Railroad Pass celebrates 80th anniversary this week

The Railroad Pass casino doesn’t get the multimillion dollar annual marketing budgets MGM Resorts International spends on properties such as the Bellagio, MGM Grand and The Mirage. Nor does the tiny Boulder Highway casino get much attention from the $6 billion-a-year gaming giant that just happens to own it.

But the Railroad Pass, Nevada’s oldest state-issued gaming license still in operation at the age of 80, doesn’t need much from its corporate parent.

Just ask Kenn Vandall of Henderson.

The 67-year-old retired construction worker first visited the Railroad Pass, between Henderson and Boulder City, while on vacation in 1981. When he moved to Southern Nevada in 1985, the property became one of his favorite hangouts.

When MGM Resorts paid $7.9 billion for the Mandalay Resort Group in 2005, Railroad Pass came with it. At 120 hotel rooms, roughly 300 slot machines, six table games and a race and sports book, the old casino was an afterthought, at best.

Vandall said MGM Resorts had the correct attitude when it came to Railroad Pass. For the most part, the company left the casino alone.

"If they had changed anything, they would have lost half the business," Vandall said Monday as he and other regulars helped Railroad Pass celebrate its 80th birthday. First licensed in 1931, Railroad Pass is a living piece of state history.

Roughly half of the Railroad Pass slot machines still pay in coins or $1 tokens. A portion of the casino is the Heritage Room Museum, with 80 vintage photographs and historical artifacts from the area and the casino, such as original railroad spikes, Boulder Canyon core samples and former restaurant menus.

Employees and customers often donate items, such as matchbooks and other mementos.

"Throughout the valley, there are little pockets of history that are still with us and still active as part of the community," said Mark Hall-Patton, a historian and administrator of the Clark County Heritage Museum. "It’s really nice when one of them takes some time to celebrate its history. There are no other single-digit gaming licenses still operating in the state."

Railroad Pass has license No. 4. One and two were never issued. No 3 didn’t last.

Janine Thompson, who has worked the floor at Railroad Pass for 17 years, said the casino never lost its homey, family-type atmosphere after MGM Resorts took over.

Some employees have transferred to other MGM properties, but Thompson, who lives in Boulder City, has no desire to leave.

In fact, she coaxed her mother, Mary Ann Morang, out of retirement seven years ago to take a job as a hostess-cashier for the buffet and coffee shop. Thompson’s daughter, Samantha, is a buffet runner, as well.

"I’ve had four grandchildren work here," Morang said.

Thompson said the boom in the locals market over the past two decades took away some Railroad Pass customers, but she and other longtime employees remain dedicated to the property and its customers.

"We’re not like a Strip property," Thompson said. "Where else would I know the chef, or go bowling with the general manager or be buddies with the director of operations? Being a small place, we all know each other."

MGM Resorts is giving the Railroad Pass a birthday celebration fitting an octogenarian.

Customers will be treated this week to 80-cent hot dogs, 80-cent beers, $31-a-night hotel room rates and $19.31 dinner specials.

On Monday several employees wore vintage 1930s costumes. Others came as Old West miners or railroaders. Proclamations from the mayors of Henderson and Boulder City, the governor and congressional delegation were presented.

Much of the celebration surrounded the Railroad Pass’ place in Nevada history, including the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad and the building of Boulder (now Hoover) Dam. With Boulder City a dry town with no booze or gambling, the Railroad Pass was the closest spot where construction workers could blow off some steam.

"Everybody came through this pass from the mid-19th century on," Hall-Patton said. "It didn’t have a road until 1929, and it wasn’t paved until 1932."

Vandall paid little attention to the pomp and celebration. As he does five times a week, he played a 25-cent video poker machine, which still accepts coins and pays out in cash.

"I have a process. Occasionally, I take some of the quarters that I win, roll them, and put them in my savings account," Vandall said.

He visits other small Henderson-area casinos, but the Railroad Pass is home.

"I like what they do with your (slot club) points," Vandall said. "You can get them back in cash. Other places don’t really do that."

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal. com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

MGM Grand Plans To Add Retail And Dining To Its Strip Facade
MGM Grand President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Sibella said executives are “discussing redeveloping that entire frontage of the building out to the Las Vegas Strip.” (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Boyd Gaming planning new corporate campus
Casino operator Boyd Gaming Corp. has filed plans to build a new corporate campus. The plans call for two 10-story office buildings and a six-level parking garage in the southwest Las Vegas Valley. Boyd Gaming operates The Orleans, the Suncoast, downtown's California Hotel and other properties. The new headquarters would be just a mile from its current main office building.
Bellagio Conservatory transformed to celebrate Year of the Pig
The Bellagio Conservatory Team transformed the 14,000 square foot conservatory to commemorate Chinese New Year, the holiday that marks the end of the coldest days of winter. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Intro uses sound to connect people
Intro, a startup that is part of the Future Worlds Accelerator in the UK, has an app that uses ultrasonic sound to find people and companies nearby.
CES 2019 Video: CES wraps up another year
Time-lapse video of the action at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Create your own beauty products
Beauty Mix by BeautyByMe is a product that lets you create your own cosmetics and beauty products. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Picobrew’s home brew machine
Picobrew brings automation to homebrewing. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Surviving CES
What it's like to spend four days working the mammoth tech convention. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Haier’s smart home
Haier presented smart home technology at CES 2019.
CES 2019 VIDEO: Foldimate makes laundry day easy
Foldimate has created a machine that will fold your laundry for you. Just feed it anything you need folded and it will do the rest. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Opte device corrects skin spots
Opte from Proctor and Gamble is a device for correcting spots and freckles from skin. It analyzes the area for spots and then covers them with a serum of matching skin tone. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas unveiled
Derek Stevens reveals Circa hotel-casino in downtown Las Vegas. He plans open by the end of 2020. (K.M Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Circa, new casino coming to Fremont Street
Casino owner Derek Stevens announces his new property Circa, coming to Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas in late 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dreenk My Oeno makes wine suggestions
At CES 2019 in Las Vegas, the Dreenk My Oeno tells you all about wine.
Polaroid One Step Plus camera unveiled at CES 2019
Polaroid has moved into the digital age with its One Step Plus camera with Bluetooth. With the connected app, it turns your smartphone into a remote for the camera, along with filters and features.
Amazon is everywhere at CES 2019 in Las Vegas
Seemingly everything works with Amazon Alexa
LG Smart Mirror helps you dress snazzy
LG’s Smart Mirror is less of a mirror but more of an assistant to help get you looking snazzy. It takes your image and recommends clothes for you or matches existing clothes with new clothes, which can be purchased right from the mirror. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Underwater robots make waves at CES 2019 in Las Vegas
Robosea is a company dedicated to underwater robotics. They produce consumer robots for underwater filming as well as commercial products which can be used for underwater research. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019 - Victrola record players spin in Las Vegas
A new spin on an old favorite, Victrola record players are meeting a demand for retro products. The brand is also making furnitures with built-in speakers.
CES 2019: Slamtec robots ready to serve
Slamtec is a robotics company out of China whose goal is to provide solutions for laser localization mapping and navigation. They have created two autonomous robots that can be used in areas such as bars, restaurants and malls. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mixologiq drink maker appears at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.
This is the Mixologiq drink maker.
CES 2019: Veritable smart garden
Let’s face it; not all of us have green thumbs. And herbs are particularly difficult to grow, considering their constant need for sunshine. Enter the Veritable smart garden from Exky, which does it all for you. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas being sold to developer
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas is being sold to a developer, set to close in March. Bonnie Springs, west of Las Vegas off State Route 159 — next to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park — spans more than 60 acres and was on the market for $31 million. The developer and his project partner are under contract to buy the ranch and plan to chop it up mostly into custom-home lots. The plans includes a 25-room motel, a restaurant and a 5,400-square-foot event barn.
Bone-conduction headphones form Aftershokz
Aftershokz offers bone-conduction headphones - headphones that don’t go in the ear.
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Autonomous Cars and Futuristic Aircraft Rule CES
Day two of CES was dominated by autonomous cars and futuristic aircraft in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
TekNekSavr fights neck problems caused by smart phones
Atiya Syverson invented the TekNekSavr to help fight neck and head problems caused by strains while typing on smart phones. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New eyeglasses know if you fall and call for help
The French company Abeye has created eye glasses that will detect if the wearer falls and call for help. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Company that creates vibrator-like device claims genders bias against CES
Lora DiCarlo is a women-run start-up that creates a vibrator-like device designed for female pleasure called the Osé. This year they were awarded the CES Innovation Award in the Robotics and Drone Category, but a month later the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, rescinded the award and their booth. Haddock and her team believe it is a reflection of gender bias and sexism in an industry with a long history of male domination.
CES-Wagz has new pet products
Wagz has three new products to help create better lives for your pets in a digital world. One is a collar with LTE tracking and an HD camera. Also a smart pet door that only lets your pet in and out. Lastly, a device to humanely keep Fluffy out of certain areas of your home. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like