D Las Vegas aims to up the energy of downtown revival

By Damon Hodge
As hotel-casinos go, the D Las Vegas might have the most intriguing history of any property in town.

Opened in 1980 as the Sundance and run by Moe Dalitz, an organized-crime boss, it was eventually sold to legendary local gaming mogul Jackie Gaughan, who repurposed it into the Irish-themed Fitzgeralds.

ID Las Vegasn 2001, Detroit cable TV and gaming scion Don Barden bought the Fremont Street property out of bankruptcy, making it the first large gaming property in Las Vegas owned by an African-American.

Then, in March, brothers Derek and Greg Stevens bought the 638-room property and initiated a $15 million renovation that includes remodeled rooms, an updated casino floor with new slots and dancing dealers at the table games, a new escalator into the property, daily live entertainment and two new bars, including one billed as the longest in Nevada.

Motor City moniker

They also changed the property's name to the D Las Vegas, the D referencing the city of Detroit.

The renovation will be complete in the late fall, but the changes are already having an effect on what has long been seen as a relatively staid property.

As a result, the D Las Vegas seems to be attracting a more diverse clientele that also skews younger than the former hotel's.

D Las Vegas roomThe energy of the hotel is starting to match that of the nearby Fremont Street Experience, a five-block entertainment canopy whose free entertainment, Viva Vision light show and ample people-watching opportunities annually draw millions of visitors. 

'Party atmosphere'

"The D will elevate the energy of Fremont Street and immerse our guests in a fun and friendly party atmosphere," Derek Stevens said in a statement in March. "When guests come to the D, we want them to feel like they own the place."

In addition to dancing dealers and new slot machines, the casino is getting new carpet, a new sound system and video screens installed in the escalator leading to the second floor.

Drinks at the D

The property will have three bars, including the soon-to-open outdoor D Bar, which will join Longbar, a 100-foot-long bar featuring 15 60-inch TVs, nearly three dozen seats and nine beers on tap, and the second-floor Vue Bar, which offers a view of the Viva Vision light show.

Gone is the shamrock atop the hotel, replaced by the property's new logo: a large red "D" against a black backdrop with an image of a woman's upturned heels, which is wrapped around the 34-story hotel tower, downtown's tallest gaming structure.

Mob MuseumOther entertainment options at the hotel include comedian Kevin Burke, performing nightly at 9:30 p.m.; "Purple Reign, the Prince Tribute Show," which starts at 10:30 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays; and "Marriage Can Be Murder," an interactive comedy and murder-mystery dinner experience where audience members often become a part of the show (daily at 6:30 p.m.).

The hotel's transformation also capitalizes on and adds to a resurgent downtown.

In February, the $42 million National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (aka the Mob Museum) opened a block away.

A month later came the $470 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts, with its 2,050-seat main performance hall.

"It's absolutely terrific to be part of all the changes happening in downtown Las Vegas this year," Stevens said.

Visit www.thed.com.
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