From the beginning, this property seemed to be doomed for failure.
This property at times was called "The Vegas Jinx".
In 1962, inventor of the game Yahtzee, Edwin Lowe, opened
the $12 million, 450 room, English Tallyho Motel aimed to prove that
a resort motel without a casino could be successful. Tudor style, it
had leaded windows, gables, and half-timbering. It contained 32
villas, a par 54 nine-hole golf course which some regarded as the
most challenging in the West, four swimming pools and six specialty
restaurants. The resort closed in October of 1963.
In 1964, the motel became the King's Crown Tallyho Inn and
failed after six months when it was denied a gaming license.
In 1966, Milton Prell purchased the resort for $16
million. Another $3 million on renovations was spent, including a
new 500 seat "Bagdad Theater" showroom. Prell swapped the English
imagery for an Arabian Nights theme, but kept the original Tudor
A serrated canopy and a $750,000 15-story aladdin's lamp
sign were added.
The 335 room Aladdin opened on midnight, April 1, 1966,
with a black tie affair. Flower petals poured from the ceiling and
onto guests as they entered the hall. One guest was composer-pianist
Warren Richards. The opening entertainment included comedian Jackie
Mason, the "Jet Set Revue," a musical review that showcased The
Three Cheers and the Petite Rockette Dancers in the Bagdad Theatre.
Prell introduced an innovative main-showroom policy by
offering three completely different shows twice nightly with no
cover or minimum charges.
The Aladdin contained a golf course, 9 hole par 3.
On May 1, 1967, the Aladdin became important to rock n'
roll history when it was the host of the wedding of Elvis and
Priscilla Presley, before 100 friends and an armada of writers and
In 1969, wealthy Detroit widow Mae George purchased 24%
of the resort. George was questioned by the Nevada Gaming Control
Board because her business adviser was her late husband's foster
brother, James Tamer, the Aladdin's entertainment director who later
was placed in Nevada's Black Book. Four mobsters who had bilked the
hotel of $250,000 received prison terms. Later it came to light that
Detroit bail bondsman Charles Goldfarb and James Tamer were running
the resort on behalf of Detroit and St. Louis mob interests. A grand
jury was convened and a two-year investigation began.
In August of 1969, the Aladdin just completed a $750,000
face life including renovations to the Sinbad Lounge which became
enclosed and leveled above the casino floor with Arabic motif.
Also in 1969, Parvin Dohrmann Corporation took over the
Aladdin and in 1972, using the name Recrion Corporation, sold it to
veteran casino executive Sam Diamond, St. Louis politician Peter
Webbe, Sorkis Webbe, and Richard Daly for the price of just $5
million. Under the Webbes, a $60 million facelift was conducted
including the addition of a 19-story tower, and the new 7,500 seat
Performing Arts Center replacing the golf course, which was $4
million over budget.
The Aladdin stated that the new tower was 29 floors. It
was actually a 19-story structure, but the owners, fond of the idea
of 29 stories, started numbering the floors at 11.
A $250,000 porte cochere continued the tower's
arabesques. The Aladdin also added a new $300,000 140-foot
blockbuster sign with little neon, huge attraction panels and none
of the arabesque of the Aladdin's original sign.
The Aladdin had a grand re-opening in 1976 with singer
Neil Diamond being paid $750,000 for two shows.
In August, 1979, James Abraham, Charles Goldfarb, Tamer,
and Edward Monazym were convicted by a Detroit Federal Jury of
conspiring to allow hidden owners to exert control over the resort.
The Nevada Gaming Commission then closed the hotel but U.S. District
Judge Harry Claiborne opened it three hours later warning he had
"special powers" as a federal judge. Aladdin attorney/owner Sorkis
Webbe was indicted in connection with a $1 million kickback scheme
during an expansion project at the hotel.
By 1980 there was a price war with Wayne Newton, along
with partner Ed Torres buying the property for $85 million, over
Johnny Carson's bids. Newton and Torres had personality and ego
conflicts from the beginning. The resort's entertainment policy
shifted from "big-name stars" to stage shows. Newton said he wasn't
in favor of the change. Torres bought out Newton in 1982, but found
himself fighting off banks and unions as creditors. A year after the
breakup, Torres was trying to negotiate with Newton, this time to
sell the resort back to Newton. In February 1984, Aladdin went into
Chapter 11, $3.5 million in debt after a Teamsters Pension Fund
forced the foreclosure. Newton had failed to show he had the
finances to buy the property and the deal was dead.
Charges of mob infiltration and skimming closed the
Aladdin from January 1986 to April 1, 1987.
Ginji Yasuda, a Japanese businessman bought the property
in early 1987 for $54 million. The casino was closed while Yasuda
applied for his gaming license and a massive year-long refurbishing
began. State gamers granted Yasuda a two-year conditional license.
He was the first foreign resident to obtain such a license and
quickly became a hero to some individuals. It is reported that
Yasuda spent $20 million in remodeling the resort.
During the casino's one year closure, he kept 80
employees on the payroll and lost as much as $850,000 a month.
Yasuda was living beyond the Aladdin's income. He kept one of five
elevator shafts roped off for himself while guests were waiting long
periods of time for elevators. He would stay up late at night in the
penthouse watching hotel monitors, placing slot machines in neat,
orderly lines with no carousels. The Aladdin has no excitement.
Rumors were that Yasuda used the corporation's $25
million jet to fly his wife to New York on afternoon shopping
excursions. Vendors began wanting their payment in cash. Hospitals
refused to be providers for the Aladdin employees. It was reported
that Yasuda borrowed $6 million from Japanese organized crime
interests to keep the Aladdin afloat against the Internal Revenue
Service who wanted to seize the hotel.
In August 1989, Yasuda refused to reveal the source of
his loans to the Nevada Gaming Commission which cost him his
license. Four days later the Aladdin was again filing for
bankruptcy. Yasuda died of cancer in December, 1989.
Aladdin was instead put into the hands of a series of
careful managers approved by the bankruptcy courts.
The occupancy rate of the Aladdin was 94% to 97%, but
"Lately it seems people have been using us as a bedroom and spending
their days elsewhere."
In 1991, United States Bankruptcy Judge Linda Riegle
granted Bell Atlantic Tricon the deed, saving the closure of the
resort and 1,300 jobs. Valley Bank was calling in a $2 million loan.
In 1992, possession of the Aladdin was turned over to
casino executive Joe Burt on a 12-year lease, ending three years of
bankruptcy court control. Although Burt orchestrated a $15 million
renovation, people were still using the Aladdin for a bed and not
much more. What was once one of the largest casinos in the state was
a tired old relic next to the shine and glitz of the new resorts
such as The Mirage and Excalibur. Even the Performing Arts center
The Aladdin gained the interest of the public by having
big name entertainment such as Bon Jovi, Jefferson Starship, Heart,
Stone Temple Pilots, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers play there, as
well as good musicals such as Country Tonite. Burt was credited as a
strong operator who had turned the Aladdin into what looked like it
was going to be a financial success.
Just when Burt was beginning to see his dream of the
rebirth of the Aladdin making a strong come-back, he was killed in a
motorcycle accident in July of 1993, in Arizona.
In 1994, New York real estate developer Jack Sommer and
his Sigman Sommer Family Trust, through their company, Aladdin
Gaming LLC, took over the resort for $80 million. A spokesman was
quoted as stating that the resort will not be demolished.
In 1997, the Aladdin announced that the present hotel
will be demolished and a new $1.2 billion hotel and gaming complex
will be built on its 35 acres of land, opening in the spring of
On November 25, 1997, the Aladdin closed its doors
forever. The Aladdin was imploded on 7:30pm, on April 27, 1998.
Structural requirements dictated the implosion, but
Aladdin executives made the bold choice to honor the casino's
heritage. The two resort towers that extend from the building toward
Las Vegas Boulevard were designed to resemble the original Aladdin
tower. Employees of the original Aladdin were the first group
invited to apply for jobs at the new resort.
The scheduled opening of the Aladdin was on August 17,
2000, at 6:00pm, with fireworks at 10:00pm. Aladdin opened her $1.4
billion, 2,567 oversized room resort to the public at 11:00am, on
August 18, 2000, 16 hours after the scheduled opening.
Even though the resort didn't open, the Desert Passage
Mall opened at 7:00pm to crowds that numbered in the tens of
thousands. I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden helped open the
doors of the Desert Passage.
The scheduled opening was called off several minutes
after midnight. This left thousands of Aladdin visitors leaving in
disappointment as well as opening night hotel guests wondering where
they'd spend the night. Many high-rollers waited out on the
sidewalks in front of the Aladdin for hours. Most were unable to
even get to their luggage, since the hotel had been locked down for
testing. Aladdin employees did their best to arrange alternate
accommodations for the guests with Paris and Bellagio, tempers still
The cause for the 16 hour delay was Clark County Building
Inspectors requiring the resort to complete its fire safety testing.
The testing was complete, and the resort received its certificate to
open at 7:45am on August 18, 2000. Another delay was caused by
last-minute repairs to the casino surveillance system.
Also present on August 17, 2000, were 100 members of
Culinary Local 226, as well as an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 other
workers who were marching on Las Vegas Boulevard to protest the
Aladdin opening without a union contract. The protesters were
looking for sympathy but created an anti-union atmosphere when their
bull horns drowning out the opening festivities of the Desert
Passage as well as Barbara Eden's speech.
The Aladdin offspring sits on 34 acres of land.
All of the Aladdin's private hotel areas, including guest
rooms, the health spa, and swimming pool, are accessible directly.
Guests do not have to pass through the casino to reach their rooms,
or any other destination within the resort. Two separate guest
elevator banks are located on the lobby level, one floor below the
main casino level; 2,567 total rooms, all within seven doors of an
elevator for convenient access (rooms are 450 square feet and up);
these include 1,878 standard rooms, 466 parlor rooms, and 223
All guest rooms feature luxurious marble bathrooms,
including separate soaking tubs, separate showers and private water
closets; two phone lines, high-speed Internet access and cordless
Two outdoor swimming pools are located six stories above
Las Vegas Boulevard
The resort contains 1,001 Arabian Nights - an exotic main
casino themed after the tales of 1,001 Arabian Nights. It offers
100,000 square feet of gaming amidst flying carpets, ebony horses
and an ever-blooming "Enchanted Garden" of lights. A unique stacked
layout places the hotel lobby, casino and restaurants on separate,
easily accessible levels. Aladdin's innovative design eliminates
long walks in public areas. The casino contains 2,800 slot machines,
87 table games, Keno, and Race & Sports Book.
The casino also contains the world's largest indoor light
board which creates a 130 foot "Enchanted Garden" with a constantly
changing display of vibrant blooming flowers, as well as a 36 foot
magic lamp towering above the casino floor. The talon and nest of a
giant Roc Bird, taken from the tales of Sinbad and the Sailor Giant
winged horses from the Tale of the Ebony Horse mark the entrance to
the Aladdin Race & Sports Book.
Contained in the main casino area is the 35,000 square
foot The London Club. This area features an elegant 15,000 square
foot main casino offering 30 high-limit table games, including
baccarat, roulette and blackjack, 100 high-denomination slot
machines, exclusive higher limit gaming facilities, a private lobby
and dedicated elevator service, a 120 seat five star restaurant
offering a multi-ethnic menu and al fresco dining on the Strip, and
a multi-functional lounge and garden club, and private reception
room. Smaller gaming rooms are designed to recall the exclusive "salle
privees" found in Europe's most celebrated casinos.
There are more than 135 stores in the Aladdin's Desert
Passage, which is the 500,000 square foot shopping adventure that
surrounds the resort.
Restaurants/Lounges include Anasazi, Ark Restaurant,
Marche Concept, Beluga Bar, Ben & Jerry's, BICE, Blue Note Jazz
Club, Caffee Ferraro, Commanders Palace, IBIZA, Josef's, Lombardi's
with adjacent French Bistro, and Prana.
The resort's meeting and conference facilities are
located on a floor separate from the casino, with convenient direct
access from the lobby or guest floors. The facilities contain 75,000
square feet of flexible meeting and pre-function space; a 37,000
square foot grand ballroom; flexible seating at the adjoining
Theater for the Performing Arts, for assemblies of 2,500 to 7,000
people; two junior ballrooms; 18 separate break-out rooms; a
permanent registration area; a 24-hour business center offering a
complete range of business services; and a dedicated catering
kitchen to ensure top-quality food and beverage service.
The first celebrity to appear at the Aladdin's Performing
Arts Center was Enrique Iglesias.
In December of 2000, Kote-Bellew, general contractor for
the Theater for the Performing Arts sued Aladdin alleging it
defaulted on a $7.539 million payment for the theater's renovation.
Korte said it seeks an order to foreclose on the hotel-casino and
for proceeds of the foreclosure sale to be applied to the debt. At
least 240 liens have been filed by general contractors and
subcontractors against the Aladdin.
Also in December, the owner of the Denim-Denim Mens and
Women's Casual Wear and Melwanis stores at the Passage Mall sued
seven contractors, alleging they tried to coerce the retailer into
paying for change orders that were "excessive and unjustified" by
foreclosing on its two stores. The mall is owned by development
giant TrizecHahn of Toronto. Clotheshorse Inc. leased space for the
two stores from its landlord, Aladdin Bazaar LLC.
Clotheshorse sued its general contractor, Camco alleging
it "jeopardized" the stores' opening on Aug. 17, 2000, when Camco
"unreasonably delayed the start of the project and mismanaged the
project resulting in unreasonable overtime charges and cost
overruns." Camco allegedly charged Clotheshorse for $240,000 in
change orders after it paid Camco $264,041 for work done on the
Melwanis store and $190,839 for the Denim-Denim store. Camco failed
to ensure its subcontractors to complete work in a timely manner and
to pay them, which caused numerous liens to be filed against the two
stores. The defendants included Black Rock Inc., Paul S.J. Ogaz
Inc., Western Tile & Marble Contractors Inc., Jessco Electric Co.
Inc., Western Fire & Protection Co. and Great American Insurance Co.
Lastly in December, reports began circulating that
Aladdin's owners' work to regain its financial footing, that the
resort could be prime for a takeover, either through a sale or in
The Aladdin could be sold, but such a move would require
an 80% vote of the company's board. That would require both LCI and
the Sommer Trust to go along.
Speculation about the Aladdin's future began in December
17, 2000, when London Clubs International, owner of 40% of the
Aladdin's stock, reported a huge plunge in earnings and difficulties
meeting the covenants of its debt. LCI had originally intended to
invest $50 million in the property, but increased its stake to $200
million after the majority owner, the Sommer Trust, failed to meet
capital calls to cover increased construction costs because of
The increased income that was supposed to flow from this
investment did not materialize in recent months as the Aladdin
struggled in its early days. LCI then raised the possibility that it
was interested in selling part of its equity stake. British
investors shaved off more than 40% of LCI's share price, and the
British press began speculating about LCI's future.