Jackie Gaughan officially retires

May 13, 2008 7:00 PM

By GT Staff |

Longtime casino owner Jackie Gaughan, once known as the king of downtown Las Vegas, has officially retired.

Nevada’s Gaming Control Board last week approved a deal in which the 87-year old Gaughan sold his shares in the El Cortez to longtime business partner Kenny Epstein.

Gaughan may have been known as the king of Fremont Street, but his customers at the El Cortez knew him as a prince of an operator, often meeting and greeting customers on the casino floor, and dealing with long-term employees on a first-name basis.

Gaughan lives at the El Cortez and will continue to do so while serving as the hotel’s ambassador, hobnobbing with customers and appearing in ads.

The El Cortez is the last of Gaughan’s former downtown "empire" – he also previously owned the Plaza, Las Vegas Club, Gold Spike and Western Hotel.

Built in 1941 the El Cortez is the city’s oldest casino. The southwest wing, which faces Fremont Street, retains the original adobe brick building, tiled roof and neon marquee that once stood three blocks from the nearest paved street.

A native of Nebraska, Gaughan moved to Las Vegas with his family in 1951 and bought a stake in the Flamingo. He later obtained interests in the Showboat and Golden Nugget.

He sold most of his holdings in 2004 and has steadily reduced his rule in the business since.

"It is with some bittersweet sorrow, but we know it is for the best," Gaming Control Board member Mark Clayton said prior to approving the sale of shares.