Luck is not always on my side when I visit Las Vegas, Nevada. This past trip it was. You see, this year I happened to be in Sin City for the last days of the Legendary Stardust Resort and Casino.
When I arrived for a six-day stint at the end of October 2006, the last thing on my mind was visiting the Stardust. I was in town for the Vegoose music festival and my schedule was packed with days and nights of live music. In my down time, I planned to recover by the pool, hit the tables at the Tropicana, make time for a trip to the Stage Deli and possibly have a steak at the Palm Restaurant.
However when I heard the news about this legendary casino’s demise, I knew I had to have one last drink and place one last bet before its doors closed November 1st, 2006. While I was not around or alive when the Stardust opened its doors July 2nd, 1958, it was there where I placed my first legal sports bet.
When I returned for my last visit to the Race and Sports Book, memories of munching on a cheap deli hot dog, drinking draft beer from a clear plastic cup and watching March Madness on multiple screens flooded my brain. On this day however there would be no parlay cards or money-line wagering as sports and horse racing lines were replaced by neon lights that glowed with a simple message that read “Thanks.”
You see that is the kind of place the Stardust Resort and Casino was. Unlike the newer, ritzier casinos that tower over Las Vegas Boulevard, this casino was like an old friend to its patrons. It did not just give players free drinks or comps on breakfast. This casino and its employees got to know its visitors and with the warmth of an old-friend’s smile always made them feel at home and genuinely appreciated their patronage.
Walking around the casino for the last time, this kinship was unmistakable. A genuine sorrow hung in the air. Gamblers at blackjack tables weren’t as concerned about doubling down as they were about their dealer’s next job and paycheck. Cocktail waitresses smiled and hugged long-time patrons thanking them for years of generosity. Even the normally stone-faced pit bosses got in the act chit-chatting with folks they once watched with suspicious eyes guarding for foul play.
In the end, I snapped pictures where once a camera would never be allowed. I grabbed up Stardust matchbooks to hold on to for years to come. As I walked out the door for the last time, I said my own “Thanks” to the Stardust. And I thought to myself how this place that was built for a mere ten million dollars surely paid out at least one hundred million dollars worth of memories.