Friday, Feb. 6, 1998 | 10:43 a.m.
For now, new owner Frank Zarro plans no changes at the Westward Ho.
But in the future the president of New York City-based American Pastime Holdings, who has a sales agreement to purchase the North Strip hotel, has big plans for Las Vegas.
"He's looking to build or acquire a golf course here, and he would likely tie it into the hotel," said John Knott of Sullivan & Knott Inc., broker for the sale.
American Pastime West LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Pastime Holdings Inc., that specializes in the acquisition and ownership of golf and resort properties, entered into an agreement to purchase the Westward Ho this week.
The sale is subject to all local and state licensing and regulatory approvals.
The 777-room hotel, which for two generations was owned and operated by the Petersen family of Las Vegas, was put on the block in November 1997 after Dean Petersen died in a local hospital at the age of 63.
The purchase of the hotel for an undisclosed price would represent's Zarro's first venture into Nevada's gaming market.
"He likes what he sees here, and he expects to do more things in town," Knott said.
The Westward Ho, because of it's size and no-frills character, is practically an unknown in the gaming community. Indeed, the hotel's only claim to fame is that its interiors were featured in the 1996 Academy Award winning film, "Leaving Las Vegas."
Still, real estate experts note the hotel is a hidden jewel in terms of profitability because of consistent revenues and low overhead.
"The hotel has an excellent track record," said David Atwell, a Las Vegas hotel broker.
The Westward Ho, which fronts more than 250 feet on the Strip between the Stardust and Slots-A-Fun, is situated on a 15-acre rectangular parcel that stretches between the Strip and Industrial Road. Behind the main casino building are low-priced motel rooms, many clustered around outdoor pools.
The hotel has 650 employes and features a 35,000-square-foot casino area, while not as large as those of its North Strip neighbors, still contains more than a dozen blackjack tables as well as craps, roulette and Let It Ride. There are also more than 1,000 slot machines.
Over the years, the Westward Ho had build up a loyal clientele of visitors from throughout the Midwest, who enjoy the casual atmosphere, slot promotions and low-limit table games. Minimums are $3 and maximums are $200 -- very low by Strip standards.
Knott said Zarro plans to continue in that tradition.
"He likes the market, and he likes the people involved, and he doesn't expect to make any great changes," Knott said. "What he does expect to do is continue to aggressively market the Westward Ho to its customers throughout the Midwest. This is the historical client base for this property."