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Gold Coast celebrates 25th anniversary in Vegas

23 December 2011

By Caitlin McGarry

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Twenty-five years ago, before Las Vegas residents began moving to Summerlin and the city skyline changed with construction of the Stratosphere, the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino rose in the middle of the desert.

It was part of the early wave of locals casinos, after Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall on Boulder Highway. Most of the city's residents lived on what is now the east side of town, and the area west of Las Vegas Boulevard still felt like ranchers' land.

So Michael Gaughan gave the first casino he built a Western gambling hall theme.

"The Gold Coast was the beginning of a trend to start building on the west side," said Bill Boyd, whose company, Boyd Gaming Corp., bought the Gold Coast in 2004. "Now we have The Orleans, the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, the Suncoast Hotel and Casino. I think it started a trend that has become very significant in our history."

Little could Gaughan have guessed that less than 10 years after opening the Gold Coast, an Asian shopping center would open down the street, the first sign of rapid changes to come in the area's demographic and the casino's clientele.

Gold Coast Vice President and General Manager Kerrie Burke said the casino is "a melting pot of various diverse groups" in its 25th year. The Asian customer base is large, drawn by the casino's proximity to the growing Chinatown neighborhood, its Chinese restaurants (Ping Pang Pong and Noodle Exchange) and annual Chinese New Year celebrations.

The Gold Coast embraced its neighborhood, advertising the property with Chinese billboards and adding Asian-themed amenities.

But the property still attracts its fair share of cowboys, particularly during the recent National Finals Rodeo (which Boyd Gaming sponsors), as well as the Latino market, for which the property hosts Latin-themed dance nights on Saturdays.

More than just the customer base has evolved. The casino's interiors were revamped in 2002, and Burke said the property plans to resume its hotel room remodeling project, which was put on hold in 2007, next summer.

"From the outside, we look the same as we did 25 years ago," Burke said. "The facade has not changed a lot. On the inside, it's changed a whole bunch. It's new; it's still equally as entertaining."

And when the economy improves, Boyd said, the company may decide to expand the Gold Coast.

"When the economy would dictate and our customers tell us, we would expand it and make it a greater property and larger with more amenities than it has today," Boyd said.

Gaughan sold his Coast Casinos, and with it the Gold Coast, to Boyd Gaming Corp. in 2004.

The emphasis on locals and family that Gaughan was known for didn't change with the ownership transition, said 25-year Gold Coast employee Marty Hernandez.

Hernandez, now a swing shift security supervisor, began working in the casino's security department when the Gold Coast was just a dirt lot littered with construction equipment.

"Since Day One, Mr. Gaughan made it like family. If there was gum on the floor he would pick it up," she said.

When Boyd took over, Hernandez said, the family atmosphere remained.

That's why she stayed.

Larry Spickert, a casino shift manager, has also worked at the Gold Coast since it opened Dec. 21, 1986.

"It's the most stable property in the industry. It has stayed busy," he said. "I was standing on the floor when we opened. The excitement is still there."

There was plenty of excitement in the air Wednesday as the Gold Coast hosted a cake-and-champagne anniversary party. Dealers wore 25th anniversary top hats and gamblers caroused with glasses of champagne.

Burke credits the Gold Coast's employees, including the 33 workers that have been with the property since it opened, with its longevity.

"If you offer a great value, a great price, and you have good people running your place -- meaning the folks that are on the floor -- you're going to be successful, because locals appreciate that," Burke said.

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