Pin Interest | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I take up bowling, which seems to be heading towards a renaissance in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas’ first casino bowling alley opened in 1959 when the off-Strip Showboat added lanes as part of its successful effort to refocus on locals, driving growth at the property for the next 20 years.

Showboat’s success has made bowling a mainstay of locals casinos—so much so that the International Bowl Expo came to Paris Las Vegas this month it ends June 28. Yes, it’s ironic that the expo settled on a casino without a bowling alley, but the lanes have been the purview of locals casinos: Station has five bowling alleys in the Valley, with lanes at Red Rock, Sunset Station, Texas Station, Santa Fe Station and Wildfire Sunset.

via Pin Interest | Vegas Seven.

Researching this gave me a chance to learn a little about bowling. I really like that aspect of writing the Green Felt Journal: I get to learn quite a bit on a variety of subjects.

Station hiring in Vegas Seven

It’s Thursday, which means another Green Felt Journal is available for your reading pleasure in Vegas Seven. This one is a look behind Station Casino’s recent hiring push:

The local employment picture has been a dire one. In the past five years, the unemployment rate has more than tripled. That’s why a local company hiring 1,000 new employees is pretty good news.

Of course, even 1,000 jobs hardly puts a dent in the unemployment picture. With more than 140,000 Las Vegans out of work, even if every casino in town added 1,000 workers—and that’s just not going to happen—we’d still have an unemployment rate higher than it was four years ago.

More significant is what these hires say about the near-future of the Valley—and the nature of casino work.

via Station’s math: More employees mean more business | Vegas Seven.

The jobs themselves mean a lot, particularly to the people who got hired, but I think that long-term the more significant thing we can parse from this development is that we might be seeing a reverse of the trend towards fewer employees per position.

With 140,000 people out of work, though, even that’s not going to help really “put Las Vegas back to work.” All of the casinos in Clark County employ about 147,000 people. They’d each have to double their payrolls to solve the unemployment problem, and that’s clearly never going to happen. Moderately higher staffing levels across the industry will create a few thousand more jobs, but clearly Las Vegas is going to have to diversify.

Kyle Markman profile in Vegas Seven

This Thursday, there’s no local news section in Vegas Seven since it’s a special People issue. Instead, I wrote a brief profile of Kyle Markman, who’s been doing some very interesting things at Station Casinos:

Kyle Markman knows how to throw a party. In June 2008, it was his job to set up a celebration for the release of Nelly’s Brass Knuckles at Red Rock Resort. Nelly was so taken by Markman’s personal tour of the resort’s suites, pools and lounges—and the way Markman juggled arrangements and handled VIPs during the bash—that he filmed the entire video for “Body on Me” at the casino.

The 27-year-old has since been promoted to Station Casinos’ director of nightlife, and it’s a job that goes a lot deeper than making stars happy. “It’s not all about bottle service and oontz-oontz-oontz music,” he says. “It’s about giving locals someplace to have fun and a great value.”

via Kyle Markman | Vegas Seven.

Kyle was not only interesting to meet, but also a legitimately nice guy who’s got a good grasp of both the casino nightlife and locals entertainment. That summer concert series should be a real game-changer.

Another gaming legend passes

Frank Fertitta, Jr, whose sons currently run Station Casinos, has passed away. From the LV Sun:

Frank Fertitta Jr., the patriarch of Station Casinos, died today after heart surgery in a California hospital.

Fertitta, 70, who had been ill for some time, died at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, sources close to the family said.

Fertitta arrived in Las Vegas from Texas with his wife, Victoria, in 1960. He started working as a bellman at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino while he was learning to be a dealer. From 1960 to 1976 he was a dealer, pit boss, baccarat manager and general manager at properties including the Stardust, Tropicana, Circus Circus, Sahara and the Fremont in downtown Las Vegas.

He believed that Las Vegas needed a casino where locals could visit and where casino workers could come after work.

The Station Casinos empire started in 1976 when Fertitta opened The Casino off the Las Vegas Strip. The name was changed to Bingo Palace and ultimately was renamed Palace Station in 1983.

via Frank Fertitta Jr., patriarch of Station Casinos, dies – Las Vegas Sun.

Fertitta, Jr. is another one of the generation of people who came to Las Vegas when the industry was still in its rough and tumble, pioneering phase, and created the casino industry that we know today.

Outside of his abilities as a casino manager, Fertitta had the same kind of vision as Benny Binion, Sam Boyd, or Jackie Gaughan in being able to size up the market and see an opening. For Binion, it was a no-frills gambling joint. Boyd and Gaughan both had their own ideas about casinos that could attract more casual players. Fertitta recognized that Las Vegas residents were a customer base themselves. There had been casinos away from the Downtown/Strip tourist corridor for years–including Boyd’s Eldorado in Henderson–but Fertitta’s evolving casino that became Palace Station was successful enough to serve as the template for the next generation of locals properties.

It’s also worth mentioning that I’m writing this a few hundred yards from a building on UNLV’s campus named for Frank and Vicki Fertitta that speaks to their contributions to the university and community.