Casinos of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Change happens to everyone and everything. Las Vegas has seen its fair share of changes over the years but the city embraced the change to continually evolve. From a dusty little town in the desert, to a booming tourist destination, Vegas knows how to reinvent itself. Let’s take a trip through the ages to see how Sin City has changed and what may be in store for the future. 

Vegas Night flight

Dunes / Bellagio

One of the original properties associated with the Las Vegas Strip, the Dunes Hotel opened during the mid-1950s casino building boom. With the slogan “The Miracle in the Desert” the theme was focused on an Arabian motif. It had a porte cochère with sloping stucco walls reminiscent of desert tents. Hollywood musical star Vera-Ellen provided opening night entertainment with a show billed as the “Magic Carpet Review.” But despite a celebrity-filled debut, and plenty of publicity, the Dunes would struggle to stay open. Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn purchased the Dunes in 1992 and had it imploded on national television—one tower in 1993 and the other in 1994.

Today, The Bellagio now stands in place of the Dunes. The Bellagio takes its influence from the architecture of Tuscany, Italy. A Tuscan village lines the water’s edge and the property contains an eight acre lake, called Lake Como, filled with thousands of fountains that run the length of Bellagio’s grounds. The “dancing” fountains have become a must-see attraction when traveling to Las Vegas. Crowds gather in front of the hotel to watch the water “dance” in choreographed rhythm to amplified music. Bellagio’s deluxe guest rooms and suites feature sweeping vistas of the resort’s lake, surrounding mountains, and the Las Vegas skyline. Each room is decorated with custom European-style furnishings and art, and is equipped with every modern-day convenience. 

Sands / Venetian

The Sands opened on December 15th, 1952, as a low rise resort. The opening was widely publicized, and the hotel was visited by some 12,000 people within a few hours. The Sands attained iconic status in the 1960s during the filming of the original Ocean’s 11 movie. During that time, stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis JR, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford performed on stage together in “Summit at the Sands” inside the famed Copa Room. The performances are considered to be the birth of the Rat Pack. In its final years, the Sands became a shadow of its former self and ultimately couldn’t compete with the newer and more exciting mega-resorts that were being built on the Strip.  In 1996, Sheldon Adelson bought the Sands and removed the historic landmark to create another.

The Venetian Hotel now sits where Frank, Sammy, and Dean once played. Completed in 1999, The Venetian was envisioned as a tribute to the famed city of Venice, Italy. To recreate the city’s landmarks and charm, experts conducted extensive research in Venice to ensure that every last detail of the hotel was faithful to the original. The Venetian has arched bridges, flowing canals, vibrant piazzas and welcoming stone walkways which capture the spirit of Venice. Visitors can stroll beneath the majestic colonnades of the Doge’s Palace which enters into the Grand Casino. They can also walk the Rialto Bridge and gaze across the lagoon.  

Hacienda / Mandalay Bay

The Hacienda Hotel and Casino was one of the earliest casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. It opened in 1956, and had a distinctive horse and rider sign that is now at the Neon MuseumThe Hacienda began a new trend by appealing to families by offering several pools, a miniature golf course, and go-cart track but no showroom or expensive restaurants. It was imploded on December 31, 1996, to make room for a project that was at that time known as Project Paradise. 

Project Paradise opened as Mandalay Bay on March 2, 1999. Actors Dan Akroyd, Jim Belushi, and John Goodman were grand marshals for a parade of motorcycles that came through the front doors of the resort. The casino has more than 135,000 square feet of gaming space, a 300 seat full-service race and sports book, and an 11-acre pool environment including a shark tank and a wave machine. An outdoor island stage in the sand and surf beach provides additional facilities for events and concerts. The resort contains approximately 13 shops, 4 lounges, 13 restaurants, and a 30,000 square foot spa. 

Desert Inn / Wynn Las Vegas / Encore 

The Desert Inn was one of the most regarded hotel-casinos on the Strip. It truly represented the era of South West Modern and high-style setting a trend that’s been followed in Las Vegas to this very day. It offered the first truly functional ‘sky-room lounge’ providing vista-views of the surrounding desert environment. The 1950’s were a golden era for the Desert Inn often hosting VIP guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, (then) Senator John F. Kennedy and former President Henry Truman. In 1951 Frank Sinatra made his Las Vegas debut performance in the Desert Inn’s Painted Desert Room theater. Just four days after the Desert Inn’s fiftieth anniversary, developer Steve Wynn purchased the property and on October 23, 2001 the Desert Inn was imploded to make room for Steve Wynn’s newest mega-resort the Wynn Las Vegas

The Wynn has been a staple of Las Vegas since it opened. Along with its sister property Encore, they are lavish in design and attract a higher end clientele. Plush rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows and pillow-top mattresses, plus Wi-Fi access, iPhone docks and flat-screen TVs. Luxe suites add individual features like massage rooms, granite wet bars, whirlpool tubs and/or free in-room breakfast. There are 4 trendy nightclubs and a live theater experience. Dining options range from gourmet restaurants to relaxed cafes. 

Monte Carlo/Park MGM

As of this writing the most recent transformation saw the Monte Carlo revamped into Park MGM. There are multiple restaurants and bars ranging from casual to high-end. Other amenities include a lively casino, a gym, and 3 outdoor pools.

Looking to the Future

Many projects have already been started, or about to get started, all over Las Vegas. Some of the hotels and entertainment venues to grace the Strip in the near future include:

  • The Drew, formerly Fontainebleau, on the north end of the Vegas Strip, is expected to be open by late 2020.
  • Wynn Resorts has already started preparing the foundation for its Paradise Park expansion.
  • Resorts World is being built on the bones of what was going to be “Echelon.” The owners have noted it is on track to be finished by the end of 2020.
  • Las Vegas Sands construction on the MSG Sphere performance arena behind The Venetian and The Palazzo should begin summer 2019.

What’s the best way to see all of these amazing casinos? Try a Vegas Nights flight from Maverick Helicopters. The tour takes you from the north end to the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. You’ll fly over hotel/casinos such as the Bellagio, Wynn, and Mandalay Bay each with their neon glow illuminating under the cover of night.

There have been alot of hotels and casinos in Las Vegas over the years. If you were going to name your own casino/hotel what would you call it? Let us know in the comments!

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