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
In February of 1980, Holiday Inns, Inc. acquired Harrah's Hotel Casino
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
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
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 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
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
More detailed information can be found at www.lvstriphistory.com