Royal Inn (1970-2015)


The Royal Inn (1970-2015)
Location: Just Off The Strip
305 Convention Center Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89109
What’s There Now: Empty Lot
Opened: 1970
Closed: 2014



Property opens as Royal Inns of America


Michael Gaughan buys casino operations


Purchased by Horn & Hardt fast food company


Hotel is expanded, remodeled, and rebranded as the Royal Americana


Hotel closes


Hotel reopens as The Paddlewheel Casino


Paddlehweel closes


Reopens as the Debbie Reynolds Hotel


Property goes bankrupt and closes


Purchased by World Wrestling Federation but they never did anything with it


Hotel sold again and reopens as the Greek Isles


Hotel goes bankrupt again and closes


Hotel reopens as a Clarion


Hotel closes


Hotel is imploded


This small hotel/casino opened in 1970 as a branch of the Royal Inns of America, a chain of several dozen hotels in the southwest United States started by hotelier Earl Gagosian. Located just off The Strip on Convention Center Drive, the $3 million hotel had 200 rooms that were marketed both to tourists and business travelers. The small casino had a few dozen slots and a couple of table games.

Michael Gaughan, the son of legendary casino magnate Jackie Gaughan, bought the casino portion of the property in 1972. He acted as the de facto manager of the property until 1979 when it was purchased by fast food operator Horn & Hardt, most famous for their Automat chain. Gaughan used the proceeds to open the Barbary Coast on The Strip and later built up the Coast Casino chain that included The Orleans and Suncoast among others.

The new owners sunk several million dollars into a project to redo the hotel. It was expanded by 100 rooms, remodeled with a New York theme, and rebranded as the Royal Americana. But the early 1980s were not kind to Las Vegas and the hotel closed in 1982. Horn and Hardt tried to sell it but couldn’t find a qualified buyer so they wound up remodeling it again and reopening it in the as the Paddlewheel Hotel & Casino.

The new version of the property had a kid-friendly theme complete with games and rides but that didn’t last long. By the time they added an a drag revue, it was pretty clear that the hotel had a new direction. Neither strategy worked and the company shuttered the building and put it up for sale in 1990.

Entertainer Debbie Reynolds stepped in and bought the property at an auction in 1992. Her and her husband had big plans for the hotel, wanting to add a Hollywood memorabilia museum and a 500-seat showroom where Reynolds could perform. But financing for the renovations were complicated and the hotel reopened in 1993 with pretty much only a new name – the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino – and a fresh coat of paint. The memorabilia museum finally opened in 1994 after she raised money in a public shareholder offering but the big, new showroom never materialized.

The casino, which had been managed by another company, closed in 1996 and the hotel fell into bankruptcy and closed the following year.

In 1998, the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) bought the hotel with plans to tear it down and build a wrestling-themed hotel and casino. It was going to have a 35-story room tower, a huge arena for matches, and multiple restaurants and bars. They even went so far as to strip the property of most of the interior details in preparation for demolition but then changed their mind and sold it to a Chicago real estate firm. The excuse the WWF used at the time was that they decided the land wasn’t big enough to support the plans but most analysts believed that they were spooked by how high the costs of building a major resort in Vegas had risen, with a billion dollars being pretty standard for the time.

The hotel reopened in 2001 as The Greek Isles, with a cheesy Greecian theme, a tiny casino, and some low-rent shows. It was purchased in 2007 by a real estate developer who planned to knock it down and start over but that plan was sidelined by the global recession that hit the following year. The hotel sank into bankruptcy and closed again.

It reopened under the Clarion brand, part of the Choice Hotels chain that includes Comfort Inn, Econolodge, and Rodeway Inn.

The hotel closed for good in September of 2014 and was purchased by real estate developer Lorenzo Doumani, whose family has a long history in Vegas. His uncle managed The Tropicana in the 1970s and the family owned the La Concha motel on The Strip, the lobby of which is now the welcome center for the Neon Museum in Downtown Las Vegas.

The property had a date with dynamite in February of 2015 but apparently it wasn’t ready to go down without a fight. While the bulk of the building collapsed as planned, an elevator tower refused to fall down, leaving a leaning, 8-story high chunk of concrete sticking up like a giant middle finger.

Here’s the video:

The company responsible for the implosion explained that debris at the base of the elevator shaft piled up quicker than expected in such a way that basically braced the tower and kept it from falling down. They had performed 12 successful such demolitions in the past without incident. Yes, that’s right… this was their 13th demolition, so perhaps it is not surprising that it went awry.

The next day a crane came in to remove the last, stubborn remaining bits. They basically put a big cable around the elevator shaft and tugged on it until it fell down.

Doumani has not gotten too specific on what he intends to build on the land. All that he will confirm at this point is that it will be a hotel but will not have a casino.

There is no timeline on when construction will begin or when the new hotel will open.

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