As one of the original casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, the Tropicana Hotel Casino has seen its share of excitement in a city that changes its face every few years. Originally linked to mob ties, and then more mob ties, and eventually legitimate corporations, Tropicana has gone through several changes of its own over the past 50 years offering entertainment to the city of Las Vegas.
The Tropicana first opened it’s doors to a limited crowd of 500 VIP guests on the evening of April 4, 1957. At the time of its opening, the Tropicana was often referred to as the “Tiffany of the Strip”, due in part to the well-manicured lawns that surround the hotel, elaborate balconied hotel rooms and one of the most elegant showrooms in Las Vegas. The casino’s tropical landscaping and a 60 foot fountain in the shape of a tulip set Tropicana apart from other casino resorts of the era dominoqq.
Unfortunately, Tropicana’s grand opening was quickly overshadowed by the casino’s connections to the Mafia. The mob connections were brought to light on May 2, less than a month after Tropicana first opened its doors as a rival gang attempted to assassinate mob boss Frank Costello in New York City.
With Costello hospitalized, detectives investigating the incident found a note in Trentana’s pocket detailing Tropicana’s profits for the first 24 days of operation. The slip reported the profits as being $ 651,284.
The City of Las Vegas and all those involved considered it to be an embarrassment for mob connections to come to light in this manner, especially soon after the casino had opened. Authorities worked quietly behind the scenes to force the owners to sell, but the new owners were later revealed to be another organized crime family – the Civellas.
In an effort to boost profits and increase Tropicana’s appeal, the owners opened the “Folies Bergere” in 1959. The Folies is the original showgirls show in Las Vegas, and was brought to Tropicana directly from Paris. Today, Folies is not only the longest running show in Las Vegas, Folies Bergere is the longest running production in the United States.
Over the next couple of decades Tropicana played host to a number of other well-known celebrities. Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jack Benny all headlined at the Tropicana, to name just a few. The Tropicana expanded it’s entertainment offering in 1961 to include a private golf course next door to the hotel.
In an attempt to wipe out the remaining Mafia connections, authorities forced owners to sell Tropicana to Ramada Corporation in 1979. The company eventually landed under the control of Aztar Corporation, a publicly traded subsidiary that Ramada created to manage its gambling interests.
By the 1990s the appeal of the Tropicana had faded. The Folies still drew a crowd, but the casino was best known for its location. It soon became a place for cheap hotel rooms used by patrons who would spend their gambling dollars at neighboring casinos, which included MGM Grand, Excalibur and New York New York.
As a sign of Tropicana’s fading appeal, the casino stopped accepting new hotel reservations last April. As rumors circulated that the property was about to be demolished, a bidding war began between Las Vegas-based Pinnacle Entertainment and Kentucky-based Columbia Entertainment. Columbia eventually won with a $ 2.1 Billion take-over of Aztar Corporation and it’s assets.
Columbia is currently planning a $ 2.5 Billion renovation of the Tropicana. Plans include demolishing the single-level motel sections of the property and building new towers that will increase hotel capacity from 1,880 rooms to over 10,000 hotel rooms by 2010. The new owners are also planning to completely replace all the games on the casino floor with newer ones. models. The one thing that will remain the same will be the Folies, which are a nastalgic part of Tropicana’s legacy.