Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is Vegas on a roll?

Well, maybe not a roll but certainly trying to push its way clear of a recession that showed its unemployment, 3 1/2 years after economy tanked, at 13.1% in January. (That’s an improvement from 14.4% in January 2011.)

Some more glimmers of hope (the opening this month of the Smith Center For the Performing Arts was one of the first) come from the announcement this week of two overhauls of downtown Vegas casinos. The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, at 1 Fremont St., will remain open while it pours $14 million into expanding the casino and hotel, which opened in 1906 as the Hotel Nevada. It’s been 50 years sinice the property has had "meaningful expansions or renovation," said Mark Brandenburg, president and co-owner.

Look for the addition of a five-story hotel tower, with two penthouses and 14 suites, to what Brandenburg calls a boutique hotel. A 16-room addition (bringing the total number of rooms to 122) is "fun to talk about in the context of Las Vegas," where some Strip hotels boast more than 4,000 rooms in a single property.

The Golden Gate also will add 4,000 square feet to its casino, which, Brandenburg said, is unique, not just for its dancing dealers but for its vibe. "Our casino feels like no other casino in town," he said. "There is no other that says they've been here for every sunrise since the town started."

Renovations are expected to be completed by mid-summer. Oh, and the $1.99 shrimp cocktail that's almost synonymous with the Golden Gate? Will that return? "The intent is to keep it at $1.99," Brandenburg said, noting it had been that price for 17 years. (That's the price in the deli; it's $2.99 in the restaurant.)

Nearby, Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel is transitioning to a new name -- the D -- and a new look (contemporary). If you go to the old Fitzgeralds website, you’ll find that it already clicks over to the D. In honor of that transition, on Saturday, patrons who buy in at table games for $300 or play $100 in slots will receive a kelly green shirt (it’s St. Patrick’s Day, remember) that says, on the front, "I got lucky at the D" and on the back "Started drinking at Fitz and woke up at the D."

Its 638 rooms and suites will be renovated, and the casino will be on two floors: The first will be the contemporary casino, which will features the D's dancing dealers. Taking the escalator to the second floor, patrons will find an old-fashioned casino, including vintage slots. The property, like the Golden Gate, will remain open during the redo and is expected to be completed later this year.

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