The Western Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas

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Image credit to user Wtstoffs on Wikipedia.org

It was back in the 1950’s that Jackie Gaughan started building a number of casinos in and around the Fremont Street area of Las Vegas. Unlike the high cost casinos that are currently located on the Las Vegas Strip his various casino properties where specifically designed to appeal to low rolling casino game players.

One of the last casinos he opened which formed part of his casino empire was the Western Hotel and Casino which was constructed quite quickly and opened its doors for the very first time in 1970.

The address of the Western Hotel and Casino was 899 Fremont Street and as anyone with a knowledge of the Downtown area of Vegas will tell you that is one of the rather hard to reach places due to it being located right at the end of Fremont Street away from most of the other casinos in that part of Vegas.

Whilst many casinos have no expense spared on them in regards to their design, this was a budget hotel and casino and the fixtures and fitting were kept to a complete minimum, with Gaughan choosing to give his customers value which included free meals, dollar drinks and a room for the night for just ten dollars as opposed to opulent fixtures and fittings.

The main attraction for players on a very limited budget was that lots of penny slot machines where on offer and the card and table games had very low minimum stake requirements, allowing any player with a modest bankroll to get the maximum value from their low valued bankroll.

At the time this “Vegas on a Budget” concept was a big success and players flocked into each of his properties with The Western Hotel and Casino becoming a popular venue for not only visitors to Vegas but also locals, who enjoyed playing there and also making use of the low cost games and free meals.

However, as the years have rolled by the position of The Western Hotel and Casino resulted in fewer and fewer players visiting the venue, more so due to the completely redeveloped main Fremont Street area which is now famed for its undercover walkway and its daily light shows and this once hugely popular property has now closed its doors for the very last time.

The History of the Western Hotel and Casino

The Western Hotel and Casino was opened in 1970 and as such was one of the later venues which Jackie Gaughan and his business partner Mel Exber opened. What made this venue stand out from the soon to become overcrowded Las Vegas casino scene was its Bingo Parlor which boasted seating for 1,020 players.

The venue changed hands in March of 2004 when Gaughan sold the property to Barrick Gaming. The new owners had a vision of completely redeveloping the site and turning it into a Latino destination type of resort.

This was a bold vision as the local area had become very run down with many people tending to avoid the area due to the “undesirables” who could be seen roaming the area late at night and into the early hours.

However, Barrick Gaming ended up putting the property out to lease in 2005 and it was the Tamares Group who took on the lease of both the hotel and casino. The hotel became financially unsustainable and in 2010 it was closed leaving just the casino area open to the general public.

With the loss of the hotel and with visitor numbers taking a massive downward spiral in November of 2011 it was announced The Western would be closing its doors in the next couple of months, which it did do. As such on the 16th of January 2012 the doors swung shut and the casino became yet another venue to cease trading in Vegas.

The property then stood empty for just over a year until it was sold for $14 Million, the aim of the new owners was that the Downtown Project which has recently been launched will be extended much further down Fremont Street the building will somehow become part of this exciting project in one way or another.

What Made the Western Hotel and Casino Unique?

It is no secret that to survive for any length of time in Las Vegas, a casino does have to supply and offer a unique type of experience to customers. In the following section we are going to take a look a just what it was that initially drove players through The Western’s doors.

Penny Slots

Whilst having plenty of penny slots on offer will attract players, every other casino in Vegas has banks and banks of these low stake slot games on offer. With players not willing to venture all the way to The Western Hotel and Casino, in its final few years of trading to play those machines, which were readily available everywhere else, this was not deemed to be sufficient reason for anyone to visit the property.

$1 Drinks

Every casino will have some form of loss leader which is used to get players through their doors, and with both Shots and Coors Draft being on offer for just $1 this was The Western main loss leader. However, giving players access to low cost drinks may seem a good idea, unfortunately some of the customers would end up getting worse for wear and the security department were kept busy.

$1 Craps

The game of Craps is of course an employee heavy game, meaning unlike many other table games more than one member of staff needs to be present to allow the game to be played. That does of course mean it is an expensive game for any casino to offer, and with the Western Hotel and Casino offering minimum stake wagers on their Craps game of just $1, the financial viability of this game, like most of the other card and table games they offered became untenable, due simply to lack of players and very low profit margins from those reaming low stake players.

$2 Blackjack

There are not many venues where you could play Blackjack for stakes as low as just $2 per hand, but that is what was offered at The Western before it shut down. Whilst this was certainly a low cost game to play when compared with the minimum stakes offered at other casinos locally, it was sadly not enough to get players queuing up to visit the venue.

Cheap Hotel Rooms

When rooms first became available at The Western Hotel and Casino they were all budget type accommodation, offering anyone a cheap low cost place to call home for their visit to Las Vegas. However, as these rooms were located outside of the casino and overlooked the car park, which did mean anyone staying in them would need to walk through the car park area to get to the casino, which in the properties later life was something of a daunting task, more so as soon as the sun had gone down, not many people chose to stay there.

The Western Hotel and Casino – Your Dollar Casino

The motto of the Western Hotel Casino was “Your Dollar Casino”, and unfortunately the area around the venue became run down and any safety conscious visitor to Las Vegas would immediately be put off venturing into the casino.

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In fact the casino did end up placing signs around the venue warning anyone thinking of conducting any type of illegal activities in or around the property that it was under 24 hour surveillance and all illegal activities would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If you saw such a sign outside a casino would you be willing to venture into that venue?

What Does the Future Hold for the Western Hotel and Casino?

It is not envisaged that The Western property is ever going to be reopened as a casino, and whilst the Downtown Project is looking at new and innovative ways of making use of all of the properties up and down Fremont Street it is hard to see just what use will be made of this venue.

Whilst parking is plentiful it is going to take something magical to happen to the area for it to be brought back to life. The property itself could make a good supermarket or some form of retail outlet, however there are certainly more than enough stores and supermarkets serving the local community.

Maybe a good idea would be to completely level this building and all others in and around it and build some huge theme park, however that is going to cost a great deal of money and it does have to be said there are more than enough other activities in and around the area for visitors to make full use of.

We are expecting to see the building sit empty for a very long time and it is hard to see just what it will finally end up becoming. However, with its demise that is another long established and original casino that has finally closed its doors for the very last time and a building that is highly unlikely to ever become a must visit venue as it was when it first opened many years ago.

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