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Frank Fertitta Jr., patriarch of Station Casinos, dies

Palace Station

Las Vegas Sun archives

On July 9, 1990, executives from Palace Station drove a spike into a railroad tie, symbolizing the beginning of construction on their new 587-room, 22-story tower. From left are Frank Fertitta Jr. (chairman of the board), Glen Christensen (vice president/CFO), Joe Canfora (vice president/general manager), Jim Faso (senior vice president), Lorenzo Fertitta (vice president), Frank Fertitta III (president/COO) and Blake Sartini (director of casino operations).

Updated Friday, Aug. 21, 2009 | 6:35 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Frank Fertitta Jr.

Frank Fertitta Jr.

Frank Fertitta during construction of the Bingo Palace. Launch slideshow »

Frank Fertitta Jr., the patriarch of Station Casinos, died today after heart surgery in a California hospital.

Fertitta, 70, who had been ill for some time, died at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, sources close to the family said.

Fertitta arrived in Las Vegas from Texas with his wife, Victoria, in 1960. He started working as a bellman at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino while he was learning to be a dealer. From 1960 to 1976 he was a dealer, pit boss, baccarat manager and general manager at properties including the Stardust, Tropicana, Circus Circus, Sahara and the Fremont in downtown Las Vegas.

He believed that Las Vegas needed a casino where locals could visit and where casino workers could come after work.

The Station Casinos empire started in 1976 when Fertitta opened The Casino off the Las Vegas Strip. The name was changed to Bingo Palace and ultimately was renamed Palace Station in 1983.

In the 1990s, Station opened Boulder Station in 1994, then Texas Station in 1995, Barley's in 1996 and Sunset Station in 1997.

Station purchased the King 8 in 1998, renaming it The Wild, Wild West.

Then Station acquired the Santa Fe and Fiesta, which opened in 1995, as well as the Reserve in 1998 in the southeast valley.

Station Casino has grown to 19 properties and has been voted among "the best companies to work for," according to Fortune magazine.

Fertitta Jr. retired from Station Casinos in 1993, although he remained active in other family businesses, as well as community service and philanthropic efforts.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said today that Fertitta will be remembered for his business and philanthropic contributions to the city.

"Frank was one of the most successful business persons in the history of Las Vegas, and one of the great philanthropists of our community," he said. "He was a very special guy, a class act. He was sophisticated, quiet and unassuming, a master businessman."

Former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller said he was saddened when hearing of Fertitta's death.

"Frank Fertitta was not only a pioneer in creating locals-friendly casinos but he was one of the most community-minded and generous men in Las Vegas history. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word," Miller said. "I don't think I ever heard him raise his voice but I do know that he raised a fine family and helped greatly to make Las Vegas a better place for others and their families. Myself and my family are deeply saddened by the loss of such a good friend."

Former Gov. Bob List added, "It's a sad day for Las Vegas."

Both Fertitta and his wife, Vicki, were involved in UNLV, Bishop Gorman High School, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, Nevada Cancer Institute, Opportunity Village and St. Judes Ranch, among others.

Fertitta is survived by Victoria, his wife of 51 years; daughter Delise Sartini (Blake); sons Frank Fertitta III (Jill) and Lorenzo (Teresa); and nine grandchildren including Blake Sartini II, Lorenzo Sartini, Sandra Sartini, Kelley-Ann Fertitta, Victoria Fertitta, Frank Fertitta IV, Lorenzo Fertitta Jr., Nicco Fertitta and Angelia Fertitta. He is preceded in death by his brother Joseph and is survived by sisters Olivia Deppe and Linda Ramirez.

Funeral plans are pending.