Downtown Las Vegas’ El Cortez Hotel will toast its 80th anniversary this November, celebrating its storied history as the longest continuously running hotel and casino in the region. Here, we remember its past and look to its exciting future.
El Cortez Hotel & Casino’s neon arrow, marquee and sign were installed in 1952 and remain untouched to this day
Ladies play slot machines at the El Cortez casino in 1966
It’s been 80 years since John Kell Housells, John Grayson and Marion Hicks banded together to open the El Cortez Hotel & Casino (elcortezhotelcasino.com), Downtown Las Vegas’ first major resort, where 59 rooms awaited its lucky visitors on East Fremont Street. Since then, the property has been overseen by everyone from the Mob—Gus Greenbaum, Meyer Lansky, Moe Sedway and Bugsy Siegel took over in 1945 for a mere $600,000—to the beloved Jackie Gaughan, its late owner who held the reins from 1963 to 2008 and grew the hotel to its current 297 rooms. (Gaughan even called the hotel home until his passing in 2014, and his residence, a luxury suite on the 15th floor, can be booked by request.) In 2008, Gaughan passed the torch to gaming pioneer and current owner Kenny Epstein.
The Helldorado Parade outside of the hotel in 1947
Now, the iconic destination is headed into its next era, having recently completed a $25 million renovation, which includes 200 upgraded tower rooms and suites, a new high-limit room and a refreshed lobby. Join the anniversary festivities Nov. 6 to enjoy Champagne, a $35,000 gambling giveaway, live mariachi music, a presentation by Mayor Carolyn Goodman and a spectacular fireworks display that will light up the night. Here’s to the next 80!