MonteLago to close

Mar 16, 2010 5:37 PM

About a month ago it was announced that Casino MonteLago at Lake Las Vegas would close March 14. Since we’d never been there, we put it on our list of places to go, but didn’t seem to find the time. Suddenly, it was March 14 and our last day to visit this small gaming establishment.

A quick look at the Directions page of their website gives clear instructions for finding the casino from the Strip and several other locations. But, the only reference to mileage is a parenthetical note indicating the entrance to Lake Las Vegas Resorts is "approximately 7 miles from freeway ending." (According to MapQuest, the trip from Caesars Palace to CML, using the freeway, is nearly 21 miles and 29 minutes.)

Not a big fan of freeways, we decided to ignore that route and headed south on Las Vegas Boulevard. As we turned left onto Sunset Road we reset the trip odometer to zero. Continuing on to Boulder Highway, and then Lake Mead Parkway, we pulled into CML’s driveway 18.5 miles and 34 minutes later. Along the way, we did not see one single sign about either the casino or the resort.

Parking in the garage we took the elevator to the casino level, noting a hallway that offers a convenient connection to the Ritz-Carlton hotel (set to close May 2).

The casino, with a 17th century Tuscan winery motif, is small by Vegas standards (only 40,000 square feet) and offers mostly slot machines (over 600 of them). We counted 14 people at the slots. There were several table games open, but no one was playing.

We walked all around, but did not see the sports book we knew was there so we asked an employee who said, "It’s upstairs in Tappo Lounge." Although it was already closed, we went up to take a look. It seemed like a nice place to watch a game or two, with a bar, table seating and an ample number of TV screens. But the book was like an after thought, a small counter tucked into a nook at one end of the lounge and not visible from below.

We’d seen all there was to see in this boutique casino built to cater to visitors who came to enjoy the amenities of Lake Las Vegas Resorts and the upper middle class residents who would live in the tony homes to be built around the man-made lake created in 1990. (Sadly, less than 20% of the 9,000 planned residences for the 3,600-acre master-planned community have been built.)

Looking for happier scenery, we exited the casino to the streets and shops of MonteLago Village, a delightful, Mediterranean-like town on the shore of the lake. The sun was shining brightly and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering in and out of these unique stores. Items were not priced for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for one-of-a-kind, hand-made home furnishings, art, jewelry or knick-knacks, this is the place.

There were also plenty of eateries to choose from, including Sonrisa Grill (Mexican), Auld Dubliner (doing a rousing business with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner), Bernard’s Bistro (French cuisine), Black Pepper Grill (steak/seafood) and Luna Rossa (Italian). There was ample outdoor seating at all the restaurants, but it was a little windy, so we did our lake-view dining from inside, opting for Italian (of course).

After a delicious grilled vegetable Panini with broccoli soup (moderately priced at $9.95) we just had to stop at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a small taste of dessert (not as moderately priced, but very good).

We chatted with the wait staff at the restaurant who didn’t think the casino closing would have an affect on them. They get their clientele mostly from the hotels. (In addition to the Ritz-Carlton there is also Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort and MonteLago Village Resort.)

By 3 o’clock, a five-piece Irish band was playing in the plaza outside Auld Dubliner and people were starting to gather. A food stand offered bratwurst with sauerkraut or roasted peppers, and macaroni salad for $6 (not so Irish), and $5 drafts of Harp Lager, Guinness Beer or Smithwick’s Ale (all very Irish).

As we did a little jig down the street we stopped at the Sixth Sense Bookstore, which offers New Age reading material and gifts, along with life psychic readings. The old lady sitting in the rocking chair in the corner asked if we came for a reading. We told her we were just browsing and as we looked at a number of items the woman chatted with us a bit. We wondered what she thought would happen to the village after the casino and hotel closed.

"Nobody knows," she said. "We’ll just have to wait and see."

See you around town.