To some Hendersonians, it might seem like yesterday, but Sunset Station opened 15 years ago this week.
The casino opened at a time when the Las Vegas locals market was in transition. The locals-oriented Boulder Strip was thriving (Sam’s Town was on its way to becoming one of the world’s biggest casinos), and with the metropolitan area growing rapidly, casinos started to proliferate. The Rancho Strip was growing, and, as Henderson looked to be primed for growth, Station Casinos thought that a more-upscale-than Boulder Station casino might be a good fit for the area.
Sunset Station had more than the usual locals’ amenities—bowling, a movie theater, a Kids Zone. It had a style that was now, it seems clear, a hint of what we would get with Green Valley Ranch and Red Rock. Sure, much of Sunset hews closely to the no-frills train theme that marked Palace and Boulder Stations, but the Gaudi Bar was a look into the future.
What’s surprising is that Station Casinos is actually drawing attention to the anniversary. Most Las Vegas casinos deliberately downplay their age, fearing that if they pop the bubbly for a grand gala, customers will figure out that the facility is old and therefore undesirable. It’s a curious approach, since it seems more logical that a business that’s been around for a while—particularly one as dependent on customer goodwill as a casino—actually has a track record that makes it more appealing.
Stations, on the contrary, is turning this weekend into a 72-hour celebration of Sunset’s quincinera. The events are a microcosm of the locals-oriented company’s approach: free-play giveaway contest on Friday; a formal ceremony with Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen on Saturday; and cupcakes and Champagne for everyone all afternoon on Sunday.
Sunday is more than a little reminiscent of Jackie Gaughan’s annual birthday celebration
at the El Cortez, and the simple fact of recognizing another year of being open for business is the kind of down-home touch that you won’t see much of on the Strip, but is becoming increasing common off the Strip. Las Vegas might not be a small town anymore, but in some ways when it comes to locals gambling, it aspires to be.