Before The Mega-Resorts, There Was The Riviera Hotel and Casino
The first high-rise hotel & casino to land on the Las Vegas Strip, the Riviera opened on April 20, 1955, just before the era of the mega-resorts. While it was operational for a better part of its sixty-year existence, it went through a number of bankruptcies including its first just three months after opening.
Despite many challenges, the Riviera Hotel and Casino went through expansions and lasted longer than many other hotel and casinos from its era until the lack of foot-traffic from the demolition of those neighboring casinos over the years and the Great Recession brought it closer to closing in 2010. Attempts were made to bring in customers by offering Bingo, making it the only casino to offer it on the strip at the time.
In 2015, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the Riviera Hotel and Casino for $182.5 million as part of its billion dollar expansion. On two separate nights almost two months apart in 2016, the Riviera met the same fate as many hotels and casinos before it. The demolitions sent the casino up in smoke, dust and debris.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Riviera Hotel and Casino Facts and Figures At-a-Glance
Opening Date: April 20, 1955.
Location: 2901 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Costs: Initial costs are estimated at $10 million.
Number of Rooms: Initially 290 rooms. With several expansions over the years, the Riviera closed with over 2,000 rooms.
Number of Floors: The Riviera was originally built nine stories high. Additional towers were added with The Monte Carlo topping out out 22 floors and the Monaco Tower 24.
Closing Date: The Riviera initially closed as part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. While it reopened for a few years, the final closure occurred in May of 2015 after Las Vegas Convention and Visitors authority purchased the Riviera Hotel and its affiliated property in February as part of its billion dollar plan to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Demolition Date: The hotel’s 24-story Monaco Tower was imploded in extravagant fashion on June 14, 2016. On August 16, just over two months later, the Monte Carlo tower was imploded in the middle of the night with no fanfare
Today, the site of the former Riviera is part of the expansion of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The expansion will add 1.4 million square feet to the current convention center and includes a 600,000 square foot state-of-the-art exhibition hall.
Riviera Hotel and Casino Interesting TidBits
- The Riviera was initially conceived as “Casa Blanca” by Detroit mobster William Bischoff who later withdrew from the project.
- Upon its opening, Marx Brothers Harpo and Gummo owned minority interests in the Riveria.
- The Riviera was the first high-rise hotel and casino on the strip and the ninth overall.
- Liberace cut the opening ribbon and was the opening act.
- The Riviera went bankrupt after just three months during which time The Dunes and Royal Nevada casino resorts opened. Life magazine ran an issue in June of 1955 pondering if the boom overextended itself as the market appeared oversaturated.
- Dean Martin was hired in 1969 to perform in the casino’s showroom and was given a 10% interest in the hotel & casino. He would bow out in 1973 after the casino refused to reduce his shows to one per week (the casino subsequently bought back his shares.)
- The Riviera would file for bankruptcy four times over its tenure on the Las Vegas strip.
- It was the first hotel & casino to have a fast-food franchise (Burger King.)
- A decrease in foot traffic from the demolition of nearby casinos (Westward Ho, New Frontier and Stardust) contributed to the Riviera’s decline.
A List of Motion Pictures Filmed at The Riviera Hotel and Casino
Note: dates are of the movie’s release date; production/filming took place earlier than the film’s actual release date.
- Ocean’s 11 (1960)
- Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
- Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
- Butterfly (1982)
- Casino (1995)
- Showgirls (1995)
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
- Con Air (1997)
- Vegas Vacation (1997)
- Go (1999)
- 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)
- Crazy Girls Undercover (2008)
- 21 (2008)
- The Hangover (2009)
- Ghost Adventures (2012, 2016)
- Sky (2015)
- Jason Bourne (2016)
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Riviera Hotel Imploded in Las Vegas – AP News (1:44)