PERCHED on a bar stool and sipping a $7 Negroni, I surveyed the casino of the Conrad Hotel in Punta del Este with keen but detached interest. The slot machines blinked and burbled like exotic birds, and at the blackjack and poker tables, neatly dressed men and women glanced at their cards with stony faces. A poster near the V.I.P. rooms advertised an Enrique Iglesias concert.

I could hear the money running merrily down the drain — counterclockwise, of course: this was the Southern Hemisphere.

To say that casinos make the Frugal Traveler antsy is a vast understatement. My weekend budget of just $500 was enough for a mere five rounds of V.I.P. baccarat. In Punta del Este, on the Atlantic in the southeast corner of Uruguay, however, the casino serves another purpose: sitting at the base of the town’s milelong peninsula, it’s the perfect rendezvous point. The choice is as much symbolic as practical, for Punta del Este is a place devoted to celebrating money.

Punta is known as the Hamptons of South America — a haven for elites from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and beyond. It’s where they come to chill with the supermodels Naomi Campbell and Gisele Bündchen at Buddha Bar, and to stock up on luxury labels like Gucci and Valentino.

Read more on source: The New your Times

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