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Gritty Western Casino Survives in 'Underbelly' of Las Vegas

30 June 2004

LAS VEGAS -- As reported by the Associated Press: ``On a stretch of despair that tourists in Las Vegas seldom see, the Western Hotel-Casino stands out as a beacon for the broke and nearly broken.

"With their crumpled dollars and gloomy gait, they stumble in off Fremont Street through the wide, doorless entrance, beckoned by the sounds of penny slot machines and cheap table games.

"The Western is a poor man's dream, a downtown casino where sad Las Vegas cliches collide.

"There is no uniformed valet parking Porsches here. Instead they come on foot, in beat-up cars and wobbly bicycles. For many, it's been a short journey to the Western.

"The boxy structure is planted among a slew of low-income houses and budget motels -- the Downtowner, the Uptown and the incongruous Lucky. The Western feeds from one of the city's bleakest ZIP codes, stained by high poverty and unemployment rates.

"Inside they gamble, pouring nickels and quarters down the throats of always hungry machines.

"…But for $23.98 and the proper identification, a guest can get a clean room. Patrons, however, may not check out until a security guard has completed an inspection of the room.

"…Mary Bellman, who was breathing from an oxygen tank while playing a slot machine, said the Western gets a bad rap.

"…Barrick Gaming Corp. bought the Western and three other older downtown casinos and intends to revamp them..."

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