Neighborhood casinos were barely an afterthought in 1976 when Frank Fertitta Jr. opened the 5,000-square-foot Casino that was part of the Mini Price Motor Inn on Sahara Avenue. Boulder station casino.
It was only a mile or so from the bright lights of the fabulous Strip, but that was a long desert mile.
Fertitta envisioned a different kind of gambling hall, one that catered to people who lived and worked in Las Vegas, and he brought them in with exceptional value and service. The Casino had about 100 slot machines, a few table games and a snack bar, and quickly became a favorite hangout for locals. A year later, the Casino expanded with a bingo room and changed its name to Bingo Palace.
Fertitta came to Las Vegas in 1960 from Galveston, Texas, and worked his way from bellman at the Tropicana hotel to dealer and eventually general manager of the Fremont hotel and casino.
“Since the early ’70s, I had wanted to open a casino as an alternative to the Strip and Downtown that could offer loose slot machines, great food and value for the locals’ dollar,” he said at the time. “There was just nowhere to go on the west side of town.”
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“Our properties are great for a date night, group of guys hanging out on a football Saturday or Sunday …, a family evening out to include the kids …,.There’s truly something for everyone.” –, Lori Nelson, Station spokeswoman
Over the years, Bingo Palace added more gambling machines, table games and amenities. Fertitta wanted his guests to play a part in the casino’s evolution, so he held a contest to rename the property, receiving 26,000 entries in three weeks. Las Vegan Claire Jarvis took the prize with her suggestion of Palace Station.
Fertitta’s sons, Frank III and Lorenzo, worked at the casino and learned the gaming business, eventually taking over the company in 1993 when their father retired. They named the company Station Casinos and took it public with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 1993.
Recognizing the locals’ gaming market potential as Las Vegas grew, the Fertitta brothers opened Boulder Station in 1994. They went upscale (with the American Nevada Corp.) for the opening of Green Valley Ranch Resort in 2001, and took it to another level with Red Rock Resort in 2006. Along the way, they acquired other properties, including the Texas, Fiesta in North Las Vegas and Henderson and Santa Fe.
Today, Station Casinos (now known as Red Rock Resorts after another IPO in April) has grown into a gaming conglomerate with 19 properties and more than 12,000 employees. The company recently announced it would acquire the Palms on Flamingo Road, paying $312 million for the property originally developed by George Maloof.
Station Casinos’ evolution has expanded the entertainment offerings beyond gaming and food to include movie theaters, bowling alleys, even an ice rink at Fiesta Rancho. Some properties have supervised day care, spas and concert venues.
The company’s casinos are a destination for anyone who lives in the Valley, Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson says.
“Our properties are great for a date night, group of guys hanging out on a football Saturday or Sunday or (NCAA tournament) March Madness, a family evening out to include the kids for a dinner and either bowling or the movies together. There’s truly something for everyone.”
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It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for the gaming company. In 2009, after the Fertittas had taken Station Casinos back as a private company, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, listing $5.7 billion in assets against $6.5 billion in liabilities. The filing stated that the company had 510 holders of unsecured and subordinate debt totaling $4.4 billion. It emerged from bankruptcy two years later, led by Frank and Lorenzo. They invested about $200 million for a 45 percent share in the restructured company. Other owners include lenders Deutsche Bank AG (25 percent), JP Morgan Chase (15 percent), Colony Capital and a number of bondholders.
Station Casinos kicked off its 40th anniversary with a fireworks show on July 1, the date the first casino opened, and will continue the celebration with player promotions throughout the month of July.