Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010 | 1:39 p.m.
The Nevada Gaming Commission has given final approval to casino veteran Anthony F. Santo to operate three casinos in downtown Las Vegas that he said are “losing money every day.”
But Santo said he sees some hopeful signs in running the Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Las Vegas Club Hotel and Casino and the Western Hotel and Casino.
Negotiations are nearly finished for a $20 million loan to refurbish the Plaza, which will include upgrading rooms, new slots, improvements at restaurants and “lots of maintenance.”
Santo told the commission there would be “12 months of hard times” while construction work is under way at the Plaza, to be renamed Union Plaza.
Santo will remain a consultant for Tamares, which is the landlord for the three properties.
Commissioners cautioned Santo that Tamares can’t be involved in calling the shots on the operation of the casinos – and Santo said he understood the separation that needs to be kept.
Gaming revenue has been down 25 straight months in the downtown market – the latest by 11.6 percent in June compared to the same month last year.
The commission also granted a license to Patti Lynn Sarles Hart to be president, chief executive officer and a director in International Game Technology.
Hart told the commission there has been a decline in revenue and some 900 employees have been laid off in the 17 months she has been with the company. She told the state Gaming Control Board earlier this month that profits were down 7 percent in the third quarter of the fiscal year.
The company, she said, is moving from hardware to software in making its gaming equipment.
It operates in 300 jurisdictions, she said. The “strategic” office of IGT will be in Las Vegas but the manufacturing will continue in Reno, where there are about 3,000 employees. She will be based in Las Vegas.
The commission was scheduled to meet in Carson City on Thursday but the session was held in Las Vegas and teleconferenced to Carson City in an effort to save money. Four of the five commissioners are from Las Vegas.
The commission next year will switch two of its meetings usually held in Carson City, in June and December, to Las Vegas to cut costs. Two-thirds of the applications and related business involves Las Vegas-area casinos.
That will mean eight meetings in Las Vegas and four in Carson City. There will not be a switch in locations of the state Gaming Control Board.
The Plaza, renovated in 2011, has a lobby that features marble and inlaid mosaic tiles, chandeliers and a plush front desk that matches the classic Las Vegas feel with a contemporary look.
The hotel has 1,003 rooms and suites that showcase views of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Amenities include world-class entertainment, a casino floor that offers an array of classic gaming choice, which include 600 slot machines, a 400-seat bingo room, 18 table games and 57,120 square feet of casino space.
Among the dining options is Oscar's Beef * Booze * Broads, a steakhouse opened by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, which is located in the glittery dome enclosure above the hotel's main entrance.
The Plaza sits at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience on the site of the first train depot and auction site in Las Vegas, dating back to the San Pedro-Los Angeles-Salt Lake Railroad in 1905. The railroad was sold to Union Pacific in 1921 and the depot was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Union Plaza Hotel, built in 1971.
The hotel has been featured or is visible in several movies, including the 1971 James Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever;" the 1989 film "Back to the Future Part II;" the 1995 move "Casino," and the 2000 movie "Pay it Forward."