LV Yesterday: Fitzgeralds Hotel & Casino


In this the second installment of Las Vegas yesterday we explore the luck of the Irish casino former Downtown hotel & casino Fitzgeralds. The hotel & casino opened under the name the Sundance but we will explore from 1987 onwards when the hotel became the Fitzgeralds Hotel & Casino.

In the mid eighties when I visited Las Vegas i would often stay at the former Barbary Coast on the Las Vegas strip or if it was two expensive for when i wanted to visit i would stay Downtown next to what became the Fitzgeralds at the Four Queens.

I would often gamble at what become Fitzgeralds and visit the Mc Donalds just inside the door which amazingly is still there today. In 1987 the Lincoln Management Group took over the property and later renamed the company Fitzgeralds Gaming.

The property is unusual in that still to this day in that it has a two floor casino which has worked at this property but hasn’t elsewhere in Las Vegas. During the mid eighties Downtown Las Vegas often was subject to strikes by union workers and more than one occasion i saw strikers with signs outside properties.

The casino also had a section of twenty slot machines that paid back over 101 percent with a astrix next to the number on the signage. In theory paying back over 100 percent mean’t they were losing money on these slot machines as they were giving out more than they took in. In reality if you read the information about the slot machines only two of the twenty machines paid out the 101 percent but they didn’t tell you which ones. It was a marketing gimmick but it worked these machines were often very busy.

The Don Barden Years:

In 2001 the property went in to bankruptcy and, was bought up by the owner of the Majestic Star Casino LLC, Don Barden which was noteworthy because his was also the first African American casino owner in Las Vegas.

Don Barden bought Fitzgeralds as well as two sister properties in Colorado and Mississippi for $149 million. After taking over Fitzgeralds in Las Vegas he started a multi million dollar renovation of the property with new exterior paint as well as renovating the inside including the buffet, steakhouse and, showroom.

The renovations to the property did bring new visitors the hotel rooms themselves were Holiday Inn type rooms not very Las Vegas like but basic modern functional rooms.

The last version of the Fitzgeralds signage with the win a car out front which the replacement D does with a car in the same spot.

Don Barden in 2008 bought a stake in a slots only property in Pittsburgh but his company as a whole struggled financially until 2011 when Don Barden died.

Fitzgeralds Becomes The D

The question was what would become of the Fitzgeralds would it be shuttered or possibly be demolished well the answer came in October 2011 when the estate of Don Barden sold the property to someone well known to Las Vegas fans Derek Stevens and his brother Greg.

Derek Stevens took a 78 percent ownership in the property while his brother took a 22 percent share. The Stevens brothers took out the Luck Of The Irish theme which had become a bit dated and, kept the originally shell of the property and upgraded the whole place

After Derek Stevens took over and it became the D with the old Fitzgeralds signage.

Fitzgeralds was now more but changes like an upgraded coffee the addition of The Long Bar, the classic casino revamp on the 2nd floor were much needed improvements to a property which had seen better times.

One change myself and other Las Vegas bloggers weren’t really sold of was the change from the Fitzgeralds name to a single letter the “D” yes it played off to the brothers roots in Detroit but it was a little weird. The interesting part about it being renamed the “D” is that most of us including myself came around and, now are fine with the name.

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