Las Vegas Sun

December 9, 2021

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Rio kicks off the ‘90s

Rio Suite Hotel and Casino chief Bob Maxey, sitting in his new office, his cellular phone at his side, related what he had just said to employees in an orientation speech during the final frantic days before the resort's planned opening Monday.

"Basically, the message is that we are building a gambling joint here," Maxey said. "It's about 35 percent owned by Marcor (Development Co. Inc.), but this will not be corporate run, will not have a corporate environment. This place is going to have personality, just a Las Vegas gambling joint."

Judging from both the outside and inside of the Rio, Maxey might have trouble getting patrons to see it as only a "gambling joint." 430 suites (no regular rooms), beveled glass exterior, dozens of palm trees on the perimeter, an outdoor bar overlooking a sandy "beach" leading to a sand-bottomed swimming pool with a waterfall.

Consistently with the casino's decidedly upscale design, decked out like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at Carnival time, the frames of the 900 slots in the 50,000-square-foot casino are covered with bright red, blue and yellow powder coat paint, the 42 table games covered with black-colored felt.

The hotel-casino, which opens 10 a.m. Monday, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Gov. Bob Miller, also will offer 96 non-smoking rooms, rooms custom-made for the handicapped and baby sitting services.

Also, Danny Ruggiero, vice president of casino operations, will have his office not on the second floor with the other executives but literally in the middle of the casino itself, next to the keno lounge.

But Maxey insists on the term. The casino's marketing plan assumes that locals -- more in tune with gaming and more demanding than tourists -- will make up fully 40 percent of the Rio's patrons.

Drive-ins from Southern California will provide 25 percent, followed by tour and travel business (15 percent) and convention and meetings (2 percent), he said.

The Rio's location on West Flamingo and Valley View Boulevard, across Interstate 15 from the Las Vegas Strip, will work to its advantage as visitors driving into town will be put off by the heavy traffic they will see on the Strip, Maxey said.

"We are not on the Las Vegas Strip. What is the Las Vegas Strip? A piece of asphalt five miles long, 80 feet wide. A long, narrow parking lot on Friday and Saturday," he said. "We are closer to the center, to four corners (Flamingo Road and the Strip) than 70 percent of other Strip properties.

"Customers coming from Los Angeles (on I-15) to Flamingo will look right and see a sea of taillights, look to the left and see the Rio's neon," he touted. "There is no more perfect customer than the person who comes off that ramp."

Also, the Rio and the neighboring Gold Coast hotel-casino, a casino frequented by locals and owned by Michael Gaughan, a longtime friend of Maxey's, will complement each other, he said.

"There's already enough people circling the parking lot at the Gold Coast for another casino," he joked.

The casino, covering 35 acres, also has an option on 15 adjacent acres to add more to the project if needed.

The first Las Vegas-area casino to open in the 1990s, the Rio, which will employ 1,500 people, will direct itself toward that individual, Maxey said, a former top executive for Golden Nugget. "As Las Vegas has gotten larger, it's more impersonal. We don't intend to have that happen to us," he said.

At the same time, Maxey said he won't indulge in traditional "old guard" management practice typical of Las Vegas casinos: if a manager resigns, his or her staff must leave to make way for the new manager's staff.

"That won't happen here," he said. "I believe many changes of employees are uncalled for and due to management insecurity rather than necessity. It's bad human relations and we are going to bend over backwards to avoid falling into that trap."

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