Journalist Recalls When Las Vegas Was ‘America’s Monte Carlo’

Through the years, some Las Vegas casinos have associated themselves with glamourous Monte Carlo on the French Riviera. Now, those days are gone, according to KSNV-TV Channel 3 reporter Tom Hawley.

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo
Firefighters respond to a blaze at the Monte Carlo hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip in 2008. The resort later changed its name to Park MGM. (Image: Los Angeles Times)

Hawley recently said during a “Video Vault” report on Channel 3 that no name has been employed more to get customers into Las Vegas casinos than “the glamorous centerpiece of the Principality of Monaco.”

Hawley’s weekly “Video Vault” segments explore different aspects of Las Vegas history, including developments in the casino industry and the Mafia’s influence decades ago in Southern Nevada.

The most recent segment looked at the way Las Vegas casinos used glamourous Monte Carlo as a marketing tool. 

The trend dates back to the years even before casino gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931. In the 1920s, the Northern Club on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas referred to the city as “The Monte Carlo of America,” Hawley wrote on the station’s website.

In 1932, the Northern Club’s name was changed to the Monte Carlo. The Silver Club in downtown Las Vegas called itself the “Monte Carlo of the Desert,” the veteran reporter noted. 

Years later, the Flamingo Casino on Highway 91 branded itself “America’s Monte Carlo.” The Flamingo was opened in December 1946 under the direction of gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel on the desert highway to Los Angeles. This highway now is called the Las Vegas Strip. It is home to more than 20 major resorts.

‘A Cut Above’

Michael Green, a UNLV history professor, said on the “Video Vault” segment that the Monte Carlo in Monaco has been associated with the elite.

In Las Vegas, use of the Monte Carlo name suggested these local properties were “a cut above” the sawdust joints, he said.

A lot of Western casinos in the olden days would claim they’re the ‘Monte Carlo of the West,’” Green said. “It makes sense to be the Monte Carlo of Las Vegas.”

A more recent version of that name was unveiled on the west side of the Strip on June 21, 1996, with the opening of the 32-story Monte Carlo hotel-casino. 

This came during a boom in the 1990s in megaresort construction on the Strip. The construction boom gained steam after casino developer Steve Wynn opened the Mirage in 1989 on the west side of the resort corridor.

No More Monte Carlos

The Monte Carlo on the Strip was closed temporarily after a three-alarm fire on the top six floors in January 2008.

Improper welding sparked flammable foam blocks on the resort’s decorative crown structure, Hawley said. No one was seriously injured.

In May 2018, the Monte Carlo’s name was changed to Park MGM. Now, for the first time in a century, there are no direct Monte Carlo tie-ins in Las Vegas, Hawley said.

Green said Las Vegas is “well-enough known that we really do not need to attach ourselves to Monaco’s coattails.”

“Maybe in Monaco, there’s now a Las Vegas resort, for all we know,” Green said.

Park MGM is near T-Mobile Arena, home of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. Last fall, Park MGM became the first smoke-free hotel-casino on the Strip.

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