The party that wasn’t

Have you heard the one about Google’s Las Vegas party that wasn’t?

When it comes to over-the-top employee perks, Google has long been on the cutting edge.

In its Silicon Valley home offices, Google has offered elaborate in-office meals, desk-side laundry pickup, visiting dentists and other amenities, all in the name of saving the employees’ valuable time.

So when Google opened a major office in Ireland, the employee-pampering culture was sure to follow.

And as the global economy perked up in 2014, Google managers started thinking about a fitting thank you to its 3,000 employees. What emerged, according to a report in the Sunday Independent newspaper in Dublin, was a plan to fly all 3,000 employees to Las Vegas for a grand celebration weekend.

The scheme got far enough down the runway that hundreds of employees had made arrangements to stay over in the U.S. on either side of the party so they could visit relatives or just see the sights.

Then somebody — HR? Legal? —put the brakes on the whole deal, creating the predictable howls from employees. Google hit reset and let those who’d made plans keep the company-paid airline tickets.

And what emerged as a Plan B party in Dublin wasn’t too shabby.

The Sunday Independent described it as a New York-themed event at which “employees enjoyed a Ferris wheel, ice rink, an entire room dedicated to balloons and goodie bags that included smartwatches.” The cost was pegged at $320,000.

Certainly, the change of plans cost the Las Vegas economy a few million dollars. But you’ve got to wonder what it cost the manager who dreamed up the aborted Las Vegas junket?

Trailing in volunteerism

A new study finds both Nevada and Las Vegas trailing in yet another category: volunteerism.

According to the authors of “Volunteering and Civic Engagement in America,” the Silver State ranks 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The percentage of Nevadans who volunteer is set at 20.3 percent, well below the national average of 25.4 percent. That represents 422,990 volunteers providing 58.5 million hours of service with an estimated value of $1.3 billion. That’s an average of 27.6 hours per volunteer.

The numbers for the Las Vegas metro market are worse. The volunteer rate of 18.9 percent is 47th among the 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas surveyed. That represents 279,800 volunteers donating 31 million hours valued at $698.5 million.

Nationally, 62.6 million Americans volunteered 7.7 billion hours last year.

The study was sponsored by the Corporation for National &Community Service.

Bitcoin makes a push

It hasn’t been a great year for Bitcoin but the beleaguered alternative currency put on a happy face and smiled for football fans as sponsor of the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26.

Those watching the game on ESPN were told that Bitcoin has grown to 80 employees, likely making it the smallest small business to sponsor a bowl game.

Viewers were also told about its BitPay service and that Bitcoin plans to be accepted at 1 million merchants around the world by the end of 2016. That appears a tall order.

However, one Las Vegas company that’s already on board is Coin Cloud.

After the July launch of the Strip’s first Bitcoin ATM, Coin Cloud unveiled its second Bitcoin ATM inside the Gold Spike on Dec. 17.

Coin Cloud is deploying an ATM manufactured by BitAccess to provide digital currency enthusiasts a convenient 24-hour downtown location to buy and sell Bitcoins with the touch of a screen.

The kiosk is within walking distance of downtown casinos and near the Fremont Street Experience. The machine will be owned and operated by Coin Cloud CEO Chris McAlary, a Bitcoin trader and former Bitcoin miner.

Big test for CLEAR

CLEAR, the biometric identity system designed to speed pre-approved travelers through airport security, is in for a huge test this week as thousands of business travelers pass through McCarran International in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show.

Company officials nearly 2,000 members are in the Las Vegas area. And the CLEAR lanes have been used more than 2,000 times since opening in late November.

CLEAR will be offering a complimentary shuttle service for CES attendees between several locations on the Strip, the convention centers and the airport to speed CLEAR members both in and out of town.

The system, certified by the Homeland Security Department as qualified anti-terrorism technology, uses biometrics (fingerprint and iris) for identity verification, allowing members consistent, expedited screening at major airports nationwide.

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