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Tropicana on Las Vegas Strip gets final sendoff from workers and players — PHOTOS

Updated April 2, 2024 - 1:55 pm

Tears, cheers and beers.

They all marked the final hours of the Tropicana, one of the oldest of the remaining old-school Vegas casinos that once was the playground of the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., but closed its doors Tuesday two days short of the 67th anniversary of its opening.

Some of the slot machines along the resort entrance were the first to go, decommissioned days before the formal closing date.

Although casino operator Bally’s Corp. announced the casino play would end at 3 a.m., casino workers got an early start on the table games, shutting down blackjack, roulette and craps at around midnight.

With the tables dark, that left hundreds of gamblers hoping to score one last time at the remaining slot machines, many of which were still operating while other devices nearby displayed “out of order” messages on their screens.

Occasional players would whoop when they hit something big and other gamblers would crane their necks to witness the excitement. Most of the patrons exploring the casino were shooting cell-phone pictures and videos, capturing the scene of the last gasp of the Trop casino under the famed stained-glass canopy that preservationists hope to save.

Earlier in the evening, the Chill’m bar was the place to be, serving a record crowd that wanted to give it an appropriate send-off. Just about every other food outlet in the casino — and many of the restrooms — were closed.

At around 1:30 a.m., the swing shift of casino dealers gathered in the pit for a champagne toast.

Dealers, many of them dressed in Vegas Golden Knights gear, hugged each other, cried and took home souvenirs, some of the plastic signs that were on tables.

“It was kind of a special time,” said dealer Joe Simonetti as he walked from the casino floor after the shift ended. “We just closed the pit, had some champagne and said goodbye,” he said. “Now we’re going to go to a bar and have a drink and move on with our lives.”

Bloggers, YouTubers and influencers paraded around the casino capturing video to share the last moments of casino play and the environment of history fading away.

At around 2:30, a player screamed out from the center of the casino: “Yeah Vegas! Tropicana is No. 1!” A few others nearby added their own salutes.

The player who made the last bet on the floor was Will Ross of Apple Valley, California, who put his last $3 into an electronic craps machine.

“I literally got out here at 3 p.m. today (Monday). I wish I could have stayed here, it was too expensive, but I came out here because I knew the Tropicana was closing and I wanted to be here,” Ross said.

At about 2:45 a.m., Ross placed his $3 minimum bet just as casino officials announced the final shutdown. Because the game was extended — in craps, a player keeps rolling dice until a 7 or 11 is hit — Ross turned out to be the last player standing.

Wearing a denim Riviera jacket, Ross said he has always been fascinated with casino history and Las Vegas lore, belonging to a collectors’ club. That’s how he came by the Riviera jacket.

“I actually hit my point twice before I sevened out, so that last roll was a good one,” he said.

For that, he received a cash-out ticket for $4, which he opted not to cash.

“I think I’m going to frame it, put it up on my wall,” he said. “It has ‘Tropicana’ right on the ticket with the date, so I’ll actually be able to remember this time here.”

Meanwhile, a few steps away, two men were debating whether a Major League Baseball stadium would ever be built on the site.

That’s the plan.

After the official locking-of-the-doors ceremony with Bally’s executives at 1 p.m., construction workers were expected to start building a 10-foot wall around the property and begin tearing the building down.

A full demolition is planned later this year with construction of a $1.5 billion, 33,000-seat stadium for the relocating Oakland Athletics.

Financing details for the stadium have yet to be formally announced, except for a $380 million public contribution approved by the Nevada Legislature. Stadium renderings have been released and Las Vegas Stadium Authority Chairman Steve Hill is confident the Athletics will deliver on the financing and play Major League Baseball on the Strip beginning in 2028.

As the last of the casino players filed out of the building, security officials posted themselves at the remaining unlocked doors. They spent the last morning of the hotel’s operations letting in guests who wanted to take one last walk around — including Elvis impersonator Jeff Stanulis. Dressed in the King’s red jumpsuit and frequently stopped for selfies, he came in before officiating a wedding on the Strip and snuck further into the property to get a last look at the pool deck.

“I did some weddings and events here, but even more so, my mom loved to stay here,” Stanulis, whose mother died two months ago, said. “I have some really nice pictures of her at the swim-up blackjack. She loved the balcony suites that overlooked the pool. It was really nice to have memories here.”

Kansas City residents Sally and Hiram Jones visited the Tropicana at around 9:30 a.m. In town for a trade show, they heard about the Trop’s closure and wanted to take part in — and a part of — its history.

“There were some machines that were taken out already and there were scraps of washers and screws. I thought about taking that,” Sally Jones said with a laugh. “I saw a bell hop pushing a cart of towels and thought, ‘Where are you going? Can I have a Tropicana towel?’”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X. Contact McKenna Ross at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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