New deals set to pump up Glitter Gulch

Dec 17, 2002 7:12 AM

   A series of multimillion-dollar investments are pumping up Downtown.

   Barrick Gaming Corp.’s $82 million buyout of Jackie Gaughan’s Plaza, Western, Gold Spike and Las Vegas Club marks the beginning of an acquisition play, sources tell GamingToday.

   Barrick is reportedly eyeing several additional Downtown parcels near those properties for future purchase

   Meantime, the sprawling Chelsea Mall and New World Center are under construction on the old Union Pacific property just west of the Plaza. They are expected to attract an estimated 9 million more visitors to Downtown annually.

   “With Oscar [Goodman] at the helm as mayor, things look very, very good for Downtown,’’ says David Atwood, president of Resort Properties of America. “He’s an engineer, a driver.’’

   Atwood, a longtime observer of the Downtown scene, calls Barrick’s purchase “an excellent buy. There are tremendous opportunities for development and co-venturing,’’ he said.

   The Henry Brent Co.’s recent acquisition of the Lady Luck is also seen as a positive. And tavern owner Terry Caudill’s long-pending deal for the Four Queens is said to be back on track.

   Though gaming revenues continue to slump Downtown, Atwood and others say the new gaming and non-gaming ventures will bring renewed energy and profitability to the area. Insiders report that there is now serious talk of a high-rise residential complex for the Union Pacific land and other amenities to draw tourists.

   Barrick, which also has an option to buy Gaughan’s El Cortez hotel-casino, partnered with Station Casinos’ riverboat in Kansas City, Mo., and was involved in the start-up of Casino Magic in Tunica, Miss., among others. Its CEO is D.W. Barrick, who is unrelated to the Canada-based Barrick Mining Corp.

   In Las Vegas, Barrick vows to become a major player Downtown. Phil Flaherty, the company’s chief gaming officer and a former Desert Inn exec, says his firm is committed to waging a more aggressive marketing campaign designed to draw traffic up from the Strip.

   Likewise, Caudill has pledged to refurbish and upgrade the Four Queens, which has been registering positive cash flow of late.

    “It’s happening,’’ Atwood says of Downtown’s renaissance. “You just don’t hear much about it.’’

   Meantime, Goodman is doing what he can to drum up enthusiasm down on Glitter Gulch. Last week, he helped launch the Plaza’s “Dinner and a Movie” program that offers free show passes to diners at the casino’s Center Stage Restaurant.

   The promotion is running in conjunction with Crown Theaters’ Neonopolis 14 multiplex.

   “Neonopolis is a beautiful facility for our local residents and visitors,’’ said Plaza exec Mike Nolan. “We’re re-creating the great tradition of an evening out with ”˜Dinner and a Movie.’ We have plenty of free parking available in our garage or through valet. Guests can conveniently park here at the Plaza, have dinner and then take a shuttle to see a movie at Neonopolis.’’

   The Plaza’s Center Stage Restaurant offers affordable fine dining nightly from 4:30 p.m., with live piano music, a cocktail lounge and an up-close view of the Fremont Street Experience.