Gaming pioneer Jackie Gaughan, whose El Cortez is the city’s oldest hotel-casino, was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association (NHLA).
Gaughan, who was nominated for the award by his peers, a team of 12 judges and industry owners and operators, received a crystal vase at the International Awards Luncheon held last month during the Las Vegas International Hotel and Restaurant Show.
"Jackie Gaughan is not only an innovator in the hospitality industry, he has set the standard for generosity among charitable organizations in Las Vegas," said Van V. Heffner, NHLA president and CEO. "And his philanthropy efforts go beyond just that; he can always be found handing out casino chips wherever he goes."
Indeed, Jackie Gaughan is unlike most hotel owners in that he is accessible, and frequently seen hobnobbing with customers (in his signature brown suit) at his downtown properties ”” the Plaza, Las Vegas Club, El Cortez, Gold Spike and Western Hotel.
"Jackie is always friendly and willing to converse for awhile," said Gwen Malong, a long-time customer at the Western. "I only play nickel keno, but he still has time for me."
When asked about the secret of his long-term success, Gaughan said, "Give the customers a good deal and they’ll come back."
That philosophy has served Gaughan since the early 1950s, when he first moved to Las Vegas and bought a piece of the Flamingo Hotel.
He later purchased the El Cortez, which at the time was accessed by a dirt road called Fremont Street. Much of the original, adobe El Cortez remains standing, and many of the guest rooms retain the flavor of the old hotel.
Earlier this year it was announced that Gaughan had agreed to sell four of his properties ”” the Plaza, Western, Gold Spike and Las Vegas Club — to a group for about $82 million to Barrick Gaming Corporation. The sale has yet to close, pending financing and regulatory approvals.
The El Cortez was not part of the deal and will remain under Gaughan’s watchful wing.
"He doesn’t really need the money," said a shift supervisor at the El Cortez who asked not to be identified. "I think what Jackie really wanted was a place to come back to, to mingle with his long-time customers, and to eat in Roberta’s restaurant."
The Lifetime Achievement Award was not a first for Gaughan. He has been named "Man of the Year" by the National Association of Christians and Jews, and "Civic Leader of the Year" by the National Kidney Foundation.
Gaughan is also recognized for his generous contributions to organizations such as the Boys Scouts of America, Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Las Vegas, Nevada Ballet Theater and Bishop Gorman High School, to name a few.