The Nevada Independent

Your state. Your news. Your voice.

The Nevada Independent

Indy Gaming: Saying farewell to one of the Strip’s last Rat Pack-era resorts

The Tropicana closed Tuesday after 67 years and will be replaced by a baseball stadium. Employees and customers came to lament its passing.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
A's stadiumEconomyGamingSports

My fondest memory of the Tropicana was in 2014, watching my friend and fellow journalist Kevin Iole being inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. The organization’s event was at the resort. Otherwise, my experience at the Tropicana involved covering a myriad of ownership issues, from Ramada’s transition to Aztar, the disaster that was Columbia Sussex to an interview with Penn Entertainment’s retiring CEO Tim Wilmott. 

Maybe my next assignments at the site will be the demolition of the Tropicana and the opening day of the 2028 baseball season at the stadium that will replace the resort. 

Please click here to sign up for Indy Gaming.

Longtime gambler Bob Moorehouse followed his casino host to the Tropicana Las Vegas nearly eight years ago when the Riviera was closed and imploded.

The Torrington, Wyoming, resident said he isn’t sure what his next Vegas gambling joint will be.

“I like the old places,” Moorehouse said Friday between puffs of a cigarette while playing a video blackjack game near the Tropicana’s main entrance. 

The casino had just a few customers as Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp. prepared to padlock the doors of the 67-year-old Strip resort at noon Tuesday. Nine hours before the doors were permanently closed, gaming officially ended.

But the shutdown was underway days before. 

On Friday morning, more than 100 of the property’s 600 slot machines were turned off and displayed “out of service” messages. Bartenders commented they had run out of certain libations. In a makeshift warehouse in the convention center, workers bundled the hotel’s towels and bed linens to be used elsewhere. 

In the south parking lot along Reno Avenue, construction equipment, office trailers and fencing were readied for deployment ahead of a planned demolition of two hotel towers later this year.

The Tropicana was one of the Strip’s last remaining Rat Pack-era hotel casinos. The Sahara and Flamingo are still around but have little resemblance to their 1960s versions. 

“I always liked the Riviera, but this place was also fun,” Moorehouse said. “The hotel room was nice. I brought my son and grandson along. I’m not sure where we will visit next time.”

He returned to his southeastern Wyoming home on Saturday before any closing events. By Friday afternoon and through the weekend, the Tropicana welcomed current and former employees, retired entertainers and customers to say goodbye.

Bally’s has operated the Tropicana since September 2022, but the resort is being demolished to make way for a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat Major League Baseball stadium for the relocated Oakland Athletics that is expected to cover more than the previously announced 9 acres of the 35-acre site.

Bally’s plans for the rest of the south Strip location are unclear. The land is owned by Pennsylvania-based real estate investment trust Gaming and Leisure Properties, which is contributing $175 million toward the demolition costs.  

However, baseball was far from anyone’s mind during the historic property’s final days.

The Tropicana opened in 1957 and was controlled by organized crime figures until the Ramada hotel chain took over in 1979. In the next five decades, numerous owners took the 1,500-room resort through dozens of renovations and ever-changing customer market demographics.

The property’s most recognized asset, the long-running Folies Bergere revue that was imported from Paris, closed in 2009.

Tropicana security officer Tony Barone gave The Nevada Independent a tour of the showroom that housed the Folies for more than 50 years. The red vinyl circular booths for high-end customers near the front of the stage were still in place but will soon be headed to an auction house. Barone lamented that historical photos from the Folies had already been removed from the walls in the backstage corridors.

“My parents used to visit the Tropicana in the 1980s,” said the Chicago native, who has been a security guard at the resort for six years. He said he’ll remain on the job through June 10 while the 1,500 hotel rooms, suites and villas, and the 50,000 square-foot casino are cleared ahead of the demolition.

Barone also took us into the second-floor Laugh Factory, one of the Strip’s original comedy rooms that had its final show Sunday night. Still in place were the booths adorned with the likeness of the club’s resident comedian Rich Little and a space honoring the late Rodney Dangerfield, the club's original headliner.

“I love the history of the Tropicana,” said Barone, who said he plans to watch the implosion of the hotel towers later this year.  

The slot machine Moorehead was gambling on was in a reduced table game space beneath the Tropicana’s multicolored Tiffany glass ceiling, which a Bally’s representative said was valued at $1 million and would be preserved and donated to a historical group following the closure. 

First-time Las Vegas visitors Tammy Patrick and Mike Riley of Indiana joined in on the Tropicana’s swan song. The couple walked over to the casino from their room at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and Riley played a few hands of blackjack.

“We wanted to see the casino since it was closing and maybe pick up a few souvenirs,” Patrick said. 

However, an employee at the Tropicana gift shop said T-shirts, hats and items with the Tropicana’s logo had been sold out or removed. 

Tropicana casino chips lured Las Vegas residents Eric and Gaby O’Dell and their son Nathan to the property. Transplanted from San Jose, California, two years ago, that family hadn’t been to the resort and wanted to see the casino before it was padlocked. They took a few selfies in front of the main entrance.

Eric O’Dell was told he couldn’t buy chips at the casino cage, so he went to a roulette table and exchanged cash for chips. He played a few spins before departing with a handful of $5 and $2 Tropicana chips. He’s not sure if they will be worth any price above their face value.

“They’re historic,” he said. “There is so much history in a property like the Tropicana.”

Back inside the resort, Robert Irvine’s Public House had a smattering of customers before noon. One employee noted the celebrity chef, who announced the restaurant’s 2017 opening by rappelling 22 stories down the side of the Tropicana, was expected to be on-site for the weekend. The 9,000-square-foot eatery had a maximum of 250 seats.

Irvine wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that closing the Tropicana was a sad day, but said his restaurant would reopen at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

“The experience at the Tropicana has been nothing but exceptional. To my staff, we will all ride together again soon … thanks to all the guests over the years,” Irvine wrote.

Outside, with suitcases packed, Leeann Fisher and her husband were awaiting a ride to their Grandview Las Vegas timeshare. The residents of Alberta, Canada, came to Las Vegas a few days early before their timeshare reservation and stayed at the Tropicana because there were available rooms.

“It was comfortable and nice. It was the first time we’ve stayed here. I guess it’s the last time,” she said.

What I'm reading

Dallas Mavericks owners' company backs coalition seeking legalized casino gambling in Texas — WFAA-TV (ABC Dallas)

Here we go again. Adelson-controlled entities have spent millions in the past decade on failed efforts to bring casinos to Texas.

High stakes: Inside the multimillion-dollar battle for gambling rights in CaliforniaRyan Sabalow, Jeremia Kimelman in CalMatters

Tribes and cardrooms spend big bucks to influence lawmakers.

Largest U.S. sportsbooks join forces to tackle problem gamblingContessa Brewer, Jessica Golden in CNBC

Only one Nevada company is involved and where is Caesars Sportsbook?

VIP programs offered by online gambling companies draw federal scrutinyKatherine Sayre in The Wall Street Journal 

Members of Congress are concerned about the rapid growth of sports betting.

News, notes and quotes

Stock sale earns Boyd Gaming founder $7.9 million

Boyd Gaming founder and chairman emeritus Bill Boyd sold more than 175,000 shares of his casino company’s stock this month, earning $7.9 million. The company revealed the transaction in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. No reason was provided for the stock sale.

According to the filing, the shares were sold lost month in multiple New York Stock Exchange trades at prices ranging from $63.02 to $64.53 per share. Boyd, 92, owned more than 14 percent of Boyd Gaming, according to last year’s proxy statement. He founded the casino company with his father, Sam Boyd, in 1975 and took over as CEO in 1993 after Sam’s death.


UNLV’s business school honoring sports, casino leaders

UNLV’s Lee Business School will induct Caesars Entertainment board member Jan Jones Blackhurst, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley into the Nevada Business Hall of Fame on Thursday at the Four Seasons Hotel. 

Blackhurst spent two decades as an executive with Caesars following two terms as Las Vegas mayor. Hornbuckle has been CEO of MGM Resorts since 2020 and has held several executive-level positions with the casino operator since 1998. Foley founded Foley Entertainment Group that helped bring the expansion NHL team to Las Vegas in 2017. 


Featured Videos

7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
Privacy PolicyRSSContactNewslettersSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716