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THE details of plans to hold a United States Grand Prix in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1996 are beginning to come to light, with all the indications being that a circuit will be laid out at the southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard - known as "The Strip" - with the race track being centered on the intersection between Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue.

In recent years this crossroad has emerged as the focal point of Las Vegas's entertainment industry and now features three of the world's 12 largest hotels: the MGM Grand (which boats an extraordinary 5005 rooms), the Excalibur (4032 rooms) and the famous Tropicana (1908 rooms). The number of hotel rooms are important as the organizers of the race intend to allow anyone with a hotel room to gain free access to the circuit.

In addition to the three hotel/casinos already mentioned, next door to the Excalibur is the Luxor, a vast pyramid with 2521 rooms; and next door to the Tropicana is the Ramada-owned San Remo (711 rooms).

The five hotel/casinos at the intersection, therefore, boast over 14,000 hotel rooms; 33 restaurants and 12,000 slot machines.

There will also be easy access to the track from Bally's Casino Resort (3097 rooms) thanks to a monorail which will soon link Bally's to the MGM Grand. Also within easy walking distance of the track are the Aladdin (1144 rooms), Hacienda (1050 rooms), Alexis Park (500 rooms) and a vast Motel 6 which boasts 877 rooms.

Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts Corporation is also in the process of building two vast 3,000 room hotels on the old Dunes Country Club, which runs parallel to The Strip down to the Tropicana Avenue intersection.

The idea of giving free general admission to the circuit for anyone with a hotel room will, therefore, minimize opposition to the race from casinos which might object to having The Strip closed down for a few days. Getting the casinos to agree is not as great a task as one might imagine as many of them are owned by the same companies: Circus Circus owns both Excalibur and Luxor and also its original resort hotel further north on The Strip. Mirage owns the Mirage, Treasure Island and the Golden Nugget. Kirk Kerkorian - who recently tried to leverage a buyout of the Chrysler Corporation - owns the MGM Grand, but has run various Las Vegas resorts and has considerable influence.

In addition, several major hotel chains own famous casinos and they are likely to be keen to sell their rooms to race fans. Hilton owns not only the Las Vegas Hilton (3174 rooms) but also the Flamingo (which has 4348 rooms), and Sheraton owns the Desert Inn & Country Club (800 rooms) but is currently building the 3,500 room Desert Kingdom, which should be finished in time for the race.

Las Vegas hotel rooms are famously cheap but the owners still take around $6 billion a year in revenue from the 25 million visitors. The casinos pull in $6 billion a year from gambling - which works out at $240 a head.

The decision to tie the race with Veteran's Day weekend is also a good move as the hotels are keen to boost sales at that time of year, which has fewer bookings than other national holidays. The weather in November would also be good for a race, with temperatures in the mid-70s.

The track has yet to be finalized but will almost certainly encircle the MGM Grand, Excalibur and Luxor hotels, using the vast parking lots to link the existing roads.

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