The Tropicana Las Vegas, a mob-era casino and Sin City landmark, closes after 67 years

Apr 2, 2024, 9:18 PM | Updated: 9:21 pm

FILE - A person, reflected in glass, walks near the Tropicana Las Vegas on May 16, 2023, in Las Veg...

FILE - A person, reflected in glass, walks near the Tropicana Las Vegas on May 16, 2023, in Las Vegas. The proposal to help finance a new Oakland Athletics ballpark, at the Tropicana site, has revived nationwide debates about public funding for private sports clubs, pitting Nevada’s powerful tourism industry against a growing chorus of progressive groups who, throughout the country, are raising concerns about ceding tax revenue that could otherwise be funneled toward government services or schools. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — In the 1971 film “Diamonds are Forever,” James Bond stays in a swanky suite at the Tropicana Las Vegas.

“I hear that the Hotel Tropicana is quite comfortable,” Agent 007 says.

It was the Tropicana’s heyday, a frequent haunt of the legendary Rat Pack, while its past under the mob cemented its place in Vegas lore.


Post by @clarkcountynv
View on Threads


But after welcoming guests for 67 years, the Las Vegas Strip’s third-oldest casino shut its doors for good on Tuesday. Employees crowded the main entrance, cheering and crying, while tourists and locals watched the historic moment from behind a yellow gate. A tissue box made its way through the crowd.

Then, just before 1 p.m., security guards began locking up the Tropicana. The thick chains clinked as they were wrapped around the casino’s gold door handles.

Demolition is slated for October to make room for a $1.5 billion Major League Baseball stadium — part of the city’s latest rebrand as a hub for sports entertainment.

Charlie Granado, a bartender at the Tropicana, said it’s a bittersweet ending for the place he has called a second home for 38 years.

“It’s time. It’s ran its course,” Granado said. “It makes me sad. But on the other hand, it’s a happy ending.”

The population of Clark County had just surpassed 100,000 when the Tropicana opened on a Strip surrounded by vast, open desert. It cost $15 million to build three stories with 300 rooms split into two wings.

Its manicured lawns and flashy showroom earned it the nickname “Tiffany of the Strip.” There was a towering tulip-shaped fountain near the entrance, mosaic tiles and mahogany-paneled walls throughout.

Black and white photographs from that time give a view into what it was like inside the walls of the Tropicana at its height, playing host to A-list stars — from Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Mel Tormé and Eddie Fisher performed at the Tropicana.

Decades later, New Jersey resident Joe Zappulla was among the final hotel guests to check out at the Tropicana before the locks went on the doors. He spent $600 for a room and fulfilled a Vegas fantasy: lying on top of a craps table on a casino floor.

“When else can I do this in Vegas?” he said.

Zappulla grew up hearing glamorous tales from his parents, who honeymooned in Las Vegas in 1961 and visited often, about their run-ins with the Rat Pack during the Tropicana’s heyday. It’s a version of Sin City that his parents loved.

“Old Vegas, it’s going,” Zappulla said with tears sliding down his cheeks. “So I’m really clinging to a little piece of that.”

In a city known for reinvention, the Tropicana itself underwent major changes as Las Vegas evolved. Two hotel towers were added in later years. In 1979, the casino’s now-beloved $1 million green-and-amber stained glass ceiling was installed above the casino floor.

Barbara Boggess was 26 when she started working at the Tropicana in the late 1970s as a linen room attendant.

Now 72, Boggess has seen the Tropicana through its many iterations. There was the 1980s rebrand as “the Island of Las Vegas,” with a swim-up blackjack table at the pool, and the South Beach-themed renovation completed in 2011.

Today, only the low-rise hotel room wings remain of the original Tropicana structure. Yet the casino still conjures up vintage Vegas nostalgia.

“When you first walk in, you see the stained glass and the low ceilings,” JT Seumala, a Las Vegas resident staying at the casino in March, said. “It does feel like you step back in time for a moment.”

Seumala and his husband roamed the sprawling property during their visit, turning down random hallways and taking pictures of the purple-and-orange carpet, the wallpaper and the ceiling. They tried their luck at blackjack and roulette and made conversation with a cocktail server who had worked there for 25 years. They saved a few red $5 poker chips to remember the mob-era casino.

Behind the scenes of the casino’s opening decades ago, the Tropicana had ties to organized crime, largely through reputed mobster Frank Costello.

Costello was shot in the head in New York weeks after the Tropicana’s debut. He survived, but the investigation led police to a piece of paper in his coat pocket with the Tropicana’s exact earnings figure and mention of “money to be skimmed” for Costello’s associates, according to The Mob Museum.

By the 1970s, federal authorities investigating mobsters in Kansas City charged more than a dozen operatives with conspiring to skim $2 million in gambling revenue from Las Vegas casinos, including the Tropicana. Charges connected to the Tropicana alone resulted in five convictions.

But there were many years of mob-free success at the Tropicana. It was home to the city’s longest running show, “Folies Bergere.” The topless revue, imported from Paris, had a nearly 50-year run and helped make the feathered showgirl one of the most recognizable Las Vegas icons.


Post by @lasvegaslocally
View on Threads


Today, the casino once surrounded by wide-open desert intersects with a major street named for it at the south end of the Strip, dwarfed by towering megaresorts that Las Vegas is now known for. Nearby are the homes of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, who left Oakland, California, in 2020, and the city’s first major league professional team, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

The ballpark planned for the land beneath the Tropicana is expected to open in 2028.

“There’s a lot of controversy as far as if it should stay or should it go,” Seumala said. “But the thing that I do love about Vegas is that it’s always reinventing itself.”

KSL 5 TV Live


FILE - The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) building in Washington, on Jan. 28, 2015. The Federal Tra...

Christopher Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

The FTC voted to bar ‘noncompete’ agreements for most employees

The Federal Trade Commission voted to ban measures known as noncompete agreements, which bar workers from jumping to or starting competing companies for a prescribed period of time.

14 hours ago

Peggy Lundberg tells KSL’s Matt Gephardt about her experience of having her travel credit stolen....

Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage

Thieves stealing airline travel credits: How you can protect them

If someone steals your credit card or hacks into your bank account, federal law says you should get most of your money back. But what protections do you have when someone steals your airline travel credits?

1 day ago

Homes that were lost as part of a land collapse on April 22, 2023. (Chopper 5, KSL TV)...

Shelby Lofton

A look back 1 year after 2 Draper homes collapsed in a landslide

One year ago, a landslide in Draper took two houses with it, destroying them and forcing the evacuation of other homes in the area.

1 day ago

FILE - Moab is pictured on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. A trailer park in the city, referred to as the W...

Mary Culbertson

Moab trailer park residents forced into eviction by city after insurance complications

A community in a Moab trailer park is facing eviction, after they waited for six years for an affordable housing project to complete.

2 days ago

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks as he joins Ryan Smith, co-founder and chairman of Smith Enter...

Michael Houck and Lindsay Aerts, KSL TV

Smith Entertainment Group addresses the logistics and politics of bringing the NHL to Utah

On Friday, the NHL and the new owners of the Utah NHL team discussed the exciting opportunities that the team can bring to Beehive State.

4 days ago

The Delta Center welcoming the NHL to Utah after the announcement of the Arizona Coyotes move....

Mike Anderson

One expert says branding a NHL team this fast is a monumental task

The timeline for Utah's new NHL team is rapidly approaching for the 23-24 hockey season, and some marketing experts say the new owners have a huge task ahead. 

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

The Tropicana Las Vegas, a mob-era casino and Sin City landmark, closes after 67 years