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Hands on decks, and hearts, for man who loved cards, his friends

Leave it to downtown casino legend Jackie Gaughan to play the gracious host even after he’s gone.

Friends of Gaughan, the El Cortez casino owner who died in March at age 93, gathered Wednesday at the East Las Vegas Community Center to dedicate the poker room in the casino man’s honor. Late in his life, Gaughan was a regular player at the friendly tables, where low stakes and laughter are the rule and former casino man Bernie Sindler is the dealer-in-residence.

For El Cortez General Manager Mike Nolan, it was a trip down memory lane and a reminder of the many favors Gaughan did for working people during his long career in the casino business. Gaughan had owned pieces of many casinos, but he got a tremendous kick out of the little poker room at the senior center.

“He still wanted to play, whatever his limitations were,” Nolan says. “He was a bookie. He knew math. That part just never went away. He loved to play cards whether it was pan or poker.”

As a part owner of the Flamingo in the early 1960s, Gaughan met Sindler. The two struck up a friendship that lasted until the casino man’s final days.

“Jackie knew Bernie, so it worked out perfectly that he was able to go down there,” Nolan says.

City Councilman Bob Coffin, whose district includes the senior center, told the two dozen players in attendance that one of his earliest jobs was as a lifeguard at Gaughan’s El Cortez, which no longer has a pool.

“He spent his last few months playing poker frequently with the fellow senior citizens over at East Las Vegas Community Center,” Coffin says.

“I thought it would be a good idea to name the room after him. He deserves to have a whole bunch more done for him.”

The ceremony drew approximately 40 seniors.

In keeping with Gaughan’s value-driven marketing philosophy, the El Cortez still offer’s Jackie’s “50-50” special, which give patrons older than 50 years old 50 percent off on menu items. The regulars at the senior center knew all about it.

And they reminded Nolan that Gaughan also used to bring them decks of cards as gifts. The downtown casino boss got the hint.

“I’ll be back by the end of the week with the cards,” Nolan says.

CLEAN COMIC: Comedian Dave Coulier played to almost a full house Sunday at the South Point and kept the audience entertained with a routine that was almost G-rated. Coulier was one of the stars of the popular “Full House” sitcom perhaps best-known for launching the career of not-so-clean comedian Bob Saget.

According to published reports this week, Warner Bros. is considering assembling a “Full House” revival.

Coulier’s best material came rapid- fire and was riddled with some of his many voice impersonations.

OKADA UPDATE: According to a recent court filing, attorney Charles McCrea of the Lionel Sawyer &Collins law firm has placed a lien for $233,000 on former client and Japanese casino billionaire Kazuo Okada.

Okada has been locked in a protracted battle with former casino company partner Steve Wynn.

LITTLE HEROES: Mountain Ridge Little League, which represented Nevada and made it all the way to the U.S. finals before falling to Illinois on Saturday, deserves a place in the Las Vegas Sports Hall of Fame. That should prove a simple matter.

What will be harder to fix is the lackluster financial support the team received on its way to Williamsport. Letter writer Barbara Simms had it right when she chastised Southern Nevada’s wealthy business leaders, who failed to come through in the clutch for the ballclub. It had several readers recalling the days of Las Vegas past, when casino bosses were easy “touches” for such causes.

ON THE BOULEVARD: No matter how many times we get it wrong, the city of Las Vegas still owns Desert Pines Golf Club. Former owner Bill Walters recently transferred responsibility for managing the facility. … A favorite son has passed. Leon Doss, a dedicated teacher and coach, gifted athlete and devoted family man, died this week after fighting cancer with uncommon courage and his trademark sense of humor. Services are pending. … There’s still time to sign up for Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada’s Shine for a Superhero race Sept. 13. For information, visit candlelightersnv.org or call 702-737-1919.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? Email comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

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