Casinos boost Vegas action

Nov 12, 2002 7:49 AM

   Two new casinos are set to open in the next two months with the best wishes of state regulators.

   The Cannery plans to debut on Jan. 3, breaking into the fast-growing North Las Vegas market. Veteran casino exec Bill Paulos says his “events-based facility” will feature a festival atmosphere that will kick off the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.

   The closest casino to the Las Vegas Speedway and Nellis Air Force Base, the Cannery also figures to tap the growing locals market. Some 8,000 homes are under construction or planned within a two-mile radius of its Craig and Losee road location.

   “Your business plan is well thought out. It looks like you’re trying to create a new market here,’’ said gaming control board chairman Dennis Neilander.

   Jim Dickstein, a former Palace Station exec, will be general manager of the hotel-casino. Marlin Smith will be director of security.

   Off the Strip, the casino at the new Tuscany resort is scheduled to open Dec. 13. Located on East Flamingo Road near Hughes Center, the 716 all-suite property caters mainly to business and high-end leisure travelers. Its new 60,000-square-foot casino will offer 800 slots and table games.

   Tuscany is a dream come true for Charles Marion Heers, who first applied for a gaming license in 1988. He first came to Nevada in the 1950s and leased 29 acres at the southwest corner of Spring Mountain Road and Las Vegas Boulevard.

   “But I had to let it go. Those were the mob days and I couldn’t get financing,’’ he recalls.

   Now sinking more than $10 million of his own money into the $32 million Tuscany, Heers has finally arrived.

   “Like it says in the song, you did it your way,’’ Neilander noted.

   Bruce Fraser, a Boyd Gaming veteran, will be general manager.

   Up north, another casino opening is slated for later this month. The Golden Phoenix — the reincarnation of the old Flamingo Hilton in Reno — has been renovated by Ally and Amin Visram, owners of Vista Holdings LLC. The Uganda nationals, specialists in turning around hotel properties, plan to offer 750 slots and table games.

   Financing for the Reno venture — as well as a $48 million stake in the Cannery — came from Vestin Mortgage. That prompted board member Scott Scherer to recommend that the Las Vegas financial firm file an application for suitability as a lender.

   In another new development, Westward Ho plans to erect a separate gaming facility behind its 30-year-old Strip property. A convenience store, gas station, bar, deli and 200-slot casino would be built on Industrial Road — adding to the 36 structures already on the property.

   Such a free-standing expansion would normally require a new gaming license, but the board recommended approval on Westward Ho’s current license since the new structure will be connected to one of the existing buildings. Because that connection won’t be directly to the casino, however, such approval would be precedent-setting.

   The board also recommended approval of a series of personnel moves, including:


”¡ Thomas Michael Jenkin as senior vice president of Harrah’s Southern Nevada operations. Jenkin, who started his career in 1975 as a fry cook at the Holiday Casino, will be general manager of Harrah’s Las Vegas, Harrah’s Laughlin and the Rio.


”¡ Carol Taylor-Malmstedt as vice president of internal audit of Harrah’s Entertainment.


”¡ William Earl Keena as general manager of Harrah’s St. Louis.


”¡ John Robert Hastings as general manager of the Pioneer Hotel in Laughlin.


”¡ Susan George Murphy as general manager of Ramada Express in Laughlin.


”¡ Terri Pam Porcaro as vice president and general manager of Mandalay Bay.


”¡ Lynn Francis Wiesner as trustee of Wiesner Gaming Trust. Wife of the late Tom Wiesner, Lynn and her son, Kurt, will maintain control of the Big Dog’s Hospitality Group. Kurt Wiesner will serve as general manager.

   All actions require final approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission, which meets Nov. 20-21 in Las Vegas.