No wins, but ‘casino’ a success

Station Casinos opened its 18th casino Tuesday morning hoping no one would show up.

There were no grand speeches by the owners, no fireworks and no performances by big-name music acts.

There was hardly anything except a trailer with 16 slot machines inside sitting in the middle of a 26-acre concrete and dirt lot on Fremont Street where the Showboat once stood.

“It’s certainly not the caliber of grand openings that we’re used to,” Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said. “We usually like to be a little more lavish and have a few more bells and whistles.”

The only action the slot machines got was from one of the journalists covering the event who bet $1 and who reportedly got $2.50 back.

Despite taking that beating, the gaming company got everything it wanted out of the casino: another two years to decide what it wants to do with the vacant property.

Because of state and city requirements, the gaming company had to operate 16 slot machines on the property for eight hours to preserve an existing nonrestricted gaming entitlement on the vacant land for another two years.

The entitlement is important to Station Casinos because local gaming laws have placed new restrictions on building new locals casinos without accompanying hotels and amenities.

Station Casinos acquired the site when it bought the bankrupt Castaways, formerly the Showboat, in a three-way transaction for $33.7 million in October 2004.

The casino had been closed since January 2004, and the Castaway’s 445-room hotel tower was imploded around the first of 2006.

About the same time, in January 2006, Station Casinos set up its first temporary casino to maintain the right to build a casino on the site without having to build also a hotel tower with at least 200 rooms.

Despite the limited nature of the operation, Station Casinos still had to jump through several hoops to get the temporary casino open.

The locals gaming company hired Martin-Harris Construction to develop plans for the 400-square-foot casino and an adjacent portable bathroom.

The graffiti-tagged trailer had to go through the same permitting process that the city of Las Vegas requires of any other public structure.

The trailer and portable toilet also had to be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Representatives from the city and gaming regulators also stopped by the trailer on Tuesday to check on operations.

Station Casinos didn’t operate the temporary casino itself; the casino was licensed by United Coin Machine Co., which received a fee from Station Casinos and any gaming proceeds the casino collected on Tuesday.

Rob Woodson, vice president at United Coin, said the company operates a few other temporary casinos around the state for similar reasons, including the Moulin Rouge on Bonanza Road and the Holy Cow on Sahara Avenue and the Strip.

Although Nelson couldn’t discuss the company’s plans for the site, she did make one promise: The public should expect a much bigger splash when the company opens its new Aliante Station in December.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or (702) 477-3893.

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