El Cortez

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El Cortez
El Cortez Hotel and Casino.svg
ElCortez famous sign.jpg
Address 600 East Fremont Street
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Opening date 1941
Theme Ranch
Number of rooms 364
Casino type Land
Owner Kenny Epstein
Previous names none
Renovated in 1963, 1980, 2006
Website www.elcortezhotelcasino.com
El Cortez Hotel and Casino
ELCortez Fremont East.jpg
El Cortez is located in Nevada
El Cortez
Location 600 East Fremont Street
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Nearest city Las Vegas, Nevada
Coordinates 36°10′9.7284″N 115°08′19.0602″W / 36.169369000°N 115.138627833°W / 36.169369000; -115.138627833Coordinates: 36°10′9.7284″N 115°08′19.0602″W / 36.169369000°N 115.138627833°W / 36.169369000; -115.138627833
Architectural style Spanish Colonial Revival
NRHP Reference # 13000010
Added to NRHP 2013

The El Cortez, a hotel and casino is a relatively small downtown Las Vegas gaming venue a block from the Fremont Street Experience and Las Vegas Boulevard. The official marketing slogan has been "Where locals come to play" since the El Cortez has traditionally attracted Las Vegas residents weary of large casinos geared towards tourists. Slots, table games and a race and sports book occupy one floor of the main pavilion. It is one of the oldest casino-hotel properties in Las Vegas having continuously operated at the same Fremont Street location since 1941. Primarily Spanish Colonial Revival in style, it reflects a 1952 remodel when the facade was modernized.[1] On February 22, 2013, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2]


Marion Hicks and J.C. Grayson built the El Cortez, downtown Las Vegas' first major resort, in 1941 for $245,000.[3] The location at 6th Street and Fremont was originally considered too far from downtown, but it quickly became so profitable, Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway bought the property in 1945 from J. Kel Houssels for $600,000.[4][5] John Kell (J. Kell) Houssels, Sr. (1895–1979) had originally opened the 59-room hotel and casino before the sale to the major organized crime figures. Houssels purchased the hotel back from Siegel's group in 1946 for $766,000. In 1963, the Pavilion Rooms were added after the hotel was purchased by Jackie Gaughan. Another 15-story tower addition was completed in 1980. The 64-room Cabana Suites were completed in the former Ogden House in 2009 bringing the total room count to its current 364.[6] Gaughan, a casino owner and operator since the early 1950s, lived in the El Cortez tower penthouse and was known to be on the casino floor almost daily.[7] The property is one of the few casinos to have never changed its exterior facade in Las Vegas, retaining the same signage and ranch themed architecture for over seventy years.[3][8][9]

Current operation[edit]

Jackie Gaughan's son Michael Gaughan ran the sports and race book in the current casino under the name South Point Race and Sports Book during the late 2000s, but the sports book is now run by Station Casinos. The El Cortez has undergone several renovations, with the latest major remodeling completed in 2006. New carpet, marble flooring, gaming machines, refurbished guest rooms and an upgraded kitchen for the restaurant were added.[10] Although only a block away from the Fremont Street Experience, the hotel is part of the newly created Fremont East section of downtown. It has also created a main entrance off Las Vegas Boulevard (5th Street) by opening a block long pedestrian walkway from the boulevard to the hotel's main entrance on 6th Street. The El Cortez is also well known in the casino industry as the most prominent "break-in house" for new table game dealers to get experience before moving onto bigger properties. Recently the coffee shop has been extensively renovated and renamed Cafe Cortez. The fine-dining restaurant has been renamed The Flame. The separate hotel in the back, the 100-room Ogden House, has been completely renovated into the 64 suite Cabana Suites.

In 2009, Jackie Gaughan sold the El Cortez and its properties to Kenny Epstein.[11] Gaughan continued to live at the casino and still played poker in the poker room until his death on March 12, 2014.

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Ron Sylvester, El Cortez joins National Register of Historic Places, Las Vegas Sun, February 25, 2013, accessed February 26, 2013.
  2. ^ Weekly List for February 22, 2013, National Park Service, February 22, 2013, accessed February 26, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Chung, Su Kim. Las Vegas Then and Now. Thunder Bay Press. San Diego, California: 2005. p.56
  4. ^ Chung, Su Kim. Las Vegas Then and Now. Thunder Bay Press. San Diego, California: 2005. p. 56
  5. ^ "Bugsy Siegel opens Flamingo Hotel". A&E Television Networks. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ Las Vegas Hotels / Casinos: Time Line UNLV Libraries
  7. ^ EL Cortez History
  8. ^ "El Cortez Hotel-Casino". The Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  9. ^ Caitlin McGarry (November 5, 2011). "El Cortez mixes retro with modern in marking 70th year". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  10. ^ atCity refurbishing rundown area to become hub of nightlife in valley, Las Vegas Business Press ded February 28, 2006
  11. ^ Long Gaughan [1] El Cortez owner sells stake in downtown casino, Las Vegas Review Journal dated May 8, 2008

External links[edit]