Jay Sarno

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Jay Sarno
Born (1922-07-02)July 2, 1922
St. Joseph, Missouri, U.S.
Died July 21, 1984(1984-07-21) (aged 62)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Missouri
Occupation Entrepreneur

Jay Sarno (July 2, 1922 – July 21, 1984) was an American developer, hotelier and casino owner. He developed and owned the Atlanta Cabana Motel in Atlanta, Georgia as well as several motels in California and Texas. He was the founder of the Caesars Palace hotel and the Circus Circus in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Early life[edit]

Sarno was born in 1922 in St. Joseph, Missouri.[1][2] His parents were Polish Jewish immigrants.[3] His father was a cabinet maker, his mother a homemaker.[4]

Sarno graduated from the University of Missouri, with a degree in business.[1][4] While in college, he met Stanley Mallin, who would become his lifelong friend and business partner.[1] During World War II, he joined the United States Army and served in the Pacific theatre alongside Mallin.[4]

The Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, developed by Jay Sarno.


With Stanley Mallin, Sarno became a tile contractor in Miami, Florida.[1][4] They subsequently built subsidized housing in Atlanta, Georgia.[4] In 1958, after they had met Jimmy Hoffa and Allen Dorfman, they built the Atlanta Cabana Motel in Atlanta with a loan from the Central States Pension Fund.[4] They went on to build Cabanas in Palo Alto, California and another motel in Dallas, Texas.[4]

The Circus Circus in Las Vegas, Nevada, developed by Jay Sarno.

Sarno developed the Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.[4][5] It was inaugurated on August 5, 1966.[1]

Sarno later developed the Circus Circus.[4][5] The attraction featured a circus tent with daily acts, and Sarno would dress up as a ringmaster and attend to families and children personally.[4] Sarno subsequently leased it to Bill Pennington and Bill Bennett, a Del Webb executive, and they purchased it in 1983.[1]

Sarno planned to develop the "Grandissimo", a new hotel and casino with 6,000 rooms.[1] However, the project was shelved when Sarno died.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Sarno married Joyce Sarno Keys; they later divorced.[2] They had four children: Jay Sarno Jr, September Sarno, Heidi Sarno Strauss, and Freddie Sarno.[2][5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Sarno died of a heart attack on July 21, 1984, at the age of 62, at the Caesars Palace.[1]

Sarno was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1989.[6] He received the inaugural Sarno Award for Casino Design from the Global Gaming Expo in 2003.[1]


Further reading[edit]

  • Schwartz, David G. (2013). Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas: How Jay Sarno Won a Casino Empire, Lost It, And Inspired Modern Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada: Winchester Books. ISBN 9780990001607. OCLC 860913633. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "2003 Honoree: Jay Sarno". Center for Gaming Research. University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Retrieved September 23, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Guide to the Jay Sarno Photograph Collection PH-00347" (PDF). University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Retrieved September 23, 2016. 
  3. ^ Earley, Pete (2000). Super Casino: Inside the "new" Las Vegas. New York City: Bantam Books. p. 50. ISBN 9780553095029. OCLC 41565231. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Evans, K. J. (September 12, 1999). "Jay Sarno". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved September 23, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Nordli, Brian (March 3, 2014). "Jay Sarno remembered for doing 'something nobody had ever done before'". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved September 23, 2016. 
  6. ^ "The Gaming Hall of Fame". University of Nevada Las Vegas. Retrieved 2009-08-30.