December 26th, 1946 – The Famous Flamingo Hotel Opens…

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American gangster Bugsy Siegel opened The Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the oldest casino still in operation on the Las Vegas Strip.

The property includes a 72,299-square-foot (6,716.8 m2) casino along with 3,460 hotel rooms. The architectural theme is reminiscent of the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne style of Miami and South Beach. Staying true to its theme and name, the hotel includes a garden courtyard which serves as a wildlife habitat for flamingos. The hotel was the third resort to open on the Strip and remains the oldest resort on the Strip in operation today, and it has been since 2007 with the closure and demolition of The New Frontier. It is also the last remaining casino on the strip that opened before 1950 that is still in operation. The Flamingo has a Las Vegas Monorail station called the Flamingo & Caesars Palace station at the rear of the property. After opening in 1946, it has undergone a number of ownership changes.


The Flamingo site occupies 40 acres (16 ha) originally owned by one of Las Vegas’s first settlers, Charles “Pops” Squires. Squires paid $8.75 per acre ($21.6/ha) for the land. In 1944, Margaret Folsom bought the tract for $7,500 from Squires, and she then later sold it to Billy Wilkerson. Wilkerson was the owner of The Hollywood Reporter as well as some very popular nightclubs on the Sunset Strip: Cafe Trocadero, Ciro’s and La Rue’s (Hollywood).[1]

In 1945, Wilkerson purchased 33 acres (13 ha) on the east side of U.S. Route 91, or about a mile south of the Hotel Last Frontier, in preparation for his vision. Wilkerson then hired George Vernon Russell to design a hotel influenced by European style. Wilkerson also requested that the hotel be different from the “sawdust joints” on Fremont Street. He planned a hotel with luxurious rooms, a spa, a health club, a showroom, a golf course, a nightclub, an upscale restaurant and a French-style casino. Because of high wartime material costs, Wilkerson ran into financial problems almost at once, finding himself $400,000 short and hunting for new financing.[citation needed]

Development under Bugsy Siegel (1945)

Bugsy Siegel’s original Flamingo Las Vegas in 1947
In late 1945, mobster Bugsy Siegel and his partners came to Las Vegas. Vegas reportedly piqued Siegel and his mob’s interest because of its legalized gambling and off-track betting. At the time, Siegel held a large interest in Trans America Wire, a racing publication.[2]

Siegel began by purchasing El Cortez on Fremont Street for $600,000. His expansion plans were hampered by unfriendly city officials aware of his criminal background, so Siegel began looking for a site outside the city limits.[3] Hearing that Wilkerson was seeking extra funding, Siegel and his partners posed as businessmen and directly bought a two-thirds stake in the project.[3]

Siegel took over the final phases of construction and convinced more of his underworld associates, such as Meyer Lansky, to invest in the project. Siegel reportedly lost patience with the project’s rising costs, and he once mentioned to his builder, Del Webb, that he had personally killed 16 men. Reportedly, when Webb appeared scared upon hearing that, Siegel reassured him, “Don’t worry—we only kill each other.”[4]

Siegel had also built a secret ladder in the “Presidential Suite” to escape if necessary. The ladder led down to an underground garage where a chauffeured limo was always waiting.[5]

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