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The Linq casino has transformed into a modern arcade

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The new-look Linq
Photo: Steve Marcus

It’s not even noon on a scorching summer day on the Strip, but an abundance of fun has already been had at this particular Las Vegas casino, where there seems to be something new to explore every day.

A young family occupies two of six virtual reality stalls just steps away from Las Vegas Boulevard, playing a boxing game modeled after the Creed movies while waiting for a turn on the Fly Linq zip line, which launches from a platform an elevator ride away. The group is surrounded by arcade games, like a four-player Mario Kart experience and a comically oversized Pac-Man, and the closest “slot machines” are branded with Game of Thrones, Anchorman and Breaking Bad themes.

On the other side of a sportsbook that looks more like a series of upscale man caves loaded with big screens and comfy couches, a middle-aged guy in damp swimming trunks and rumpled T-shirt moves to Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands,” waiting for a chicken sandwich ordered from a tiny kitchen made to look like a food truck.

We are still inside a casino.

Welcome to the current version of the Linq, virtually unrecognizable from its 2018 edition and galaxies from that dusty old dinosaur known as the Imperial Palace, the name of this Strip property from 1979 until 2012. Harrah’s Entertainment bought it in 2005, and the company—now Caesars Entertainment but evolving due to the recent merger with Reno-based Eldorado Resorts—has invested millions transforming it into the Linq and creating the adjacent Linq Promenade and High Roller observation wheel.

The result of all those renovations and improvements is a wildly diverse grab bag of attractions and experiments designed to attract younger Vegas visitors. The latest round of changes brings the Strip-side Re:Match bar, where you can have a drink but also play with 27 touch screens that have different games and collectively create virtual underwater scenery. There’s also Dataland, an interactive environmental art installation created by LA-based artist and lecturer Refik Anadol that’s woven throughout the casino. The three-dimensional LED installations are reactive and change as guests walk through them.

Those VR bays and arcade games can only be played by guests 21 and over—it’s still a casino—but the Linq also features the Strip’s first hologram gaming station and an Alienware esports room with 24 gaming stations. There’s another VR experience, the Fantasy Dome, on the third level near the Fly Linq launch pad. And the Dataland pieces wrap around several stages in the casino, where musicians, DJs, acrobats and other entertainers might pop up at any time.

Years ago, Strip resorts would wedge an arcade into a corner of the casino where kids could play their own games while Mom and Dad gambled. The Linq is assuming those kids are still coming to Las Vegas, and while they’re old enough to gamble, they still want to play games or experience a new and improved version of that arcade experience. Every casino in Las Vegas and beyond is experimenting in this area, but this one has gone all in. Walking through the Linq feels like next-level Vegas sensory overload, a colorful carnival of things to touch and play and Instagram. And that’s a big reason why, as Eldorado ponders which Caesars resorts it might unload, most observers consider the Linq a keeper.

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Brock is an award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for 20 years. He currently leads entertainment ...

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