| LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS Brittany McClain spends her nights stripping at Sapphire gentlemen's club in Las Vegas under the stage name Electronica. By day she sunbathes topless at an adults-only pool at the Rio Hotel and Casino.
"My life now is, if I'm not stripping or at the pool, I'm sleeping," McClain said of the new partnership between the Rio and Sapphire that keeps her busy day and night.
The partnership also flirts with a longstanding separation between sex and gambling in Las Vegas. The desert city was built on gambling and has never shied away from sex, but Nevada laws have long kept the two vices strictly separate.
This reflects a new trend in Vegas, where casinos like the Rio, owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc, are always looking for new ways to make money, especially in the current downturn.
"It brings the sexy angle to the casino business and that is what Vegas is all about right now," said Sapphire Senior Vice President John Lee. "All of the casinos are trying to get gentlemen's club-type entertainment without actually crossing that line."
Caesar's Palace, Mandalay Bay, the Mirage, the Venetian and the Wynn have also opened topless pools, but the Rio's Sapphire Pool is the first formal partnership between a casino and a strip club to keep its lounge chairs stocked with bare-breasted women.
The idea is for the women to attract men who will stick around and gamble at the Rio's tables. The Sapphire Pool charges men $30 to $50 admission and is fenced off from the Rio pool, where the women keep their swimsuit tops on.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS ...
McClain, 21, said in an interview with Reuters that the pool is a hit with Sapphire's strippers because of the opportunity to network. Men they meet often turn up at the Sapphire Club later. "You get to kind of advertise yourself, promote yourself a little bit."
The Strippers who frolic topless under the attentive gaze of the male guests also get incentives from the club and free poolside food and drinks. No cameras are allowed.
The trend toward an edgier, sexier vibe in Las Vegas casinos is a dramatic shift away from the 1990s, when the city briefly tried to clean up its image to attract families.
With that approach abandoned and replaced with the slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," most of the major resort casinos along the Las Vegas Strip now incorporate adult-themed entertainment, from the Playboy Club at the Palms to burlesque-style shows at the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.
In addition to its topless pool, Venus, visitors to Caesars can drink at Shadow Bar, where women appear to dance naked behind a screen, and party at PURE, still one of the largest and hottest nightclubs in the city after four years, featuring performances by the lingerie-clad Pussycat Dolls.
Nevada state law does not expressly bar topless dancing from casinos. But gambling halls have long been refused licenses to operate strip clubs under rules that require them to operate in a manner consistent with public safety, health and morals, said Renee Shaffer, deputy chief of enforcement of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Shaffer said women sunbathing topless, in a fenced-off section of a casino pool, do not violate that rule. Strippers giving lap dances to gamblers would.
The Rio and Sapphire say they would like to explore further opportunities from their partnership, including possible night-life venues, within the law.
"Whatever the (line) is, we will abide by it," Sapphire's Lee said. "We want to be good corporate citizens."
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Mary Milliken and Eddie Evans)