Why Circa’s Derek Stevens Says He’s Happy With Fremont Street

Posted on: October 24, 2022, 11:45 a.m.

Last update on: October 25, 2022, 01:42h.

LAS VEGAS – I stayed at the Westgate this year for the Global Gaming Expo (G2E), which gave me a better appreciation for Circa Resort and Casino.

A photo of Circa Resort and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, with the Strip casinos in the background. For the second year in a row, the Derek Stevens-owned resort won North American Property of the Year at the 2022 Global Gaming Awards. (Image: McCarthy Construction Companies)

Not that my experience at Westgate was bad. This was not the case. On the contrary, the view from my room allowed me to see the north end of the Strip and downtown Vegas. And this view really lets you see how the 35-story complex developed by Derek Stevens stands out.

So it was no surprise when it was announced at the conference that Circa had won the North American Property of the Year award at this year’s Global Gaming Awards. It was the second year in a row for the downtown property to claim this honor.

I spoke with Stevens at G2E the day after Circa and Las Vegas announced. This is the second part of the interview. If you missed the first part, you may find that here.

Casino.org edited Stevens’ answers for length.

Congratulations on winning the North American Property of the Year award. What does this mean for you and what does this mean for the casino?

Derek Stevens: “Well, I can really tell you that when things are going well, I get a little unfair advantage. So really, that’s a testament to our team who worked on the development of the property, and then to our team and everyone who worked on it. I was pretty proud, on behalf of our team, that we got to celebrate this. It’s pretty cool to do this two years in a row.

I can see Circa from where I stay, and from so far away you really see how big it is and how it stands out. Was this what you wanted when you originally imagined Circa?

DS: “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Of course people know I love Vegas. I love downtown Vegas, I love Fremont Street. And when we had the chance to put this assembly together – it was originally the Vegas Club and the Sirens and the Glitter Gulch and a handful of other buildings – you have to take the hand that’s dealt to you.

“We were lucky enough to be able to put the block together, and then when you put the block together, like you’ve done in many cities, you have to go up. So that’s kind of how it happened. We feel very lucky to have been able to bring together this property. Real estate is one thing, but putting the design together and having the team ready to go, that was pretty exciting for me.

And after?

DS: “We have a few big ones for us at the moment. We have the beginning of phase two of Circa, which is our ballroom and meeting space. This just opened in the last two weeks. And then we had a major expansion of the second floor of the D, which essentially doubles the size of BarCanada and our sports betting business, the sports bar. Brand new 24 hour restaurant, we think it will really improve the property.

For us, aside from the opening year of Circa, 2022 is the year we’ve spent more capital investment than at any point in my career here. We are excited to be able to operate and manage these new sites here as we move into 2023 and beyond.

If you had the chance, would you seek to be present here on the Strip?

DS: “I think one thing people need to remember is that when people ask me, ‘Hey, what’s the difference between Downtown and the Strip?’ I would just say downtown and the strip are free. When people ask me, “What’s the difference between a Strip customer and a Downtown customer?” I say, 40 million people visit Las Vegas, 23 million people visit downtown Las Vegas. So who is the downtown customer? I’m just saying the answer is it’s the Las Vegas customer.

When you hit 60% of everyone that goes through Vegas, that’s basically a bit of everyone. I would say the biggest difference between the strip and downtown is that downtown has 6,000 hotel rooms and the strip has 150,000 hotel rooms. Maybe a bit of a different business model. The importance of having heads and beds, where downtown is perhaps a little less of a concern…

Is this where the wow factor comes in for Circa to get them off the strip, even for a little while?

DS: “Yeah, whether it’s from the Strip or from Airbnb, VRBO or wherever. We try to provide great experiences.

“I’m really happy with Fremont Street. I’m quite comfortable there. I know where my seats at the bar are, so I kind of know where to go.

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