The Evolution of Las Vegas

When did Las Vegas go from a place like this... a place like this?

The image of Las Vegas was once one characterized by degenerate gambling that was facilitated by organized crime - a place where the rich and poor alike could indulge in vice . Films like Casino (1995) starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci captured the essence of the mafia-run Old Las Vegas of the 1970s.

Casino (1995) starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who run a fictitiious casino called the Tangiers funded by the mob

Fast forward to 2024 and Las Vegas has evolved into a world-renowned entertainment and hospitality capital. Shopping malls filled with the biggest brands, luxurious hotels and spas, and restaurants from the best chefs in the world fill the resorts that are built directly on top of the casinos that line the Las Vegas Strip. Most all of them feature dayclubs and nightclubs that host the biggest DJs in the world, while artists-in-residence like Adele perform regularly at concert venues and U2 at the Sphere, not to mention the endless supply of activities like Top Golf. No matter who you are, it feels like Las Vegas offers a million ways to spend your time and money. There is something for everyone.

The landing page of the Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino

Consumer Crypto: the Casino, the Church, and the Resort

Vegas was once run by those at the fringe of mainstream society, but today is owned and operated by multi-billion dollar companies like Las Vegas Sands Corp ($10.4B market cap), Wynn Las Vegas ($11.2B), and Caesars Entertainment Corporation ($9.2B). These corporations have succeeded in developing Vegas beyond just the casino by building resorts - places in vicinity of the casino floors, but where guests can spend spend time and money in completely different ways. While the casino still sits at the center of the action, the resort is able to attract a whole different set of guests to visit. Does this sound familiar?

The transformation and gradual mainstream acceptance of Las Vegas over the past 50 years provides an interesting parallel to the burgeoning consumer crypto space in recent years. If you subscribe to Chris Dixon's analogy of the crypto industry as both "the casino" and "the church", then “the resort” feels like a third place that is starting to take form as well. More and more communities of users now create, curate, collect, and socialize onchain. In the eyes of a growing mainstream, Bitcoin and Ethereum's roles are evolving from "poker chips" to "real money" - look no further than the adoption of the Bitcoin ETF in the last few months. Mainstream music artists like James Blake are releasing music onchain. Blackbird is bringing restaurants onchain, while the same DJs who perform at nightclubs in Vegas are some of the most active users in consumer crypto - like Steve Aoki, 3LAU, and Kygo. I learned this week that Blackrock now owns a Dickbutt. You get the picture.

In this onchain casino-resort, memecoins and NFTs are emerging as the new poker chips. Layer 2 blockchains like Base, Arbitrum, and Polygon (among many others) are the virtual real estate making all this activity more accessible to new audiences with time and money to spend.

Slowly but seemingly everywhere - the onchain resort is being built on top of the onchain casino. Having spent the last three years building and playing in it, it’s pretty clear to me the resort and the casino have a symbiotic relationship. David Phelps, the founder of JokeRace, puts it best:

JokeRace is a contest platform for onchain communities

"Memecosystems": Where the Casino and the Resort Collide

What does it look like when the onchain resort and onchain casino collide? And where can we point to see it happening clearly? Memecoins.

Recently, some memecoins - specifically, those being earned by users as a reward for their onchain engagement- have started to blend the two. Users in these “memecosystems” are doing things with their memecoins beyond pure speculation. They are actually using them in new ways - like tipping users in $DEGEN on Warpcast and creating collectible content in $BONSAI on Lens Protocol.

Playing with “house money” you didn’t expect to earn feels a lot different than speculating on a token you bought. Paired with experiences that blend elements of the onchain resort and casino, these memecosystems are creating a new context for existing behaviors - one where resort-goers are deriving utility from the same memecoins casino-goers are using to speculate with. Look no further than Drakula, an onchain video app that has driven $10M of volume in $DEGEN and announced a $300,000 creator fund of $DEGEN in the last 30 days.

Users who previously may have never visited the casino are starting to participate - just not how you might expect. Give an active community of users who hangout in the onchain resort some memecoins that feel more like poker chips than money along with novel ways to use them in a familiar context, and they start to become less-distinguishable from their casino-goer counterparts.

Web3 is a Loyalty Program

The memecosystems I've mentioned share something in common: they are awarding memecoins to onboard targeted segments of users through the art-and-science of both quantitative onchain wallet data analysis and qualitative knowledge of the users that own them.

$BONSAI, $ENJOY, and $DEGEN are all experimenting with airdrops based on onchain engagement in their native memecosystems

Some user communities like 9dcc, Gmoney’s luxury fashion community, and 747 Airlines, an airline-themed memecosystem that sprung up in the wake of the latest Boeing controversy, are taking this a step further and creating loyalty programs on (the onchain loyalty program provider I recently joined) to issue points to their users based on their community participation.

Teams seeking to reach them are issuing rewards to the most valuable user segments of these communities based on their points balances. Points (which are distinct from tokens) help community leads measure the relative strength of relationship and engagement of users in their communities - in their own words. A user’s point balance provides a basic quantitative score that attests to their relationship and relative standing in the community. Leaderboards display this information and make it easy for others to see.'s recent leaderboard feature announcement

Stack’s Token Rewards feature helps community managers issue airdrops to these subsegments of users. 9dcc’s Network Points program helped NIM airdrop tokens to their community, and 747 Airlines plans to issue an airdrop of $CRASH this week based on holders of their “High Miles” Program - a real loyalty program for a fake airline. Both of these projects are building with to incentivize behaviors they value by issuing points: 747 Airlines made following the /747air channel on Warpcast and minting the official 747 Zorb NFT High Miles “earn activities”.

In less than 24 hours since their announcement of High Miles, the /747Air channel has grown 450% to 2,800 followers and the 747 Zorb has been minted over 1,000 times. The goal is that users may come for the airdrop reward (casino), but stay for the 747 Airlines community (resort).

Will these communities be able to drive authentic engagement and retain these users over the long-term? I believe so, but only time will tell. Attestation tools like Stack (quantitative points programs) and Disco (qualitative verifiable credentials) combined with onchain data analytics tools like Bello and Airstack are helping the onchain resorts and casinos of the world reach, recognize, and reward them in interesting new ways.


Las Vegas may look and feel very different now than it did in the 1970s, but the casino remains the central fixture that makes Vegas what it is. Throughout the Strip, every guest must still walk through the casino to get to the resort. In consumer crypto the casino might materialize right in front of you in ways you never expect. I certainly see it happening to to me, and I know others do, too. As we enter this next bull market, crypto will continue to grapple with its identity crisis as the casino, the church, and the resort (people get married in Vegas all the time!).

But it’s becoming clearer to me that, over time, what happens in Vegas will eventually happen onchain.

- bradorbradley.eth

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