Cannery sees ‘dumb’
location pay off big

Jul 6, 2004 6:46 AM

The Cannery opened 17 months ago in the middle of a warehouse district on the fringes of North Las Vegas.

A dumb location to invest $100 million?

Bill Wortman just smiles. He and Bill Paulos and Bob Mendenhall (the Millennium Management Group) are ready to pump another $40 million into the 201-room casino-hotel. Think location, location, location.

It’s a couple minutes’ drive off the Interstate 15 exit to Nellis Air Force Base, one exit down from the Las Vegas Speedway, one exit up from U.S. Department of Energy offices, four exits from downtown Las Vegas.

"There’s a 1,900-acre master-planned Aliente community being built nearby," Wortman says, "and a tremendous number of developers right around there. It’s the fastest growing Zip code and one of the fastest growing areas in America — and this whole area is going to expand."

The three owners should know. Mendenhall’s Las Vegas Paving builds streets and highways. He’s been in town since the ’60s. Paulos bossed construction of the Excalibur (1989) and the Luxor (1993). Wortman graduated from Las Vegas High School (’74) and then graduated from UNLV with Paulos. Wortman became CEO at the Luxor when Paulos finished building it. The twosome then were the first operators of the Greektown Casino in Detroit.

Construction starts this month on the Cannery casino expansion (15,000 square feet, for a total of 65,000 square feet) — space to add to its 1,265 slots and 21 table games. A parking garage adds to this part of the project. After that, there’ll be a 14-screen movie theater.

Wortman owns the Nevada Palace on Boulder Highway. He and Paulos scooped up the posh Regent resort in September 2001 at a bargain-basement price. The $366 million Regent ended in bankruptcy court less than two years after its debut in Summerlin. The partners got it (541 rooms, 54 acres) for $80 million, far less than they’ve invested in the Cannery. (Mendenhall provided the Cannery land). Now called the Rampart Casino, the property is thriving.

The Millennium bosses haven’t done a population count for those living in an around the Cannery. "Growing too fast to be accurate," Wortman says. "But our customers are primarily locals. We have customers who travel farther to come to the Cannery (eight to 10 minutes away) because it’s unique. We have regulars who drive from Green Valley," a 20-plus minute commute.

The Cannery’s nearly 1,300 slots aren’t jammed together. "There’s good aisle space — more than most operators provide. We like our customers to be comfortable."

The casino has no proprietary slots, Paulos notes. "We have a wonderful collection of slots, a veritable potpourri." For slot club members, there are 5x points on slot play several times each week, and lots of promotional material available throughout the casino.

The buffets in many resorts try to do too much, Workman says. "The Cannery has three primary stations — American, Asian and Mediterranean — with a wide variety of those foods. All our food is prepared here. It doesn’t come in boxes. His buffet serves 1,700 to 1,800 diners a day, "more on weekends."

The Cannery’s Waverly Steak House has hired Tino Baglioni as maitre d’. He ran Antonio’s (Rio Suites).

Room occupancy rates are slack the first of the week (55%), jumping to 90% on Fridays, and full-up on weekends.

The entertainment schedule taps the ’70s-’80s audiences: Blood, Sweat & Tears; Glenn Frey (a founder of The Eagles), the Hotel California band.

"We have become a successful property because of the staff," Wortman says. "All of them have good attitudes. You can teach skills, but not attitudes."