What Was the First Casino in Las Vegas?

Red Rooster was the first casino to be built on Las Vegas Strip. It is now the Mirage.

The Red Rooster, a popular nightclub that served alcohol throughout the prohibition era, was in Sin City years before it became legal to gamble. Although it seems strange that gambling and alcohol were once outlawed in Las Vegas is true. In 1911, Nevada officials banned gambling.

The state of Nevada had passed legislation in March 1931 that legalized gambling. The owners of the Red Rooster took advantage of this law quickly and became the first to receive a Clark County gaming license. This license was granted to them on April 1, 1931. They opened their first casino with only a handful of slot machines and one blackjack machine.

Strangely, the Red Rooster was not only the first Las Vegas Strip casino to open, but it also lost its gaming license.

According to Jeff Burbank’s book “License to Steal”, the new gaming board revoked Red Rooster’s license on July 7, 1931 after federal authorities raided the casino to sell alcohol. Prohibition was still the law in the land.

Because of its short life span, I’m not sure if the Red Rooster counts. You could argue that Las Vegas’ first casino was closed for 100 days.

Pair O’ Dice

Another contender for “first casino on Strip” was located on a deserted parcel just south of the Stratosphere. The oddly-named Pair O’Dice was established on a parcel a little south of where today’s Stratosphere is. It had previously been a very successful club, and was granted a licensing license in May 1931, just one month after the Red rooster.

The Pair O’Dice, like the Red Rooster was built on Highway 91. This highway would become the Los Angeles Highway and later the Las Vegas Strip. (More information can be found here: Where is the Las Vegas Strip? The location of the Pair O’Dice was on the land that would become the Frontier Hotel & Casino (shown in photo at top)- right across the street from Encore and Wynn.

However, the land was located in the middle of nowhere back then. The Pair O’Dice owners purposely built the nightclub/casino in the south of downtown to attract some of the Los Angeles tourists who travel on Hwy 91 to downtown. They served illegally, just like the Red Rooster. However, the United States government spared them the wrath and they continued to be open.

The resort closed in 2007 after years of successful operation as “The Frontier”, then “New Frontier” Casino and Hotel. Grand plans to create a replica of New York’s Plaza Hotel on the vacant land have failed. This means that this strip of Las Vegas land was more busy and more active in 1931 than it currently is.

First Resort at the Las Vegas Strip

The Pair O’Dice was the Strip’s first continuous casino, but the El Rancho Vegas was the first resort. It opened in April 1941.

The Pair O’ Dice was a nightclub that featured a few slots, one blackjack table and one roulette wheel. El Rancho Vegas was a more traditional version of the Strip casinos. The El Rancho Vegas had a swimming pool, which was a major feature for hotel guests back then, as well as a showroom and the first national buffet. It also offered more luxurious accommodations than the hotels on Fremont Street just a few miles away.

UNLV reports that the resort had 70 slot machines and 4 tables games. It also boasted the largest restaurant in Las Vegas. There were 63 rooms in the hotel. The first Las Vegas resort was built on land that is now known as the Sahara Las Vegas Casino and Hotel.

Flamingo, the First Casino?

A common, false belief is that Flamingo was first casino/hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

This misconception was helped by the 1991 film “Bugsy”, starring Warren Beatty and Anne Bening. One dramatic scene shows Warren Beatty’s Bugsy (based on the mobster Benjamin “Bugsy”) Siegel, stopping his car at the deserted highway. According to legend, Bugsy had his vision for the Flamingo Hotel & Casino.

In fact, Siegel and his mob friends purchased a majority stake in the resort. Bugsy then took over design and construction.

The Flamingo actually opened on December 26, 1946, 15 years after opening the Pair O’Dice just a mile away and five years after El Rancho Vegas. Flamingo officials can boast that they were the first casino to open on the southern end of Las Vegas Strip.

The Pair O’ Dice, El Rancho Vegas and Flamingo began a long stretch of entertainment worth multi-billion dollars that has become the most popular gambling destination in the United States.

Twenty-two of the Strip’s properties and adjacent Strip properties are mega resorts. The UNLV Center for Gaming defines a mega resort as one that has gaming revenues at least $72million per year.

Combining Strip properties brings in more than a billion dollars in gaming revenue per year – a significant increase from the humble Red Rooster and Pair O’ Dice.

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