Fontainebleau on track for December opening after fire and regulatory hearing

July 27, 2023 9:01 PM
Photo: Fontainebleau Las Vegas (courtesy)
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
July 27, 2023 9:01 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The co-owner of the Fontainebleau Las Vegas told the Nevada Gaming Commission Thursday that the roof fire over the weekend won’t prevent the multi-billion-dollar resort from opening in December.

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Jeffrey Soffer, CEO and chairman of Fontainebleau Development, updated the Commission on the blaze, which could be seen all around the valley. With the news, the Comission approved a preliminary finding of suitability for the developers and operators of the resort. Soffer and partner Brett Mufson will return in the fall to appear before the Gaming Control Board and Commission to seek licensing to operate the casino on the north end of the Strip.

A two-alarm fire broke out Saturday on the resort’s rooftop, but the fire was extinguished within 30 minutes without spreading beyond the roof.

“I’m sure you heard about the little fire,” Soffer joked. “We don’t know for sure, but there was some stuff on the roof and there might have been some chemicals left by construction workers. It caused no major damage. Thank God it was nothing of substance.”

Soffer said he was getting calls from numerous people telling him the resort was on fire and that only added to the history of the project, which he called “crazy.”

Soffer was the original developer of the Las Vegas project that broke ground in 2007, before the Great Recession and real-estate crash caused the project to go into bankruptcy in 2009. It was acquired by billionaire Carl Ichan in 2010; Ichan sold it in 2017 to New York developer Steve Witkoff. Soffer reacquired the property in February 2021.

Commissioners expressed positive sentiments on the project and its completion and opening.

Brian Krolicki said the project could be a “Netflix miniseries” based on what has transpired over many years and how the project has come full circle.

“What a wonderful addition to the portfolio of gaming properties and hotels in Las Vegas,” Krolicki said. “This is a wonderful state asset and certainly that part of the Strip needed the boost and an almost $4 billion investment is extraordinary.”

Ogonna Brown called it “a beacon of hope” and said she can’t wait until it’s finished. Chair Jennifer Togliatti called the project “beautiful.”

Soffer’s partner Mufson told the Commission they’ve invested $3.8 billion in the project and said the resort can produce $154 million in taxes in its first year of operation.

The resort will have a casino floor, second floor of retail, fitness, and entertainment, and the third floor will house the pool deck, which measures six acres with seven pool experiences.

About 250 executives are employed currently and the resort plans to reach 7,100 with hiring starting in September. The company will implement a weekly paycheck, setting it apart from the biweekly norm.

“There’s still some softness in hiring on the culinary and housekeeping sides, but what’s going to be refreshing to the market is our culture and some of the benefits we’re offering,” Mufson said. “We’re private owners in a market that’s practically all company-owned. It’s an advantage for us in attracting the right talent.”

Commissioner George Markantonis said it’s difficult for properties to differentiate themselves from one another and credited the Fontainebleau for doing an “excellent job of putting together an employee package that covers a lot of bullet points that many people miss in Las Vegas.”

The lone issue that came up during the hearing by Soffer’s gaming attorney, Frank Schreck with Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck, was an ongoing federal tax investigation regarding a loan involving the Town Square shopping center in Las Vegas. The Commission didn’t appear concerned that any problems would arise, once the investigation is completed.