“On this day in 1946, mobster boss Benjamin “”Bugsy”” Siegel opened the Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The opening of the iconic Art Deco resort marked the start of a new era in Las Vegas, in which casinos became luxurious “”complete experience”” retreats, replete with tuxedoed staff, champagne fountains, well-appointed hotel rooms, and deluxe services.
Its beginnings, though, were more modest. Thanks to high wartime costs in the mid-1940s, the Flamingo’s original developer quickly ran into financial problems and was looking for financing by 1945. Enter Siegel and his mob partners. Posing as businessman, the mobster and his “”partners”” bought a two-thirds stake in the casino and resort project and took over the final phase of construction, which, due to Siegel’s lack of experience in the industry, was a mess. Still, the construction was completed and Siegel christened his new resort the Flamingo Hotel & Casino, after his girlfriend Virginia Hill, whose nickname was “”The Flamingo”” because of her red hair and long legs.
On 26 December 1946, the Flamingo Hotel & Casino opened with fanfare. Billed as the world’s most luxurious hotel, the opening of the 105-room Flamingo was feted, Hollywood-style. Singer and comedian Jimmy Durante headlined the entertainment with music by Cuban bandleader Xavier Cugat. The star-studded guest list included Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, George Jessel, and Cesar Romero. In spite of the splashy program, the grand opening was a bust. Bad weather kept guests away and gamblers, who had no rooms in the hotel, took their winnings elsewhere. The casino lost US$300,000 in its first week. Two weeks after its opening, the Flamingo closed down.
The resort re-opened 1 March 1947, as the “”Fabulous Flamingo”” and was reporting a profit by May. Even if he saved his hotel, Siegel couldn’t save himself. While he was relaxing with a paper in his Hollywood bungalow, Siegel was shot to death on 20 June 1947. Though it’s never been proved, it’s believed that his partners in crime had Siegel killed after they became convinced he wasn’t giving them their fair share in the Flamingo’s profits.
But the resort, and the luxurious, white-glove “”complete experience”” atmosphere it introduced, has endured. It is known today as The Flamingo Las Vegas, owned and operated by Harrah’s Entertainment. The 3,626-room, 7,200-square-metre casino was the third resort to open on the Strip and the oldest resort on the Strip still in operation today.”
Credit: © Jack Sullivan / Alamy
Caption: The glowing lights of The Flamingo Hotel entrance.