The History of Vegas Casinos

We’ll discuss the History of Vegas Casinos in this piece and take a closer look at some of the oldest casinos still open for business.

While many casinos in Las Vegas have come and gone, some have remained open for business. You’ll quickly see why these three venerable casinos continue to be among the most well-liked destinations in Vegas.

The History Of Las Vegas

Given that public gambling has been in Europe for centuries, Las Vegas is still a relatively new casino city. Las Vegas has become as the world’s top destination for gaming and entertainment since its incorporation in 1931. It’s a lot to do in a century and a half.

It may surprise you to learn that Las Vegas was formerly a rural community. Its foundation coincided with the construction of the railroad connecting Salt Lake City and Los Angeles in 1905. Pumped into the town from nearby artesian wells, the steady supply of water made it simple for the population to expand.

However, the community really began to grow after construction on the Hoover Dam began in 1931. Nearly 20,000 additional people moved to the area as a result of this construction activity. Those individuals were mostly young males in search of employment. This created the chance for large-scale entertainment facilities. Enterprising businessmen and Mafia rulers opened some of the first casinos when Nevada formally authorized local gambling in 1931. These included the Flamingo Las Vegas, the El Cortez, and the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.

As they say, the rest is history.

The Golden Gate Hotel And Casino

The Golden Gate was Las Vegas’s first recognized casino. It had to close during the Prohibition era even though it had officially opened in 1906. Not until 1931, upon the legalization of gambling, would it reopen. The majority of historians and others claim that the Golden Gate is the official title, however others will argue that the El Cortez casino is older.

Considering its age, a lot of firsts in Vegas happened at this casino. It was the first casino with plumbing inside. It is also well-known for having been the recipient of Las Vegas’s first phone number. It served its 25 millionth shrimp cocktail back in 1991! Before getting its official name, the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, in 1955, it was also known as the Sal Sagev, which is Las Vegas spelled backwards, for a short while.

In addition to a large selection of slots, guests can enjoy a range of table games such as craps, blackjack, roulette, and three-card poker. A unique high-limit room at the Golden Gate features authentic Hotel Nevada masonry from the early 1900s, among other surprises.

Did You Know?

Although the shrimp cocktail is a Las Vegas clich√© that we made fun of previously, the Golden Gate Casino and Hotel is well-known for them. In 1959, this casino was the pioneer in offering the infamous “50 cent shrimp cocktail.”

El Cortez

Although Golden Gate Hotel holds the official title of “Oldest Hotel in Las Vegas,” El Cortez Hotel & Casino is known as the city’s longest-running casino. At an estimated cost of $250,000 to construct, this casino, which opened in 1941, was regarded as the city’s first significant resort (equal to around $5 million today).

For this establishment, the first ten years weren’t all that great. It had several ownership changes as well as numerous renovations. The mob bought it in 1945 and had the inside renovated. J.K. Houssells, the hotel’s original owner, bought it back the following year. It had another makeover in 1950, and the official “grand opening” happened in 1952.

The El Cortez in Las Vegas celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2020 with a $25 million makeover. A new high roller room, renovated tower hotel rooms, and updated casino flooring were all part of this makeover series. This year, the original 47 hotel rooms took center stage, offering the utmost in comfort and style to some of the most iconic locations in the city.

There are a ton of slots, video poker, and other electronic games in the El Cortez in addition tremendous standard games like roulette, baccarat, blackjack, and Texas hold’em.

Did You Know?

The National Register of Historic Places listed the El Cortez hotel as the first casino. It is one of the few casinos in Vegas to maintain its outer facade (for more than 80 years!) in spite of its numerous interior remodels.

Flamingo Las Vegas

Although it wasn’t the first hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, the Flamingo Las Vegas is the oldest that is still open for business. It took six million dollars to build and opened for business in 1946. Rumor has it that Bugsy Siegel, the gangster owner, named the casino after his former girlfriend, Virginia Hill. Because of her long legs, he called her “Flamingo.” The Fabulous Flamingo was the new moniker after Siegel’s 1947 murder by the casino management.

One of the earliest “all inclusive” resorts, the hotel put more of an emphasis on the whole experience than just gambling. Because of the casino resort’s lovely gardens, pools, and air-conditioned rooms, people would “flock” there.

Over the years, the property has changed hands numerous times. Hilton Hotels acquired it in 1972. It changed ownership once more in 2005 and joined the Harrah’s Entertainment conglomerate. In 2018, the hotel celebrated its 70-year anniversary in Vegas with a major pink and gold refurbishment.

Currently, the Flamingo offers 130 table games, including pai gow poker and mini-baccarat, in addition to over 1,600 slot machines.

Did You Know?

There is a nature sanctuary in the garden courtyard where flamingos, ducks, and other water birds live. Additionally, there’s a sizable koi pond with fish and turtles. Penguins used to reside there as well, but they were eventually relocated to the Dallas Zoo. In Vegas, it becomes a little warm for penguins, even with their appropriate clothing.

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