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September 21, 2014

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last call:

Irish eyes are misty as O’Sheas closes to make room for Linq project

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Steve Marcus

Brian Thomas, also known as Lucky the Leprechaun, pours a shot for a guest during the Final Countdown party at O’Sheas on Sunday, April 29, 2012. The casino will close at noon Monday, April 30, to make room for the Linq project, a $500 million entertainment, retail and dining corridor set to open in 2013.

O'Sheas Countdown Party

A farewell sign is shown during the Final Countdown party at O'Sheas casino Sunday, April 29, 2012. The casino will close at noon April 30 to make room for the Linq project, a $500 million dollar entertainment, retail and dining corridor set to open in 2013. A new version of O'Sheas will be rebuilt inside Linq, officials said. Launch slideshow »

The notes scrawled on a wall at O’Sheas read more like goodbye messages to an old friend rather than to a casino known for $5 blackjack, beer pong and Lucky the Leprechaun.

There was the simple: “Thanks for good times.”

And the sentimental: “We opened you in 1989 … and closed you in 2012.”

Many more conveyed hints of sadness, with variations of “You’ll be missed.”

Shortly before noon Sunday, early by Las Vegas standards, patrons wandered into the soon-to-be-shuttered casino for a final round of beer pong, poker or shots. The casino closes at noon Monday and will reopen next year in a new location.

Among those reminiscing was Doug Stowell from Chicago, visiting with his wife, Jackie. In 1992, he won his first jackpot at O’Sheas — $1,700 for hitting a royal flush on quarter poker.

“We just wanted to come in and say goodbye,” he said. “It’s like seeing an old friend go.”

In the background, workers dismantled a Subway in the food court. Across the way, locals and tourists alike flocked to the memorial wall, which will be salvaged and placed in the new O’Sheas.

“I have had many nights I don’t remember from O’Sheas,” said Steve Van Holten, who grew up in Las Vegas before he moved to Arizona with his wife. “Awesome place.”

Passionate patrons helped O’Sheas earn a spot in the $500 million Linq project, said Rick Mazer, regional president for Caesars Entertainment. He oversees Harrah’s, Imperial Palace, Flamingo, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon and O’Sheas. The Linq project, set to open next year, is a retail and entertainment corridor between Flamingo and Imperial Palace.

“You don’t have to worry about if you’re dressed right, if you’re betting enough,” he said, explaining the casino’s appeal. “It’s such a relaxed place.”

The new O’Sheas will sit a little farther east in the entertainment alley and feature a mix of old favorites: table games, live music, bars and, last but not least, beer pong, Mazer said. (For those who can’t wait, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon will house the college drinking game in the meantime.)

“They are the core experience of today’s O’Sheas,” he said. “They will be part of the new O’Sheas.”

As Strip-dwellers awoke from overnight festivities, Lucky the Leprechaun — the O’Sheas longtime icon whose real name is Brian Thomas — beckoned to them from the casino’s doors on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Dressed in his signature green ensemble, Thomas’ booming voice announced the 24-hour happy hour. Minutes earlier, he had poured free shots into the mouths of celebrating patrons from atop a bar.

“It’s real people having real fun,” Thomas said of the casino, where he has worked for seven years. “You don’t need a billion-dollar casino to have a great time.”

He’s had fans find him on Facebook and Twitter. On Saturday, a particularly nostalgic patron chiseled a brick from the casino’s exterior and asked for his autograph.

“It’s like one big family of 2 million people I’ve seen,” he said. “I don’t know another place on the Strip that is like this. Maybe some people should take some notes.”

Fans won’t have to look far to find him after O’Sheas temporarily closes, though. Thomas said he has signed on to work for Caesars Entertainment’s food and beverage department, with gigs lined up at the Flamingo pool, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon and Carnaval Court at Harrah’s.

Until then, he’s feeling like most patrons who popped in to say goodbye to their beloved, down-to-earth casino.

“I’m going to miss this place,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I dropped a tear at noon tomorrow.”

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