New Wildfire Casino replaces Ernie’s

Dec 31, 2001 11:13 PM

A longtime hangout for after-hours casino workers will be demolished on Thursday to make room for a parking lot for its replacement.

Ernie’s Bar on north Rancho Road will feel the wrecking ball just a week after Wildfire Casino opened its doors. The new casino, just a few feet from the old one, opened with 220 slot and video poker machines, five blackjack tables, a walk-up sports book and a drive-through window connecting sports books clerks with outside bettors.

Ernie’s, originally built in 1958 as the Buckhorn, had gained favor with locals who often stopped on the drive to and from the Nevada Test Site, and later with casino workers who gathered to bend an elbow after their shifts were through.

Over the years, Ernie’s added a kitchen that served sandwiches and light comfort foods, and 85 slot machines.

The bar was purchased from Mel Wolzinger by John Bauchman and his brother James in 1999. Since then they’ve invested more than $10 million into building the Wildfire.

Although located just a few blocks from Texas Station and the Fiesta hotel-casinos, Wildfire’s owners hope to attract locals who want a more intimate environment in which to gamble.

John Bauchman said his customers can expect personal service, easy access to the casino and popular games.

He also pointed out that among the 130 full- and part-time employees (there were 32 employees at Ernie’s), most of them had been previously laid off from Las Vegas casino jobs.