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No Room For Nostalgia

In the casino industry, a new, bright and shiny property is usually more attractive than the old and historical, and that's not a bad thing.

No Room For Nostalgia

We all know that Vegas and gaming in general is all about bright and shiny new things. Whether it’s a new slot machine, a unique promotion, a different way to recognize our customers, or even a brand new casino, the past is the past, and while it was fun while it lasted, it’s time to move on.

When Station Casinos declared over the summer that the four Vegas casinos that had not reopened following the pandemic would be demolished and the land sold, it was something of a shock, despite the quest for shiny new things. It seems the Fiesta Henderson, Texas Station, Fiesta Rancho and Wild Wild West casinos had outlived their usefulness and were doomed for the scrap heap.

Fiesta Henderson was like my hometown casino, since I would pass it going to and from my office every day. Not being a huge gambler, I didn’t really become familiar with any of the excellent employees, but it was a convenient place to stop and place my sports bets prior to the days of mobile wagering. Of course, I remember the wins more than the losses.

Wild Wild West was one of the places I stayed when I first came to Vegas in the 1980s. It really was a somewhat sleazy motel (this was prior to Station’s ownership), but the casino was fun (lots of low limits and good rules) and the coffee shop was great.

The other two, Texas Station and Fiesta Rancho, were in North Las Vegas so I didn’t go there often, although I remember being in Texas Station one night and running into George Maloof, who at the time was at the peak of his popularity as general manager of the Palms, with two women on his arms headed to the movies!

Station explained that the customers from those four casinos had already been absorbed by other Station properties and reopening them was not necessary for their business. But seeing heavy equipment chomping away at Fiesta Henderson was disturbing to me.

The good news is that Station plans four new casinos in the next decade across the Las Vegas Valley in neighborhoods currently underserved by gaming. I went to the topping off of the Durango casino resort last month, and it will truly be a bright and shiny new property.

Truth be told, Station is hardly the first casino company to use the “out with the old, in with the new” principle. Ride down the Strip with any longtime Vegas local and you’ll learn about the casinos that once stood where today’s glittering palaces stand. While people may wax nostalgic about the Desert Inn, the Stardust, the Dunes, El Rancho, Riviera and a dozen other now-defunct Las Vegas casinos—heck, by this time next year we’ll probably be talking about the Mirage in the past tense—it’s hard to argue that their replacements are anything but top of the line.

And this isn’t just limited to Las Vegas. Jay Snowden, the CEO of Penn Entertainment, told me last month that his company is completely replacing two of its Illinois casinos, Hollywood casinos in Peoria and Aurora. They’re being built in new locations closer to interstate highways and also in response to the new casinos going up across the northern tier of the state. Bright and shiny wins again.

Even in properties that were built around historic buildings—like one of my favorite casinos, Detroit’s Greektown casino, now a Penn property—there always needs to be glitzy additions and renovations that keep them fresh.

Mississippi and Louisiana are two other examples of upgrading. Once the home to those somewhat clunky riverboat casinos, those states have approved casinos going ashore with fancy new casinos and hotels. And with the new casinos comes increased revenues.

So there is a limited time for nostalgia. One property that particularly causes me agita is the original Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, where I learned so much about the industry working for Steve Wynn. Later the Bally’s Grand, the AC Hilton and the Atlantic Club, the building today stands vacant and falling apart—a true white elephant.

But that’s the exception, not the rule. In general, the demolition of one casino in favor of another is a good thing for the shareholders, the employees and the customers. Bright and shiny always wins out.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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