Caesars Palace (1966-Present)
Caesars Palace (1966-Present)
Location: Center Strip
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
What’s There Now: Caesars Palace
Closed: Still In Operation
Caesars Palace opens on August 5
Evel Knievel attemps to jump the Caesars fountain on a motorcycle; fails spectacularly and is nearly killed
Lum’s Restaurant chain buys Caesars Palace
14-story Centurion Tower opens adding more than 200 rooms
22-story Fantasy Tower (later renamed the Forum tower) opens
Iconic dome-shaped Omnimax movie theater opens at the front of the property
Forum Shops mall opens
Caesars Palace is purchased by the ITT Sheraton Corporation
Caesars Magical Empire, an interactive dinner and magic venue patterned after Hollywood’s The Magic Castle, opens
Palace Tower opens with 1,100 rooms
Starwood Hotel and Resorts purchased ITT Sheraton Corporation and, by extension, Caesars Palace
Phase 2 of the Forum Shops mall opens
Hilton Hotels buys Caesars and related hotels; operates them as a separate business under the Park Place Entertainment banner with other previously owned gaming destinations
Omnimax Theater closes; torn down to make way for new entertainment venue
Caesars Magical Empire closes to make way for a new nightclub
4,000-seat Colosseum venue opens with Celine Dion as the resident headliner
Park Place Entertainment renamed Caesars Entertainment
Third phase of Forum Shops opens with a three-story additional along The Strip and a circular escalator
1,000 room Augustus Tower opens
Harrah’s Entertainment purchases Caesars Entertainment
Pure Nightclub opens in the space formerly occupied by Caesars Magical Empire; it is one of the biggest nightclubs in Las Vegas at the time
1,000 room Octavius Tower opens
Centurion Tower remodeled and rebranded as Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace
Roman Tower remodeled and renamed the Julius Tower
Hotel celebrates its 50th Anniversary
Jay Sarno built a small empire of motels in Georgia, California, and Texas but dreamed of a different kind of Las Vegas experience than was currently in the market. His idea of a “European” hotel/casino with an ornate design and more family-friendly appointments was met with disdain by the casino industry and the idea of building it so far back from the highway, fronted by gardens and fountains, was viewed as crazy.
Financing the hotel was not easy. A building boom in the 1950s had mostly been funded by organized crime, but a nationwide and Las Vegas specific crackdown on the mob made it harder for underworld figures to be openly involved in Sin City casinos. Between 1946 and 1958 about a dozen major hotel-casinos opened, mostly thanks to mafia money. But between The Stardust‘s 1958 opening and the 1966 opening of Caesars Palace only one other major property debuted (The Aladdin, also in 1966).
Tracing the mafia’s roots in most hotels of the era is pretty easy but while there were rumors that everyone from Sam Giancana to Myer Lansky had a hand in Caesars Palace, nothing has ever been explicitly documented. Sarno got the nearly $25 million it took to build the property with loans from the Teamsters Union and from an investment of a partner who gained a fortune through an east coast insurance company.
There is some discrepancy in the history logs as to when ground breaking and construction actually began, which range from 1962 to 1965, but it is most likely in late 1964 or early 1965.
The Roman theme was always a part of the plan but the hotel’s name changed from inception to inauguration. Originally it was to be called Cabana Palace, named after the chain of Cabana motels that had earned Sarno a small fortune. Desert Palace was also floated as a possibility but Caesars Palace was eventually selected because Sarno thought it would evoke royalty.
The hotel debuted on August 5, 1966 with 700 guest rooms, the 800 seat Circus Maximus showroom featuring a production starring Andy Williams, two restaurants, and a main casino that acted as a hub for the entire hotel. Although common today, the idea of a casino being the centerpiece through which guests would have to pass to get to other areas of the hotel was revolutionary for the time.
The hotel was an immediate hit, garnering lots of press for its gaudy Roman design and a staff that was costumed in togas and gladiator uniforms.
Sarno used the success of the hotel to expand his empire, opening the Circus Circus casino up the street in 1968, but he was forced to let go of Caesars Palace in 1969. The government was investigating possible organized crime involvement of a senior financial executive with Sarno’s company and although the man was never charged, the threat of it was enough to convince Sarno that he needed to sell. The Lum’s Restaurant chain bought the property on September 30, 1969 for $60 million.
The property changed owners several times over the years and has been associated with various hotel chains including Sheraton and Hilton. The last major ownership transfer happened in 2005 when Harrah’s Entertainment bought the hotel and then renamed itself Caesars Entertainment.
Expansions and remodeling have kept the hotel current and competitive. A 1970 expansion added the 14-story Centurion Tower; the 22-story Fantasy Tower was added in 1979 (later renamed the Forum Tower); a state-of-the-art Omnimax movie theater was added in 1980; The Forum Shops mall was added in 1992; the 1,100 room Palace Tower debuted in 1997; the 4,000 seat Colosseum showroom opened in 2003; the 1,000 room Augustus Tower opened in 2005; and the 1,000 room Octavius Tower debuted in 2012.
The Centurion Tower was remodeled in 2012 and rebranded as the Nobu Hotel Las Vegas, a hotel-within-a-hotel concept run and managed by the company that manages the Nobu Japanese restaurant chain. It opened to the public in 2013.
The Roman Tower was remodeled in 2016 and renamed the Julius Tower.
Including the Nobu tower, the hotel currently has nearly 4,000 rooms, over 150,000 square-feet of casino space, more than two dozen restaurants, more than a half million square-feet of shopping, a dozen bars and lounges, and eight pools.
The hotel celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016.