The famous Hard Rock Hotel located on the Vegas Strip recently closed its doors for extensive remodeling and rebranding that is expected to take upwards of 8 months to complete. According to Adam Mace, it’s unusual for a casino to completely shut down during renovations. Many will stay partially opened but Hard Rock, which will reopen under the name Virgin Las Vegas, felt that maintaining a great customer experience was more important than the lost revenue. This was an important and risky decision to navigate because they don’t want to become one of the fallen historic casinos of yesteryear.
Over the years we’ve seen many iconic hotels and casino resorts close their doors forever. Some were Vegas OGs that went back to the beginning, had mob ties, or hosted famous people in the past. Here are 6 of the most iconic Vegas casinos that are no longer operating.
#1. The Riviera Hotel And Casino
Back in 2015 one of the most famous casinos on this list closed its doors forever. For 60 years The Riviera was a standard in Vegas, a remnant from the Rat Pack days and host to lots of famous acts like Elvis, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. According to a report by CNN, back when it launched in 1955 it was the very first high rise resort to go up in Las Vegas. Many casinos in the 1950’s had mob ties and money was skimmed from the Vegas casinos to send home and pay for illegal operations. The Riviera was the crown jewel of the Chicago mafia. The owners struggled on and off with bankruptcy issues and the casino became overshadowed by newer flasher ones such as the Mirage and Mandalay Bay. The casino and hotel were demolished to make room for the Las Vegas Global Business District expansion.
#2. The Aladdin
The Aladdin was built in 1962 and was originally called Tallyho. It would change hands and names several times but found some success as The Aladdin when it transformed into a resort. It had an Oriental theme and a giant magic lamp out front. In the late 90s, it was announced that the casino and resort would shut down and be rebuilt as a new Aladdin Resort. The old building was imploded and a new resort and casino were built. Sadly, it never took off and closed permanently. It was purchased and reopened as Planet Hollywood.
#3. Sands Hotel And Casino
Back in the day, The Sands was the hip place to be where all the famous entertainers loved to play. It was often a host to the Rat Pack and Jerry Lewis. The hotel rooms were named after famous racehorses. It even had a brush with the mob when Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello acquired shares in the hotel. The original Ocean’s 11 movie was shot on location here with many of the Rat Pack in starring roles. After a time the hotel and casino were bought by Howard Huges and after “modernizing” the iconic destination it started to fall into a decline. In November of 1996, the Sands Hotel and Casino were demolished and The Venetian was built in its place.
#4. The Dunes
The Dunes was the 10th hotel and casino to be added to the Las Vegas strip back in 1955. It was also themed after the Arabian Nights stories. In addition to 200 hotel rooms, it had a large v-shaped pool and a 150-foot lagoon. It also featured a large stage for entertainment acts. Due to its location on the strip, it suffered from the start and had a long history of borrowing money from other casinos to keep it going. You can see it in the background of many movies and TV shows over the years. It eventually closed and the Mirage now stands in its place.
#5. The Boardwalk
This Coney Island-themed hotel and casino was owned and operated by MGM Mirage and was a Holiday Inn property. Located between giants like the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo, they featured a parachute jump ride and a faux wooden roller coaster. The property closed and was partially imploded in 2006. The Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas is now located in the same spot.
#6. The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge, a registered US Historic location, was the first desegregated hotel-casino. Popular with African American entertainers, it allowed them a welcoming place to show their talents during a time when their presence was banned at other casinos. It was very successful with the public, there were no riots as officials suspected, but instead, people got along and enjoyed the entertainment and facilities. The other casino owners on the strip were less than thrilled and it’s rumored they put pressure on banks to get the Moulin Rouge closed. They did in fact get shut down not even one full year after they opened but their short vibrant history paved the way for integration on the strip, as reported by Smithsonian Magazine. It was boarded up for decades when a fire broke out in 2003 leaving the building badly damaged. The Moulin Rouge sign was untouched and got transferred to the Neon Museum to keep it out of harm’s way.
When casinos close, we don’t lose all of their histories. Some historic casinos, gone but not forgotten, are simply reopened under new names when they are bought out. This is true of the Monte Carlo which announced back in 2016 that it would close and reopen under the name Park MGM after they were bought by MGM Grand, according to Forbes Magazine. It’s common for casinos to change hands and rebrand, it’s a sign of the changing times. Luckily bygone casinos have been documented in books, magazines, photos, and movies over the year. That being said, make sure to spend some time at your favorite spots because you never know what the future holds for them.