Location: Center Strip
3665 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
What’s There Now: Planet Hollywood
Tally Ho Hotel opens with 450 rooms but no casino
Tally Ho sold to King’s Crown; casino added but not opened
King’s Crown sold to former Sahara owner Milton Prell
Hotel is remodeled and reopens on April 1 as The Aladdin
Elvis and Priscilla Presley are married on May 1 at The Aladdin
Hotel sold to St. Louis “businessmen”
Construction starts on major expansion that includes:
700 rooms in a new 17-story tower
7,500-seat Theater for the Performing Arts
Grand reopening of the hotel; Neil Diamond hosts
Hotel closed briefly after allegations of mafia involvement
Wayne Newton buys the hotel
Wayne Newton sells his stake in the hotel
The Aladdin goes bankrupt (not the last time)
Hotel bought by Japanese “businessman”
Hotel closes in November for remodeling
Hotel reopens in March
The Aladdin goes bankrupt again (still not the last time)
Hotel purchased; plans are announced to tear it down and rebuild it
Hotel closes on November 25
Hotel is imploded on April 27
The original Aladdin, located where Planet Hollywood now stands, has one of the most troubled histories in town. Over the course of its life it had over a dozen owners, closed several times due to financial problems and criminal investigations, and went bankrupt no fewer than three times.
The property first opened in 1963 as the Tally Ho, a 450-room resort with no casino built by Edwin Lowe, a man who was most famous as the toymaker who successfully marketed the game Yahtzee. Contrary to popular legend, Lowe didn’t invent the game, he just purchased the rights for it from a Canadian couple who first thought it up in the 1950s to pass the time on their yacht (hence the name). Edwin Lowe’s toy company was purchased in the 1970s by Milton Bradley.
The property had all the hallmarks of a Las Vegas resort – an English Tudor theme, a golf course, four swimming pools, and six restaurants. But despite its premiere location across the street from The Dunes and within walking distance of The Flamingo, the hotel suffered without a casino and was sold to the Indiana based King’s Crown chain in 1964.
They rebranded it the King’s Crown Tally Ho Hotel but didn’t have much better luck with the property. They added a casino but couldn’t get a gaming license so the hotel failed.
The property was rescued by Milton Prell in 1966. Prell started in the casino business in California with a highly successful bingo palace. He opened Club Bingo, a non-hotel property, on what would eventually become the Las Vegas Strip in 1947 on the chunk of land that later would be home to Prell’s Sahara hotel.
Prell bought the King’s Crown Tally Ho for $16 million and then dumped another $3 million into the property to add an Arabian Nights theme and a new 500-seat Baghdad Theater. The property, along with the new casino, opened on April 1, 1966 as The Aladdin with comedian Jackie Mason providing the entertainment.
Part of the reconstruction of the property meant removing some of the rooms, so the “official” room count at the opening of the Aladdin was 335. Interestingly, despite the desert theme out front, the hotel wings kept their English Tudor design for years.
At opening, the Aladdin consisted of a long, relatively narrow building that sat very close to The Strip. In relation to the existing Planet Hollywood, it ran from the northern most edge of the property (where Cabo Wabo Cantina is now) to about halfway down the current building. It contained the casino, the theater, bars, and a couple of restaurants.
Behind the casino building were the original Tally Ho hotels rooms, which stretched back away from The Strip in a u-shaped, two-story building.
Behind the hotel was the golf course, located more or less where the Planet Hollywood parking garage is now.
Prell happened to be a friend of music legend Colonel Tom Parker, which led to perhaps the most famous moment for the Aladdin: the May 1, 1967 wedding of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.
Even with Prell at the helm, the hotel underperformed and lost money. Seeking investors, he sold a stake in the hotel to a Detroit woman named Mae George, who through her family, was rumored to have ties to organized crime in St. Louis. This may have been the beginning of what was long believed to be mafia involvement in the Aladdin hotel’s organization.
Prell created a new corporation with himself as the primary stakeholder and effectively sold the hotel to himself in 1968 as a way to infuse new capital into the property. It was sold again in 1970 to a consortium of businessmen from St. Louis headed by Sam Diamond.
Diamond and the other investors started construction of a major expansion of the hotel in 1974. Estimated to have cost between $50-60 million, the expansion featured a new 17-story tower with more than 700 rooms, the now-legendary 7,500 seat Theater for the Performing Arts, and more casino and restaurant space to the south of the former building.
If you look at the existing Planet Hollywood building, you’ll note two smaller wings that jut out from the main hotel tower. Right in between those wings is here the 1976 era hotel tower was located (more or less) and those wings were styled to resemble the old building.
The Theater for the Performing Arts was located where it is now (it’s the same building, just remodeled). It was directly behind the new tower and just to the south of the old Tally Ho motel buildings, which remained in service.
The expanded and remodeled hotel had a grand re-opening in 1976 with Neil Diamond providing the entertainment.
It was the expansion of the hotel that led to its most troubled period. $50 million in 1976 is approaching a quarter of a billion dollars in today’s money, so questions about where they came up with the funds began almost immediately. Under allegations of mafia involvement, an investigation was launched that eventually led to racketeering indictments and convictions.
The hotel was actually closed in August of 1979 by the Nevada Gaming Commission due to the scale of the corruption, one of the few times in history they have gone to that length, but a judge allowed the property to reopen just a few hours later. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be the last time the property closed.
Hollywood came to the rescue of the troubled hotel in 1980. After an attempt from Tonight Show host Johnny Carson fell through, legendary entertainer Wayne Newton bought the property with a partner, Ed Torres, the former president of the Riviera Hotel and Casino.
Newton and Torres famously disagreed about how to run the hotel and by 1982, Newton was out of the picture. Torres couldn’t manage the property effectively and by 1984 it had sunk into bankruptcy.
The hotel limped along for a couple of years until it was purchased in January of 1986 by a Japanese businessman, Ginji Yasuda. He closed the hotel in November of 1986 for a five-month, $30 million remodeling program. It reopened in March of 1987 at a time that coincided with even more rumors of mafia involvement with the hotel, including speculation that Yasuda got some of the money for the property from organized crime interests in Japan.
The Aladdin sunk into bankruptcy again in 1989 and over the next few years went through several different owners until finally in 1997, a group of investors, partnering with the London Clubs, announced plans to tear down the hotel and rebuild it with thousands of hotel rooms, two casinos, showrooms, a mall, and more. The new version of the Aladdin would be nearly three times larger than the old one. The only thing that would be spared would be the historic Theater for the Performing Arts.
The hotel closed on November 25, 1997.
On April 27, 1998, the hotel was imploded.
The new Aladdin opened on August 18, 2000. For more information on the next era of the troubled resort (hint: things didn’t get better just because the building did), go to the Aladdin 2000-2007 page.