‘D’-fining a classic - casino game classic Sigma Derby is back

Jul 10, 2012 3:00 AM

When I visited Vegas some 25 years ago, I remember seeing this really cool coin-operated simulated horse racing game. Well, I’m happy to say it’s back – even if I still lost every race.

“We had to go to gaming to get this game recertified because it had been out of commission for so long,” said Derek Stevens, owner and chief executive officer at the D Las Vegas (formerly Fitzgerald’s). “We made the old canopy just like it used to be.”

Called the Sigma Derby, It’s just a quarter to play. There are five horses that go around the oval track at various speeds (mine slower than others) with odds that reached close to 200-1. What’s nice about the Derby is its simplicity, which is exactly the theme Stevens wants at the D.

“The game has been out here just a few days and it’s a lot of fun,” said Stevens, who had purchased and renovated the nearby Golden Gate prior to purchasing the Fitz last October. “Kind of like a craps game, but for slots. There’s a lot of rooting and cheering. It reminded me more of vintage Vegas than any machine.”

Sigma Derby is prominently placed on the second floor near the sports book and close to the escalator. The upstairs floor is old school Vegas, downstairs is high energy. Something for everyone.

“We had to get away from the Fitzgerald’s name,” Stevens said. “We wanted to be current with the LED world of today’s Las Vegas, while also going old school to give our customers a choice of playing a lot less electronic slots.”

Stevens felt there was much potential in a renovated Fitzgerald’s provided enough money was put into that.

“You are seeing a re-invigoration of the whole downtown,” Stevens said. “Between Smith Center, the new City Hall, Zappos, Fremont East, it’s a lot busier on Fremont Street seven days a week now.

“I talked with Tilman Fertitta at the Golden Nugget and saw what the guys have done at the El Cortez,” Stevens continued. “We don’t compete with others downtown. This is only five percent of the Las Vegas market. We want to be a big part of something exciting happening downtown.”

And there’s plenty going on behind the scenes at the D. By fall there will be an outside bar Stevens calls, “one of the most spectacular anyone has ever seen.”

More than any other downtown property, the D has taken advantage of the Fremont Experience light show now featuring a lavish Bon Jovi tribute. “Well, we’re paying a lot more of the monthly dues, I’ll tell you that,” Stevens quipped.

The hotel rooms are being remodeled two floors at a time and there’s  a brand new façade to the outside of D. Stevens intends to have the D completely re-done around Labor Day, just before the start of the NFL season.

“We’re glad to have William Hill associated with our sports book,” he said. “It gives us more opportunity to offer a wider range of wagers.”

The Long Bar, located on the first floor, has been open for several months and is a focal point for the high energy Stevens wants customers to see when they first enter the property.

“The fact that we have the ability to create two distinct themes within one property is an exciting challenge,” he said. “Sigma Derby was my personal favorite and the best way to preserve the vintage charm Las Vegas is known for. I think Vegas lost a little bit of character with all the modern technology. I’m glad to have both at the D.”