In many ways, the El Cortez Hotel & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas is just as it was some 75 years ago when it opened. Walk in and you’ll instantly realize that this is not your typical corporate Las Vegas monolith that lacks personality or personal touch. The employees are not just punching a time clock; it is as if they are timekeepers in a historical moment that is quickly vanishing. The front desk is small and has just two people working and the bellman is sitting nearby reading a newspaper. Time has not stood still at the El Cortez Hotel but the attitude is still old Las Vegas.
The El Cortez Hotel and Casino opened in 1941 with 59 rooms, a restaurant, casino, and a lounge. In the 75 years since the opening, a new tower has been built with 200 rooms and the Cabana Suites have been opened adjacent to the main property. In 2013 the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Las Vegas History is rich at this property with former owners with familiar names of Siegel and Gaughan makes you ponder the thought “if these walls could talk” wow, what a story they would have to tell.
The El Cortez Hotel and Casino is celebrating 75 years in Las Vegas.
Facts and Figures Through 75 Years
- 1941: El Cortez Hotel and Casino formally opens with a casino, café and a lounge and 59 rooms.
- 1945: Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway purchase the property from J. Kell Houssels for $600,000.
- 1963: Jackie Gaughan buys El Cortez for $4 million. He would live in one of the lodging's penthouse suites until his demise in 2014 and was known to be on the gambling club floor day by day. A Las Vegas legend, Gaughan claimed or had a stake in various different Las Vegas lodgings including the Flamingo, Plaza, Golden Nugget, Las Vegas Club, Gold Spike, Western Hotel, and Showboat.
- 1975: Kenny Epstein becomes Jackie Gaughan’s partner in El Cortez.
- 1980: Gaughan includes a 14-story, 200-room tower to El Cortez, costing around $10 million.
- 2008: Kenny Epstein buys Gaughan's larger part stake in El Cortez Hotel and Casino.
- · 2009: El Cortez finishes change of the Ogden House into the Cabana Suites.
- 2013: El Cortez is added to the National Register of Historic Places—the only casino included.
- 2016: El Cortez Hotel and Casino celebrates 75th commemoration, anticipating another 75 effective years in business. Adventitiously, Epstein praises his 75th birthday this year alongside the inn.
You should understand that Las Vegas can be expensive but Downtown Las Vegas can be extremely budget friendly. The El Cortez is one of those properties that have done much to reinvent it while maintaining its affordability. Room categories vary widely so be aware of what your dollar gets you at this hotel. The best priced but very throwback Vintage rooms are literally like stepping back in time. They have been updated some but when you climb the staircase to your room you’ll understand what I am talking about. These rooms are actually a little bigger than the old Binion’s Horseshoe rooms so you’ll feel like a 1940’s high roller. You can also select a Tower room that does have elevator access and this standard room is about what you should expect in Downtown Las Vegas. No real bells and whistles but a clean, comfortable room.
Step all the way up to the Designer Suites and you get handcrafted hotel accommodations. Each room is individually designed and spacious. Separate seating areas are adorned with plush couches and big screen televisions that beg for a Las Vegas party to be thrown upstairs in the room. Check out the Cabana Suites but do not be put off by the look from the outside. Even though the rooms are in a separate building across the street from the main tower these are what a boutique city hotel room should feel and look like. This is downtown Las Vegas and it feels like you are just a tiny bit out of your comfort zone. That is a good thing.
You are in Downtown so don’t expect a plethora of food options in the form of countless restaurants ready to collect your Keno winnings. Instead, your options are simple but well worth trying. First, Siegel’s 1941 would at first glance appear to be a coffee shop. However, once you settle into the menu you’ll realize that this is not just a 24-hour spot to grab a meal in between marathon poker sessions. If you could imagine your favorite deli gets into a relationship with an esteemed fine dining establishment and then creates an offspring that is laid back and more talented than its parents. What you get is a casually comfortable restaurant that is creating quality food at reasonable prices that can be enjoyed before a show, after a show or in the middle of the day. You must try the pastrami, the burger, and the Big Island Fried Rice. Yes, I am saying the Asian section is also worth a try.
Right off the Casino floor is Naked City Pizza and your cravings for New York Pizza will be satisfied. There is one caveat though, this is outer borough pizza so be ready for a little more crunch and a lot more flavors. The Sicilian Square Pan is like a pillow of crispy dough topped with cheese. Spongy and crispy delicate and savory. Do not have the garlic rolls or you will be lost in a sea of addiction.
Options Around the El Cortez Hotel
It should be noted that the El Cortez Hotel and Casino is right on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. It’s located just east of the Fremont Street Experience but still close enough to all of the Downtown Las Vegas attractions. The area known as Fremont East is thriving with a new infusion of local blood. You’ll get a dose of entertainment, food and shopping options at The Downtown Container Park a little nightlife at spots like The Commonwealth and the Griffin and great eating options at Therapy, EAT and Carson Kitchen as well as a little extra culture with nearby attractions such as the Mob Museum.