Fundraiser brings Las Vegas Strip to EL
Andrew Blumberg brought the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas Strip to East Lansing on Saturday.
“It’s right downtown — perfect for MSU students as well as the community of East Lansing,” said Blumberg, who also was the event’s executive director.
The one-night fundraising casino event took place from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Marriott at University Place, 300 M.A.C. Ave.
The event began six years ago as a small poker tournament and has since grown into a full casino with a variety of games, including craps, roulette, blackjack and bingo. This year there also was a piano player and an Elvis impersonator who performed.
“I’m very impressed,” said Jim Rainey, who is a professor in the school hosting the event. “I had no idea how big the affair would be.”
Admission was $5 per person, and all the proceeds will go back to the school to help fund further events.
Assistant to the director of the School of Hospitality Business Lena Loeffler, who has attended the event in past years and went with Rainey on Saturday, said this year was especially successful.
“The students did an amazing job with the theme and the decorations,” she said. “You can tell the event management students that are a part of the program because they really made it look like a Vegas-night feel.”
Social work senior Simon Stratford, who is no stranger to casinos, said he preferred the atmosphere of the student-run event to that of the real thing.
“It’s a much more homey and relaxing feeling because my friends are here, and it’s in town and not far way,” he said.
For art history junior Steven Whaley, Saturday was his first time gambling, and he said he spent much of his night trying his hand at the blackjack tables.
“I’ve never gambled before, so I thought I’d give it a try,” he said. “I lost everything.”
Although Whaley has never been inside a casino, he said the hotel’s environment was similar to what he pictured an actual venue would look like.
“It felt like I was really playing blackjack,” he said. “It felt like I was in a real casino.”
Not only did the event provide community members with an opportunity to enjoy a night of gaming and free food, but it also gave students studying hospitality business a chance to gain real-world work experience.
Blumberg said Vegas Night especially is beneficial to students interested in the casino industry because of the few opportunities available to explore their specific area of study at school.
“There really wasn’t anything (for) people interested in casinos,” he said. “There was nothing that allowed them to explore that interest. It opens up the opportunity for people interested in planning events and marketing.”
Blumberg, who has been a volunteer at Vegas Night since his freshman year, said his involvement has helped him develop skills he can use in his career. By helping plan the event and being in charge of the other volunteers, Blumberg said he has become a better leader and more well connected in the community.
“It’s given me a lot of opportunity to gain skills, (such as) personal communication skills and an opportunity to network with students and community members and professors,” he said. “It’s given me the opportunity to run a business (and) run an event from start to finish.”