El Cortez (Las Vegas)

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El Cortez
El Cortez Hotel and Casino.svg
EL Cortez Tower.jpg
Location Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Address 600 East Fremont Street
Opening dateNovember 7, 1941; 79 years ago (November 7, 1941)
No. of rooms364
Total gaming space41,842 sq ft (3,887.2 m2)[1]
Notable restaurantsSiegel's 1941
Pizza Lotto
Casino typeLand
OwnerKenny Epstein
Renovated in1952, 1963, 1980, 2006, 2009, 2019
El Cortez
ELCortez Fremont East.jpg
El Cortez (Las Vegas) is located in Nevada
El Cortez (Las Vegas)
El Cortez (Las Vegas) is located in the United States
El Cortez (Las Vegas)
Coordinates36°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 styleSpanish Colonial Revival
Visitation3 million (2016)
NRHP reference No.13000010
Added to NRHP2013

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. Slots, table games, and a race and sports book occupy one floor of the main pavilion, at this historic casino. It opened on Fremont Street on November 7, 1941, and is one of the oldest casino-hotel properties in Las Vegas, along with the nearby Golden Gate Hotel and Casino. Primarily Spanish Colonial Revival in style, it reflects a 1952 remodel when the façade was modernized.[2] On February 22, 2013, the structure was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3]


Marion Hicks and J.C. Grayson built El Cortez, downtown Las Vegas' first major resort, for $245,000.[4] El Cortez opened on November 7, 1941.[5][6] The location at 6th Street and Fremont was originally considered too far from downtown, but it quickly became so profitable that Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway bought the property in 1945 from J. Kell Houssels for $600,000.[7][8] 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.[9] Gaughan, a casino owner and operator since the early 1950s, lived in El Cortez's tower penthouse and was known to be on the casino floor almost daily.[10] The property is one of the few casinos to have never changed its exterior façade in Las Vegas, retaining the same signage and ranch-themed architecture for over seventy years.[4][11][12]

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. El Cortez has undergone several renovations,[citation needed] 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.[13] 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. 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. The separate hotel in the back, the 100-room Ogden House, has been completely renovated into the 64-suite Cabana Suites.

In 2008, Jackie Gaughan sold El Cortez and its properties to Kenny Epstein.[14] Over the next decade, Epstein and his business partners put more than $50 million of renovations into the property.[15] Gaughan continued to live at the casino and still played poker in the poker room until his death on March 12, 2014.

As of 2013, it was the oldest continuously operating casino in Las Vegas.[16] In March 2019, El Cortez was closed by police for several hours following a shooting.[17][18][19][20]

In 2018, renovation work took place on 73 rooms located on the first five floors of the hotel tower.[15] Additional hotel remodeling was underway in 2019.[15][21] El Cortez includes a restaurant, Siegel's 1941, which features memorabilia from Siegel.[15]

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ "Listing of Financial Statements Square Footage (2017 data)". Nevada Gaming Control Board. March 6, 2018. p. 4. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Ron Sylvester, El Cortez joins National Register of Historic Places, Las Vegas Sun, February 25, 2013, accessed February 26, 2013.
  3. ^ Weekly List for February 22, 2013, National Park Service, February 22, 2013, accessed February 26, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Chung, Su Kim. Las Vegas Then and Now. Thunder Bay Press. San Diego, California: 2005. p.56
  5. ^ Jones, Jay (November 9, 2016). "El Cortez in Las Vegas turns 75. (Makes 50-year-old Caesars seem young)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  6. ^ "El Cortez Fun Facts". El Cortez Hotel & Casino. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  7. ^ Chung, Su Kim. Las Vegas Then and Now. Thunder Bay Press. San Diego, California: 2005. p. 56
  8. ^ "Bugsy Siegel opens Flamingo Hotel". A&E Television Networks. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  9. ^ Las Vegas Hotels / Casinos: Time Line UNLV Libraries
  10. ^ "EL Cortez History". Archived from the original on 2006-12-07. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  11. ^ "El Cortez Hotel-Casino". The Online Nevada Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  12. ^ Caitlin McGarry (November 5, 2011). "El Cortez mixes retro with modern in marking 70th year". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
  13. ^ at City refurbishing rundown area to become hub of nightlife in valley. Archived from the original on May 7, 2006. Las Vegas Business Press. February 28, 2006
  14. ^ Long Gaughan [1] El Cortez owner sells stake in downtown casino, Las Vegas Review-Journal dated May 8, 2008
  15. ^ a b c d Horwath, Bryan (May 28, 2019). "Spruced-up El Cortez will keep old-time charm, owner says". VegasInc. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  16. ^ Spillman, Benjamin (February 26, 2013). "Las Vegas' El Cortez hotel-casino listed as national historic site". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  17. ^ Torres-Cortez, Ricardo (March 17, 2019). "4 injured in shooting at downtown Las Vegas casino". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  18. ^ "Police: Casino shooting result of biker dispute; 3 men arrested". Las Vegas Sun. March 18, 2019. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  19. ^ Carter, Austin; Lupiani, Joyce (March 17, 2019). "3 people arrested for shooting at El Cortez hotel-casino". KTNV. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  20. ^ Newberg, Katelyn (March 17, 2019). "El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas reopens after early morning shooting". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  21. ^ Przybys, John (March 24, 2019). "El Cortez owner witnesses evolution of Las Vegas firsthand". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved June 11, 2019.

External links[edit]