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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

After 34 Years, a Familiar Face Leaves the Strip

10 January 2006

It's been a bad few years for Monopoly names in Las Vegas. First Park Place Entertainment Corp. changed its name to the more marketable Caesars Entertainment, only to be swallowed by Harrah's Entertainment in 2005. Then the Boardwalk closed its doors at noon Monday to make way for a $5 billion-plus resort, hotel and condominium complex called Project CityCenter.

No Monopoly-named properties are left in Las Vegas -- unless you count New York-New York as a stand-in for New York Avenue.

1) Boardwalk founder Norbert "Norm" Jansen used money from his Pioneer Club in downtown Las Vegas in the 1960s to open a gift shop at the site of the former Holiday Inn on the Strip in 1972. In 1977, he added 15 slot machines. After acquiring the Holiday Inn, his Boardwalk Casino Inc. went public in 1994 and spent $80 million on a carnival-themed facade, 451-room hotel tower and 33,000-square-foot casino.

The old-school property is a thing of the past amid today's megamergers and luxury resorts.

"It's really a bygone era," UNLV Gaming Studies Research Center Director David Schwartz said.

2) Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts bought the Boardwalk in 1997 and owned it for three years. MGM Mirage picked up the Boardwalk when it acquired Mirage Resorts from Wynn in 2000. MGM Mirage originally planned to build a megaresort at the Boardwalk site catering to "Generation X" customers" and even considered a Cirque du Soleil-themed property.

3) The man who would end up with the Boardwalk was also a good friend of Jansen. MGM Mirage Chief Executive Terry Lanni and Jansen shared an interest in breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. "He didn't talk about himself that much," Lanni said. "About 95 percent of our conversations were about horses. It was an escape for both of us." They often shared "very bad tips" on horses while frequenting the Del Mar racetrack in Southern California, a favorite hangout, Lanni recalled.

4) Longtime customers remember the deals offered at the Boardwalk, which used to feature free spreads for "Monday Night Football," dollar spaghetti dinners and even doughnuts made on site. In the 1990s you could buy a dozen doughnuts for 99 cents. The spreads would attract "all kinds, from rich people to squirrelly people off the street," one customer said. Others remember ads for the Boardwalk's Surf Buffet featuring boxer Butterbean Esch and a filling dish known as "hobo stew."

5) Those interested in buying the property's remnants and relics can bid at a public auction Jan. 21 at the Boardwalk.