The odds favor success for Circa and Derek Stevens By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports October 28, 2020 at 3:02 am Derek Stevens will never be confused with his corporate gaming competitors. If he could be, there would have been zero chance for his Circa Resort & Casino – downtown Las Vegas’s first all-new gaming property in four decades – to open for customers shortly after midnight this morning. In the face of a global pandemic, with a nationwide casino industry operating under numerous state and regulatory health, safety, and cleaning protocols, Stevens decided to open Circa more than two months ahead of schedule. Nevada gaming regulators said he could launch the gaming floor, three-level sportsbook, restaurants, a massive roof-top pool deck, and all other public spaces. The hotel rooms will be unveiled at the end of December. Stevens, 53, who also owns the Golden Gate and D Las Vegas on Fremont Street and operates a sports betting vehicle through Circa Sports, said the opening would give downtown a much-needed boost. His Tuesday evening VIP event – black tie and black mask required – added to community interest in the property. Even with COVID-19 hovering over Las Vegas, Stevens is undaunted. When casinos reopened on June 4 following the state’s 78-day gaming shutdown, he unlocked the Golden Gate and D Las Vegas one minute after midnight. Las Vegas photojournalist Jeff Scheid of The Nevada Independent captured Stevens – wearing a D Las Vegas mask – hanging out at the property’s Long Bar, visiting with his customers. Derek Stevens, center, owner of The D, sits at the Long Bar on Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent) He reminds you of Han Solo in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, piloting the Millennium Falcon into an asteroid field to evade enemy ships. C-3PO tells him the possibility of survival is 3,720-to-1. “Never tell me the odds,” Solo responded. Actually, Stevens always knows the odds, based on his track-record of six-figure sports wagers and potential payouts. A season ago, an early-season bet on Michigan to win the NCAA basketball championship would have paid out $1 million. He lost in the final game but had hedged his wager. “I didn’t take the risk. That was Tilman,” Stevens said of his downtown casino neighbor Tilman Fertitta, whose Golden Nugget casino took the bet. The cancelation of March Madness this year cost sports bettors a chance to watch Stevens announce $300,000-plus in wagers on the NCAA tournament’s opening games, an annual tradition. He makes the selections in conjunction with VSiN network’s Selection Sunday program. Next spring, that show will take place at VSiN’s new state-of-the-art studio inside Circa’s sportsbook. Based on Stevens’ track record downtown, Circa’s odds for success are far from a longshot. Circa has drawn national attention through a television campaign for the property during the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series. Stevens narrated the 30-second ad and appears at the end, gazing up toward Circa’s tower from his car window. Stevens also appears in Las Vegas-area television ads for Circa sports. Circa Resort &; Casino is the newest casino in downtown Las Vegas. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent) Unlike his corporate CEO contemporaries, Stevens is not beholden to a board of directors – just his financial backers. His closest confidant is his brother, Greg, his business partner and an engineer by trade. Greg is a Michigan resident who shuns the limelight. That’s fine. Derek Stevens has enough personality to light up all of downtown, not just Circa. When he brought a replica of Belgium’s Manneken Pis statue to the D’s entrance off Third Street in 2015, he teased the announcement with a two-minute YouTube video featuring his “board of directors” – scantily clad Party Pit dealers, juggling bartenders, a security guard twirling his handgun, and the American Coney Island’s hotdog mascot. It’s doubtful a corporate guy could away with spending a day on those type of antics. One of Stevens’ corporate neighbors, Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith, isn’t concerned with the self-promotions, as long as they bring visitors to downtown. The front entrance for Boyd’s California resort is directly across from Circa’s porte cochère. “I’m a big fan of anyone investing in downtown,” said Smith, whose company also operates the Fremont and Main Street Station, both of which are in walking distance of Circa. “We hope we’ll get a lot of foot traffic from Circa. If he does well, downtown does well.” Smith likes Circa’s odds. Stevens understands the odds better than anyone. He almost always takes the over, “unless it’s an age or weight-based question, then I go under. Everything else, I go over.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.