Lady luck on a roll

Houston billionaire launches fifth Golden Nugget and bubbly flows at $700 million gem in Lake Charles

Bubbly flows as Tilman Fertitta launches $700 million Golden Nugget

News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Tilman Fertitta, center, cuts the golden ribbon as he is surrounded by local dignitaries. Courtesy of Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
The $700 million Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, La., opens with a bang and confetti flies. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening Tilman Fertitta
Landry's owner and CEO Tilman Fertitta celebrates at the grand opening of the Lake Charles Grand Nugget. Photo by Shafik Rifaat
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening main lobby
The colorful entry to the main casino is indicative of the lively decor throughout the casino and lobby. Photo by Shafik Rifaat
Grand Opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles Tilman Fertitta December 2014 King Room casino
The king rooms at the Lake Charles Golden Nugget are spacious and beautifully appointed. Photo courtesy of © Landry's Inc.
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening showgirl
Vegas-style showgirls light up the ribbon cutting.  Photo by Shafik Rifaat
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
The High Limit area opens onto the main casino. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
Grand Opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles Tilman Fertitta December 2014 Corner Suite
A corner suite at the Lake Charles Golden Nugget follows the same sophisticated decorative theme as regular guest rooms. Photo courtesy of © Landry's Inc.
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Some 1,600 slot machines offer entertainment 24/7. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
Grand Opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles Tilman Fertitta December 2014 Blackjack Table
The Blackjack table at the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, La. Photo courtesy of © Landry's Inc.
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening Fertitta family lunching at Cadillac Bar
The Fertitta family lunches in the Cadillac Bar in the Lake Charles Golden Nugget before the ribbon cutting. Photo by Shafik Rifaat
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Landry's Seafood is decked out for the holidays and serving hungry diners. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Grotto brings a touch of Houston to the Golden Nugget. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Asian food is on the menu at the Golden Nugget including sushi. Photo by Shafik I. Rifaat
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening Tilman Fertitta
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening main lobby
Grand Opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles Tilman Fertitta December 2014 King Room casino
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening showgirl
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Grand Opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles Tilman Fertitta December 2014 Corner Suite
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
Grand Opening of the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles Tilman Fertitta December 2014 Blackjack Table
Golden Nugget Lake Charles La. December 2014 grand opening Fertitta family lunching at Cadillac Bar
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014
News, Shelby, Golden Nugget Lake Charles, Dec. 2014

LAKE CHARLES, La. — With gilded scissors wielded high, champagne corks popping and golden streamer confetti flying, billionaire Tilman Fertitta on Monday officially launched his fifth Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino, a $700 million beauty that challenges the notion of Louisiana casinos as secondary to the bright lights of Las Vegas.

As Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said, "This property is a game changer. It has raised the bar . . . it has gone beyond our expectations." 

In fact, Fertitta told several hundred VIPs and gambling enthusiasts gathered for opening ceremonies that his latest endeavor, parked next door to L'Auberge Casino Resort, beat anything in Vegas. 

"Not even in Vegas on The Strip do you have two properties that have golf courses and beaches and marinas and great casinos," he said. "The state of Louisiana has the most unique gaming opportunity in America right here."

As Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said, "This property is a game changer. It has raised the bar . . . it has gone beyond our expectations."

Indeed, with an emphasis on tony luxury, sleek amenities and service with a capital "S," this Golden Nugget is sure to draw the crowds of Texans that Fertitta had once hoped to lure to Galveston. Galveston's loss is clearly Lake Charles' gain, beginning with the 2,200 jobs provided by the 740-room hotel.

And as Fertitta noted, "I always kind of look to Louisiana and Texas as almost one. You don’t notice when you cross the state line. You’re still in the South and everybody’s nice." He added that he has strong Louisiana roots — his mother is from Golden Meadow, La., and his father hails from Leesville.

Playtime

Even before the midday ribbon cutting, the casino was packed with many of the 1,600 slot machines whirring and chiming and the 70 gaming tables — Blackjack, roulette and poker — packed with enthusiastic gamblers. By mid-afternoon the high-roller room was buzzing.

With five bar and lounge areas, there was excuse for going thirsty. Our favorite on this inaugural visit was the sleek Ice Bar featuring crafted martinis (gin and vodka), champagne and wine. My husband found the bartenders in sequinned short shorts and revealing tops particularly enchanting while I hummed on their creative take on the Cosmopolitan.

 Fertitta's famed 164-foot yacht, The Boardwalk, (helicopter perched atop) was nicely anchored within view of all who chose to stroll the actual boardwalk overlooking the lake.

Fertitta had promised a December opening and with a few areas running behind schedule, the scene was part glam casino action and part hardhat. though no one seemed to mind amind the luxurious surroundings.

While the spa was yet to be open and the vast pool area crawling with workman, the 18-hole golf course was beautifully manicured and landscaped. The private beachfront and marina were under construction, but Fertitta's famed 164-foot yacht, The Boardwalk, (helicopter perched atop) was nicely anchored within view of all who chose to stroll the actual boardwalk overlooking the lake.

Diehard shoppers will not be disappointed as this Golden Nugget has it all in eight boutiques ranging from Luxeproffering high-end watches and jewelry to the Chocolate Box, a candylovers' nirvana. Do not, however, count on the high-end designer shops that are prevalent in the snazzy Vegas hotels. No Chanel.

Familiar menus

Restaurants from the Landry's Inc. family fill the hotel and casino with dining options — Cadillac Bar, Grotto, Landry's Seafood, Saltgrass Steak House, Claim Jumper,  Lillie's Asian Cuisine and our personal favorite Vic & Anthony's, the latter as sophisticated and glamorous as the New York location.

At one corner of the huge property (the entire development covers 290 acres), a fully-stocked Starbucks is hopping 24 hours a day while at the opposite end of the main floor the ever-popular Vegas staple, the buffet, beckons.

Sleep in

The guest rooms in the 25-story hotel are surprisingly spacious and beautifully decorated in a subtle, understated pallette with rich contemporary notes. The beds are comfy, the pillows fluffy, robes and slippers provided.

And the WiFi is free.