Tributes have poured in for Las Vegas visionary Stanley Mallin, who has passed away aged 98.</p
The property developer and entrepreneur was one-half of the management team that created Caesars Palace, which remains a mainstay of the Las Vegas strip five decades after it opened its doors for the first time.
Back in the 1960s, Sin City took its name a little too literally – the gaming venues were run by mobsters and gangsters, and Vegas had a seedy, violent reputation that was a world away from its family-friendly landscape today.
One of the innovators that saw the potential of Las Vegas was Mallin, who first attended the city in the early 1960s to attend a property event. He was accompanied by his old chum Jay Sarno, with whom he had set up a business that saw them develop motels in California, Georgia and Texas.
Amazed that they were unable to find a place to stay beyond cheap fleapits, Mallin and Sarno set about devising the strip’s first casino-hotel hybrid.
“They were shocked that there were no hotels and upscale stuff,” Mallin’s wife Sandra recalled to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“And they had this vision of creating something.”
And create something they did – Caesars Palace, to be exact. After knocking together the blueprints, the famous building was constructed in 1966 to the tune of $24 million, and it became an instant hit on the strip.
Designed as an entertainment and hospitality venue, Caesars brought together casino gaming, live music, dining and hotel suites in what was a first for Vegas, with a Roman Empire theme prevalent throughout the décor and in the staff uniform.
There were many famous faces that frequented the stage and the gaming floor of Caesars, although it was a daredevil by name and nature that propelled the venue into the international spotlight. Stunt artist Evil Knievel once attempted to leap over Caesars’ famous fountains on a motorcycle, but he couldn’t quite make the jump and ended up with a broken leg, broken hip, fractured wrist and fractured ankle for his troubles – Knievel was placed in an induced coma for a month due to the severity of his injuries.
“We hit lightning in a bottle with Caesars,” Mallin once said.
“It took right off. It was the nicest thing in Las Vegas, and maybe in the country.”
As if to prove the point, investors were queuing up to get their hands on the venue, and in the end Mallin and Sarno ended up agreeing to sell Caesars Palace for $60 million just three years after it opened.
Quiet and Unassuming
Like all good duos, Mallin and Sarno were like the archetypal chalk and cheese.
Sarno was brash, outgoing and a risk-taker, while those who know Mallin refer to him as a quiet and unassuming type – his wife Sandra described him as a ‘gentleman’, who was low key but generous.
Mallin could splash the cash if he needed to, however, and in 1968 he and his partner readied the net earnings from Caesars to build Circus Circus, another famous Vegas venue that combined casino gaming with, you guessed it, circus acts and performance.
It was a gamble that didn’t exactly pay off from a money-making standpoint, but Circus Circus confirmed Mallin and Sarno’s status as visionary thinkers helping to drive Sin City out of the gutter.
For their contributions, both Sarno and Mallin have been inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame by the American Gaming Association, who declared that the duo were responsible for the ‘trend of themed casinos’ that remains prevalent to this day.
If you head to Caesars Palace today, you might just note two of the roads that lead the way – Jay Sarno Way and Stan Mallin Drive. That’s a fitting epitaph to two giants of the industry without whom Las Vegas would not exist in its current form.