Prior to the development that became Harrah's, this property contained Tumbleweed Motel (1949) and Pyramids Motel (1950s).
In 1971, Holiday Inn opened the River Queen Casino in front of its new hotel on the former site of the Tumbleweed Motel. Shelby and Claudine Williams, former owners of the Silver Slipper, took over the casino in 1973. Homer Rissman, Holiday Inn’s house-architect, designed the riverboat themed casino which the Williams renamed the Holiday Casino. Pyramids Motel was then demolished, becoming a parking area for the hotel and casino.
Holiday Inn bought a 40% share of the casino's parent company, Riverboat Inc. in 1979, and bought out the remaining 60% in 1983. Holiday Inn's subsidiary, Harrah’s, took over its management with Claudine Williams as Chairwoman.
A second tower was added to the hotel in the early 1980s, making it the largest in the Holiday Inn chain, with over 1000 rooms.
In 1992 Harrah’s Entertainment, no longer a subsidiary of Holiday Inn, renamed the property Harrah’s Las Vegas, the first hotel in Las Vegas to carry the name of Bill Harrah. When Harrah’s built its third tower, designed by Martin Stern, the riverboat was demolished, and the hotel remodeled with a carnival theme.