Have you been to the El Cortez Hotel & Casino lately? I hadn’t been, but found in a visit Thursday that the 77-year-old venue was alive and well…and generally quite pleasant.
I say “pleasant” because recently I had visited the “D” downtown and the sound in that casino was so loud I wanted to exit that first floor as quickly as possible. I like the Wynn Las Vegas because of the pleasant music it plays in the casino, and now I am adding the El Cortez to that list of pleasant-sounding casinos.
The El Cortez is small, with only 364 rooms, but it is also very conveniently located for downtown visitors. The El Cortez is not far from the Fremont Street Experience and is across the street from Container Park. Walking around and discovering downtown would be easy from the El Cortez. Self parking is convenient as well. And of course, the casino is filled with slot machines; I played and won $20, so I loved the place.
Over the years, ownership of the El Cortez has included a number of names famous in Las Vegas history. Marion Hicks and J.C. Grayson built the El Cortez. The property was owned by J. Kelly Houssels who sold it in 1945 to Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Gus GreenBaum and Moe Sedway. A year later, Houssels bought back the hotel and owned it for 17 years before selling it to Jackie Gaughan in 1963. Gaugham owned the venue until 2006. In fact, Gaughan actually lived at the El Cortez until 2014 and visited the casino daily. The current owner of the El Cortez is IKE Gaming, with many members of the Kenny Epstein family holding executive roles at El Cortez.
Even though the El Cortez building, in 2013, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the casino still features a few nickel slot machines, the age of the venue does not result (at least in the casino) in a musty smell or even a feeling that the place is old. Rather, one is in a classic building that has interesting ceilings and stairways and is small enough that travelers can find each other.
My short video of my visit to the El Cortez is above.