Time Travel on Fremont Street

Downtown continues to mine a balanced—and, so far, successful—strategy of mixing Old Vegas nostalgia with modernized amenities. Nowhere is the Janus-faced approach that’s come to define downtown as apparent as at The D. The most obvious example is the split-level casino, which looks to the present on the first floor and the past on the second. Owner Derek Stevens has built on what worked for him at the just-renovated Golden Gate, mixing sex appeal, comfort food and gestures to the past. In some spots, old and new overlap: The D’s second-floor coin-op machines still take slot cards, so players can rack up new-school points.

Now, Stevens is hiring dancing dealers to alternate between go-go platforms and the tables in the biggest party pit in the city. About 50 dancers have signed on, and 50 openings remain. The dancers—another touch that seems both classic and cutting-edge—will perform on the bottom floor, alongside the Longbar, which features the world’s longest range of bar-top video poker games.

The D’s mashup of yesterday and today is downtown 2012 in a nutshell: the Mob Museum and value casino entertainment on one hand, The Smith Center and cafés in repurposed shipping containers on the other. Will tech start-ups flourish in the shadow of $2.99 shrimp cocktails? That’s the kind of creative tension the city needs as it redefines itself as a place that prizes good old-fashioned fun, but also knows how to roll its sleeves up and code.