LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Sin City has another New Year's Eve planned with celebrity-studded bashes, exclusive concerts and a rooftop fireworks display billed as the nation's largest.
Big-name celebrity acts including The Black Keys, The Killers and Pitbull will help hundreds of thousands of partiers ring in the new year Monday under the watchful eyes of a legion of law enforcement officers concerned with keeping the celebration peaceful and eager casino bosses concerned with ending 2012 with a profitable bang.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are performing a sold-out show at the Cosmopolitan's Chelsea Ballroom that will be broadcast live on the casino's 65-foot marquee to partiers on the Strip below. Beyonce will give an invitation-only performance in the Wynn's 1,500-seat-amphitheatre.
Other casino are touting pricey nightclub bashes with $3,000 bottle service and open bars, hosted by reality TV and music celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj and Brandy.
Revelers can also party celebrity-free on the Brooklyn Bridge at the New York-New York Hotel, where tickets start at $170, or inside the replica Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, where couples packages start at $300.
Those unimpressed with the ersatz offerings on the Strip can head 15 minutes south to a Great Gatsby soirée set inside a private airplane hangar. Organizers say the aviation-themed bash will recall a time "when the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper."
Las Vegas' New Year's eve festivities, dubbed "America's Party," have doubled in size since 1990. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority expects 332,000 visitors Monday, equal to the record-breaking number that flocked to last year's celebration.
That number has hoteliers happy, but does not rival other New Year's Eve celebrations. The ball drop at New York City's Times Square draws more than 1 million spectators, and some 2 million people flock to the shores of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro for music and fireworks.
Still, Las Vegas is dealing a full house this weekend, with hotel occupancy approaching 100 per cent, according to Dawn Christensen of the visitor's authority, and rooms going for several times the normal price.
The city room suite at the Cosmopolitan can be had for $210 on Tuesday, but costs $650 Monday. The deluxe king room at Caesars Palace is going for $519 on Monday, compared with $139 Tuesday.
With gambling revenue still down 20 per cent in the Las Vegas area and visitor levels only recently returning to pre-recession levels this year, New Year's Eve is a crucial night for the casino industry. It's the biggest money-maker of the year, projected to bring in $210 million on Monday alone, not counting gambling revenue.
Spectators will be treated to more than eight minutes of co-ordinated pyrotechnics costing $500,000. The fireworks will be shot from the rooftops of seven hotel-casinos, from the MGM Grand toward the south end of the Strip to the Stratosphere in the north.
The show will feature a medley of bubblegum pop, including The Wanted's "Glad You Came" and Pink's "Raise Your Glass."
Grucci, the so-called "first family of fireworks," is bringing some extra flash to the city of lights for the eighth year in a row. CFO Felix Grucci said he chooses the score first and then establishes his choreography, as a nightclub or Broadway musical director might.
"It's a combination of science and art; mainly art," he said.
A few miles north, the downtown Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall will stage its fifth annual TributePalooza, with cover bands playing to an adults-only crowd.
Virtual fireworks will light up the mall's blocks-long metal canopy, which boasts the world's largest video screen.
"I've been to a lot of places, and this is the best," said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who will lead the Fremont countdown. "One hotel after another, one place to go after another. It's all happening."
Police plan to shut down Strip traffic six hours before midnight so that revelers can spill into the four-mile stretch of road normally packed with cars at night. Casinos will lock their doors to all but paying guests.
The city's 2,700 metro police officers will be visible on horses and bicycles, and will also blend into the crowd and watch for bad behaviour and more serious offences.
Police made 114 arrests for drunken driving during last year's festivities.
"Our primary mission is crowd safety," said Lt. Jason Letkiewicz, who will be overseeing the command centre on the Strip. "It's usually a real good crowd. They want to party, they want to have a good time."
About 300 Nevada National Guard troops will also take up stations around town, where they will be on the lookout for possible terrorist threats.
Street sweepers will move in around 2 a.m. and finish up by dawn. They typically collect 50 cubic yards of trash, enough to fill the 10,000-gallon double archway aquarium at the MGM Grand's Rainforest Cafe.
Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier.