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EDITORIAL: As Tropicana closes, Las Vegas reinvents itself again

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas. But the places where things happened often don’t.

On Tuesday, the Tropicana shut down. Players made their final bets at its table games and slot machines. Workers said goodbye to their final hotel guests. Regulars of its bars and restaurants had their final taste. Its employees are going their separate ways.

Just shy of its 67th anniversary, the Tropicana represented the type of old-school casino that once redefined Las Vegas.

While newer casino resorts had passed it by, the “Trop” was once a destination for the rich and famous. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., members of the Rat Pack, made appearances. In the film “Diamonds Are Forever,” James Bond name dropped the Tropicana. Siegfried &Roy began their run to fame at the Trop. Other celebrities who visited the Tropicana included actress Elizabeth Taylor and Muhammad Ali.

When it opened in 1957, it was the most expensive casino Las Vegas had ever seen. Its $15 million price tag topped the $10 million cost of the Riviera, which had opened two years before.

“It’s the Taj Mahal of the American scene,” then-Review-Journal columnist Les Devor wrote after getting a preview of the hotel in the fall of 1956.

“Unlike many other hotels, the Tropicana introduces a true resort hotel, rather than a casino and nightclub with incidental rooms, and figures to attract a new type of clientele to Las Vegas,” the RJ reported when covering the hotel’s opening.

That model would become the standard as new resort hotel casinos opened up along the maturing Strip.

That’s not the only way the Tropicana redefined Las Vegas. Stories connected to the casino exposed Las Vegas’ mob connections to the rest of the country. Geoff Schumacher, vice president of exhibits and shows at The Mob Museum, said this helped create a better gaming regulatory system in Nevada. That now includes the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Before 1960, Clark County had fewer than 120,000 residents. Today, more than 2.3 million people call the region home. That stunning growth is due in part to the success of the Tropicana. It paved the way for the larger and more elaborate venues that ultimately led to a decline in its prestige and patronage.

In a few years, what replaces the Tropicana — a permanent home of the soon-to-be Las Vegas A’s — will be the Strip’s newest and hottest attraction. That’s life in Las Vegas.

Thanks to the Tropicana and all those associated with it for the memories.

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