Location: Center Strip
3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
What’s There Now: The Mirage
The Castaways opens – a remodeling and expansion of the Red Rooster casino and San Souci motel
The casino closes due to financial difficulties but reopens after a couple of months; the hotel remains open
The casino closes again due to cash flow issues; the hotel and showroom remains open
The casino reopens as Oliver’s New Castaways Casino, named after Oliver Kable, a well-regarded Vegas gaming figure, who was brought in to run the gambling operations
The Castaways is purchased by Howard Hughes
The Castaways is purchased by Steve Wynn
Property closes in July and is torn down
The Castaways was one of those Vegas hotels that survived for a lot longer than it probably had any right to. In fact it was, in some ways, one of the very first hotel/casinos on what would eventually become the Las Vegas Strip, dating all the way back to 1931.
On a lonely stretch of highway outside of the booming Glitter Gulch of Downtown Las Vegas, a small nightclub with gambling opened in 1931 called The Red Rooster. It closed due to accusations of selling alcohol during prohibition and later reopened. It burned down and was later rebuilt. A neighboring motel called San Souci was built and the property changed hands and names more times over the next 30 years than just about anyone can keep track of.
In 1963, the entire property was purchased by a group of investors led by wealthy Mississippi oil and gas magnate Ike La Rue.
As a side note, Ike’s son Fred used his family’s fortune to go into politics, eventually working for the Nixon administration and held responsible as one of the key figures in the Watergate scandal.
La Rue and company reconstructed and expanded portions of the property to unite the motel with a new casino, showroom, a lounge space with a giant aquarium, and a South Seas theme. When it reopened as The Castaways in 1963 it had 100 rooms.
A centerpiece of the property was the Gateway to Luck, a replica of a the Jain Temple in India. It had been created for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by the British Government. After the fair it was dismantled and bounced around to various owners until it was purchased by The Castaways and reconstructed in the hotel’s courtyard alongside a wishing well.
In 1964 the casino was shut down briefly over cash flow issues but the hotel and the rest of the property remained opened. It closed again in 1966 and then reopened in 1967 as Oliver’s New Castaways Casino, named after Oliver Kable, the former Fremont Hotel casino boss who was brought in to manage the gaming operations.
The property expanded when another 150 rooms were added in the late 1960s but The Castaways never found its financial footing and eventually went up for sale.
Around that time, the legendary Howard Hughes was on a buying spree in Las Vegas having already snapped up The Desert Inn, The Frontier, and The Sands among others. Some of that was spurred by the US government who sought a savior in Hughes to try to force the mafia out of ownership of Las Vegas casinos. Although The Castaways was not reputed to be a mob run joint, Hughes bought it anyway in 1969.
For the next 18 year The Castaways operated as a stalwart, B or even C level property on The Strip, sitting in the shadow of fancier and more upscale places like Caesars Palace and The Sands. It was remodeled a few times but for the most part it stayed as is all the way up until 1987 when it was purchased by Golden Nugget owner Steve Wynn.
Wynn shut the Castaways down in July of 1987 and later that year had it demolished to make way for a new hotel with a South Seas theme and a giant aquarium (among other things): The Mirage.