Sunset Station host recalls casino’s early days

Casino host Bobby DeFroda has been working at Sunset Station since September 1997 — three months after it opened — and at first he wasn’t sold on its prospects for success.

“They told me, ‘Come down and check out this new casino we’ve built in Henderson; we want you here,’ and I thought, ‘Henderson? There’s nothing but cows out there,’” he said.

DeFroda changed his tune when he saw the 80,000-square-foot casino with its southern European design elements, movie theater and fine-dining venues.

“They could see I liked what I saw, so they asked me when I wanted to start,” he said. “I told them, ‘I’m here,’ and I started the next day.”

The casino was built in the height of the Las Vegas Valley’s theme-park phase, when the MGM Grand had one behind it and the Excalibur had free children’s shows every half-hour. Sunset Station’s design bucked that trend, mixing old-world opulence and valley mainstays such as a buffet and a classic lounge bar.

The property has gone through several expansions and is being renovated. The main building is now 360,000 square feet, and a bowling alley has been added. The movie theater now has 24 screens.

“On June 10 we’re going to have a huge party with cake and champagne,” general manager Liza Cartlidge said of the casino’s 20-year anniversary. “It’s got to be a big cake because we want to share it with all of our guests.”

The celebration is set to run throughout the month, with food and entertainment specials as well as concerts.

Of the casino’s 1,249 team members, 127 have been with the casino from the beginning. One staff member who has no intention of leaving is DeFroda.

“They’ll have to wheel me out of here,” he said.

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