Call Derek Stevens D-termined
March 01, 2016 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
A year ago during March Madness, Derek Stevens, the CEO and owner of the D Las Vegas hotel and casino, received national exposure when he made a bet that would have paid $1 million if Michigan State won two more games to take the national championship.
Stevens, a Michigan native, doesn’t plan to back the Spartans again this time with the tournament fast approaching.
“Not that I don’t like them,” he said. “I like them more than I liked them last year. The difference is the fact last year I was able to get 50-1 (at Golden Nugget). Right now they’re at 6-1.”
Stevens confirmed he got back his $20,000 initial wager by hedging it with a money-line bet on Duke to beat Michigan State in the Final Four. The Blue Devils rolled to an easy victory and went on to become national champs.
“It came out literally to not a penny difference,” he said. Call it even Stevens but with a lot of free publicity along the way.
Besides the D, Stevens and his brother, Greg, also own another downtown hotel and casino, Golden Gate, which they first bought into a decade ago.
Derek often can be seen hanging out with the people watching sports at the popular Long Bar at the D.
Despite that Michigan State bet, he actually went to the University of Michigan for undergrad before moving to downtown Detroit while attending night school to earn his M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) from Wayne State.
Stevens, now 48, was also working an early shift for a family-owned automotive parts supplier at the time. It was the financial success of that business that led to buying a casino.
“Back then I worked at 6 a.m. and went home at 11 p.m.,” Stevens said. “I did that for a long time. I was working 3,500 to 4,000 hours a year for 15 years or so.
“I love working. I love being around teams and building teams.”
While Stevens is the man out front, he gives credit to his brother for a behind-the-scenes role.
“In many of our meetings, he’s the guy at the head of the table,” Derek said of Greg. “I don’t say too much when it comes to some of the design issues and construction and renovation. He’s a civil engineer. He’s been the critical guy on all these projects.
“I would say we take leads in different areas. I don’t have that much interest in what he focuses on and I know it’s the same for him with me.”
Both brothers still have homes in Michigan. Derek said he goes back and forth every couple of weeks or so.
About 12 years ago, he became concerned about the future of the automobile industry back in Detroit.
“I wanted to diversify a bit,” he said. “I’d come here for conventions and I’d come here for pleasure. I’ve always liked Vegas. I’ve always liked math.
“One of the things that put me over the top is Nevada doesn’t have an income tax. That was a big driver.”
It was after he got involved that Golden Gate opened the first outdoor bar in downtown. That has since become a popular attraction for many properties to help liven up the Fremont Street Experience.
While the D (previously known as Fitzgerald’s) was given a complete makeover, Stevens said the smaller Golden Gate has actually undergone even more renovation projects.
One of his top priorities lately has been to bring more events to the area to make sure there’s always something exciting going on for visitors.
Stevens purchased the old Clark County courthouse, demolished it and has turned it into the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, which is located adjacent to the D.
He estimated that as many as 70 events (concerts, fights, etc.) will be held there this year compared to about 25 or so last year when they were just getting started.
The lineup includes eight fight cards dubbed “Knockout Night at the D,” which begins March 12 with five-time champion Zab Judah’s return to the ring.
Stevens went so far as to send out a message on Twitter to hip-hop artist Kanye West, suggesting he come to Vegas and perform at the events center, after West tweeted he was millions in debt.
Stevens’ message: “IDEA @kanyewest Concert in Downtown #Vegas @DLVEC You keep all ticket rev, knock down debt, we take beverage. Venue holds 10K @theDlasvegas.”
“That was just some fun,” said Stevens, who hasn’t received a reply.
Dave Dye is a former sportswriter for the Detroit News and FoxSportsDetroit.com. He has covered six Stanley Cup Finals, five Final Fours, three NBA Finals, three Rose Bowls and one World Series. Email: DaveDye@GamingToday.com.