Living The High-Roller Life

The rich are different from you and me. For one thing, they can afford to blow scads of money in Vegas on such a regular basis that the casinos often put them up free in one of their over-the-top luxury suites. Unless you brandished a $500,000 casino credit line, these palatial digs have been off-limits.

But with the economy flagging, the number of high-stakes gamblers--or "whales,'' as they're very affectionately known in the industry--heading to Vegas has slumped. And rather than let their sweetest suites gather dust, some casinos are opening them up to everyone else. Everyone, that is, who has the means to splurge on a $6,000-a-night room.

What does that get you? Let's check out the MGM Grand's The Mansion, modeled after a Tuscan villa. You're greeted with a flute of French champagne, then escorted to your 4,800-square-foot suite decorated in fine European fabrics and antiques. Your private butler offers to unpack for you and draw an aromatherapy bath with Bulgari salts. The staff promises to satisfy just about any need or want--Kobe beef, pizza flown in from Chicago, even a private fashion show. On a recent visit, Jane and Paul Stickney from St. Louis marveled at the trappings of The Mansion, which opened three years ago. "I've never stayed in a hotel that has 1,000-year-old antiques casually displayed," says Jane. "You can see why it costs so much to stay here."

A few doors down the Strip, the Bellagio recently started offering its nine high-roller villas for rent as well. These are the same ones occupied by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts during the filming of "Ocean's Eleven." Here, a 6,000-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment also goes for $6,000. Each villa is outfitted with a private French garden, swimming pool and whirlpool. The casino will even send over a chef to cook a private meal.

Granted, there are better uses for your money. But a night in a $6,000 suite might be a better investment than hoping for a lucky streak at the casino.