Casinos normally try to closet their patrons away from the world in an effort to keep them gambling for as long as possible. Seldom will you find outdoor views, much less a clock, inside a casino.
That is where Laughlin, a relatively new town 90 miles southwest of Las Vegas, is different.
Many of its nine casino resorts offer views of the Colorado River and access to a paved river walk. Water taxis allow visitors to go from one resort to another without going back to their cars.
Town founder Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort even has a store called The Watch Man, which boasts an inventory of 20,000 watches all under $20. The store says it has sold 1.4 million watches.
The store, inside the Riverside Casino, is an attraction by itself.
Where else can you see a gay-pride rainbow watch being sold next to a "Christians for Bush" timepiece? Visitors can buy "Hillary for President" watches, wall clocks featuring the pope, Jesus or the Three Stooges, a motorcycle alarm clock and a watch without hands for retired folks and presumably gamblers who don't want to know the time.
Linda Welch, general manager of The Watch Man, is more than willing to explain the history of Laughlin and why Utah residents might want to stay in one of its 10,000 rooms or large campgrounds.
"We don't have Las Vegas congestion," she explained. "We have the river and water sports. We are a big place for snowbirds from November through May and get a younger crowd in the summer. There is stuff for families to do like a bowling alley, pool tables and a kids' castle."
Las Vegas casino owner Don Laughlin flew over the town, once called South Pointe, in 1964. Almost abandoned after the Davis Dam was completed in 1953 and construction workers moved out, the city consisted of a boarded-up eight-room motel.
Laughlin, who is still alive and actively managing the Riverside Resort, began modestly. According a history of the town by the http://visitlaughlin.com Web site, Laughlin started small two years later by offering all-you-can eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, 12 slot machines, two gaming tables and four rooms for rent.
The gaming magnate expanded his hotel to a high rise that now includes 1,400 rooms, an antique car collection, a large casino, restaurants, bars and numerous shops. He donated $3.5 million to build a bridge across the Colorado to connect Bullhead City, Ariz., and Laughlin.
A full-sized bronze statue of Don Laughlin greets an estimated 5 million visitors who come to this relatively small town of just more than 7,000 residents each year. Other resorts, many built during a boom in the 1980s, include big-name gambling operations, such as the Flamingo, Golden Nugget and Harrah's.
In its most recent issue, Nevada magazine named Harrah's Laughlin as the town's best hotel-resort for the seventh year in a row. Harrah's also received a nod as Laughlin's top gambling hall and most friendly casino.
The Laughlin Flamingo Hotel offers visitors a 3,300-seat outdoor amphitheater that looks over the river. Top entertainers, many coming from nearby Las Vegas, regularly play some of the bigger Laughlin casinos.
The Colorado River provides more than a little recreation for those seeking a break outdoors. On a recent August afternoon, when the temperature hovered around 110 degrees, personal-watercraft enthusiasts zoomed up and down the riverfront while a beach on the Arizona side of the Colorado was jammed.
There are numerous boat launches along the river. In addition to the water taxis, visitors can take a jet boat trip down the river to see the restored London Bridge at Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Dinner cruises, fishing and camping are also popular.
Those looking for a more natural area might drive five miles south of Laughlin on the Needles Highway and visit Big Bend of the Colorado, a Nevada state park with camping, showers, picnic tables, swimming and fishing.
The town also has two 18-hole public golf courses, open year-round.
Laughlin is smaller than the big mega-resorts in Las Vegas but larger than casino towns of Wendover and Mesquite. The mix works well, especially when you can see outdoors and tell time inside a casino.