The mystery Vegas casino you can only visit once every two years
Dan Lewis on a gambling institution as elusive as it is downmarket. It's all to do with licensing, naturally.
Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the United States. It is home to, per About.com, about 200,000 slot machines across about 1,700 licensed gambling locations. Those "licensed gambling locations" aren't necessarily "casinos," though — you can find slot machine at the airport, for example, as well as random other places throughout the area. If you really want to gamble in Vegas, it's pretty easy to find someone who will take your money. It can be a very lucrative business.
Even when things are going wrong. Take, for example, the Castaways casino, better known by its name from 1954 to 2000, the Showboat. It was purchased in 2004 by a company called Station Casinos, which operates a number of smaller locations in Vegas. Station Casinos paid about $33 million for what at the time was a 19-story, 445 room hotel with an 80,000 square foot gaming area. That seems like a bargain for an established gaming location, but that's not the whole story. The Castaways building was decrepit and likely unusable, and the business was about to go into bankruptcy.
So what was Station Casinos doing buying a dead company? They were after a loophole.
If you want to open a casino, you need a lot of money — Station Casinos certainly had that — but that's not enough to get your business up and running. You also need a gaming license. Applying for a license is a long process with no guarantee of success — the Nevada Gaming Commission may end up rejecting your bid or establishing a number of conditions, such as not allowing you to build a hotel to go with the roulette wheels and craps tables. But there's another way. You can simply purchase another casino — one with a license — and operate it. Renovate the grounds, change the name, built a massive tower to the envy of your fellow hoteliers, whatever. As long as your casino stays where the old one was, you're good to go.
In other words, licenses are transferrable and, therefore, have value. So if you're running a failing casino, you still have an asset worth potentially millions of dollars. The same is true if you have a failed casino, so long as the license hasn't lapsed. The good news is that from the moment you close your doors, you have two years before the license expires. The even better news — and, importantly for Station Casinos — is that there's a way to renew that two year window again and again. Technically, to keep the license from lapsing, you need to have been open to the public for eight hours during the previous two years. That creates our neat little loophole — a temporary casino. Host a small amount of gambling for a few hours every couple of years and you keep your license.
Station Casinos did just that. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, Station reduced the old Castaways casino to rubble shortly after buying it, turning it into a 26 acre dirt lot. But it was a special dirt lot due to the license. In late 2007, Station asked the Gaming Commission for permission to bring in a trailer — to be in open for one day only — outfitted with 16 slot machines. By operating this mini "casino," the license stayed alive for another two years. This was particularly valuable to Station, as the Castaways, as the defunct hotel was located in Las Vegas Valley, where, as of 1997, the Gaming Commission no longer allowed "new" hotel-casinos to open.
The Commission accepted Station's proposal. In January of 2008, about two years after the implosion of Castaways (but before that all-important two-year anniversary of its last bet placed), the 400 square foot trailer rolled into the dirt lot and opened for business, according to the New York Times. The casino's eight-hour existence was sparsely attended and the biggest jackpot won was $2.50 — not that Station Casinos cared either way. They won either way.
They did not, however, end up building a new casino within the two year window ending early 2010 or, for that matter, by the the time of this writing. Instead, the trailers kept coming back, most recently in late 2013. Maybe one day, the casino on the site will be large and permanent, but for now, your best bet is to go elsewhere.
Bonus Fact: Despite the value of a hotel/casino in Las Vegas, the costs of creating one can also be prohibitive. Take, for example, the Fontainebleau Resort Las Vegas. The resort broke ground in late 2007 with a $2.9 billion budget and as of November 2008, was the second-highest building in Vegas. But despite the grandeur, the hotel and casino never opened. It fell into bankruptcy and is likely to be demolished to reclaim the value of the land.
Security expert says she helped a casino whose high-roller database was stolen through an Internet of Shit fish-tank thermometer
Darktrace CEO Nicole Eagan's presentation to last week's WSJ CEO Council Conference in London included an anaecdote about an unnamed casino for whom her firm had done work; they uncovered a data-breach in which an insecure Internet of Things thermometer in the casino's lobby was used to gain access to the internal network, from which […]
Enjoy this simple and surprising tale from The Games Room Company, who were tasked with restoring a roulette table operated in Chicago throughout the 1930s: "we found that it had been completely rigged to defraud people and increase the odds of the house during play." A button disguised as decorative screw, accessible to the croupier, […]
Blackjack is an unusual casino came: skilled players with excellent memory can deny the house its edge. This is obviously a problem for casinos: it's an essential table game, but they can't very well just give away money. So they evict players who they suspect of using mnemonics or other "card counting" strategies that enhance […]
One million Americans use American Sign Language as their primary means of communication. But as you'd expect, even though ASL is the sixth-most used language in the US, it isn't just any old language like English or Spanish or French. According to Communication Service for the Deaf, 98 percent of Deaf people don't receive education […]
After a successful round of funding on Kickstarter, Fluster: The Social Card Game is now ready to help turn a party or game night into the engaging, surprising, and enlightening social affair you always hoped it would be. A deck of 100 cards, Fluster is chock full of unusual, funny, and thought-provoking questions inspired to […]
Physics may have been that class you sleepwalked your way through in high school. But while it might have just slipped under your radar throughout your academic career, you probably shouldn't have given it such shallow attention. Sure, we could focus on the immediate pluses of a career as a physicist, like the more than […]