One year ago: Frank Fertitta Jr.
That local casino -- you know, the one with the inexpensive buffet and frequent customer giveaways -- has on it the fingerprints of Frank Fertitta Jr., a bellman turned gaming mogul who pioneered the concept of neighborhood casinos in fast-growing Las Vegas. He died one year ago in Los Angeles.
Fertitta, founder of Station Casinos Inc., opened his first neighborhood casino -- simply named the Casino -- in 1976. The 5,000-square-foot gambling hall, attached to the Mini-Price Motor Inn and a short drive from Las Vegas Boulevard, gave the Strip's dealers and cocktail waitresses their own after-work hangout.
The casino went through many expansions, becoming Bingo Palace in 1977 and Palace Station in 1983. He eventually turned over the business to his sons, who later credited their father for building not only a popular entertainment hub, but also an upbeat work environment for his employees.
"The best thing about him was the culture he started," son Frank Fertitta III told the Review-Journal in 2006. "As the Bingo Palace grew into the Palace Station, people always wanted to come work for him. They liked the work environment, and that's the thing we've tried not to screw up."
Fertitta went on to start another casino, Texas Station, which he sold to his sons' company in 1995. Eventually, Station Casinos was involved in more than a dozen gambling operations, including upscale Green Valley Ranch in Nevada and Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento.
For more, read Frank Fertitta's obituary by The Times.
Photo: Frank Fertitta Jr.: Credit: Craig L. Moran / Las Vegas Review Journal