You could kid the boss Jeffrey Smith that Lake Mead Lounge & Casino is the gateway to MonteLago, but he’ll have the last laugh.
"We do get a lot of MonteLago’s workers in here to relax and have fun," said Smith, who at 29 is director of operations at Lake Mead Casino with nine years of experience in the resort industry. "Our guests have been coming here for years. This is a very local casino."
So local, in fact, that some regular patrons aren’t aware that Lake Mead is part of the growing Station Casinos properties and that its Player’s Club cards are honored at nearby Gold Rush, Wildfire Boulder and Barleys.
"Our customers were used to the way our casino had been for years so it took some adjustment to the player’s tracking club program," Smith said. "Now it has been received very well."
Lake Mead Casino started as a grocery store 30 years ago with the only exterior change being a paint job from the original off-white color. The structure has a huge parking lot, but it’s rarely full because most of the patrons simply walk over.
As we said, this is as a local as you will find.
"Yes, just down to earth guests who like a pitcher of beer, a pizza and sitting at the bar playing some video poker," said Smith, who sees his Mississippi roots blending in with the laidback, homespun environment. "We’re like the old show ‘Cheers.’ Everybody knows each other."
Lake Mead Casino is so tight that Smith hasn’t hired anyone since he’s been there, which is over nine months.
"We have a staff of 15 and everyone stays," Smith said. "We’ve had people here for 10 to 15 years. I post the job listings on my bulletin board all the time , but nobody pays much attention. Working here is a great experience. Lots of us come to work a few hours early just to kick back."
From a gaming standpoint, Lake Mead Casino is all slots and video poker – the game of choice for a crowd that ranges in age from 40 to 65.
"We just reduced from 77 to 75 slots," Smith said. "Poker machines are definitely the most popular. Our guests are usually on a budget so they like video poker and keno. They want some reasonable denomination games, like penny slots. No race and sports book here. Our crowd would rather play the machines."
The facility, located on the south side of the Lake Mead Blvd just past the intersection of Lake Mead Blvd and Boulder Highway, can hold 145 people. Plus there is a lounge behind the casino that’s used for parties and karaoke.
The remodeled restaurant has some of the best specials in Vegas.
"We have a lot of unbelievable deals," Smith said. "There is a huge $2.99 half-pound burger with fries, a $1.99 breakfast special with toast, eggs, hash browns and sausage or bacon. Also we have a $5.99 spaghetti deal and a 14-inch large one topping pizza for $5."
Smith’s biggest challenge since taking over last June is attracting more customers to a venue that can be intimidating.
"A lot of people tell me they at first think this looks like a rough place," Smith said. "But then they realize just how wrong they were. Once you come here, you come back."
One final perk is the laundromat.
"We keep it open for guests each Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m, and it gets good use." Smith said. "People will bring truck loads of clothes."
If you are in the area, notice the rotating marquee off the road.
"I’m thinking of putting on the roof one of those huge figures with the moving hands to welcome folks here," he said. "If you want a really comfortable place to come, this is it."