Developer Derek Stevens tells Nevada gaming regulators Circa will give visitors ‘wow moments’

September 10, 2020 11:45 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
September 10, 2020 11:45 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

Downtown Las Vegas casino developer Derek Stevens believes that opening his Circa Resort Casino project at the end of October – even without the property’s 777-hotel rooms – could be the perfect tonic to help repair a gaming market still struggling under the coronavirus pandemic.

Stevens told the Nevada Gaming Control Board Wednesday that the resort, which encompasses a city block along the Fremont Street Experience and is downtown’s first all-new hotel-casino built in 40 years, will benefit the entire area.

He believes Circa will create the “wow moments” he felt every time he visited Las Vegas long before he became a casino owner and operator.

“We want to make sure when people visit, from anywhere in the world, that they have that moment,” Stevens told gaming regulators during the 90-minute virtual hearing. While describing Circa’s rooftop Legacy Club, the developer said, “people will have the opportunity to see the city of Las Vegas, downtown, and the Strip light up before your eyes.”

The Control Board recommended approval for Circa’s two-tiered opening, which is scheduled for Oct. 28. Stevens plans to open the casino and sportsbook area, restaurants, and the fifth-floor pool area on that date. The hotel and suites will follow in late December.

Initially, gaming regulators had to get past regulations that call for resort casinos to have a minimum number of hotel rooms. Circa got around the requirement by noting that two of the land parcels Stevens acquired for the development housed casino-only properties that were grandfathered in under the requirement.

Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan (top) and Derek Stevens during Wednesday hearing

Stevens said he first discussed the idea with Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan in April, roughly a month after gaming was shut down in Nevada due to COVID-19. He was then told by his construction company areas of the property he wanted to open first would be ready by October.

“In a crazy year like 2020, this is a positive,” Stevens told the Control Board. The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final decision on Sept. 24.

Stevens, who also owns the D Las Vegas and Golden Gate as well as the outdoor Downtown Events Center, has never disclosed a cost for Circa, which is being built on the city block site that included the former Las Vegas Club Hotel-Casino, several smaller casinos, and a strip club. Circa’s 982-space parking garage – dubbed Garage Mahal – is across Main Street and is connected to the resort via an above-ground pedestrian bridge.

On Wednesday, Stevens’ chief financial officer, Susan Hitch, outlined the project’s financing without revealing a cost. Circa, D, and Golden Gate are all part of the collateral package for the construction loans and will help service the debt. A six-month cushion has been built into the company’s reserves.

“We will outperform the numbers projected for our lending proposal,” Stevens told the Control Board. “We will significantly outperform the numbers in our loan agreement.”

Stevens said he discussed the plans for Circa with all his downtown resort neighbors, including Golden Nugget Las Vegas owner Tilman Fertitta, executives from Boyd Gaming, and Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel.

“I believe Circa will enhance their revenues and (cash flow) as well,” Stevens said. “We’re all in this together. We want to bring people downtown to Fremont Street.”

Stevens said some of his employees from the D Las Vegas and Golden Gate will move over to Circa. He said the resort has hired 900 of the anticipated 1,500 workers he expects to have on board by the time the hotel tower opens in December. The property’s six restaurants are all outsourced and will hire their own staffing. Stevens plans to have 1,100 employees in place by the October open date.

The property’s showcase pieces are its fifth-floor pool deck, which will operate year-round with six temperature-controlled pools and two spas and includes a 14-million-pixel screen to show live sports and special events.

Garage Mahal will also open in October. The high-tech transportation hub includes a dedicated ride-share area and an air-conditioned bridge connector to the resort.

Circa’s two-story casino will feature 1,350 slot machines and 49 table games, while the three-story, stadium-style sportsbook will have a 78-million-pixel high-definition screen – viewable throughout the casino – with the capacity to host up to 1,000 guests.

The sportsbook, operated by Steven’s sports betting venture Circa Sports, will have a dedicated broadcast studio for the sports betting network, VSiN.

Morgan noted that Stevens has been found suitable by Nevada gaming regulators nine times in the past 12 years. He first bought an interest in the Golden Gate in 2006 and acquired the former Fitzgerald’s a few years later, converting the property into the D Las Vegas.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.