Vegas4Visitors.com Weekly Column by Rick Garman

Want to know what's happening in Las Vegas? You've come to the right place.

Each week you can come here to get the latest news, the juiciest gossip, and the best reviews for the most fabulous city in the world, Las Vegas. Hey... it says "fabulous" right on the welcome sign!

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Downtown Grand Moves Up Opening Date

During an otherwise boring hearing of the Nevada Gaming Commission and almost offhand remark has created big buzz: work at the former Lady Luck hotel and casino is ahead of schedule and the hotel could reopen as The Downtown Grand as early as September. Even bigger news is that they could start taking reservations as soon as June.

The Lady Luck closed in 2006 when then owners said they were going to be embarking on a one-year, $100 million renovation that would bring the property up to more modern standards. The project never got off the ground and the hotel changed owners several times before winding up with Los Angeles based CIM Group. They unveiled this renovation several years ago but it has taken this long for it to get moving, a process kick-started by the hiring of a local company, Fifth Street Gaming, to oversee the renovations and manage the casino when it opens.

The two hotel towers were stripped to the concrete to create 650 completely new rooms. They will be sleek and retro-contemporary with bold color schemes - a throwback avocado green for the regular rooms and a bright red for the bigger suites. The decor is sort of a funky 1970s feel but with modern amenities like flat screen TVs, pillow top mattresses, safes, robes, WiFi, and more.

The casino will be about 35,000 square feet. That's a lot smaller than the 100,000 square-foot behemoths on The Strip but pretty big for Downtown. By way of comparison, it's a little bigger than Main Street Station's casino but a little smaller than The Golden Nugget's. It will have 30 table games and 700 slot machines.

There will be 11 restaurants including an upscale bistro, a Chinese eatery, a sports book deli, and a modern twist on the food court called The Commissary. The latter will feature several outlets including I Love Burgers but diners will be able to mix and match items from the different vendors with one centralized cashier. The room will have floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that can turn it into and indoor/outdoor space and they are even planning on having a DJ several nights a week.

There will be eight bars and lounges including a new version of the popular Mob Bar, now located on the corner of Ogden and 3rd, which will move into the hotel.

A lot of the outlets will be facing 3rd street leading up to the adjacent Mob Museum. The entire block, known as Downtown3rd, is being revamped with the building facades getting a retro-industrial factory feel.

The pool area is being built on top of the new casino and will feature 35,000 square feet of fun-in-the-sun space with a bar, its own restaurants, luxury cabanas, and grassy areas for lounging. An adjacent spa will offer the latest in treatments and pampering.

80,000 square-feet of retail space will be added in a development that will effectively encircle the Mob Museum, replacing the old bus terminal where the Downtown 3rd Farmer's Market is held every Friday.

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Terrible No More

The name has been a source of less-than-flattering jokes since it opened in 2000 but one Vegas casino is about to step out the shadow of its marketing nightmare name: Terrible's is about to be Terrible no more.

After a $7 million renovation, Terrible's Hotel and Casino is about to become the Silver Sevens Casino. Work on making the name change is already underway and is expected to be complete by July. The existing neon signage, including the big cowboy that "holds up" the main marquee, is being donated to the Neon Museum.

The property got its start as The Continental back in 1975. Located on the corner of Paradise and Flamingo about a mile east of The Strip, it was never a top-tier hotel, catering to the local market and budget tourists. By the 1990s it had become, well, terrible; the kind of place you only stayed at if you absolutely couldn't afford to stay anywhere else.

The parent company of the hotel went bankrupt in 1998 and was closed in 1999.

The Terrible Herbst company was famous around southern Nevada mostly as an operator of gas stations and convenience stores. It got its name from founder Ed Herbst who was reputed to be such a cutthroat businessman that his rivals started calling him Terrible, a moniker the rough and tumble guy liked so much that he made it official for the company.

Enriched by a business that operated slot machines at convenience stores, gas stations, and bars around Las Vegas, the company bought the former Continental and invested $65 million to demolish portions of it, renovate the rest, and build out new areas with a Tuscan-inspired design.

Dragged down by the global recession, the company went bankrupt and Terrible's casino was purchased by Affinity Gaming, owner of Buffalo Bill's and Whiskey Pete's at Primm, Nevada plus casinos in Iowa, Missouri, and Colorado. Over the last year and half they have been renovating the property including a big upgrade to the hotel rooms, revisions to the casino floor with new games and decor, the addition of a new sports book, and changes to restaurants and bars.

Silver Sevens Casino is expected to officially debut on 7/7/13.

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Bingo in Vegas

Bingo aficionados are a fervent bunch and although it may not be the fastest paced casino game in the world, there is still plenty of people eager to play it. Consider this: there are nearly 10,000 seats in the various bingo parlors around Las Vegas alone.

400 of them are in a brand new bingo hall that just opened at Green Valley Ranch. The former Ovation theater was converted to a state-of-the-art (and yes, I'm using that phrase ironically when it comes to this game) room adjacent to the main casino.

Bingo remains popular primarily with an older audience who appreciate the relatively laid-back, low-pressure vibe and the low-risk, high-reward possibilities. The $20 that would get you two hands of blackjack (if you're lucky enough to find a $10 table) could last you hours in a bingo hall and, if you're lucky, could net you jackpots of up to $50,000.

But bingo is not just for old folks anymore. Circus Circus is home to the monthly Las Vegas Pride Bingo, a wild night hosted by drag queens and featuring a DJ, drink specials, and lots of B-69 jokes. Rebel Bingo is a mixture of bingo and drunken bar room brawl that got its Vegas debut at The Cosmopolitan last month and may return for more.

But if you are looking for traditional bingo, you have plenty of options just not on The Strip. The only regularly operating hall on Las Vegas Boulevard is at The Riviera. Just off The Strip you'll find the biggest bingo parlor in Vegas at The Gold Coast with over 700 seats while the biggest in terms of square-footage is at Red Rock Resort with over 18,000 square-feet.

Other casinos offering bingo include Aliante Station, Arizona Charlie's, Boulder Station, The Cannery, The Eastside Cannery, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Palace Station, The Plaza, Sam's Town, Santa Fe Station, Silverton, South Point, Suncoast, Sunset Station, Terrible's (soon to be Silver Sevens), and Texas Station.

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Monday Movies at The Cosmo

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is bringing back their annual summer Dive-In Movies series but this time they are doubling down with double features. Shown poolside on a big screen by the Boulevard Pool overlooking The Strip, the Monday night events feature drink specials, traditional movie snacks, and music before, in-between, and after the movies.

This season kicks of Memorial Day with Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure at 7:30pm and Goonies at 10:00pm.

Other funny-if-you-think-about-it pairings include Ghostbusters and The Sixth Sense on June 3, Richie Rich and the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby on June 10, The Breakfast Club and Rebel Without a Cause on July 15, and When Harry Met Sally and and My Fair Lady on August 5.

Admission is free for hotel guests and $3 per person for non-hotel guests. You can get the full list of films and dates here.

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Vegas4Visitors Weekly Awards

The Let The Games Begin (Again) Award of the Week goes to GameWorks, the once popular video game and amusement complex that closed at The Showcase Mall near MGM Grand last year. It will be reopening in a new location at the Town Square mall by the end of the year and will feature of 100 video games, laser tag, bowling, a restaurant, and more.

The Clog Award of the Week goes to Hoover Dam, which had to shut down its visitor center and tours several times last week because of overflowing toilets. The cause of the unpleasant clogs was not known but things were back to normal by the weekend. The irony of what is, effectively, a dam-shaped collection of plumbing being shut down by toilet trouble was lost on no one.

The 1,586 miles to Graceland Award of the Week goes to Las Vegas resident Chad Collins who won the Las Vegas Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest last weekend. The Elvis impersonator got $2,500 and a trip to Graceland to compete in the national Elvis tribute artist contest in August.

The You Don't Look a Day Over 107 Award of the Week goes to Las Vegas, which turned 108 years old last week. Although the city was not officially incorporated until 1911, a land auction on May 15, 1905 is considered to be the city's official birth date.

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Fremont Hotel Turns 57

By the time the Fremont opened on May 18, 1956, Downtown Las Vegas was struggling to retain its relevance in the face of the onslaught of major resorts on The Strip. Ten of them were already up and running on Las Vegas Boulevard including The Dunes, Riviera, The Sands, Flamingo, and more, providing resort level amenities that Downtown's fairly basic casinos couldn't compete with.

Ed Levinson and Lou Lurie sought to change that. The Chicago "investor" and San Francisco "financier" (feel free to read "organized crime front men" in place of those titles) wanted to bring the Strip to Fremont Street with the biggest, fanciest, and most upscale hotel-casino Downtown Las Vegas had ever seen.

Built at a cost of $6 million, the Fremont was the tallest building in Nevada at the time. Standing at 15 stories it featured 155 rooms and a modern design architected by Wayne McAllister, the man behind resorts on The Strip including El Rancho, Flamingo, and The Desert Inn. Its luxurious casino, gourmet caliber restaurants, and "high rise" digs were a far cry from the usual Downtown offerings.

In 1959 a young Wayne Newton played the lounge with his brother Jerry, a gig that Newton considers to be the beginning of his long career as Mr. Las Vegas.

The hotel expanded several times over the next few years including a 1959 expansion that added 60 rooms and a 1963 expansion that added a 14-story tower with the first rooftop pool in the state.

In 1966, the hotel was sold to Parvin-Dohrmann Corporation for $16 million. They also co-owned the Aladdin on The Strip.

In 1974 the hotel was purchased by The Argent Corporation, headed by San Diego business man Allen Glick. Glick and his company also bought The Hacienda and Stardust on The Strip at the same time - although "bought" is perhaps an overstatement. The money came from a loan provided by the Teamsters' Union Pension Fund and Glick later said he was forced to buy the casinos to put a "legitimate" face on what was really a mob run enterprise. The mafia was allegedly skimming millions of dollars off of the casino take until federal prosecutors moved in and shut things down.

Glick's story was later used as the basis for the movie "Casino" starring Robert De Niro.

Under Argent's ownership, the hotel was remodeled in in 1976 and 1977, expanding the casino and renovating the exterior with new neon signage that stretched the entire block along Fremont Street.

When Glick was forced out by the mafia scandal in 1983, the Fremont was purchased by Sam Boyd who also owned The California and Sam's Town.

Although it has received cosmetic updates since then, the hotel has remained pretty much the same and is still owned by Boyd Gaming.

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