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Famed Vegas Hotel To Be Destroyed

April 27, 1998

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ In a town where almost everything is a spectacle, even the wrecking ball can be transformed into a big, brassy show.

Tonight, the famed Aladdin Hotel-Casino, shuttered since November, will check out of its 32-year-old Las Vegas Strip address in a spectacular implosion.

The 17-story, 1,100-room Aladdin is the fifth local icon to be blasted into oblivion in the last five years, all succumbing to the city’s megaresort mania.

The Dunes was imploded in October 1993, making way for the $1.6 billion Bellagio resort, scheduled to open this fall. The Landmark was felled in November 1995, replaced by a convention center parking lot.

The venerable Sands dropped a year later, and the $2 billion Venetian resort is rising in its place. The Hacienda came down in a 1996 New Year’s Eve spectacle, and Mandalay Bay resort will open on that site next spring.

Since 1989, 10 megaresorts _ each boasting 2,500-3,000 rooms and costing $80 million to $2 billion _ have gone up, and five more are planned.

Once the Aladdin’s prime 35-acre site is cleared, construction will start on a new 2,600-room Aladdin Hotel and Casino; a second hotel-casino with 1,000 rooms as a joint venture of parent Aladdin Gaming Ltd. and Planet Hollywood; and a shopping complex named Desert Passages.

The three projects carry a price tag of $1.3 billion, with completion scheduled two years from now. The 7,000-seat Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts will be spared from demolition and renovated.

The city is gaining 26,000 new hotel rooms in just three years, a 25 percent increase that will boost total room inventory past 125,000.

``We have an incredible market here,″ said Richard Goeglein, president and chief executive officer of Aladdin Gaming. ``Las Vegas is a tremendous people-generator,″ with a recent annual visitor count of 30 million-plus.

Goeglein, an 18-year industry veteran, anticipates a feeling of deja vu Monday when the Aladdin falls. He headed management at the Dunes in its waning days.

``My team turned off the lights, we locked the doors when the place closed,″ he said. ``There were a lot of tears.″

The last act of the Aladdin Hotel-Casino will be worthy of its showy past: Elvis and Priscilla married there. Neil Diamond opened its famous theater. And Wayne Newton and Johnny Carson once jockeyed to buy it.

The Aladdin’s roots go back to 1962 when New York toy manufacturer Edwin Lowe opened an English Tudor-style motel named the Tally-Ho. It offered no gambling and lasted 10 months. The motel reopened in 1964 as King’s Crown.

Milton Prell, one of the state’s early gambling figures, bought the resort in 1966 and named it the Aladdin.

In ensuing years, the resort faced a host of financial and legal problems. Mob figures from St. Louis, Detroit and Tokyo were found to have had their fingers in the genie’s till at various times.

Organized crime allegations also surfaced when Newton teamed with gambling figure Ed Torres to buy the Aladdin for $85 million in 1980. Their bid bested the yearlong efforts of Carson, then host of the ``Tonight″ show.

Newton sold his share to Torres 21 months later in what was termed a split over business philosophies.

Just a week after Newton received a license from the state to operate the Aladdin, an NBC News report alleged he got the money to buy the hotel from mobsters. Newton sued for defamation and in November 1986 was awarded $22.8 million by a federal jury. Testimony showed that although he did have contact with a gangster, the funds for the Aladdin were borrowed from a Las Vegas bank.

But a judge reduced the award to $5.3 million, then NBC successfully appealed and had the guilty verdict reversed. Newton appealed the reversal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

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