Derek Stevens pays homage to Las Vegas ‘founders’ at Circa’s Legacy Club By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports December 26, 2020 at 5:00 am Hanging by the maître d’s podium before guests ride the two high-speed elevators to Circa Casino Resort’s 60th-floor rooftop Legacy Club is a black-and-white photo of a Las Vegas poker game. The three players are the late Stuey Ungar, a three-time World Series of Poker champion, the late casino owner Bob Stupak, and longtime poker consultant Eric Drache. Stupak, his face resting on his right hand, seems to be pondering his next move. Guests entering the Legacy Club – following a 90-second elevator ride – are greeted by a wall containing custom-made metal busts depicting 11 of the city’s founding pioneers. Bob Stupak’s bust is front and center. Circa owner and developer Derek Stevens clearly has an affinity for Stupak, who built downtown’s Vegas World. Later, he transformed the property into the Stratosphere. Stupak died in 2009. Stevens said he could have featured “50 or 60” people who inspired Las Vegas. Stupak clearly made the cut. The bust of Bob Stupak inside the Legacy Club at Circa Casino Resort in Las Vegas “He was creative. He was a dreamer. He started a lot of table games, such as Crapless Craps,” Stevens said last week while giving a media tour of the 8,400-square-foot, indoor-outdoor Legacy Club and cocktail lounge that offers expansive views of the Las Vegas Valley and sunsets over the western mountains. Stevens recalled how Stupak, a relentless promoter, placed two-column-by-two-inch advertisements in “hundreds of newspapers across the country,” offering four-day, three-night stays at Vegas World. “He was the first real big national junketeer. He brought a lot of people to Las Vegas,” Stevens said. “He accomplished something unbelievable that impacted the Vegas skyline.” In some ways, Stevens is Las Vegas’ modern-day Bob Stupak. The 500-foot-tall Circa, which opened its casino, restaurants, and public areas on Oct. 28, changed the skyline of Fremont Street and downtown Las Vegas. He built the gaming industry’s largest sportsbook and opened “Stadium Swim,” Circa’s fifth-floor pool deck, which has a capacity for 4,000 guests and a 40-foot high-definition television screen. A view of a Las Vegas sunset from the Legacy Club atop Circa Casino Resort in downtown Las Vegas/courtesy photo Stevens launched a nationwide television campaign for Circa during the Major League Baseball playoffs. He narrated the 30-second advertisement and appears at the end, gazing up toward Circa’s tower from his car window. The message was both an introduction to the resort and a tribute to the allure and mystique of Las Vegas. Bob Stupak would have been proud. Circa’s hotel tower and the Legacy Club officially open on Monday. However, Stevens offered an “early check-in” for guests with opening-night room reservations, allowing registration on Saturday afternoon – for free. About half have taken him up on the offer. Circa will open with 512 rooms. Stevens is leaving some 200 rooms unfinished for a year until he decides their best use. Circa has 26 room types, from 439-square-foot standard rooms with a king bed to the 1,830-square-foot Founders Suites on the 55th floor. There are rooms with bunk beds and a one-bedroom suite with a second king bed that folds into the wall. Circa’s opening comes as many Las Vegas resorts are shutting down operations midweek due to lack of business. The ongoing pandemic forced has cancellations of major tradeshows and conferences for the first half of 2021. Derek Stevens, the developer of Circa Casino Resort, watches the Sunset from the Legacy Club/Photo by Howard Stutz Stevens is undaunted. “I wish there was enough demand that they wouldn’t have to do that,” Stevens said, noting the midweek closure of The Mirage wasn’t good for Las Vegas. “We’re smaller, so we’re not in that situation. We opened the minute the governor said we could. 365, 24/7 – we’re absolutely open.” The Legacy Club has a display of 500 two-ounce gold bars – 1,000 ounces of gold – branded with the Circa logo. A ticker atop the display shows the bars’ combined value based on the current price of gold – $1.86 million on a recent afternoon. Stevens likened the attraction to a modern version of the photo opportunity at Binion’s across the street, where guests had their picture taken in front of $1 million in cash. So what would Stupak and the other founders – Jackie Gaughan, Benny Binion, Jay Sarno, Kirk Kerkorian, Sam Boyd, Steve Wynn, William Bennett, Frank Fertitta Jr., Barron Hilton, and Howard Hughes – think if they viewed Las Vegas today from the Legacy Club? “When a lot of them came here, you went a couple of miles to the west and it was just desert,” Stevens said. “There was like 100,00 people when Howard Hughes came here. They would be like, ‘Oh my God, did Las Vegas ever grow.’” Note: For more on Bob Stupak, read “No Limit: The Rise and Fall of Bob Stupak and Las Vegas’ Stratosphere Tower” by my friend and colleague, John L. Smith Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.