Posted on: January 29, 2024, 01:53h.
Last updated on: January 29, 2024, 02:12h.
The Tropicana Las Vegas announced on Monday that its doors will permanently close on April 2. That is only two days short of the Strip icon’s 67th anniversary.
The announcement came in an internal memo to employees from VP/GM Arik Knowles. The memo was shared by the reliable X/Twitter account Las Vegas Locally.
“Our expected closing date is April 2, 2024,” the memo reads. “In the interim, we will begin to close out all hotel bookings and relocate all reservations booked for April and beyond.”
There had been some hope that the A’s stadium deal might fall through and save the resort, but the memo stated, in no uncertain terms, that the company will “begin its preparations to demolish the Tropicana Las Vegas and finalize its master plan, after which approximately 9 acres will be granted to the Athletics to develop their stadium”
No date for an implosion was mentioned, but expect it to happen by summer.
Architecture giants Gensler and Bjarke Ingels Group/HNTB are reportedly drafting competing designs for the stadium, with a winner to be selected soon.
One Potential Curveball
The news of the closure is pretty much the opposite of surprising, having been announced (at least to its employees) in May of last year. Even the date was easily surmised, since the Tropicana’s website recently stopped offering any reservations after April 1.
The Tropicana already quietly closed its oldest hotel rooms, which also happened to be the oldest surviving rooms on the Las Vegas Strip, last November.
However, Scott Roeben of Casino.org’s own Vital Vegas did publish a surprising theory on Monday morning.
The demolition of the anemically profitable casino hotel had been planned by Bally’s for some time, Roeben wrote, and would have happened regardless of the A’s relocation plans.
In other words, despite the approval of $380M in public funds to build the ballclub a stadium on the Tropicana site — for which 30 legislators were recently thanked by the A’s to the tune of $87K — the Oakland ballclub’s relocation may still not happen.
The A’s haven’t provided any evidence of being able to contribute $1 billion to the project (they’re presumably trying to find investors to buy a minority stake in the team, zero takers), and there’s no evidence Bally’s Corp. has the resources to deliver on their lofty plans,” Roeben speculated, setting the odds of the team relocating to Vegas at 60/40.
Last Wednesday, at a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce event, a crowd of about 100 who paid $125 a ticket to attend refused to applaud for A’s owner John Fisher or his ballclub, which had the worst 2023 record in the MLB at 50-112.
The Trop was conceived by hotelier Ben Jaffe, a partner in Miami’s Fontainebleau hotel. In 1955, he purchased 40 acres on Highway 91 and Bond Road, far south of the Flamingo. Eager to own the nicest resort in Las Vegas, but not to build or run it, he leased the property to a company called Hotel Conquistador Inc., which had experience doing both.
The trouble was that its experience came via organized crime. Hotel Conquistador was owned by Phil Kastel, who ran the illegal Beverly Club gambling parlor near New Orleans under Luciano crime family boss Frank Costello. The two also ran a substantial illegal slot machine route.
The Trop’s operators had already removed Kastel’s name from the gaming license application before the Gaming Control Board’s final hearing. However, only a month after opening night, Costello survived an assassination attempt on his life ordered by rival mob boss Vito Genovese in New York. And inside one of the mobster’s coat pockets, police found an earnings promissory note from the Tropicana for $651,284 in gross winnings.
The national crime headlines didn’t hurt business, though. They may have even enhanced the Trop’s intrigue. At the time it opened, it was the most expensive casino ever built in Las Vegas. Its $15M price tag far outstripped the $8.5M necessary to top off the Riviera two years earlier, though, at 300 rooms, it was a third of the size of the Stardust, which would open the following year.
Lush luxury, extremely good taste, warmth, intimacy, and functional efficiency,” was how the Las Vegas Sun initially described it.
And, the casino resort was a hit, with a constant stream of visiting stars, such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Elizabeth Taylor, who came to watch headliners including Jayne Mansfield and Taylor’s fiancée, Eddie Fisher.
The Trop eventually earned the nickname “Tiffany of the Strip.”
Tropping the Ball
By the early ‘70s, however, the Tiffany was tarnished by the lure of newer and larger competitors, including Caesars Palace and the International Hotel (Las Vegas Hilton). Mitzi Stauffer Briggs, heir to the Stauffer Chemical fortune, bought the resort in 1975 intending to compete. She knocked down the Tropicana’s original casino and began building the 22-floor Tiffany Tower in 1977.
A year later, a skimming operation was uncovered that was operated by the Civella crime family of Kansas City. That crime ring was part of the plot inspiration for the 1995 hit film “Casino,” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone.
Due to her mob ties, Briggs was forced to sell the Trop to its first corporate owner, Ramada, which added a second tower (Island) in 1986. But the Trop’s reputation never recovered, enduring a revolving door of financially strapped new owners promising renovations that never materialized.
In 2015, Penn National Gaming (later Penn Entertainment) purchased the Trop for $360M. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it sold the land it occupied to a spin-off company, Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI). In September 2022, Bally’s Corporation purchased the nonland assets of the Tropicana from GLPI for $148M and leased the land from GLPI for an annual rent of $10.5M.