82°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

How many of these Las Vegas casino name changes do you remember?

Rebranding. Switcheroos. A game of musical chairs, only with resort names.

However you want to think of it, it’s a wild time on the Strip.

Hotels and casinos changing names is nothing new. It’s practically part of the city’s DNA.

What’s unfolding, though, is the sort of thing that usually needs to be tracked with one of those murder boards and their spider webs of push pins and different colored yarn.

Take the Hard Rock. Last March, it became Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, now The Mirage is going to become the Hard Rock. MGM Resorts International will retain the Mirage name, because developer Steve Wynn acquired the rights to it by paying $250,000 each to the La Mirage Casino, which was last known as the Key Largo, and the Mirage Motel, which became the Glass Pool Inn.

Elsewhere on the Strip, Bally’s Corp., which somehow doesn’t own Bally’s and never did (that was the unrelated Bally Manufacturing), is in the process of acquiring the Tropicana, which it’s expected to call Bally’s. That switch will be possible because the current Bally’s, which had been the MGM Grand — not to be confused with the current MGM Grand, parts of which used to be The Marina — is being renamed The Horseshoe.

Caesars Entertainment owns the current Bally’s as well as the Horseshoe name, which it acquired when it bought Binion’s Horseshoe back when Caesars Entertainment was known as Harrah’s Entertainment. (It isn’t just the resorts that change names.) That’s when the Horseshoe name was carved out and mothballed locally, and Binion’s Horseshoe, which only existed because Benny Binion renamed the Eldorado Club and Hotel Apache in his honor, became known simply as Binion’s.

Binion's Horseshoe neon sign photographed from Fremont Street on Dec. 29, 2003. (File, Craig L. ...
Binion's Horseshoe neon sign photographed from Fremont Street on Dec. 29, 2003. (File, Craig L. Moran, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Back to the beginning

Rebranding resorts and casinos is a practice nearly as old as Las Vegas itself.

John F. Miller is said to have arrived on the first train into the city in 1905. Later that year, he opened a tent hotel, known as the Miller Hotel or Miller’s Hotel. The following year, it was replaced by a concrete structure, the Hotel Nevada. That became known as the Sal Sagev (“Las Vegas” spelled backwards) in 1931, a name that somehow hung around for decades. In 1955, the hotel’s casino was christened the Golden Gate, long before the hotel took that name.

Left, Golden Gate (then Hotel Nevada) in 1906. Right, redesigned Golden Gate Casino and Hotel S ...
Left, Golden Gate (then Hotel Nevada) in 1906. Right, redesigned Golden Gate Casino and Hotel Sal Sagev, 1965. (Golden Gate Hotel & Casino)

Your elaborately themed resorts — Caesars Palace, Circus Circus, New York-New York, Paris Las Vegas, Luxor, The Venetian — obviously still have their original names. There’s no chance that giant pyramid was ever known as, say, Cactus Larry’s.

On the other end of the spectrum, a fairly nondescript building at 115 E. Tropicana Ave. has been through the wringer. It opened as a Howard Johnson’s in 1973, and by the end of the decade, it had done business as the Paradise, the 20th Century and the Treasury. In 1985, it was rebranded — twice — as the Pacifica, then the Polynesian. Since then, it’s been known as the Hôtel San Rémo, Hooters, Oyo and, occasionally, “that place next to the Tropicana.”

Strap yourselves in. We’re just getting started.

Not all rebrandings are created equal

Park MGM opened as the Monte Carlo, Casino Royale was Nob Hill, the Downtown Grand had been the Lady Luck, Ellis Island originally was the Village Pub, the Silverton once was known as Boomtown and Silver Sevens scrapped the name Terrible’s.

Boomtown (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Boomtown (Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Some rebranding efforts, obviously, are way more involved than others. In 1998, The Reserve opened with an African safari theme, spotlighting an adventurer named Congo Jack, who’d crashed his plane — the wreckage was incorporated into the casino floor — and was rescued by Monsoon Mary, both of whom lent their names to a cafe and lounge. It reopened less than four years later, stripped of all of its jungle trappings, as Fiesta Henderson. The Stratosphere, meanwhile, lopped off seven letters to become The Strat.

The Delano was formerly known as The Hotel, not to be confused with The Casino, which became Bingo Palace before its owners added a train motif, that’s since been removed, and settled on Palace Station.

The Holiday International opened in 1978 but couldn’t make a go of it and closed in stages from 1980-84. It reopened three years later as the Park Hotel before closing again in 1990. It was known as both Winchester Station and Church Street Station before opening the following year, with a distinct Dixieland vibe, as Main Street Station. Within a year, it closed a third time before re-emerging, still as Main Street Station, in 1996. Unlike Palace Station, Sunset Station, Boulder Station or Santa Fe Station, though, it isn’t owned by Station Casinos.

The draw of history

Every now and then, a name is just too good to give up on.

The Sahara became the SLS in 2014 before re-embracing the Sahara name five years later. The Flamingo was known as The Fabulous Flamingo and the Flamingo Hilton before reverting to The Flamingo at the end of 2000.

The Flamingo, however, was never known as the Flamingo Capri. That distinction went to the hotel that became the Imperial Palace, the Quad and, as of now, the Linq.

The Tallyho was renamed the Kings Crown Tallyho, which gave way to the Aladdin. Then, in 1998, the Aladdin was imploded to make way for … yet another Aladdin. It’s been known as Planet Hollywood since 2007.

Gaming magnate William F. Harrah’s name graced two rebrandings. The Holiday Casino’s riverboat theme was jettisoned as it became Harrah’s in 1992. Fifteen years later, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall replaced the Barbary Coast on its way to becoming The Cromwell — after everyone involved regained their senses and decided against calling it the Gansevoort.

Left, the Holiday Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard in 1980. Right, visitors walk along the Las Veg ...
Left, the Holiday Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard in 1980. Right, visitors walk along the Las Vegas Strip with near Harrah's in June 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Sundance Hotel — not to be confused with the Sundance West, which also operated under the names Silver Palace, Carousel, Gambler’s Hall of Fame, Sassy Sally’s and, finally, Mermaids, before it was demolished to make room for Circa — spent a quarter-century as Fitzgeralds before becoming The D.

The Sundance also was the working name of the Suncoast, up until Michael Gaughan, the gaming legend who owns the South Point which used to be the South Coast, received a cease-and-desist letter from Robert Redford’s attorneys.

Sometimes, a name is an obvious placeholder. Take the Las Vegas Hilton, which replaced The International two years after its opening in 1969. When the hotel chain ended its franchise agreement and took back the Hilton name, the Las Vegas Hilton became known as the LVH for a couple of years until it was rechristened the Westgate.

Change is inevitable

Once the dust settles on the makeovers at Bally’s, the Tropicana and The Mirage, don’t expect that to be the end of rebrandings.

Las Vegas establishments flat out refuse to remain frozen in time.

After all, the Fontainebleau was referred to as The Drew and JW Marriott Las Vegas Blvd. before reverting to the Fontainebleau, and it isn’t even scheduled to open till the end of next year.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST