Downtown Las Vegas Icon El Cortez Hotel & Casino to Commemorate 80 Years this November


Downtown Las Vegas Icon El Cortez Hotel & Casino to Commemorate 80 Years this November


The longest continuously running hotel casino in Las Vegas will celebrate this momentous occasion with 25-million-dollar renovations and fireworks show on November 6th


This November, the historic El Cortez Hotel & Casino celebrates its monumental 80th Anniversary as the longest continuously running hotel & casino in the ever-changing landscape of downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. As the only casino listed  on the National Register of Historic Places, this Vegas institution has stood the test of time thanks to its dedicated owners, who continually seek to elevate the guest experience while preserving the same vintage charm and authenticity that have captivated tourists and locals for 80 years.



  • Built in 1941, John Kell Houssels partnered with John Grayson from California, and Marion Hicks to build and operate the El Cortez Hotel-Casino on East Fremont Street. It was Downtown Las Vegas’ first major resort with 59 rooms designed in a Spanish Ranch theme. Those original rooms can still be rented today in the Vintage tower with stairway access from the casino floor.


  • In 1945, El Cortez was sold to some of its most notorious owners. Gus Greenbaum, Meyer Lansky, Moe Sedway, and Bugsy Siegel purchased El Cortez for $600,000. Geoff Schumacker from the Mob Museum has confirmed that El Cortez was the first hotel casino in Las Vegas to be owned by the Mob.


  • After the mobsters’ short-lived ownership, in 1946, John Kell Houssels reacquired El Cortez and announced plans for a $250,000 expansion in May of 1946 including a barbershop, nightclub, swimming pool, and a four-story wing.


  • In 1952, El Cortez’s famed neon arrow, marquee, and signature sign were installed which still shine on the property to this day. Over the years, El Cortez has undergone numerous renovations to the interior of the hotel but has maintained the same façade since the famed neon signs were installed.


  • In 1963, El Cortez entered into a new era under the ownership of kind-hearted Las Vegas icon, Jackie Gaughan, who maintained ownership of the hotel & casino for five decades and resided at the hotel until his death in 2014.


  • Gaughan was instrumental in the development of downtown Las Vegas, and at one time, owned one-third of the land in downtown Las Vegas. Gaughan announced plans to expand the El Cortez Hotel & Casino, and in 1980, Tower II was built, bringing the overall room count to 297.

(Jackie Gaughan, 1965)


  • Gaughan’s residence at the hotel is a time-capsule, with much of the suite preserved as it was since the 1980s. With its pale pink-and-gold interior, dramatic lighting, statement furniture pieces, and more, the Jackie Gaughan Suite transports guests into a different era reminiscent of Vegas in the 1980s. The luxury suite is a hidden gem, located on El Cortez’s 15th floor and is available to book by special request only.

(Jackie Gaughan Suite at El Cortez Hotel & Casino)


  • In 2008, Gaughan sold the property to his long-time family friend, partner and gaming pioneer, Kenny Epstein. Since then, El Cortez Hotel & Casino has been one of only a few family-owned and operated hotel & casinos in Las Vegas. Kenny Epstein, also celebrated his 80th birthday this year, and his daughters, Alexandra Epstein-Gudai and Katie Epstein-Fine, are the power family credited with keeping the downtown landmark relevant, while still honoring its past.



The property recently completed its 25-million-dollar renovations just in time for the anniversary celebration this November. As part of the remodel, El Cortez revamped the casino floor with brand new ceilings and a woven Axminster carpet by Brintons, a world-famous manufacturer. However, when devoted El Cortez guests heard its vintage rose patterned carpet was to be replaced, thousands flocked to the hotel to purchase a square of the carpet they knew and loved from years past. “For many people, some of their best days in Vegas were spent at El Cortez, so there is a strong attachment, not only to our staff but also to everything inside the hotel that makes it unique,” said General Manager Adam Wiesberg.





(Left) Old Carpet | (Right) New Carpet


Spanning almost all 42,000 square feet of the main level, the new carpet brings a vibrant energy to the casino floor boasting a fiery leopard print and leaf design boldly displaying eye-catching colors, including bright red, gold, and green. In addition, El Cortez features 200 remodeled, premium tower rooms and suites that inspire a modern take on historical themes. Boasting a warm, contemporary design blended with a bit of whimsy, the suites draw inspiration from the Spanish Colonial Revival era, with decorative elements including black-and-white floor tiles, traditional-style rugs, modern accent furniture, and carved wood details. El Cortez also unveiled a dazzling new high-limit room and an updated hotel lobby in 2021.





(Left) Tower Suite | (Right) High Limit Room



On Saturday, November 6th, Las Vegas’ Mayor Goodman will kick off El Cortez’s 80th Anniversary Celebration with a commemorative speech followed by a fireworks show sure to dazzle all of Las Vegas at 9 p.m. Guests can enjoy complimentary champagne available inside the hotel where they will have the opportunity to play some of the last coin slot machines in the city, participate in a $35,000 gambling giveaway, enjoy the roaming mariachi band, sip on the special 80th Anniversary cocktail, grab a bite to eat at the property’s 24-hour restaurant, Siegel’s 1941, or try their luck at single and double deck blackjack.


For more information and to make a reservation, visit




El Cortez Hotel & Casino is a family-owned and operated casino, as well as one of the oldest and most treasured hotels in Las Vegas. It is located in the heart of the Fremont East Entertainment District, an area known for its resurgence and influx of unique restaurants, bars, and nightlife, as well as respected businesses like Zappos. El Cortez has undergone several renovations, with the most recent revamp culminating in 2021, but still rocks the same façade it had in 1941, retaining much of its Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture and keeping the spirit of classic Vegas alive. On February 22, 2013, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it the only standing casino on the list.

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Downtown Las Vegas Icon El Cortez Hotel & Casino to Commemorate 80 Years this November
Downtown Las Vegas Icon El Cortez Hotel & Casino to Commemorate 80 Years this November