Casino brightens downtown Vegas

Mandalay Bay on Las Vegas Boulevard. Photo / Thinkstock
Mandalay Bay on Las Vegas Boulevard. Photo / Thinkstock

The newest addition to Las Vegas' resurgent downtown announced itself this week with a marching band, a ribbon cutting and, of course, showgirls.

The Downtown Grand hotel-casino, which actually opened its doors in late October, aims to introduce an element of luxury among the retro casinos that populate old Las Vegas.

The hotel is one of several new businesses opening in the town's long-neglected core. Several high-concept restaurants have recently remade the look of the blocks east of the loveably tacky Fremont Street Experience, a walking mall under a metal canopy that displays a nightly light show. A private park built around shipping containers is expected to open next month, and after that, a theatre.

Downtown Las Vegas, about 15 minutes north of the celebrated Strip, boasts some of the town's oldest casinos, including the Golden Nugget.

The Grand is taking over the former site of the Lady Luck casino on 3rd Street and Ogden Avenue, which has sat empty for years, adding to the blight that characterises much of downtown.

The Lady Luck opened in 1964 as a pinball and slot machine parlour called Honest John's. It was renamed in 1968, and became a popular downtown destination.

The casino closed in 2006 for what was supposed to be a year of renovations. Three years later, then-Mayor Oscar Goodman said the still-shuttered hotel had become a disaster.

On Wednesday, Goodman raised his trademark martini and toasted the building's new incarnation with his wife, Carolyn Goodman, Las Vegas' current mayor. "The Lady Luck stood empty and sad for so long. To have a hotel come back revitalised, almost entirely rebuilt and to make such a mark here is simply incredible," Carolyn Goodman said.

Backers say the renovation costs more than US$100 million ($120 million), about what Strip casinos spend to build a single mega-club. CIM Group, which advertises itself as "investing in urban communities", gutted and remade the Lady Luck to conform with downtown's new emphasis on walkability and community cohesion. AP

- NZ Herald

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