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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Hacienda to remodel, become Hoover Dam Lodge

25 November 2013

The Hacienda Hotel and Casino near Boulder City will be renamed the Hoover Dam Lodge and the 289-room hotel-casino overlooking Lake Mead will close for a week over Christmas once its sale is finalized.

Nevada Restaurant Services, Inc., which operates more than 80 Dotty’s taverns statewide, announced plans for the renovation Friday.

The company agreed to buy the casino for an undisclosed sales price in August from a partnership that includes Michael Ensign, William Richardson and David Belding. The three men had been involved with casino operations in Nevada that were sold to the Mandalay Resort Group. Ensign is the father of former Nevada Republican U.S. Sen. John Ensign.

Nevada gaming regulators and the Clark County Commission are expected to weigh in on the sale next month.

In a statement, Nevada Restaurant Services Chief Executive Officer Craig Estey said the property would be remodeled. The name change reflects the casino’s proximity to Hoover Dam. The Hacienda is 2½ miles outside of Boulder City on U.S. Highway 93. Boulder City prohibits gaming within its city limits.

The 250 employees at the Hacienda were given 60-day plant closing notices under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act in October by property’s soon-to-be former owners. Nevada Restaurant Services acquired the hotel-casino, but not the corporation, which had employed the workers and is now going out of business.

Hacienda employees had to reapply for their jobs or apply for another job within the company, Michael Eide, chief operating officer of Nevadaa Restaurant Services said Friday.

Edie said the company has held two job fairs at the Hacienda and expects to begin interviewing employees for open positions on Dec. 2.

The Hacienda currently includes 19,000 square-feet of gaming space, meeting facilities, a gift shop and movie theaters. The sports book is operated by William Hill.

Edie said the plan is to close the Hacienda on Dec. 23 to install new slot machines and a casino management/player rewards system currently used by the Dotty’s taverns. The casino will reopen on Dec. 28 with 150 slot machines. Edie said Dotty’s customers will be able to use their players card at the Hacienda and Hacienda customers can earn points at Dotty’s taverns.

The Hoover Dam Lodge will offer restaurants, bars and slot machines machines, in addition to updated hotel rooms. Eide said live table games would be replaced by electronic versions of blackjack, craps and roulette.

Eide said the casino can operate up to 380 slot machines. The plan is to place a Dotty’s-style casino inside the property, as well a sports bar and a third gaming concept.

“Rather than closing down entirely for a six-month remodel, we will operate on a limited basis while simultaneously remodeling,” Estey said in a statement. “Although this requires a longer renovation period, it also allows the property to remain open for its regular customers and provides employment opportunities. We merely ask for everyone’s patience during the construction period.”

Eide said the property will reopen with a steakhouse and 24-hour coffee shop. The company is exploring other dining options for the property, which will become the first hotel-casino operated by Nevada Restaurant Services.

Dotty’s employs nearly 1,000 workers statewide, with the majority in Southern Nevada.

“The employees we hire for the Hacienda will be part of the Dotty’s organization,” Estey said. “In addition to promoting from within, our employees are offered health and other benefits, as well as the ability to transfer to locations throughout Clark County and to towns in Northern Nevada.”

The Hacienda was built on the site of the Gold Strike Casino, which was destroyed by a fire in 1998. The renamed hotel-casino opened 17 months later. The property is on an 11-acre site. The sale also includes 21 acres across the highway.

Estey created the Dotty’s business model in Oregon and brought the concept to Nevada in 1995.

However, the business came under fire from rival tavern operators and the Nevada Resort Association in late 2010. Foes said the operations were nothing more than a glorified slot machine parlor, offering snack food and minimal alcohol while focusing solely on gaming.

In 2011, the Nevada Gaming Commission amended regulations governing taverns, requiring Dotty’s and similar small businesses with gaming to have a nine-seat bar, 2,000 square feet of public space and a kitchen operating at least half the time the business is open.

Clark County enacted changes in tavern laws to ensure that gaming is an incidental part of the business model, as opposed to being the key source of revenues.

In addition to the tavern business, Dotty’s is the slot machine route operator for gaming areas inside Nevada-based Food 4 Less and Kmart stores.