jason Letkiewicz, who oversaw the command center on the Strip. Police reported a quiet night with no major disturbances.
Nevada National Guard troops were also on hand, watching for potential terrorist threats.
Manuela Enz, 35, and her wife came from Switzerland to see the light show. They had bought white top hats adorned with sequins and flashing lights for $15 on the Strip.
“My hope for 2013 is that I’m not ill and that I’m happy,” Enz said.
North of the Strip, the downtown Fremont Street Experience walking mall held an adults-only party featuring cover bands, virtual fireworks and a countdown by Mayor Carolyn Goodman.
With room occupancy approaching 100 percent, hoteliers celebrated a lucrative ending to a middling 2012. Visitor volume has only recently eclipsed pre-recession levels, and gambling revenue continued to flag.
Many hotel-casinos sought to lure guests to town before the New Year’s eve — traditionally the biggest moneymaking night of the year — with concerts, “rehearsal parties” and mandatory two-day reservations.
Bill and Chris Sebestik celebrated their 25th anniversary at a bank of Triple Red Hot slot machines, hoping to win the red Audi rotating above them.
The past year had been rocky, with Bill losing his job, but the Chicago couple said they were sure 2013 would bring good news.
On a crowded bridge above a canal outside of the Venetian, Saurabh Roi ticked off his resolutions, including a vow to become more organized.
“I want not to keep repeating the same mistakes in life,” the 33-year-old California resident said.
Roi was returning to the New Year’s Eve festivities for the third time.
“The colorful people and clothing make you feel brighter about life,” he said.
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