Grandiose luxury venues, top service, and excellent opportunities for high rollers and casual players alike make Sin City one of the top US destinations.
But have you ever wondered how it all came to be?
How did one city in Nevada become the gambling center of the world?
Continue reading as we explore the magnificent history of the oldest casino in Las Vegas.
What Is the Oldest Casino on the Las Vegas Strip?
When it comes to the Strip, the most recognizable street in Sin City, and its oldest casinos, things aren’t so crystal clear. Namely, the first casino to open in that general area was the Pair-O-Dice in 1931. The venue received a new owner in 1941 and a new name, becoming part of the Hotel Last Frontier. The resort’s management and name changed numerous times over the years.
It wasn’t until 1998, when the businessman Phil Ruffin bought the establishment for $167 million, that the casino realized its full potential. Sadly, due to the lack of funding, he had to sell New Frontier to El Ad Property in 2007, the very same year when it was demolished.
Today the plot remains empty, as numerous plans for construction fell through over the years. Visitors still have the chance to see the Frontier sign, which has been exhibited in the Neon Museum, one of Vegas’ popular tourist attractions.
Another contender for the title of the oldest gambling establishment on the Strip is El Rancho Vegas Hotel and Casino, which opened in 1941. At the time, the property was among the biggest ones in Las Vegas, with 100 rooms. It had an Old West Theme and was a favorite place of many celebrities and performers. El Rancho was the one that pioneered buffet-style dining by opening an all-you-can-eat buffet.
El Rancho Vegas Hotel and Casino perished in a fire in 1970. Luckily, there were no injuries or casualties, but the authorities never determined the cause. The site remained vacant for many years, despite numerous proposals for its redevelopment. Rumor has it that even Howard Hughes wanted to buy the property. Eventually, MGM Grand opened Festival Grounds in 2015 but ended up selling it soon after.
The Flamingo is the only older casino still standing on the Strip. Opened in 1946, Bugsy Siegel allegedly named the casino after his girlfriend, whom he had nicknamed after the pink-feathered bird. Siegel was killed in 1947, and the casino received new owners — Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum, hotel magnates, who made it extremely successful.
Today, Caesars Entertainment operates the art deco-inspired casino-hotel. The Flamingo has been part of pop culture, appearing in fiction and movies several times. Its 1960s version was featured in the legendary Ocean’s 11 as part of a flashback scene.
Author Tim Powers was inspired by Bugsy Siegel and the origins of Las Vegas casinos and translated his fascination into his novel Last Call.
We now know about Las Vegas’s first casino, but a few other establishments also deserve to be mentioned in this regard:
- Arizona Club — Arizona Club was opened in 1905, the same year John Miller opened the doors to his gambling venue. While no one knows for sure when this venue started organizing gambling events, many believe that casino activities took place before 1931, when gambling became legal in Nevada. Nevertheless, when the Silver State legalized gambling, Arizona Club was one of the first venues to acquire a license.
- The Northern Club — In 1920, Oscar C. Stocker took over the Northern bar and hotel, after which the venue was renamed the Northern Club and became known for gambling practices. Aside from being one of the first unofficial casinos in Las Vegas, this place was also the first one to acquire a legal gambling permit when it became available in 1931.
- Boulder Club — After Hotel Nevada and the Northern Club turned Freemont Street into a gambling district, five men decided to join forces and open another casino here. They named it Boulder Club, and the venue saw its brightest days during the 1940s. Once one of the partners died in 1960, the rest of the owners shut the casino down as initially agreed, after which Horseshoe Club bought the property and used it for expansion.
As you can see, the history of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas is illustrious. But it’s the intrigues and the glam that made this city into what it is today.
So, next time you’re planning your trip to Vegas, consider visiting one of these places that simply ooze old-world charm. Not only will you have a good time, but you’ll also be able to experience the city’s rich past first-hand.