I know how much most of us long to keep things the way they were, but I’ve come to realize that such a belief makes little sense. The world is in constant change, and if I didn’t know that for certain, I do now after spending five days in Las Vegas.

For almost two decades, I have traveled to “Sin City” with a handful of friends from my days at The Seattle Times. Three of the people in the group worked directly for me, and since that initial trip, more and more people have jumped aboard this exploration of one of America’s true 24/7 cities.

Through most of our trips there, I could say Las Vegas played the hospitality game better than any other city on the planet. Casino after casino offered perks that kept gamblers – the degenerates and every other kind – flocking back for more. People spent gladly, too.  Inexpensive, quality meals and cheap entertainment made the thousands of dollars you dropped at the gaming tables worth it.

No more.

Las Vegas has become like the airlines. The place charges for everything.

Want to self-park? Go ahead, but you’ll pay $8 to do so. How do you like your hotel rate of $99 per night? Too good to be true, ain’t it? Well, it is. Tack on the resort fees, which add another $40 to the cost of a night’s sleep, and that cheap room doesn’t look cheap anymore.

Cha-Ching!

I don’t need to wonder why casinos are trying so hard to squeeze every dollar they can out of customers. Stamped on each one of these gamblers is a giant dollar sign, and the casinos have turned those signs into big profits.

Cha-Ching!

The bargains that made Las Vegas world famous have vanished. Now, the city is as corporate as any other place. It almost has a disdain for the pedestrian, favoring the spectacular over the ordinary.

And the spectacular comes at a cost.

The casinos push that cost onto their customers, though they add a little something-something to pad their take.

Cha-Ching!

I find it hard to accept their greed. But I’ve always had a problem with greed so naked that it reeks of exploitation. Casinos like Harrah’s, Planet Hollywood or Aria that have been run well have always been assured of a hefty financial statement, and they needed to do nothing more than just be hospitable to the suckers who visit town to throw away their money.

The suckers might have to take back the tables. They won’t continue to accept how a casino nickels and dimes them. All they want is to be pampered; they don’t want to be driven to the edge of bankruptcy.

From where I sit, they have embraced the wrong approach. Casinos had the market cornered on adult fun; they could have kept that market cornered had they not allowed greed to blind them.

I have no idea what casinos are thinking. I guess they’re not thinking, because if they were, they’d ditch the resort fee, let people park for free and comp a steak dinner for a man who just dropped two grand at the blackjack table.

That’s not a big cost to a MGM. It never has been, which doesn’t explain the desire to squeeze more dollars from people.

Cha-Ching!