Las Vegas Club Casino Closes
It seems weird to mourn the loss of a casino. After all, it is just a gambling den on a large scale, a business whose goal is to take your money and give nothing in return. Entertainment, sure, but sometimes I question even my sanity in considering losing money by the handful “entertainment.”
But in Las Vegas, casinos are part of the fabric of the community, for better or for worse. Just like people consider certain shitty dive bars institutions, so do many consider certain casinos their homes away from home. The Las Vegas Club in downtown Las Vegas was that venerable hole in the wall for many locals, but just after midnight on Thursday, it closed its doors for good.
“Real values, real people, classic fun,” was how the Las Vegas Club promoted itself and that is certainly a motto that its employees seemed to take to heart. Seasoned gambling writer John Mehaffey told VegasInc.com that the Las Vegas Club was a favorite of his, despite the lack of glitz that the casinos on the Strip have, saying, “The employees here made the place. The more time went on, the more appreciative they were of the people who still came here. They took care of the regulars for sure.”
The Las Vegas Club is (I would say “was,” but it is still there, just closed) located on the far west end of Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, on the north side of the street. It is one of the properties that falls under the umbrella of the legendary Fremont Street Experience lightshow; the more well-known Horseshoe (formerly Binion’s Horseshoe, the original home of the World Series of Poker) its next-door neighbor to the east, the Golden Gate is across Fremont Street, and the Golden Nugget is “catty corner” to it.
The Las Vegas Club pre-dates legalized gambling in Nevada, having opened in 1930, the year before casino gambling was legalized in the state. It was originally located across the street from where it is now and actually holds a unique place in Las Vegas history as the first hotel gaming venue to hang a neon sign. In 1949, the casino moved across the street to its present location, taking over the site previously occupied by the Overland Hotel. The hotel continued to operate above the casino.
In 1961, the Las Vegas Club was purchased by Jackie Gaughan and Mel Exber; in 2002, Gaughan sold the casino, along with the Plaza and Gold Spike casinos, to Barrick Gaming and the Tamares Group. Things went downhill from there. In 2007, the Tamares Group looked into making the enter property a high-rise condo-hotel, but that never came to pass. The hotel was closed altogether, though the casino remained open, in 2013. This May, the casino announced plans to open a nearly 14,000 square-foot pharmacy on its property, the prospects of which could not have thrilled Las Vegas Club patrons (cue jokes about it being good for slot-playing retirees).
Less than two weeks ago, the Las Vegas Club announced it had been sold to brothers Derek and Greg Stevens, who own the D and Golden Gate casinos on Fremont Street. The Stevens brothers are revolutionaries of sorts in Las Vegas, as they were the first to facilitate the use of the Bitcoin virtual currency at their casinos in January 2014. Bitcoin could not be used at gaming tables, but was accepted at the front desk, gift shops, and restaurants.
The Stevens brothers have not made it known what they will be doing with the Las Vegas Club, and while it is possible that they will renovate it and re-open at as a casino, it will not be under the Las Vegas Club name, as that was not purchased in the sale.
Many of the Las Vegas Club’s employees and gaming equipment will head next door to the Plaza, as it is operated by the same company, PlayLV. While it doesn’t sound like everyone will keep their jobs, the Las Vegas Club staff as a whole seems like it’s in better shape than those that worked in Atlantic City for one of several casinos that has closed in the past year or so. Most of them were out of luck, as irony would have it, whereas it does appear that a good number of Las Vegas Club employees will be able to find other work.
The Las Vegas Club is the second casino in Las Vegas to close this year, following the historic Riviera, which shut down in May. The Riviera was purchased by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and will be demolished and replaced with 1.2 million square feet of exhibit and meeting space.