A billboard near Chinatown sends a message to the Palace Station in Chinese: “We are here for you.”
In Scott Nelson’s case, it could say: “I’m back.”
Nelson made a name – and a face – for himself in local Asian markets during his 25 year run on the Gold Coast and The Orleans, the two closest casinos to Chinatown.
Now, after several years in Denver and brief stints at Fiesta Henderson, Nelson has returned to compete with two of his former employers at another nearby property targeting the lucrative Asian market visit Lidewapoker.
Station Casinos announced last month that Nelson had taken over as vice president and general manager at Palace Station, a native casino in Vegas that celebrated its 40th birthday earlier this summer.
Nelson said he just wanted to function as “more than an upgrade,” and “not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
“Station has done a great job over the years growing and nurturing Asian businesses at Palace Station,” he said. “I’m here to continue that mission.”
However, Nelson’s clear background makes him an attractive candidate for Palace Station, which is located just a few miles from Chinatown.
Nelson, who has lived in Las Vegas most of his life, watched Chinatown “grow from scratch.”
“It took off in the mid-90s,” he said. “We saw a real boom in 2002, 2003. Asian business after Asian business after Asian business started opening up on Spring Mountain (Road).
“Casinos are starting to become more social gathering places. You can see there are more and more Asians in your casino. It just grows and grows and grows. It went hand in hand with the growth of Spring Mountain Road, way past Rainbow (Boulevard), where it continues to grow to this day. “
Despite his involvement with Asian markets, including the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Nelson does not speak Chinese, Japanese or any other Asian language.
“I’ve always been lucky enough to surround myself with champions who speak these other languages,” said Nelson, who was featured on a billboard with three Asian casino hosts and top managers, Tri Hua, Benny Chui and Steve Phui.
To attract the Asian market, Palace Station features what is known as the “Asian hole.” The area includes 10 Baccarat tables, five Pai Gow tables and one table for Show Pai, a baccarat and Pai Gow hybrid designed by UNLV students.
Hanging from the ceiling is the favorite flower of Chinese culture. The Food Express restaurant serves traditional Chinese dishes and even provides tableside service so players can eat while gambling.
“I have enjoyed over the years being part of growing this niche market segment and leveraging it as an operator,” said Nelson. “We didn’t know it would grow to what it is today.”
For Nelson, it is the energy to reenter a market he has long been a part of. He said the casino business was only “in my blood.”
After graduating from Clark Middle School and then serving in the United States Air Force for four years, Nelson worked his way up the casino ladder as a security guard, bartender, dealer, hotel director, you name it. His mother, Betty Jo Spotti, is a 73-year-old blackjack trader who is still working on swing shifts on the Strip at Wynn Resorts.
“I know a lot of people who are tired,” Nelson said. “I’m here to love the game. I love the casino industry. That’s what keeps me motivated after 30 years. “
While the Asian market remains a top priority – “the potential is still there to continue to grow,” Nelson said – so far it is not the only point of emphasis at Palace Station.
The sportsbook has recently undergone a renovation with a new video board and is moving from manual to electronic odds boards.
The casino will also experience expansion soon to include new locations for the bingo hall and buffet, along with the addition of several other restaurants to be announced. The project is expected to be completed around 2017.
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