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October 18, 2018

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Revamped Klondike reminiscent of earliest era of locals casinos

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L.E. Baskow

The Klondike Sunset Casino in Henderson reopened recently after being closed for two years.

Klondike Casino Reopening

Exterior of the Klondike locals casino in Henderson following its re-opening on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Launch slideshow »

There’s a lot that’s new about the Klondike Sunset Casino, the locals place on Sunset Road half a block west of Boulder Highway that reopened in August after being dark for two years.

The Henderson casino boasts a newly painted exterior and a completely renovated interior with an expanded restaurant, and lots of flashy new video poker games and slots — 225 in all. There are even plans for entertainment on the patio and a small sports book.

Although its features are brand-new, the Klondike harks back to the old days of Las Vegas, including its setting and the type of customers to which it caters.

The Klondike isn’t on the Boulder Strip or nestled into a residential area like many locals casinos.

Instead, it serves customers in a rough-hewn part of the valley in much the same way the first gambling halls in downtown Las Vegas served railroad workers in the early part of the 20th century.

The Klondike is one of the few Southern Nevada casinos that operates in a semi-industrial area. It’s surrounded by auto shops and an equipment-rental yard. A welding shop, window-tinting businesses and even a funeral home are only a short walk away.

“With all the boat and motor and landscaping companies and everything around here, it’s a very industrial area,” said David Nolan, general manager of the Klondike. “And the lunch crowd and happy-hour crowd are very important to us.”

Even the history of the Klondike reaches back into history of Las Vegas. The current owners of the company, Nevada Gaming Partners, bought the casino from the estate of John Woodrum, who died in early 2014.

Woodrum worked in downtown and Strip casinos in the early ’70s before buying the original Klondike at the far south end of the Las Vegas Strip in 1976. The place was so typically Las Vegas, serving 99-cent breakfast specials and offering 10-cent roulette, that it was featured in two movies.

Woodrum, who was instrumental in saving the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, moved the Klondike to Henderson in 2006, and the casino closed shortly after he died.

“If there’s a link between us and Woodrum, it’s that we’re here — servicing community,” Nolan said. “And we wanted to renovate a Henderson stalwart, bring it back, give it new life and have another option for Henderson locals to enjoy.”

About 70 people are employed at the Klondike, serving the industrial customers as well as snowbird seniors who live in the area and casino service workers who live in Henderson, Nolan says.

The formula is simple.

“The biggest draw is that it’s a clean, safe, fun place to go,” Nolan said. “And it’s new. We’re a value-oriented property, and we have good promotions, quality food and a good gamble for your dollar.”

And the small size is also an advantage, Nolan says.

“It’s a big thing for us,” Nolan said. “If you’re at a Stations place, you’re one in thousands for casino promotions and contests. Here, you’re a big fish in little pond.

“At smaller places, everyone has a chance to win the promotions and you feel a little more special. It’s a competitive advantage for a smaller building with good service.”

That’s not to say the Klondike doesn’t want to grow, although it’s limited by the size of its property and its gaming license. Nolan said there really isn’t room to expand, and there will never be a hotel attached to the property.

Like the Skyline, a casino farther south on Boulder Highway that is adding a hotel, the Klondike is well-positioned to see its business grow when nearby developments come online, Nolan said.

“With the Cadence (master-planned community) being built near here and the Henderson Hospital and the new industrial office complex being built down the street, there’s a lot of growth in the area,” Nolan said. “With that in mind, we want to cater to these locals and give them the service and hospitality they have come to expect in Las Vegas.”

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