Gaming Commission OKs operator for Lake Las Vegas casino

Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Casino MonteLago at Lake Las Vegas.

The Nevada Gaming Commission today approved a new management team to run the shuttered Casino MonteLago, which is scheduled to open May 26 at Lake Las Vegas.

Jon Berkley, the former CEO of now-defunct Las Vegas Gaming Inc., will run the new management company known as Intrepid Gaming. Casino MonteLago is a critical amenity at Lake Las Vegas, where two non-gambling hotels are attempting to lure visitors in a tough economy, Berkley told regulators.

The closures of the Ritz-Carlton hotel and attached MonteLago casino “ripped the heart out of Lake Las Vegas,” he said.

The Ritz reopened under new management as the Ravella brand hotel in February and is focusing on hosting management retreats for Fortune 500 companies.

The manager of the other Lake Las Vegas hotel, a Loews, said he recently lost a group of customers representing 500 room nights because the casino was closed, Berkley said. Still, occupancy is improving at Loews, while six restaurants have stayed open at the Lake Las Vegas throughout the resort community’s financial troubles, he said.

Intrepid also will have advantages its predecessor lacked, Berkley said.

The management company will only be responsible for making rent payments so long as the casino is profitable, he said. The building’s owner, Deutsche Bank affiliate Village Hospitality LLC, also has built financial incentives into Intrepid’s contract, he said.

The casino will be operated with less overhead than before, including fewer slot machines and about 60 percent of its former staff.

The resort community’s fortunes are improving as opportunistic homebuyers move into the area and retail sales improve, Berkley added.

“They can buy homes that were selling for $1,000 per square foot for $100 per square foot,” he said.

Commission Member Dr. Tony Alamo called Berkley’s projections of slot revenue “optimistic” given the sorry economy but wished him well in his new venture.

“My crystal ball is broken. I can’t predict tomorrow,” Alamo said.

Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard questioned Berkley’s commitment to the job given that he invested none of his own money in the resort.

“You have no skin in the game,” Bernhard said.

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