New and improved Las Vegas downtown drive worth taking

Sep 18, 2012 3:00 AM

There have been quite a few news stories in recent months touting the new and improved Downtown Las Vegas. Since we hadn’t been there in a while, we decided to drive down and see for ourselves.

We conveniently valet parked at the Plaza, which is at the west end of Fremont Street, and spent the next four hours wandering in and out of casinos, up one side of the street and down the other.

Fremont Street was bustling. Of course the ongoing fiesta celebrating Mexican Independence Day was a big contributor to the crowd. It was fun to see all the brightly colored costumes and watch the dancers and singers perform on the outdoor stages set up in the street. The entertainment seemed to be non-stop, keeping us in the party mood.

Overhead, patrons of the Flightlinez zip line whizzed by at a steady pace giggling and screaming with excitement. The prices are reasonable ($15 before 6 p.m., $20 after 6 p.m.) and we were tempted to give it a whirl. However, the line was long so we put it on our list of things to do next time.

But the crowd was not just on the street, as it has been during past visits. The casinos were doing a brisk business. Slot machines seemed to be busier than usual, with loud dings, rings and buzzes announcing payouts of various sizes. And there were a lot of tables dealing blackjack, mostly with a $5 minimum bet.

Surprisingly, there were one or two active craps tables in nearly every casino. Even more surprising was the number of players rolling the bones who appeared to be under 40. For a number of years the game of craps seemed to have lost its appeal with bettors. Perhaps it’s on the upswing again.

In fact, we noticed that a good portion of the casino crowd consisted of the 30-something set. This was a well-dressed, Mid-America crowd, both young and old. Tattoos, strange hair colors, body piercings and over-size jewelry were at a minimum.

Another thing we noticed was a fresher looking downtown. The streets were not littered and buildings looked cleaner. Inside the casinos it was obvious some sprucing up has taken place, too, with new carpeting, fresh paint and re-done wall coverings. Best of all, the smell of stale cigarettes was missing!

All in all, it seems like things are looking up for downtown.

ASIAN DELIGHT: We always enjoy mentioning the smaller eating establishments that often fly beneath the radar. Friends report getting special delight from their evening at David Wong’s Pan Asia, located on Durango Drive between Desert Inn and Sahara.

Wong’s combination of various types of Asian cuisine, including Japanese, Thai and Chinese, makes this a unique experience. Wong and his wife, Chef Lisa, roast their own chili peppers (that makes our mouth water) and you can order “heat” on a scale of 1 to 10. Three is about all our friends could handle. Knowing that Asian “heat” is different from Italian “heat” we’re not sure we’d get too high on the scale either.

The restaurant is casual, affordable, and well worth the visit.

CONGRATS! The American Numismatic Association awarded Medals of Merit to two members of the Casino Chip & Gaming Token Collectors Club, Inc. (CCGTCC), the world’s largest club of collectors of casino memorabilia. Mark Lighterman and his mother Myrna Lighterman, who have dedicated years of service to the ANA and the promotion of the hobby, were recognized during an August awards ceremony at the World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia.

GO BILLS! Business partner Bob Mann, who also hails from Western New York State, continues to tout the skills of the Buffalo Bills to us, with hopes they will have a good season. He says even though the team faltered against the Jets in Week 1, they bounced back against the Chiefs on Sunday. This week they face their Great Lakes neighbor the Cleveland Browns and Bob is ready to put his money down.

We’re sure he’s reminiscing too much about the glory days of the mid-60s and longs for their return. Who doesn’t?

“Besides,” says Bob, “you have to love a team that played in a stadium called the ‘Rockpile.’ We can still picture the old ‘War Memorial Stadium’ (its official name). It’s gone but not forgotten.”

We agree with that.

See you around town.

Eileen DiRocco is the owner and publisher of GamingToday, the bible for gaming news “you can bet on.” Contact Eileen at [email protected].

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