Tropicana Las Vegas to close its doors tomorrow

Lea Hogg 2 weeks ago
Tropicana Las Vegas to close its doors tomorrow

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a symbol of the city’s vibrant history and showmanship, is preparing to close its doors tomorrow, just shy of its 67th anniversary. This iconic hotel-casino will make way for a Major League Baseball stadium and a new Bally’s resort, marking a significant end of an era.

The Tropicana, affectionately known as the Trop, was the vision of Miami hotelier Ben Jaffe and organized crime figure Phil Kastel. At its inauguration, the 325-room Tropicana was the most expensive property in Vegas, with a cost of $15 million—equivalent to over $470 million in 2024. Its luxurious Caribbean-inspired décor earned it the moniker “the Tiffany of the Strip,” a title befitting a jewel.

The Trop quickly gained popularity among big-band greats like Errol Garner, Benny Goodman, and Gene Krupa. It also served as a backdrop for several iconic movies and television shows, including the Elvis Presley musical Viva Las Vegas and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II. In 1972, Sammy Davis Jr. bought an 8% share of the property, becoming the first Black person to own part of a Strip hotel.

Trop’s controversial history

However, the Trop was not without its share of controversy. When mobster Frank Costello survived an assassination attempt in 1957, police found the Tropicana’s gross win numbers in his pocket. An FBI investigation in the late 1970s uncovered a Kansas City mob connection, leading to the sale of the property to the first of several corporate owners.

Over the years, the Trop underwent numerous changes to stay competitive. Towers were added in the late 1970s and 1986, and a 1980s remodel introduced a lush, five-acre pool area with waterfalls, lagoons, and swim-up blackjack tables. The resort even rebranded itself as “the Island of Las Vegas” for a time.

Despite these efforts, the Trop could not escape the fate that has befallen many pre-1970 Las Vegas Strip resorts. As it prepares to close, locals and visitors alike are left to reflect on its legacy. Harry Basil, partner and general manager of Laugh Factory, a Trop fixture for over a dozen years, sums up the sentiment: “New things are always good for Las Vegas. And the baseball [stadium] is going to be great. I just wish it was somewhere else.”

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