Gaming license OK’d for company remaking casino into Hoover Dam Lodge

The Nevada Gaming Commission and Control Board on Thursday approved a gaming license for Nevada Restaurant Services, Inc., which is remodeling the Hacienda Hotel and Casino into a national park-style lodge called the Hoover Dam Lodge overlooking Lake Mead outside Boulder City.

Craig Estey, Nevada Restaurant Services chief executive and owner and founder of Dotty’s taverns, said he expects to close on the 32-acre site divided by Highway 93 on Monday.

Then, Estey will launch into the rehab’s phase one, which will cost $7 million and include gutting the interior and wrapping the exterior with windows.

Estey said he is buying the property from Las Vegas-based Lakeview Partnership. He declined to name the purchase price.

Estey told gaming commissioners that the remodeling’s first phase will take six to eight months. He explained to the commission that he wants to convert a “Spanish casino into a national park lodge.”

He plans on adding more rooms than the current 289 in the Hacienda, which features a 17-story building. Estey said he expects the Hoover Dam Lodge signage to go up during the summer.

A travel center and gift shop will be built on the side of Highway 93 opposite the lake, with a pedestrian bridge built to connect both sides.

There will even be space for a campground and RVs, Estey told the commissioners. He said he wants to market the Hoover Dam Lodge to tourists and locals, and it will also include a sports bar concept.

The Hacienda is the closest gambling site to Boulder City east of the city. Boulder City does not allow gambling within its city limits.

Hacienda, built on the site of the Gold Strike Casino, which burned down in 1998. will remain open through the remodeling, Estey said. Of the 230 employees, 150 will continue at Hoover Dam Lodge. The other 80 will be transferred to other Dotty’s properties or will be on a list to be rehired after the initial phase is completed.

New slot machines and a casino management/player rewards system used by the Dotty’s taverns will be installed. Estey created the Dotty’s business model in Oregon and brought the concept to Nevada in 1995. In addition to the tavern business, Dotty’s is the slot machine route operator for gaming areas inside Nevada-based Food 4 Less and Kmart stores.

Estey said there are 120 Dotty’s sites around Nevada.

Gaming Commissioner Tony Alamo fondly recalled the site, explaining that he rode his motorcycle as a 14-year-old at the location.

“I’m looking forward to new memories,” Alamo said.

And Gaming Commissioner Joe Brown asked Estey if he has joined the Nevada Resort Association.

Estey cracked, “I haven’t been invited yet.”

Laughter filled the room.

Dotty’s had drawn heat a few years ago from rival tavern operators and the Nevada Resort Association. Opponents accused Dotty’s operations of being nothing more than a glorified slot machine business, offering snack food and little alcohol with gaming the main focus.

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