Hotel Histories

History of the Harrah's Las Vegas

Opened as Holiday Casino July 2, 1973
Converted to Harrah's Las Vegas April 1992


The Tumbleweed motel opened in approximately 1949, "A new, elegantly furnished, soundproof, 25 unit motel. Beautyrest box-spring mattresses. Large, ventilated rooms, Frigidaire air-cooled in summer, steam-heated in winter. Las Vegas' Newest and Nicest, yet moderate rates. Swimming pool available."

Sharing the property was the Pyramids Motel, whose opening date is unknown, was owned by the Molasky family. The Pyramids boasted room phones, heated swimming pool, TVs, baby sitters, refrigeration, free show reservations, and a glass enclosed sun area.

On July 2, 1973, the dream of Selby and Claudine Williams came true. They opened their Holiday Casino containing a riverboat theme.

In 1971, the River Boat Casino opened.

In 1977, Shelby Williams who had been in and out of intensive care for five years died.

In February of 1980, Holiday Inns, Inc. acquired Harrah's Hotel Casino Company.

In January of 1983, Holiday Inns, Inc. acquired the remaining 60% interest in River Boat Casino, Inc., Harrah's assumed management of the casino and hotel and later that year bought the resort.

May of 1985, Holiday Inns, Inc. shareholders approved a new corporate name, Holiday Corporation. The new umbrella organization reflected the growing diversity of the company's products -- Harrah's Casinos, Holiday Inn hotels, Embassy Suites Hotels and Hampton Inn hotels. Later that year, they merged the next door property River Boat Casino.

In November of 1989, Holiday announced the name of new spin-off company, The Promus Companies Incorporated.

In January of 1990, Holiday stockholders approved transfer of Holiday Inn hotel business to Bass PLC and the spin-off of Holiday Corporation's remaining brands (Harrah's, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites) and assets into The Promus Companies.

In April of 1992, the conversion of Holiday Casino to Harrah's Las Vegas was completed.

On April 24, 1994, an armed robbery at the resort's cashier's cage took place when young gang members stole $97,000.

In June of 1995, Promus Companies Inc., spun-off its hotel brands named above into a new corporation. The remaining company, which consisted of the Harrah's brand, all Harrah's assets and a majority of the Promus headquarters assets and people, was then renamed Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., returning the Harrah's name to the New York Stock Exchange for the first time since 1980. Harrah's stock symbol is HET.

In May of 1996, it was noted that 74 year old Claudine Williams, who was the only woman in the Gaming Hall of Fame, still remained at the helm of Harrah's.

In April of 1997, it was reported that renovations to the resort were on time. Included in the renovations were six giant 22,000 pound 23-carat gold-leaf jesters. Built from steel and glass reinforced polyester resin, the jesters stand 32 feet high and wear size 43 shoes. The new 35-story hotel tower with its 1,000 rooms would go on line with the first 525 rooms in May.

In July 1997, Harrah's completed a $200 million renovation abandoning the showboat for a carnival theme. Of the $200 million, $31 million was spent on the Range Steakhouse, Adreotti's, and Asia. An additional $3 million was spent on advertising in Southern California.

At the grand re-opening Harry Connick, Jr., entertained at the Carnaval Court. Tino Wallenda, son of legendary tight-rope walker Karl Wallenda, walked 139 feet across a 1-inch steel cable, 99 feet above the ground. Celebrities also appeared included Sidney Poitier, Sandra Bullock, Minnie Driver, Stephen Baldwin, Lea Thompson, Mike Bergin, Dick Butkus and Steve and Elaine Wynn.

Harrah's sits on 17.3 acres. It contains 2,587 hotel rooms and 90 hotel suites located in the 23 story Mardi Gras North Tower, the 15 story Mardi Gras South Tower, and 35 story Carnaval Tower.

Harrah's also has 25,000 square feet of convention space, an arcade, outdoor swimming pool and spa facilities.

Inside the resort, two brightly colored murals hang behind the front desk and tell the story of Las Vegas. A spectacular 30'x90' hand-painted mural folds and wraps from the exterior of the property to the interior is the largest such mural ever produced.

The casino is 86,664 square feet containing 76 table games, eight Poker Games and 1,983 slot/video poker machines. It also has a 64 seat Race Book with 12 video screens, and 100 seat Sports Book with 14 video screens.

The newly-renovated Improv is housed in a 400 seat, custom built showroom that boasts the highest quality sound and lighting systems.

La Play Lounge has a nine-screen video wall with popular bands playing live music seven days a weeks. Musical mixes include Latin Rhythm, Jazz, Pop and Brazilian.

Shops include two Jackpot stores featuring a mix of Harrah's logo merchandise; Carnaval Corner; On Stage; and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

On September 5, 2000, Stephen Mullen and Adam Frimmel reportedly stole a wallet from a customer at the resort.

On September 7, 2000, the pair went back to Harrah's and stole cash from one woman and a purse from another. Security guards confronted them. As Frimmel ran off, Mullen was tackled by guards. While guards struggled to handcuff him, he fired two shots. One of the shots struck security guard Frank Willis in the abdomen and another hit patron Heather M. Vitarelli in the back as she stood oblivious to the struggle. Vitarelli died. Security officers were then able to get the gun away from Mullen and handcuff him. Other officers caught Frimmel.

Frimmel was mistakenly released from the Clark County Detention Center but was later recaptured in New Jersey. Frimmel was also wanted in New Jersey for violation of parole and bail jumping.

In 2001, restaurants contained in the resort include Asia, Cafe Andreotti's, Carnaval Corner, Club Cappuccino, Fresh Market Square Buffet, The Garden Cafe, Ghirardelli's Old Fashioned Chocolate Shop, and The Range Steakhouse.

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