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Jackie Gaughan, Las Vegas Icon, Dies at 93

Image: Jackie Gaughan, Las Vegas Icon, Dies at 93

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 12:24 PM

By Michael Mullins

Jackie Gaughan, an iconic casino owner and operator of old Las Vegas, died Wednesday in hospice care. He was 93.

Gaughan, the "king of downtown Las Vegas" who at one time owned a third of the properties in the district, was said to have lived out his last years inside a penthouse at the historic El Cortez hotel and casino.

Raised in Omaha, Neb., Gaughan relocated with his family to Las Vegas in 1951 after a gambling tax hike crippled the Nebraska bookmaking industry in which his family was invested, The Associated Press reported.

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The Gaughan family's initial investment on the strip was with the world-famous Flamingo Hotel, and they went on to become partial owners in the Golden Nugget, Showboat, Boulder Club, Gold Spike, the Western, and Las Vegas Club, among other Las Vegas casinos.

Though Sin City is known for its rough and tumble past, Gaughan was regarded as one of the most well-liked figures in old Las Vegas, according to long-time friend Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd.

"I believe it would take a month to name all of the friends that Jackie Gaughan had in the state of Nevada," Wynn told the AP. "It would take that long to list all of the people from Reno to Las Vegas, from Elko to Laughlin who respected Jackie for his warmth, his business integrity, his affection for his employees and above all, for his happy, positive personality."

"I am one of those people whose life was brightened by a friendship and association with that delightful man," Wynn added.

Gaughan purchased the El Cortez casino in 1963, at which time he assigned his wife to oversee the coin room while his two sons, Jackie Jr. and Michael, were given low-level jobs in the casino. In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun in 2000, Gaughan told the newspaper that he insisted his sons start at the bottom.

"I never pushed my sons into the business," Gaughan said. "I've always put in 12-hour days, seven days a week because I just love being around this business. They did it on their own, and they also worked hard."

Gaughan's son Michael went on to become the owner of the South Point Casino, while Jackie Jr. became an executive at the El Cortez casino until his death in 2002.

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