When Las Vegas-based Golden Entertainment closed on its $850 million deal to acquire American Casino and Entertainment Properties, whose four casinos included the Stratosphere with its 1,149-foot tower and 2,427 rooms, Chairman and CEO Blake Sartini was ecstatic.
Sartini, a longtime local who went to elementary, junior high and high school in Las Vegas, had built a formidable business model on the PT’s Pub chain, the largest tavern group in the valley.
He has the state’s largest slot route operation — the servicing and maintenance of those slot machines you see in bars and convenience stores — and duplicated route operations in Montana. That’s about 10,500 devices across 980 properties in those two states.
He added casino properties to the mix, becoming the large fish in the small Nye County pond with three casinos in Pahrump and owning the far-flung Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Flintstone, Maryland.
The American Casino deal brought two Arizona Charlie’s properties in Las Vegas and Laughlin’s Aquarius into the fold as well as the Stratosphere, the gem of the deal.
In statements announcing the acquisition, Sartini said he was happy for Golden to finally get a property on the Strip.
But there are a few detractors out there who say the Stratosphere isn’t on the Strip. They point to the geographic boundary that separates the city of Las Vegas from unincorporated Paradise Township. Sahara Avenue is the border, and everything north of Sahara on Las Vegas Boulevard is within Las Vegas city limits, and everything to the south is administered as unincorporated Clark County.
“Look, there’s no question when I travel or have meetings with individuals from out of town or family or others come to town to visit, this property is referred to as a Strip property,” Sartini said in a recent interview at the top of the Stratosphere, where there’s a spectacular view of the boulevard in question.
“It’s clearly on Las Vegas Boulevard, and it’s clearly a part of the Las Vegas Strip,” he said. “We feel it’s clearly a Strip property. It’s independent. … The building’s on Las Vegas Boulevard, and that’s the Las Vegas Strip.”
He said he needs to talk to some county people to see what their beef is.
Mr. Sartini, meet Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa, a history buff and defender of north-of-Sahara-Avenue-isn’t-the-Strip.
“The Las Vegas Strip has cachet, so it makes perfect sense for them to market their resort as being on the Las Vegas Strip; it’s just not factually true,” Pappa said. “Clearly it’s on Las Vegas Boulevard, but also clearly it’s not on the Las Vegas Strip.”
It doesn’t take a lot of research to discover how the Strip vs. not-the-Strip came to be.
“Las Vegas: The Fabulous First Century,” a book by Thomas “Taj” Ainlay Jr. and Judy Dixon Gabaldon, explains when it all happened, and unbeknownst to most of us, we just passed the 67-year anniversary of the incident that made it happen.
On Dec. 8, 1950, Clark County approved the formation of unincorporated Paradise Township to block Las Vegas Mayor Ernie Cragin’s plan to annex what is now the north Strip in a bid to collect taxes on the hotels that were starting to populate Las Vegas Boulevard.
The gambit worked despite Cragin’s threat to shut off sewer service to the Thunderbird, El Rancho and Bingo Club in 1951.
Ever since, it’s been city land north of Sahara and county land south of it.
It seems it’s time for the county to consider the Strip as a state of mind instead of a slice of geography. After all, the city allows the county’s airport to use LAS as the McCarran International Airport code.
“We wish everybody in Clark County success, and the Stratosphere is a great resort,” Pappa said. “I don’t mean to diminish what they’re doing, it’s just that their interest isn’t necessarily historically accurate.”