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Changing Skyline: Hotel wing coming to old-time casino

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L.E. Baskow

The Skyline Casino in Henderson is adding a 55-room hotel wing, expected to open in February.

Skyline Casino Addition

The Skyline Casino in Henderson is adding a hotel wing and the construction has already began on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Walk into the Skyline Restaurant & Casino and you know. From the first few metallic clinks of coins splashing into a tray to the signs featuring big slabs of red meat, it’s obvious you’ve entered old-school Las Vegas (well, actually, old-school Henderson in this case).

There is no talk of e-sports at the Skyline, 1741 N. Boulder Highway, about three miles south of Boyd Stadium. Instead you’ll find slots. The kind that take and give out real coins.

“We have 85 coin machines,” General Manager Sam Kiki said. “Nobody has coin machines anymore, except maybe downtown at El Cortez.”

And you won’t find celebrity chefs at the Skyline, or millennials posting selfies with farm-to-table food. But if you want a prime rib or steak for $5.95 — your choice of potato, tax not included — the Skyline’s got you covered.

“It costs more than we sell it for,” Kiki said. “Both the prime rib and the breakfast special at a $1.49.”

Still, this is Southern Nevada, where nothing stays the same forever. In May, the Skyline broke ground on a new three-story hotel wing.

According to Assistant General Manager Grant Givens, the addition will be ready in mid-February and will have 51 rooms, 18 of which will be larger suites with fireplaces inside.

It’s a big change for a casino that, even with small upgrades over the years, has been operating in pretty much the same way since the early 1960s, according to some accounts, and maybe longer, according to Givens.

“Before the Skyline was the Skyline, we were the Dixie Bar,” Givens said. “That was prior to the Skyline and I have, from the Henderson Home News (a defunct community newspaper) archives, I have stuff back from 1949.”

And the same customers have been coming to the Skyline almost as long as the place has been around.

“I’ve been here for 32 years, and most of our customers have been coming in that long or longer,” Givens says.

Kiki has seen the same long-term loyalty.

“We know our customer by the name,” Kiki said. “And I remember a customer, it was a mom who was pregnant, and now the baby (a customer, too) is now old enough to play.”

So given that kind of loyalty, is the Skyline running the risk of upsetting its regulars by adding a hotel and shooting for a new market? Givens says no.

“Because we’re not changing anything,” he says. “We’re just adding something else for them. … On occasion, someone might have too much to drink and they can stay here. And our customers are older and sometimes they have family in town. Then they can use our place.”

Kiki also said the expansion is targeted directly at the Skyline’s current clientele.

“Most of our customers have relatives and they happen to be in snow states. So we get snow birds and some of those people have fathers and mothers in someplace away from here. And they are very excited to have a place for them to stay.”

But of course, even for this piece of long-term Henderson history, timing is everything. Givens said the Skyline’s owner, Jim Marsh of local car dealership fame, drew up plans for an expansion years ago but shelved them, just prior to the recession.

Now there are several projects either underway, or recently completed, not too far from the Skyline’s portion of the Boulder strip.

In the summer of 2014, the Cowabunga Bay waterpark opened at Gibson Road and Galleria Drive not too far north of the Skyline. And Henderson Hospital is under construction across the street from the waterpark.

South of the Skyline, on land reclaimed from industrial use, the master-planned community Cadence is being developed.

It’s a welcome change for an area that, unlike the more northern section where Sam’s Town, the Eastside Cannery and Boulder Station are located, has for years been the home mainly to ancient one-story motels and pawn shops.

The projects suggest a resurgence of the area that Kiki says Marsh is both taking advantage of and promoting.

“This is Phase 1,” Kiki said. “Phase 2 will have another 51 rooms, and there could be a Phase 3.”

“We’re going to make the area look different,” he said. “We are spending serious money … over $10 million. We are doing this for the economy and the people of Henderson.”

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