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Fremont Street says goodbye to trio of 'vintage Vegas' properties

23 May 2016

By Eric Maupin
LAS VEGAS -- Finding history in a city like Las Vegas — one that's constantly trying to modernize — is becoming more and more difficult. The Stardust Resort and Casino, the Riviera Hotel and Casino, and the Sahara Hotel and Casino are just a few of the vintage Strip properties that have been demolished or closed to make way for something more innovative, hip and happening.

This trend has also begun to hit Las Vegas' historic downtown district. The latest properties to announce official closing dates are Mermaids Casino, La Bayou and Girls of Glitter Gulch, which will all shut down on June 27. Granite Gaming Group is handing the keys over to Derek Stevens, owner of The D Las Vegas and several other Vegas properties, for an undisclosed amount of cash.

Vegas Vickie and the Girls of Glitter Gulch will officially close on June 27, along with Mermaids Casino and La Bayou.

Vegas Vickie and the Girls of Glitter Gulch will officially close on June 27, along with Mermaids Casino and La Bayou. (photo by Granite Gaming Group)

Each of these downtown mainstays is unique, and they have helped shape Fremont Street as we know it. Stevens' exact plans are unknown, but rumor has it he'll be making them into boutique-style casinos like we see at The Cromwell and SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on the Strip. The architecture of the buildings will most likely be changed, and the few alleyways that separate the properties will be connected to the other venues Stevens owns.

Granite Gaming Group's Rudy Nino feels particularly bittersweet about the acquisition. The charismatic 67-year-old has been a Las Vegas local since 1961 and got his start working as a blackjack dealer at Mermaids in 1974, when it was called the Sundance West, only to come back 34 years later as general manager.

After an initial shock, Nino is almost at peace with the buyout. He loves his job and will never forget the lasting memories working at Granite Gaming. He's considering the possibility of retirement, but isn't ruling out a return to the gaming business. He has even offered his services to work as a host at The D.

"My plans are to take a little time off after we close," he told Casino City. "Then back to work, hopefully back in the downtown area. I really believe downtown has a lot to offer tourists."

Before saying goodbye to the three iconic Fremont Street properties next month, Nino helped us take a look back at their history and explained why each would be missed:

Mermaids Casino is renowned for its deep-fried Oreos.

Mermaids Casino is renowned for its deep-fried Oreos.

Mermaids Casino: Mermaids, formerly Silver Palace and Sassy Sally's, a place best known for its delicious deep-fried foods.

"Deep-fried Twinkies and Oreo cookies, along with the Nathan's hot dogs, are a big draw," Nino said. "Customers love them, along with all the beads we give out at the door and the drawing tickets for a chance to win up to 10 grand every half hour."

The casino's world-famous Islander Daiquiris are the most authentic available on Fremont Street and are handmade daily from old recipes. There are always a few girls at the entrance to greet guests with party beads and coupons. This slot casino has prided itself on its great drinks and affordable food, and will be missed by locals. The workers seem more like family than employees. To stay in competition with other properties on Fremont, Mermaids has made a point of providing quality customer service, low prices and loose slots.

La Bayou: A Louisiana-themed slot casino across the street from Mermaids, La Bayou has changed names a number of times. The property went from being the Las Vegas Coffee House to Northern Club in March 1931, when it received the state's first gaming license. It went on to become Coin Castle and the Monte Carlo Club before the name was finally changed to La Bayou in 1999.

Upon entering, customers are greeted by friendly showgirls handing out coupons for drinks. La Bayou is also the only Las Vegas casino that still pays out in actual coins, not cash vouchers. Hand pays are required for bigger jackpots, of course, but the thrill of getting flooded with coins while playing the slot machines still attracts many tourists. It may not be the biggest or flashiest casino on Fremont Street, but it certainly stands out from the rest with its old-fashioned casino architecture.

The Louisiana-themed La Bayou is also the only Las Vegas casino that still pays out in actual coins, not cash vouchers.

The Louisiana-themed La Bayou is also the only Las Vegas casino that still pays out in actual coins, not cash vouchers.

"A lot of tourists love that real-coin feel. La Bayou has increased in revenue due to the fact that Mermaids went to ticket in, ticket out," Nino explained. "We still have our customers coming in at Mermaids asking about all-coin machines, and we send the over to La Bayou."

Girls of Glitter Gulch: The only gentleman's club in Sin City that's near major casinos and tourist attractions, Glitter Gulch underwent a $3.5 million renovation in 2007. The famous neon cowgirl sign, Vegas Vickie, sits above the building, across the street from her "husband," Vegas Vic. The two were "married" in 1994 during the construction of Fremont Street, when they ended up next to each other.

"Glitter Gulch needs more supervision since the crowd can get a little wild," Nino said. "There's occasionally disputes from guests on how much the dances cost, but we have tent-top signs throughout the club to remind them. I tell the girls to get the money up front so there's no problems."

While many tourists still enjoy the flashing neon lights, cheap drinks, traditional slots and 1960s flair that Fremont Street has to offer, the number of venues with such nostalgic attributes is diminishing. A large portion of Fremont Street now belongs to Stevens, and the days of "mom and pop" joints like La Bayou, Mermaids and Girls of Glitter Gulch in this historic region of the city seem on their way to becoming a distant memory.
 

The Park readies for next week's unveiling on Las Vegas Strip

28 March 2016
Las Vegas has earned a reputation for modern architecture, flashy lights and skyscraper casinos. However, within this concrete jungle, natural elements seem to be missing. While the Bellagio has its famous Botanical Garden, that's inside a casino. Building a park on the Las Vegas Strip could be perceived as ... (read more)
 

Top 10 reasons Las Vegas should have a professional sports franchise

4 March 2016
Sports fans who live in Las Vegas have been dying to have a professional sports franchise come to "Sin City." The people who make Southern Nevada their home are die-hard NHL and NBA fans but have no professional team yet to call their own. The $375 million T-Mobile Arena, which is scheduled to open in early April, could be an epic venue for these sports. ... (read more)
Eric Maupin
Eric has lived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas for 12 years. He recently graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with degree in liberal arts. As a freelance writer, he has written many articles about Las Vegas nightlife, restaurants, hotels, museums and gambling strategies.

He spends his spare time traveling to new countries, meeting tourists on the Strip and taking advantage of what Las Vegas has to offer. It’s not uncommon for him to spend time at blackjack tables or at a sports book when he’s not writing. As a Southern California native, he has weakness for the beach and great West Coast sport rivalries.
Eric Maupin
Eric has lived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas for 12 years. He recently graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with degree in liberal arts. As a freelance writer, he has written many articles about Las Vegas nightlife, restaurants, hotels, museums and gambling strategies.

He spends his spare time traveling to new countries, meeting tourists on the Strip and taking advantage of what Las Vegas has to offer. It’s not uncommon for him to spend time at blackjack tables or at a sports book when he’s not writing. As a Southern California native, he has weakness for the beach and great West Coast sport rivalries.