Steve says: 'The guys who might have won ,000 in a night before and happily gambled it away again will cash in their chips now and go home with their winnings. You can stay on The Strip for a night in a room that would have cost you 9 a night a year ago.' The really high-rollers don't bother with hotels, however.

And everyone wants more complimentary stuff - not just a room, but food, drinks, a spa ... They head to a secret emporium of luxury called The Mansion, buried in the bowels of the MGM Grand.

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'I want a guy to drop $100,000 in a night but have such a good time doing it that he shakes my hand and asks me when the next event is.

Some people want to travel the world and some want to risk money gambling.' But the recession has hit the whales harder than most.

I met one MGM casino boss, a small, smart, attractive woman called Debbie.

She's as far removed from the caricature of the old scar-faced gangster casino boss as you could imagine. Most whales are male, and they tend to be very competitive and love the challenge of taking on the casino to either win or lose big.

It's only the 28th most populous metropolis in America, but is by far the most popular.

Millions swarm here every year - and it is not for the sand. A place for the overworked, stressed-out and fed-up to escape on a pilgrimage of debauchery and frivolity.

And you can indulge any fantasy - from sleeping in a lifesize Egyptian pyramid to eating in a replica of the Eiffel Tower and taking a gondola ride.

My favourite suite was one at The Palms that housed an almost full-size basketball court.

The guests are therefore multi-millionaires or billionaires.