One of Las Vegas’ oldest downtown casinos is closed.
The Las Vegas Club, which opened in 1930 and a year later became one of the first casinos to install a neon sign, was closed shortly after it was purchased by Derek and Greg Stevens.
The brothers also own downtown’s The D and Golden Gate.
So, what’s next for the Las Vegas Club? And do the Stevens brothers’ plans include reopening the property’s hotel rooms that were close more than two years ago.
To answer those and other questions about the gaming business we thought we’d talk with Derek Stevens.
What appealed to you about the Las Vegas Club?
“The Las Vegas Club was always something that was in our minds. It’s directly across the street from the Golden Gate and that’s certainly something we’ve been looking at for the last few years”
“We are both rather gung-ho on downtown Las Vegas. It’s not just the Fremont Street Experience. We just happen to be in the casino and hotel business. What’s happening on Fremont East and the development there compared to five years ago has been terrific. What’s happening in Symphony Park and everything has been terrific.”
What do you plan on doing with the Las Vegas Club?
“We need to spend a couple months evaluating the structure. There are two separate independent towers. They were both built very differently. So, we need to evaluate both towers and we need to evaluate the rest of the property there and I would say within a couple of months we’ll start developing an idea.”
So when you eventually reopen the casino at the northeast corner of Fremont Street will it have a new name?
“We felt we were going to have a rather transformational project, whatever that may be. I really felt that going with a new name is an important element of the branding and of the project”
Who will be your customer at this new property?
I think that the Fremont Street Experience has evolved over time. If you go back many, many years ago back when cars used to drive up and down Fremont. I think downtown Las Vegas was far more of a locals haunt. I think now things have changed in a manner where the Fremont Street Experience is far more tourism based. Certainly, our customer base is far more tourists than it is locals.”
Why are you so optimistic about Fremont Street?
“I think it is one of the things where there is an awful lot of people involved… There are so many people involved who really got the momentum going. For me, it’s just an exciting time to be one of the people who gets to participate in this growth and it’s great to see this redevelopment.”
What do you think of the new rules for street performers in the Fremont Street Experience?
“I think this is terrific. I think everyone’s voices have been heard. I think this is something that is going better for the hotels, better for the casinos, better for the tourists, and better for the buskers themselves. No one has an issue with free speech but I think there is an element where things may have gotten out of hand and I think this is going to better for all parties”
Your investment in downtown Las Vegas extends well beyond casinos. You turned the site of the old county courthouse into an outdoor venue called the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. What inspired you to get into the outdoor events business?
“I spent a number of days walking around the building at lunch time and I really just came to thinking that if there is some way we can create something that adds some energy downtown it’s just got to be a net positive.”
If you look at the Strip, there seems to be more of a focus on non-gaming attractions, including clubs and restaurants. Do you think that trend is coming to downtown Las Vegas, or is Fremont Street still focused on gamblers?
“The Fremont Street hotels and casinos have a higher percentage of gaming revenue versus overall revenue. That has to do with the type of properties that collectively we all own. I think that’s evolved. Clearly, it’s evolved at the Fitzgerald’s. It’s evolved at the Golden Gate. I think it's evolving now, if you would include the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. “
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh founded the Downtown Project in 2012 in the hopes his $350 million investment would transform downtown Las Vegas. Three years later, how is he doing?
“On an overall basis, it’s been a spectacular. Obviously when you bring such a large number of new businesses, whether they’re tech startups or whether they’re restaurants or whether they’re bars or whether they’re other types of businesses, it’s unrealistic to expect a 100 percent positive elements out of these companies.”
You once held a stake in the Riviera. How do you feel about the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority’s plans to replace it with expanded convention space?
“This is at the end of the day a great convention town and it’s very important that we make sure that we are very competitive from the perspective of dealing with event planners, dealing with larger-style conventions. We have to be able to provide the best hotel rooms, the best amenities, the best convention space and that really drives so much of the economics. It drives so many jobs here in this community.”
“This expansion is going improve the quality of life, the lifestyle of everyone in Clark County. It’s a very, very solid progressive move”
Derek Stevens, co-owner the D, Golden Gate casino, Las Vegas Club
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