Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

July 14, 2010

Casino Design Photo of the Week: Golden Nugget

Posted by Hunter

Ah, the Nugget. Once Steve Wynn's design scratchpad, since then it's changed hands several times. Current owner Landry's has added a new tower, nightclub and renovated pool.

In my opinion, the Nugget has a lot of charm. I haven't seen the new Rush Tower yet but I'm told it's quite nice.


Read archived comments (13 so far)
July 14, 2010 7:57 PM Posted by Brian Fey

I went downtown during my last trip. It was the first time I'd been down there in several years, and it reminded me why I don't go. Yes, the place is super cheap, but that's about all I can say for it. It's a very different crowd down there. On a few occasions, the people I was with even felt a bit unsafe. I agree the the GN is nice, but I'm afraid that by itself isn't enough of a draw for me.

July 14, 2010 9:00 PM Posted by hail2skins

Interesting observations, Brian. I stayed at the Nugget last year and spent most of my time downtown and didn't feel unsafe. Granted, I never strayed from under the canopy. Reading blogs like Vegas Rex seem to suggest that the Strip is the area where things are starting to become a bit uneasy. I'll see for myself in less than two months....staying at Encore for a few nights.

July 14, 2010 9:31 PM Posted by parchedearth

I think they have done about as much as they can with the GN. Their big limitations now are the size of the casino (too tightly packed) and the surrounding properties continue to fall apart. The GN is so far ahead of everybody else downtown it's probably not worth putting in any more money to improve the property. The pool(s) are a really great feature. The gold key club rooms have already been redone to match the new rush tower rooms. The regular rooms still need renovation. Although there are some nice bars downtown, until some of the other main Fremont experience casinos are redone the GN has hit its ceiling.

Tilman Fertitta is taking it private from Landry's sometime early fall. I haven't heard if he has any specific plans for running the place.

July 15, 2010 9:40 AM Posted by jonasjones

Long time reader, first time poster. I'm in Vegas once a month for work and will stay at GN if work is downtown. The property offers an incredible amount of charm in lots of small details, like the ornamental lanterns over the craps tables, the (probably) fake Chihuly in the Rush Lounge. and a really cute sports book. Also, don't forget the spa which fits with the theme of the rest of the property. As far as a gritty neighborhood, well... that's the true Vegas that a lot of visitors are looking for but won't find on the strip.

July 16, 2010 2:06 PM Posted by mike_ch

I go downtown at night, and go a block or so off the canopy to things like Main Street Station, Fremont East and, once upon a time, that little entertainment district by Four Queens

I think safety coverage between DT and the Strip is about even. The Strip just appeals to lifelong suburbanites more because it has more of a well-planned DisneyWorld thing going on, wihle D/T is a bit more organic and, if you're not looking at the Canopy stretch and squint a little, you could even confuse it for A Real City (I will fight to the death against other, prouder locals that Vegas Is Not A Real City.) I notice the squalor on the Strip a lot more though, because it wasn't there just a few years ago. Downtown has always had the occasional urine-stained alley between casinos, and if that scares you then it will have always scared you (and so will many city settings.)

But the Strip didn't used to have the amount of scamming going on that it used to. It's particularly crazy around NYNY and MGM Grand. I've seen people betting on someone's "Which cup is the ____ under?" game in front of the old CityCenter sales office. And while it was eye-catching a time or two, I notice now that the area in front of M&Ms World always has people in knockoff character outfits (Pirate, Toy Story, Scooby Doo, etc) doing what has always been done at Hollywood/Highland in LA: doing antics with people and then afterwards insisting they be compensated for it. The Strip is closely turning into a bit of a wilderness in it's ACLU-protected free speech public sidewalk areas, as the city surrounding the Strip further decays and becomes more desperate for money.

July 16, 2010 2:14 PM Posted by mike_ch

Er, that entertainment district by Four Queens is actually the entertainment district by... Oh god, what is it called? That shuttered place.

Lady Luck. Right.

July 16, 2010 10:00 PM Posted by John

So Mike, do you like Vegas?

I'm local and I dig the Strip, more so than downtown. It usually smells better and I don't have to deal with the fear of getting murdered in the parking garages.

Is it possible that you notice 'the squalor' more on the Strip because for the most part of the outside of properties are usually pretty well maintained? Downtown is by and large dirty. If you go into a public bathroom with spent needles on the floor, the unflushed urinal is not really going to be all that eye-catching.

As for the Golden Nugget, it's not bad. I like it. They have a pretty sweet pool and their steakhouse isn't so bad. Oh, and they somehow manage to have the classiest exterior. Who knew.

July 17, 2010 2:50 PM Posted by mike_ch

I spend quite a bit of time on the Strip and in Downtown. And yes, the Strip has it's squalor, anywhere there's a distance between ginormous hotels you'll find it. I have also seen thuggish behaviour on the Strip, and people getting booted from hotels or even McDonalds. Again, the scale and how dressed up everything is makes it harder to see, but it's there. You spend as much time as I did over the past three years, and you'll see it.

I spend quite a bit of time at Cal, MSS, Nugget, and to a lesser extent Fremont and Four Queens. They're all pretty good. Okay, I'd avoid the buffet at Fremont, but still, Boyd runs pretty clean and decent places all the way around. I'd guess Fremont is the grungiest, and I've never seen spent needles in any of them. Four Queens could use some freshening up, but it's just old-fashioned looking and not really that dirty.

But sure, I generally avoid Binions and Fitz and have seen plenty of people at both who clearly are not on a luxurious vacation but are simply grungy down-on-their-luck locals, and we have more of those than ever all over the city right now, just some haven't run out of credit yet.

And yes, just avoid all the old Gaughan properties (Plaza, Club, Western, ElCo, etc) if you're vacationing on anything but the tightest budget. Those places simply aren't for you.

July 18, 2010 11:34 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Snobs, I tell you. Snobs! :-)
Lisa and I always spend at least one day downtown each trip to Las Vegas. Have a great time, never have any trouble. We aren't afraid to walk from Fremont Street to the Gold Spike after dark. Or from the Gold Spike to the El Cortez. But we are sure to be very aware and careful about our path and surroundings. I will admit I haven't gotten her to go to the Western, yet.
I just like being downtown and, in many ways feel more comfortable there than on the overcrowded, overpriced strip.
I disagree about staying away from the El Cortrez. It is now a very clean and enjoyable place. The renovations are one of the best stories in Las Vegas. Good stuff being done the right way.
Ironically, the Golden Nugget isn't one of my favorite places to hang out at downtown. It seems like the food and gambling prices are a little high for downtown, and I don't like the vibe as much there. However, it is CLEARLY the best place to stay downtown, and we are hoping to stay there in August. If we can work a trip to Las Vegas in before we go back in late October for Podcast-A-Palooza.

July 18, 2010 12:04 PM Posted by mike_ch

Oh, the ElCo actually surprised me. But for people here for a big getaway, their once every five year trip to Vegas kind of adventure, it's not a must see.

July 24, 2010 12:39 PM Posted by Kay in Las Vegas

The downside of being a feature resort downtown is it's always going to be downtown. And no matter how hard you try the demographic that remembers "Old Las Vegas" is dwindling. People new to Vegas associate The Strip to Las Vegas and that's just how it is. So the Golden Nugget is simply a victim of it's location... therefore not commanding revenue commensurate with it's quality.

April 10, 2011 7:03 PM Posted by Paco

I wish someone could get Tom Breitling to respond to this question. If Tilman Fertitta offered to sell you the Golden Nugget for the same price that he bought it from you in 2005, would you take the deal? You would be getting the new "Rush" hotel tower, and all the other capital improvements for free, but revenue is now back to the old MGM-Mirage days from before you agreed to purchase the casino in 2003. (The corporation still includes the Laughlin property).

If the answer is no, then would you buy the resort for the same price you originally paid for it?

April 11, 2011 1:27 AM Posted by Paco

As a follow up to the Tom Breitling question, here is the change in revenue since 2003 for Vegas Downtown.
-23% slots
-27% sports
-28% poker
-31% table
-53% race
-25% total
On a small positive note, the last 5 months have been flat.