Home General Gangsters, Excitement and Neon Luxury: A Photographic History of the Legendary Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas

Gangsters, Excitement and Neon Luxury: A Photographic History of the Legendary Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas

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Today it is no secret that Las Vegas is a Mecca for gamblers. But the history of this gambling capital is still shrouded in mystery.

On 26 December 1946, the legendary Flamingo Hotel Casino opened its doors to the public for the first time in the city of Las Vegas. The history of the establishment begins here, for it was then that the ban on gambling was just lifted in today’s ‘Sin City’. BestAuCasinosOnline tells the story of one of the oldest casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

The emergence of the Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas: 1940s to 1950s

The history of the Flamingo began in 1945. William Wilkerson, the founder of The Hollywood Reporter and owner of many Sunset Strip hotspots, wanted to bring the glamour of Hollywood and Monte Carlo to Vegas with a ‘French casino’ and bidets in the bathrooms. But he ran into financial problems, so he took a loan from the New York Mafia’s Meyer Lansky. It was represented by Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel. A conflict subsequently arose between Wilkerson and Siegel. Wilkerson realised that it would be safer for him to sell his share to Siegel.

Bugsy Siegel was riddled with interest in gambling and betting, had moved to Las Vegas and was looking for his own gambling empire in the new city. So he took on the Flamingo project and supervised its construction, the actual cost of which exceeded $6 million.

With glamorous solemnity, Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo Casino on December 26, 1946. It became a beacon that shone amidst the desert. However, the casino’s continued operation was a fiasco. In its first week of operation alone, the Flamingo lost $300,000. Just two weeks after it opened, it closed.

Siegel, who was a man of action, did not give up on his intention to make the venture a success, and by 1947 he had succeeded. However, the gangster was not fated to appreciate the continued success of his brainchild, as that same year Bugsy was murdered – rumour has it, over the casino. Siegel lost not only his life but also his paradise in the desert. The crime remains unsolved to this day.

The club was taken over by Siegel’s partner, William Wilkerson, who began to rehabilitate the Flamingo’s image, as the association with the notorious gangster was a stain on the casino’s reputation.

The new era of the Flamingo Casino: 1960s

In 1960, the Flamingo was resold to a Mafia clan from Miami. And its history entered a new era. From the 1960s onwards the complex was continually expanded.

In 1967 two new towers were added to house the hotel rooms. In the same year, the casino and hotel were taken over by the Tracinda Corporation holding company, effectively ending the Mafia connections.

Development of the Flamingo: 1970s to 2000s

In 1972, the complex was acquired by the Hilton Resort and Hotel Corporation. Consequently, it was renamed the Flamingo Hilton.

And in 1980 the management decided to almost completely rebuild the architectural ensemble. The renovated hotel and gambling house became even more interesting to fans of gambling. Show business stars and influential businessmen started to come here. Then, after a series of transformations, the complex came under the ownership of Caesars Entertainment Inc.

The Flamingo Casino today: 2000s and today

Having gone through a series of name and ownership changes, the hotel and casino is now known as The Flamingo Las Vegas and is owned by Harrah’s Entertainment.

Today, The Flamingo Casino attracts not only gambling enthusiasts but also tourists indifferent to gambling. They come to stroll through the picturesque garden and watch live flamingos. There is a wildlife corner in the garden courtyard where, apart from flamingos, ducks and other birds can be found. There are also Koi fish and turtles. There are even guided tours of the complex. There are even guided tours available for the whole family.

The Flamingo remains a prominent landmark in Las Vegas, although the original architecture is no longer there. The resort has undergone several major renovations throughout its history.

The Flamingo in film, literature, and music

The Flamingo Casino has become the setting for many films. In particular, it has been the setting for the filming of:

  • Ocean’s 11 in 1960
  • Viva Las Vegas, 1964
  • Bugsy, 1991
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998

The Flamingo Casino features prominently in Tim Powers’ novel Last Call. In addition, The Killers vocalist Brandon Flowers named his debut solo album Flamingo after the casino.

Many artists have performed at the Flamingo over the years. They have included Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Tony Arden, Jack Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Three Stooges and Tony Martin, Rita Ora and other celebrities.

Myths about the Flamingo Hotel Casino

There is a perception that the Flamingo is the first casino on the Las Vegas Strip, but it is mistaken. In the mid-1940s there were already several casino hotels on Highway 91, as Las Vegas Strip was then known, El Rancho Vegas opened in 1941 and Last Frontier in 1942. Both offered luxurious rooms and upscale entertainment. The Flamingo was therefore at least a third casino.

Another myth about the Flamingo is that it was named after Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend. The girl, and later Bugsy’s wife Virginia Hill, was a ‘mafia queen’, a courtesan and trusted courier for prominent American gangsters. It is believed that the complex got its name from her nickname, as her figure resembled the silhouette of a flamingo because of her long, slender legs. However, Wilkerson christened the project ‘Flamingo’ long before Siegel got involved.

The Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas boasts a wide range of gambling activities. Along with a huge selection of card games, the table area features roulette and craps, while sports betting enthusiasts can take advantage of the betting service. You can also try your luck at the club by playing the keno lottery.

Not everyone will get to visit the Flamingo Casino, but everyone can check out any mobile casino.


Zuella Montemayor did her degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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